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City Council Columns - January 2018
Happy New Year Ward 1! While 2017 was certainly... interesting, it was far from a bad year from an economic-perspective. Unemployment numbers were down across the board but our region fared better than both Provincial and Federal averages. At the time of this writing, we're sitting at 5%, besting the Province by 0.7% and the Feds by 1.1%. The economy has been strong as well, not as strong as south of the border, but perhaps more-sustainably-so. 2018 should be interesting. New federal mortgage regulations are expected to cool the local real estate market, but the Ontario minimum wage hike may help offset that, and in isolation, will almost certainly drive inflation higher.
Speaking of inflation, the StatsCan numbers are just in for November. Ontario inflation for the first 11 months of 2017 sits at exactly 1.7% which is exactly Kitchener's targeted tax-levy-increase for the 2018 budget. This equates to about $1.50/month for the average home. A question I'm often asked as a councillor that pays close attention to this data is: "If Kitchener's been meeting or beating inflation for all these years, why does my tax bill always seem higher?" Well it is higher, but that's because we only control a fraction of your total tax bill. Residents are often surprised to hear that only 31% (or about $1086 for the average home) goes to the City of Kitchener in a year. 53% goes the Region of Waterloo, and the remaining 16% of your property-taxes goes to the School Board. If you have any questions on items discussed here, or any city-business, please don't hesitate to contact me anytime.
It was nice meeting many Ward 2 residents at the New Year’s Levee.
The 2018 budget will be finalized on Monday, January 22. You can view the proposed budget at kitchener.ca/budget2018. The proposed tax rate increase is 1.7%. For a home assessed at $300,000 it’s an increase of 18 dollars a year or $1.50 per month.
The combined rate increase for our Water, Sanitary Sewer and Storm Water utilities is 6.5%. That’s down from 9.3% from last year’s budget. We’ll improve our infrastructure maintenance to preserve it and keep it functioning longer. It still allows us to continue a steady rate of replacing our infrastructure too. The budget also allows for investment in parks and trails and for citizen led neighbourhood projects and events.
My goal is to have the right balance of the services you want at a cost acceptable to you. Call or email me with your thoughts and suggestions or come to our public input session on January 15. You can also have your say at engagekitchener.ca
Visit our Community Centre websites at cccakitchener.com or spcakitchener.ca they have great programs, activities and events to enjoy.
If I can assist you, please contact me or call our Contact Centre anytime at 519-741-2345. I update my city and community activities often on social media. Follow me on Twitter at @DaveSchniderKW or friend me on Facebook. My website is daveschnider.com
All the BEST in 2018!
I would like to wish everyone a Happy and Rewarding New Year in 2018 !!
Several major issues affecting various areas of Ward 3 will be discussed by Council in 2018. These include: the Traynor-Vanier LRT pedestrian crossing to Fairview; the planning for Phase 2 of the LRT affecting residents in the Hidden Valley and Deer Ridge areas; Traffic Calming plans for Fallowfield Dr; the Tall Buildings planned for the corner of Courtland & Block Line Rd; the Zone Change application for the property at the corner of Fallowfield & Block Line Rd. In addition there will be the annual issues dealing with the increasing costs of all of the City’s services such as Utilities and Property Taxes. There will undoubtedly be considerable media coverage for these issues. In addition the City’s web site at www.kitchener.ca/ will provide considerable back ground information on these and other Kitchener projects and programs. I strongly encourage all citizens to continue to be actively engaged in all of these discussions. Please do not hesitate to contact me at your convenience for up-dates and additional information on these and any City project. My main office is in my home so that I am pretty much available 24/7 to assist you with your concerns and questions on all issues. (519-744-0807 / 519-498-2389 / email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org )
Over the past several months a number of residents have asked whether I am as actively involved as in the past since they have not seen my name in media reports. I assure you that I participate vigorously in all Council debates and activities. I continue to try to put forward all sides of issues being considered. Unfortunately the trend continues to discount opinions ‘different’ from those put forward by staff and many Members of Council. I have found over the years that giving “different” opinions makes you “negative” and earns you the label of “naysayer”. Recently the question was raised in Council as to why opposing views were not included in City media reports. Apparently this is a City policy. One that I submit lacks transparency.
I will continue to work energetically to see that all aspects of all issues are considered in City discussions regardless of whether or not they are reported by City or other media.
A new year brings the promise of hope and many resolutions are made as the year unfolds.
When attending events throughout the Christmas season, it is encouraging to see how our community comes together. Hundreds gather in City Hall and in the square to celebrate the cultural heritage of Christkindl Market; on New Year’s Eve, again hundreds attend the festivities to ring in the New Year, and our New Year’s Levee is always well attended by the community.
As our city grows, people are finding more opportunities to gather together with their neighbours to celebrate not only special events, as I mentioned above, but also to get to know their neighbours. As Ward 4 grows further out towards New Dundee Rd. it is encouraging to see citizens step up to gather their neighbours together to build safer communities.
When you know your neighbours and look out for each other you are building a better and safer community. I was so proud to see that two groups in Ward 4 were recognized at the Festival of Neighbourhoods for events that were held during the summer. The Safer Neighbourhoods Award was given to the group in the Topper Woods area who hosted a “Mix and Mingle” for their neighbours and the Newcomer Award was given to a second group who held a large neighbourhood gathering in Thomas Slee Park.
Look out for each other especially as we move through the winter and sidewalks become treacherous and roads are less safe.
I hope you enjoyed a happy and peaceful holiday season.
As we kick off the new year, council will be finalizing the 2018 budget. Public Budget Day takes place on January 15 in the council chambers and I encourage you to attend and share your feedback on the proposed budget. You may also provide input by visiting www.engagekitchener.ca and complete our online survey or by calling: 519-741-2200 ext. 7700. Final budget will be approved on January 22.
With winter well underway it is important to remember a few things regarding snow removal that will assist the city and help keep the public safe: observe the city’s tag and tow program and keep parked cars off streets wherever possible; clear the snow and ice from your sidewalks within 24 hrs after a snow event; avoid pushing snow back onto roads - please shovel it onto private property; place your garbage and recycling in the driveway area and not on the roadway on collection day; remind children not to climb or play on snowbanks; try to keep your fire hydrant or gas meter clear of snow and ice.
Last year we began the new Snow Angels initiative to encourage people to be good neighbours by clearing snow for those with limited mobility or individuals with a disability. This campaign is also a recognition program where residents can nominate their “Snow Angel” to receive a letter of thanks from the mayor and a chance to receive a $100.00 gift card. Last year was a great success with 177 nominations received along with many inspiring stories sharing acts of kindness. This year the program continues and I encourage you to be a Snow Angel and help shovel snow for a person in your neighbourhood.
Dear Ward 6 Residents,
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018.
Our city continues to grow and change for the better as we sustain our efforts to improve city services, make them more effective and efficient, and strengthen our economy.
As your representative on City Council, I feel that a strong and resilient economy and effective and efficient city services, as outlined in the city’s strategic priorities, are the most important endeavours for our focus:
Strong and resilient economy: We will work within a collaborative network of city-builders to create a dynamic and prosperous Kitchener that is rich with employment opportunities and successful business ventures that can grow and thrive within the broader global economy.
Effective and efficient city services: We will deliver quality public services that meet the day to day needs of the community in a reliable and affordable way, made possible through technology, innovation, employee engagement, and a sound long-term financial plan.
Collaboration, partnerships and the leveraging of Federal and Provincial funding, help to ensure you get the most for what you pay through your property taxes. A recent example of this is the $865,000.00 in provincial funding that Kitchener will receive for new bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure, covering up to 80% of the capital costs. This new funding will help promote alternative modes of transit for our growing population, by significantly improving our cycling infrastructure.
Staff will look at the list of possible projects on their work plan to determine which investments will maximize the impact on commuter cycling locally by creating a safer, more connected bike network.
I am proud of the City of Kitchener’s newly proposed budget for 2018. The proposed net tax levy increase, utility rate increase and capital budget plan puts the City of Kitchener in a great position moving forward into the new year.
With a proposed net tax levy increase of 1.7%, the average Kitchener home ($300,000) will see an approximate net tax increase of only $1.50 per month. Compared to other large cities across the province, Kitchener has one of the lowest tax burdens making it one of the most affordable places to live.
Through a careful review of our city’s water infrastructure we discovered with improved maintenance programs we can extend the life of some of our city’s water pipes. This savings allows for a reduced utility rate increase of only 6.5% in 2018 which is considerably lower than the projected 9.2%. Keep in mind, this rate increase also includes the 2.5% portion we pay the Region of Waterloo for treating our city’s water and sewage.
Not only is the proposed capital budget balanced, it includes 423 projects and also reduces the city’s debt. According to the Province of Ontario, the recommended target range for average city debt per household is between $400.00 and $1000.00. The City of Kitchener’s average debt per household falls well within this range and is expected to drop even lower by 2023.
Public input on the budget is important and council relies on your feedback. A public input session takes place on January 15 at City Hall. Please visit www.kitchener.ca for more information as well as the many other ways to share your feedback before we approve the final budget on January 22.
The City of Kitchener has been growing at a steady rate since the formation of Regional government. Its growth has been outward with new subdivisions in the suburbs as well as upwards with tall apartment buildings.
There was a very strong apartment development in the 1970s when the baby boomer population was leaving home and wanting to live in a starter home, usually an apartment building. Many apartments were built and some as high as 20 storeys at certain nodal points like around Fairview Park Mall, as it was called then, the downtown and elsewhere throughout Kitchener.
We are now at a point in Kitchener’s growth into the 21st century of going even higher. City staff has prepared a manual entitled Design for Tall Buildings which was approved by City Council last month.
As a former city planner I can envision the direction Kitchener is taking in the next 25 to 50 to 100 years. Tall buildings that are erected today are built to last a very long time and will be standing well into the 22nd century. Note that we also have many buildings from the 19th century still standing.
With intensification we will be growing taller and denser. We won’t look like Toronto or New York but we’ll have buildings in the future as high as 40 storeys or more. These buildings will have to be located at nodal LRT stops to maximize transit travel in the region. In their design we need to look at buildings higher than nine storeys to be architecturally beautiful as well designed to address placement, relative height, separation, overlook, orientation, streetscape and landscape design amongst other things.
Yes, we’re planning tall buildings for the 21st century.
It’s unlikely Ottawa’s overdue housing strategy will be in place when at least 15 major high-rise projects dramatically change Kitchener’s skyline during the next two years.
That $1-billion construction frenzy will be caused by a combination of intensification, the much-delayed Light Rail Transit and developers scrambling to benefit from forgiven development-charge incentives in the core worth millions of dollars that end in February 2019.
To help save countryside from urban sprawl, I’m in favour of intensification but I also support protection and preservation of established communities in downtown wards, particularly heritage neighbourhoods. Which is why I’m concerned about developments being built along King, Queen, Victoria, Benton and Charles as well as other major downtown arteries cradling those older communities.
Recently I noted plans to build a 25-storey tower along with the first supermarket-grocery near the Tannery in Kitchener’s west end at Francis and Charles streets and another 20-plus-storey building at Victoria and Bramm streets. Meanwhile others will be built around the LRT hub at King and Victoria and developers of what started as a 24-storey condo at Gaukel and Charles streets are pushing it up to 31 storeys.
Additional projects are coming which is good for the economy but what about the character of established neighbourhoods expected to embrace condo towers that do little to provide housing for other than investors and high-income homebuyers beside the LRT?
Councillors and planners should insist developers benefiting from cash incentives meet high standards of quality and design in buildings that will be with us for decades. They should also do more to make certain that developments meet housing affordability needs of all income groups.
Happy New Year! Looking ahead to 2018, we can anticipate an unprecedented amount of proposed development in our city’s downtown core. It’s undoubtedly an exciting time as we experience intense urban redevelopment, and it’s also very important that we are thoughtful and careful about how we grow our city. In December, Council approved a new tool to help us look at many aspects of designing buildings taller than eight storeys. I recommend having a look at our new Tall Buildings Urban Design Manual. It is intended to aid council, staff, and the private sector to consider things like scale, compatibility, sustainability and safety as we move forward with intensification.
I’d like to draw your attention to two important initiatives planned within Ward 10.
King Victoria Transit Hub. Plans will be developed for Regional Council approval. Stay tuned for public consultation on the name and public art decisions for this future central hub for trains, buses, LRT, and active transportation uses.
152 Shanley St. After the first tax sale process failed last year for this vacant property, the city is now in a position to reduce the price and hold a second tax sale by the end of 2018. Before we do that, we will hold a neighbourhood charrette (a brainstorming session to discuss a design challenge) this spring to explore redevelopment options for this property. Active participation from neighbours will help make this event successful. We will use the feedback to help create the terms of the second tax sale process. If you want to make sure that you receive all notices and information updates on this initiative, please contact me about it.
I wish you and yours all the best in 2018.
Happy New Year 2018! I hope everybody had an opportunity to enjoy the holiday season with an opportunity to slow down, spend time with those nearest and dearest to us, reflect on 2017 and look forward to 2018! I wish each of you and your families a year filled with health, happiness, prosperity and gratitude for all that we have in this great country we call home.
CANADA 150 COMES TO AN END
With the arrival of the new year, the celebration of our country’s sesquicentennial comes to an end! 2017 was a great year to reflect on our country’s and our city’s history as we have lived it for the past 150 years, and begin to think about the kind of country we want to be as we commence the next 150 years of our journey. Congratulations to the team in Ottawa that organized the celebrations in our nation’s capital for those who were able to make it there at some point this year! Thanks also to everyone who participated in some of our local celebrations including Canada Day on July 1st, the ON150 concerts in Downtown Kitchener and our commemorative tree planting of 150 native trees in Kiwanis Park. As we begin this next part of our shared history together, let’s make sure we ask ourselves, “What am I going to do in the coming year to make Kitchener and Canada a kinder, gentler and smarter community and nation?” We all have a role to play in this journey and I encourage you to begin writing that next chapter in the coming year.
MAYORS CITY BUILDER AWARDS
This past Sunday, I was pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s Mayor’s City Builder Awards at our annual New Year’s Levee. I introduced these awards in my first State of the City speech as mayor in 2015, and this will be the third year that we are awarding them. The award was introduced to recognize and bring attention to Kitchener citizens and groups who have demonstrated a commitment to making our city and community a better place today and in the future. Congratulations to this year’s recipients - Melissa Bowman, Sara Casselman, Basheer Habib, Laura McBride and Paula Saunders. Thank you to them for all they have done to make our community a great place to live, work and play in. Thank you also to everyone who took time to nominate people this year.
City Council is well on its way in the preparation of Budget 2018. The draft budget is looking quite positive with one of the lowest proposed increases in the region which will be below the rate of inflation and includes investments in new and replacement infrastructure, pays down our debt and maintains and in some cases improves services to our residents. For more information on the 2018 budget, please visit our website at: www.kitchener.ca, and search on keywords Budget 2018. We will be completing the 2018 budget on January 22nd but in the meantime, we will have a Budget Public Input night on January 15th at 7pm. If you have input for the 2018 budget, you are encouraged to attend and participate.
First of all, a giant thank you to all the staff and community volunteers who helped make the holiday season in Kitchener outstanding this year. Highlights included our 21st annual Christkindlmarket, Christmas Fantasy in Victoria Park, the annual KW Musical Society Christmas concert in the Rotunda and of course our annual New Year’s Eve celebration! A special thank-you goes to Christie Digital who returned this year during Christkindlmarkt and had a simultaneous showing of Handel’s Messiah in Carl Zehr Square with thanks to the KW Symphony, the Grand Philarmonic Choir and the Centre in the Square.
Looking ahead, don’t miss out on a new event, a winter Porch Party at the Kitchener Public Library branch in January 20th from 10am – 4pm. Then in term of planning for next month, throughout February, various organizations will be celebrating the Chinese New Year so lots of activities to participate in. In addition, look for a variety of activities on Family Day, Monday February 19th throughout the city, including the Bring on the Sunshine African festival!
Things continue to flourish on the economic development front throughout the City. Many of you no doubt read the story over the holidays in the Waterloo Region Record by Terry Pender that reflected on the success of the city’s 10 year economic development fund, and spoke of the estimated $1.2 billion in potential building permits to be issued over the next 12-16 months as a result of job growth in the tech sector, an increased desire to live downtown and the construction of the LRT. Next week, I will be joining the Deloitte team as we open their new regional office as part of the Tannery development in Downtown Kitchener. Later this winter, or in early spring, we also expect to see Thalmic open their new space in the former Schreiters furniture building and the new 475,000 sq.ft. IoT space open at Catalyst 137, where Miovision will now be headquartered. Overall 2018 looks to be very promising for our community.