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City Council Columns - July 2018
Sidewalk Snow Clearing
We all want the same thing, sidewalks cleared of snow in a timely manner. We also don’t want to see those who are unable burdened with this duty. What many disagree upon is the method by which we achieve this goal. I believe piloting city clearing is redundant as some neighbouring cities already have this service. The data is available, and the results are mixed at best. Complaints always go up but other aspects are of greater concern. It’s terrible for the environment. More carbon in the air from required vehicles and staff estimates five times more salt on the earth. Salt is already a problem for our groundwater, and that’s the water we drink. Cost is also a concern. The $759K pilot would wipe out our Winter Reserve Fund (supposed to balance years of excessive snowfall) and dip into other reserves that are already under-funded. If approved citywide, the tax implication would be the greatest in recent memory. The estimate is 3.5% on TOP of inflationary increases. I worry about our city’s financial condition, but I’m also progressive and believe there are limits on taxation the voting-public will accept. At 3.5%, what will be the appetite for other services/infrastructure residents desire? Is city-snow-clearing “the” service?
We instead approved a more efficient option; proactive bylaw enforcement, in tandem with a program aiding those that need help. It’s far less expensive, has never been tried, and should see sidewalks cleared far in advance of the city’s ability. Before draining reserves, it seems prudent to try the civic-duty/barn-raising approach our Region is known for.
I want to give huge thanks to the Centreville-Chicopee and Stanley Park Community Associations for the great Neighbours Day celebrations at their community centres. I also want to thank Grandview Church for partnering with Centreville Chicopee with financial and volunteer support that made the day even more special. St. Anthony Daniel Church partnered with Stanley Park with more activities and events. Our Kitchener Fire Department and Waterloo Regional Police had staff at both celebrations and their presence and participation is always appreciated.
The Kiwanis Park Pool has reopened. I encourage you to enjoy this jewel of a facility in our City. The renovations are amazing and the kids sure love the new spray pad. It’s a great place to pack a picnic lunch for and enjoy some family time.
Come downtown for these upcoming free events:
Cruising on King is on Friday, July 13. Check out the classic cars along King Street and live music in Carl Zehr Square.
The Downtown Kitchener Ribfest and Craft Beer Show: July 20-22 in Victoria Park.
Rock & Rumble: July 21 from 5-11pm. Custom and vintage motorcycles, food trucks, craft beer and live music featuring Honeymoon Suite and The Northern Pikes.
The Centreville Chicopee Community Centre’s Splash Pad is free to enjoy daily from 9 till 9. Just bring your towel.
I welcome your ideas and concerns. Contact me if I can help in any way.
You can report an issue or get questions from any city department answered by calling our 24 Hour Contact Line at 519-741-2345.
Sidewalk Snow-clearing. This topic has been discussed several times during the past three years. It is one on which almost everyone has an opinion. Full discussion was always postponed awaiting new Provincial Regulations which were finally issued in May. During the past several months staff have spent considerable hours engaging the Public, including all major stakeholders, concerning this matter. Based on these discussions staff prepared several detailed alternatives complete with cost estimates.
The estimated costs of the study were somewhat distorted in that over 1/3 of the costs related to re-usable/saleable Capital equipment and therefore not a true estimate of the real incurred costs. No new permanent staff would be hired for the tests. Some of the costs related to the new Regulations imposed by the Province and thus required implementation regardless of the tests. Based on my detailed review of the estimated costs I expect that they would have been closer to $400,000 compared to the oft-quoted $770,000. This is unquestionably a considerable amount to be spent for a pilot project. However, sometimes it is necessary to spend money to save money. This is an issue that impacts everyone as we all use sidewalks and roads. Recently, the majority of Council quickly endorsed a pilot project costing $800,000 for a Creative Arts Hub which I suspect only impacts a minority of our constituents.
At this time no one knows the real cost and impact of this issue. I don’t know! There are too many unsubstantiated figures “floating around”. In order to make a viable decision we need REAL FACTS. These can only be attained by carrying out proper tests. Postponement at this time is only a tactic to circumvent some tough questioning on the election campaign trail.
One of the most discouraging results of the recent vote by Council was the fact that we have again solicited Public Engagement with the far too normal result – “we want to hear from you; thank you for opinions; and now we will proceed to do what we had originally planned to do”!
I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer. We are still open for business; so if you have any concerns or questions on these or other issues please always feel free to contact me at your convenience (519-744-0807 / 519-498-2389 / firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com)
Some exciting proposals have come forward to our most recent committee meeting in June.
Proposals included the ability for people to do boulevard improvements besides just grass and some guidelines around our street parties which continue to be a huge success in the community
Boulevards often have numerous challenges for residents. Some don’t mind the grass and the trees that have been placed there during the development of their neighbourhood, some wish there weren’t any trees and others look at it as an opportunity to be creative and landscape it differently than the regular grass. Our Bylaw staff has come up with a recommendation to allow residents the flexibility to be creative on their boulevards. A variety of plant material and landscaping will be allowed as long as it follows the criteria that has been set. You can check the link to the staff report CSD-18-016 through this link: https://lf.kitchener.ca/WebLinkExt/0/doc/1602193/Page1.aspx
Our Love My Hood continues to be a huge success across the community. Special events are popping up everywhere and neighbours are gathering in parks, on the streets and in each other’s backyards.
As these events grow we have identified a few possible concerns so in order to alleviate them we have created a Special Events Bylaw. This should help organizers understand the logistics around hosting a street party. In addition a Guide to Hosting Street parties can be found on the www.lovemyhood.ca site. Street parties that are less than 200 people will now be covered by the City’s insurance over 200 then a special permit will be required.
Please consider hosting or helping someone in your neighbourhood organize a street party! Bringing community together is always positive!
I was very pleased to be part of the Huron Natural Area Federal Grant Opening on June 16. The City of Kitchener received $400,000 through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario provided these funds to improve and extend portions of trail that link Strasburg and Huron Road. With this funding we were able to upgrade the existing six kilometres of trail by extending them another kilometer. This extension improves access to the trails for neighbouring residents and for the whole community to enjoy, while also protecting and preserving the natural habitat. Spend some time outside with your family this summer and see what the HNA has to offer! Join me in congratulating the Williamsburg Community Association (WCA) as they celebrate being recognized with the volunteer service award for 10 years of providing dedicated community support and programming. The WCA also received a placemaking grant for the Max Becker Commons Park to add trees, benches and fitness equipment. They will be seeking volunteers shortly to help plant and maintain a garden in the park. Contact 519-741-2240 if you are interested in volunteering!
Your kids aged 8+ can practice getting some “Air” at the Doon Skatium Mobile Skatepark from Jul 16-Aug 3, Mon-Fri at the Williamsburg Community Centre. You can also sign up for kid’s softball, soccer, adult beach volleyball and family softball that run from Jul 4-Aug 22 for just $10.00 each at Freedom Christ Church at 1643 Bleams Rd. WCA is also offering a Youth Drop-in over the summer on weekday evenings from Jul 3-Aug 17. Also, check out the upcoming events in downtown Kitchener this month at: www.kitchenerevents.ca.
I’m proud to inform you that council will continue their support of resident led initiatives, focusing on reducing the “red tape” to make it easier for residents to take action and affect change in their neighbourhoods.
Council just passed a bylaw that will allow you to personalize your neighbourhood boulevards. Through the Boulevard Beautification program, residents can use different materials and plantings as alternatives to grass on city boulevards. The bylaw will speak to the materials you can use, and identify safety requirements and other considerations. A step-by-step guide will be made available soon to help residents plan and complete a boulevard beautification project.
Council also approved changes to bylaw requirements to make it easier for you to host a street party in your neighbourhood. Through the “Love my Hood” consultations, residents let us know they wanted to see more neighbourhood events, so this was one more way the city could support that desire.
Instead of 100 per cent of your neighbours needing to sign off on a street event, you now only need support from 60 per cent of your neighbours. If you’re interested in hosting a party, but aren’t sure how to get started, you can find a simple step-by-step guide called “How to host a street party” and you can visit the inspirational blog to help with ideas at www.lovemyhood.ca.
Thank you to all the residents who took part in the “Your Kitchener, Your Say! Strategic Plan Review” online survey. Your ideas will influence the city’s work over the next four years. Share your thoughts about our customer service on the newly posted survey, “Kitchener wants to serve you right!” posted on the www.engagekitchener.ca site until noon of September 30, 2018.
Love My Hood Neighbourhood Strategy
The City of Kitchener received the 2018 CAMA Willis Award for Innovation from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) at their national conference in Fredericton, NB on May 30 for Love My Hood: Kitchener’s Guide to Great Neighbourhoods Strategy. It was recognized for its grass roots approach to building social infrastructure and for creating an environment where residents can affect their own neighbourhoods by working together. The strategy offers a unique approach to city building where residents can take the lead and the city supports them along the way. The Love My Hood movement has continued to grow as more and more residents have become involved in their neighbourhoods. The projects were evaluated against a set of criteria, which included; how innovative and creative they were, their impact on the municipal administration, their potential to be adopted by other municipalities, their impact on the organization or municipality, and the sustainability of the results.
Love My Hood Neighbourhood Strategy also received the Gold Quill Award for Best External Publication 2018, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute Award in the Communications/Public Education category in 2017 and the Gold Hermes Creative Award in 2018.
The City of Kitchener offers several grants to assist you with projects that improve your neighbourhood: Neighbourhood Matching Grant, Neighbourhood Placemaking Grant, Community Gardens Grant, Inclusion and Belonging Grant. To learn more about the strategy and resources to help you take the lead on initiatives in your neighbourhood, I encourage you to visit: www.lovemyhood.ca.
Last week City Council debated the winter sidewalk snow clearing maintenance options presented by staff. It was suggested that a pilot project be tried in a cluster area of 1,500 homes with the City clearing the sidewalks at a cost of $758,700. Initially councillors accepted staff’s suggestion, however, after further review Council opted instead to increase enforcement proactively by hiring four temporary officers for $177,000.
We received numerous replies from residents both equally for and against spending $0.75 Million on this trial pilot. Many thought it was good and just as many stated it was a waste of taxpayers’ money.
The pilot project would only cover a very small area of the city and the balance of the homeowners would still be responsible for clearing their sidewalk. This clearly appeared to not be fair spending money where a very large portion of the city will not get the same service.
It is evident that more than 90% of the homeowners already shovel their sidewalks immediately. Those that don’t receive a warning and are required to clear their sidewalk asap but only upon complaint. If there’s no complaint, then it remains not shoveled.
When complaints were filed, 95% of those homeowners cleared their sidewalk afterwards.
By taking a proactive approach, councillors feel that all sidewalks will be cleared quickly as no one will want to receive a fine and then be sent a bill of $250+ for the City clearing it for them each time.
I supported this strong proactive action as I feel it will result in all sidewalks cleared within 48 hours regardless of the amount of snow at a better price.
The City will also partner with The Working Centre to have them provide workers to clear sidewalks for seniors and those with disabilities.
Alarming increases in opioid-related deaths continue as regional council crawls slowly toward a solution.
Public health statistics show that every month regional councillors, Trump-light Premier Doug Ford and Cambridge council stall decisions on supervised injection sites, at least seven local people will die from opioid overdoses.
Part of a solution to this urgent issue would be a decision on two supervised drug injection sites — one in downtown Kitchener and another in Cambridge’s drug-troubled core. As usual, because the city apparently has no opioid issues, Waterloo is not considered for a site.
Ford, who is on record for being “dead set” against sites, has to approve them before the federal government opens the facilities. Ever since Kitchener councillors courageously approved such a politically unpopular drug-injection site, the Region has been dithering about approval for supervised facilities complete with wrap-around social services.
Part of the delay involves a renewed search for alternate sites and a hastily created, electioneering bylaw in Cambridge to ban such a facility in the city’s core which is being ravaged by drug problems.
In Kitchener, one potential site has been identified in a Water Street North house located between Duke and Victoria near St. John’s Kitchen.
Meanwhile the tragedy grows:
° About 85 people died in Waterloo Region from opioid-related overdoses in 2017.
° Locally, we have about 4,000 people a day injecting drugs often laced with deadly fentanyl.
We need immediate action instead of hand-wringing and wordy waffling.
Sidewalk snow clearing has been a contentious issue for a long time, and my perspective on the topic has developed over time. Municipally provided snow clearing seems at first glance to be a costly endeavor that would only end up disappointing residents who would expect all sidewalks to be cleared within an hour of each snowfall. Also, most residents are already responsible property owners, so snow clearing provided by the city may seem unnecessary. While those arguments have some merit, pedestrians across the city have told us loud and clear that the current system isn’t working. We rely on complaint-driven enforcement for each address in the city, which usually takes several days to a week to be resolved each time. This is disappointing for any able bodied pedestrian, but for those with mobility challenges, it will mean the difference between being able to get out and having to stay home for days on end.
The fundamental need is clear: we need to ensure consistently cleared pathways for everyone to get to their destinations. Unfortunately, the City of Kitchener is not yet going to lead the way in finding an evidence-based researched solution to this perennial problem. This winter we will see more proactive enforcement, which should help a little, but it will still take up to a week for each case to be resolved, so this winter we will continue to see mobility for pedestrians hindered by unshoveled sidewalks. The debate will be revisited in May 2019. I for one am in favour of ensuring the city is consistently accessible for all, regardless of abilities and regardless of weather conditions.
Happy July! I trust everyone enjoyed the Canada Day long weekend and had an opportunity to celebrate our great country in Downtown Kitchener, at the University of Waterloo or at other celebrations in your neighbourhood or amongst friends! While July 1st is our nation’s birthday, we are all fortunate to live in this great country and have reason to celebrate Canada and being Canadian each and every day!
LOTS OF GREAT EVENTS IN JULY
One of my favourite parts of the summer is all of the special events and festivals that take place in our community for people to enjoy! I encourage you to get out and enjoy these events – they are a big part of what makes Kitchener a great community to live, work and play in! Some events to look forward to in the coming weeks include:
• our annual giant car show, Cruising on King which takes over King Street on Friday July 13th
• the Kultrun World Music festival which runs July 13-15th in Victoria Park with music from around the world including Canada, Ecuador, Poland, Korea and Chile
• Rock and Rumble in Carl Zehr Square on July 28th with 80’s and 90’s bands – Honeymoon Suite and Northern Pikes
• Discovery Square on July 31st in Carl Zehr Square
• Show & Shine Classic Car Mondays each Monday evening in July in the plaza at Highland and Westmount.
And of course, you should start planning ahead for the weekend of August 9-12th in Downtown Kitchener as the annual Kitchener Blues festival returns once again for another awesome year of Blues!
REGIONAL SCS SITES
At its June meeting, Regional Council considered a report that proposed two SCS sites in the region – one in Cambridge and one in Kitchener. Each of these sites would be health care sites, with a full suite of wrap-around services also available to those seeking access. The report also suggested two possible locations for the Cambridge site and one possible location for the Kitchener site at 115 Water Street North. Council directed staff to consider additional locations which might be suggested by the municipalities or the community, in each municipality, during the first part of July. A public consultation would follow in August with a report coming back to the region in the Fall following this process and after direction from the new provincial government on these sites.
NEIGHBOURHOOD STRATEGY WINS NATIONAL AWARD
Recently, at the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators’ conference, the City of Kitchener received the prestigious Willis Award for innovation for our Neighbourhood Strategy. Love My Hood: Kitchener’s Guide to Great Neighbourhoods strategy was recognized for its grass roots approach to building social infrastructure and for creating an environment where residents can affect their own neighbourhoods by working together. I’m very proud of the work we have collectively done around building great neighbourhoods and appreciate the great leadership by both our staff and the citizens who were part of the steering committee that led this project. It’s great to know that all of our work on this initiative will now be shared with municipalities across Canada and will hopefully help shape great neighbourhoods across our great country!
PILOT WINTER SIDEWALK PROGRAM
At the June City Council meetings, Council considered a proposal from staff that would have seen the City pilot a range of sidewalk clearing options in different parts of the city during the upcoming winter 2018-19. This proposal was more than two years in the making, based on input from various members of the community including our accessibility advisory committee, GRAAC and also the TriTag citizen group which advocates for better investment in sidewalks, trails and bike paths. The intent of the various pilots was to see how each pilot meets citizen expectations and how it improves accessibility for pedestrians, those with accessibility challenges, those with children in strollers, cyclists and others. I was hopeful that Council would have supported this entire proposal, so a future council could make some evidence-based decisions, based on full information in the future. In the end, only two parts were approved for 2018-19 – namely proactive sidewalk enforcement through the entire City and the exploration of partnerships with community organizations for older adults and those with accessibility challenges who are on limited incomes. This revised pilot will come back in spring 2019 for the next Council to consider.