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City Council Columns - June 2019
Hi Ward 1,
You may have heard some buzz in the media of late regarding the ‘downloading’ of costs from the provincial government to municipalities. What this really means is that the provincial government has chosen to no longer fund some services, leaving cities to decide whether to cut these services or raise property taxes to continue them. The lions share of this downloading to date has affected the Regional Government more so than us at the city level but unfortunately for them, many of these services (e.g. Health-related, EMS, etc.) simply cannot be cut in good conscience. Now few would argue the dire financial situation of the provincial government, least of all me, who has rung the alarm a few times over the years with the analogy that the interest alone on Ontario’s debt is equivalent to the cost of building KW’s LRT... not every year... but every month! So I get it, and most municipal politicians do as well, however, this downloading of costs to municipalities, devoid of meaningful consultation, is cheating. What the province is effectively doing is improving its financial situation at the direct and equivalent cost to the financial position of our cities. Or put another way, they’re paying off their Ontario VISA with our Municipal Mastercard, and in the end, you, the taxpayer, is no better off. I suppose the part that bothers me the most is that cities are beholden to the province and will ultimately raise taxes as required; and at some future point, the messaging out of the Province will be that they have magically improved their books without, ahem, raising taxes.
On May 27 council welcomed the winners of the My Ideal City contest to City Hall for a mock debate on sidewalk snow removal. It was a fun event and great to hear what our youth think about this issue. Later that night at our regular council meeting, council voted in favour of doing a sidewalk clearing pilot. It contains a few options and will give us solid information to base decisions on.
Saturday, June 8 is Neighbour’s Day! Our Ward 2 community centres have some great events planned. Centreville-Chicopee Community Centre, 141 Morgan, is where you and the family can enjoy a free BBQ, bouncy inflatables, face painting, popcorn and cotton candy, Our Place and Idlewood Pool information booths, as well as live music. Huge thanks to Grandview Church for their incredible financial and volunteer support.
At the Stanley Park Community Centre, 505 Franklin St. N, enjoy the Neighbours Day Extravaganza. Extend-A-Family is holding a ball hockey tournament, and former Kitchener Ranger Darby Llewellyn and I will drop the puck around 9:20am. You can also enjoy the Bike Safety Rodeo, the St. Daniels Church garage sale, bouncy castles, face painting, information booths, BBQ, candy floss, snow cones, popcorn, and music by DJ Dan and more.
On Wednesday, June 12 we present Kitchener’s Senior of the Year Award. We’ll recognize all the nominees and present the award in Council Chambers at 7pm.
If I can assist you, contact me or call our contact line anytime at 519-741-2345. Follow me on Twitter at @DaveSchniderKW or friend me on Facebook for updates on city and community activities. You can visit daveschnider.com too.
Traynor-Vanier LRT Crossing. Considerable media coverage has been given to this topic over the last few months. During this time the City was in the midst of negotiations for several parcels of land required to complete the crossing. I have purposely remained silent on this matter. Having had considerable experience in this area I fully realized that land purchases publicly negotiated do not benefit the buyer; in this case the city.
The bulk of the negotiations have now been completed. Some intricate future legal matters are yet to be finalized. Although much of the media coverage has been well intended it has tended to be somewhat misleading and not fully mindful of all the facts. As with all issues there are two or more sides; many of which are not considered or conveniently overlooked. Accordingly, I have asked city staff to prepare a full report on this project available for public review by the end of June 2019. They will also attempt to provide estimates as to the completion of the crossing. I have reiterated my goals for a completion of the crossing by this year end.
The trains have already been actively operating. However, on June 21st they will commence full operational mode with eight minute intervals. I am advised that until this crossing is fully in place the trains will operate in this area at a lower than normal speed. My aim at this time is to strongly encourage everyone to use common sense and obey the laws relating to all train crossings, regardless of their locations. I URGE YOU TO NOT ILLEGALLY CROSS THE TRACKS! I fully understand your concerns and appreciate your frustration. However, for the sake of 10-20-30 minutes; it is not worth risking your safety.
Neighbours Day is on June 8 and for me, it’s the start of a fun summer season filled with neighbourhood activities and events. Southwest Optimist Park will be hosting a BBQ from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. to celebrate our community and our wonderful neighbours.
It’s exciting to see all the activity in the playground at Upper Canada Park (Homer Watson and Pioneer Dr.) Just wanted to send out another reminder to join me on June 22 at 11:30 a.m. for the park’s opening event (rain date is June 29). The park received some new amenities and infrastructure upgrades to update and meet the growing needs of our community.
If you missed the FREE Concert in The Park series last summer - good news! It’s happening again. This amazing event is held on selected Sunday evenings throughout the summer at the little Pioneer Park on Green Valley Drive. On July 7, 14, 28 and August 11 (rain date August 18) at 7 p.m., bring your family and friends and your own seating for a wonderful two hours of listening to local musicians perform under the clear blue sky.
The Doon Valley South Facebook group is throwing their 3rd annual Doon South Meet & Mingle on July 24 between 6-8 pm at Thomas Slee Park. There will be fun for the whole family, and presents a wonderful opportunity to meet your neighbours of Doon South! Last year the event saw over 500 people; it’s not one you will want to miss.
Finally, thanks to all who came out to my ‘Coffee with Christine’ open house in May. If you missed it, stay tuned – I’m hoping to host the next one at our new Community Centre in September!
Neighbours Day is quickly approaching on Saturday June 8, and Williamsburg Community Association is hosting a Movie Under the Stars Night as an opportunity for neighbours to come together and celebrate! Activities for the entire family start at 6 p.m., and the movie Space Jam will start when the sun goes down.
Many of you will be happy to have seen the flexible, yellow “PedZone” signs that have been placed in the middle of the street to mark pedestrian crossovers. This signage is part of the city’s Seasonal Traffic Calming program. The program also installs radar display signs on a bi-weekly rotating basis. While the City has an overwhelming demand of traffic calming requests, this program is an excellent temporary solution to enhance pedestrian safety and ensure the community is put first. If there is a place you’d like to see PedZone signs or radars installed for next spring, please feel free to reach out to me and let me know!
Another initiative that was recently announced is the Tree Planting Pilot Program. The city has responded to an overwhelming amount of requests to enhance the city’s urban forest. I’m happy to let you know that you are now able to apply for a tree planting subsidy for private property, as well as an opportunity to submit a group application to plant 10-15 trees in a public, neighbourhood park. This pilot program is a wonderful way to beautify our neighbourhoods with new trees. Applications close on July 1, and you can apply online at www.kitchener.ca/trees.
On May 27, grade 5 and 6 student winners of the My Ideal City contest were given the opportunity to participate in a mock debate regarding the topic of citywide sidewalk maintenance. While they had some creative ideas and held an interesting debate, members of council later that night did approve recommendations to move forward the winter maintenance review project.
Those recommendations, put forth at the Community Infrastructure Services Committee, include plenty of direction aimed to provide staff further clarification and goals regarding the upcoming review. Those consist of extending the pilot to add another 40km of clearing and determining priority route options. Additional recommendations approved are an expansion of the assisted sidewalk and windrow clearing services, as well as monitoring and evaluating the shared snow blower pilot program. Last winter, the assisted sidewalk clearing program was piloted through The Working Centre, however this winter, the City of Kitchener will take over the operations. You may get in touch with our Corporate Contact Centre as early as September or October regarding eligibility for the program and how to apply for the upcoming winter. The work related to the review will take place this upcoming winter of 2019-2020 and staff will report back with results and recommendations in May 2020.
Please send me your feedback on this matter, or talk to me at one of my monthly “Pop In with Paul” meetings at the Country Hills Community Centre the third Wednesday of each month from 7-8:30pm. You may reach me by email at email@example.com or call me at 519-741-2793. You may also call the Corporate Contact Centre 24/7 at 519-741-2345 regarding city matters.
The City of Kitchener has announced an exciting new initiative that puts you, the residents, at the forefront of expanding the city’s urban forest! Property owners are now able to apply for a city-wide tree planting subsidy for residential properties. Successful applicants will work with Reep Green Solutions and receive consultation on proper tree selection and maintenance to ensure that the newly planted tree is healthy and thriving in its new environment.
The City is also offering an additional opportunity in collaboration with Love My Hood for a tree planting pilot in neighborhood parks. Gather some neighbors together and submit a group application to receive the city’s support to plant 10-15 trees on public, city-owned property. Successful applicants will also receive the opportunity to host a neighborhood gathering to celebrate the tree planting and show off the new greenery to the rest of the community.
Our latest tree planting pilot is an exciting opportunity for our neighborhood to enjoy the positive impact that trees have on the environment, which is why I am encouraging everyone to apply. Enhancing our urban forest can provide many benefits to the community, including beautifying our neighborhood, improving the air quality, and enhancing our public green spaces to encourage more outdoor activity.
Applications are already open online at www.kitchener.ca/trees and will close on July 1. Tree plantings will occur during National Forest Week in late September. Good luck to all those who apply!
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with members from MACKS, the Mayor’s Advisory Council for Kitchener Seniors. MACKS is a volunteer committee made up of 12 voting members who ensure that an age-friendly lens is incorporated into the decision making at City Council and staff level. By incorporating seniors’ input related to the impact of programs, services, strategies, and policies that we offer, we can ensure that the older adults in this community have the resources and programs to live well and age well.
The City of Kitchener offers many excellent programs for seniors. These programs enable residents to get out and meet neighbours and new friends. One new program began last summer, Golf Fore Life piloted as a dementia-friendly golf program encouraging seniors to get back on the green. This summer, the program is back again, running Monday – Thursday mornings, starting the week of June 17th. Golf experience is not required, and it’s a great opportunity for seniors with dementia to get active, be social and exercise their brain. Contact Julie Laderoute for registration at 519.741.2200 ext. 5345, or if you are interested in volunteering as a golf caddy as a 1-on-1 support for participants in the program. For more senior’s program information go to www.kitchener.ca and search “senior programs.”
Enjoy the lovely weather and please connect with me, always happy to hear from you. My coordinates are on the banner.
Municipalities across Ontario are struggling to determine the impact the sweeping changes being handed down by the Ontario government will have on their decision making processes and on peoples’ lives. On May 2, Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choices Act) was introduced in the Ontario Legislature. The proposed changes impact everything from funding for community facilities and infrastructure to heritage conservation and municipal land use. When this article was written the consultation process was still taking place.
As the City of Kitchener puts the final touches on the first stage of the new zoning bylaw (CRoZBy) and discusses the renewed development charges protocol, uncertainty looms large. Development charges (fees charged per unit on all new buildings) have been used to accommodate new development through the building of such things as new roads, water and sewer infrastructure, libraries and community centres. Kitchener has historically charged the maximum allowed in development charges with the exception of a 10 year exemption period in the Urban Growth Centre area (aka downtown) designed to foster increased density in the core and along the LRT route. This exemption period has ended and city council will now decide what the charges will be for the next five years.
The passing of Bill 108 as proposed would complicate the decision making process as the allowable uses of the charges would change. According to one interpretation of the Bill, development charges would no longer be available for parks and recreation facilities, libraries, childcare services, or community centres.
The challenge to municipal planning departments, city councils and residents is considerable and should concern all of us.
Warmer weather is finally here, and the City of Kitchener is offering a variety of free events throughout June and July to kick off summer. Here are just a few highlights:
Mark your calendar for Saturday June 8 because it is going to be an epic day in Kitchener. We will celebrate Neighbours Day throughout the city. Whether you’re planning to attend our event at Downtown Community Centre, or celebrate with a public swim, movie night or BBQ, I hope your day is spent in good company with neighbours from the community.
That same Saturday June 8 in the evening, come explore at Summer Lights Festival in downtown Kitchener from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Join for an experience that connects arts, tech, music, theatre, dance, business and community for everyone to enjoy!
June 20 come downtown for a big patio crawl and True North DTK celebration featuring musician Frank Walker.
June 21 -July 1 ride the ION and all GRT transit for free! Saturday June 22 is the ION launch party, with lots happening at each stop. I’ll be at the Kitchener Market stop to help kick it off.
June 22-23 is the 52nd Annual Multi-Cultural Festival in Victoria Park. This festival has become a beloved annual tradition for thousands of local residents to come out and experience the many international foods, marketplace vendors, and musical performances representing over 30 countries.
July 1 we have downtown festivities and fireworks at City Hall.
July 13-14 Kultrun will be held in Victoria Park, an exciting World Music festival that celebrates diversity with high caliber global music, performance art, an art market and a beer garden cantina.
Downtown Kitchener is where it’s at!
It’s hard to believe that we’re almost halfway through the year, but the good news is that with the arrival of June, we also get to welcome summer and no doubt the long awaited nice weather that comes with it.
There is an an incredible amount going on around the city – a mixture of special events and festivals combined with things like new construction throughout our downtown core and the city as a whole. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that as a country we have all united behind our support of the Toronto Raptors as they pursue the NBA championships – the first-time ever for a Canadian team. Our own Waterloo region version of Jurassic Park is bringing us together in Downtown Kitchener during this historic series. Hope to see you there!
CONESTOGA COLLEGE COMES DOWNTOWN
Last Friday, I was pleased to joing President John Tibbits and Craig Haney from Europro (owners of Market Square) to announce that Conestoga College will be opening a new campus of Conestoga College in Downtown Kitchener. The college will be starting a new International Business program at the campus, for both Canadian and international students in 80,000 sq.ft. of space in Market Square. The new campus is expected to welcome approximately 1000 students plus faculty and staff when it opens in January 2020, with growth to 2000 students within a couple of years. Conestoga College has been an amazing partner with the City of Kitchener since 1967 when it opened its orginal main campus in Doon, and thus becoming the first post-secondary institute in Kitchener, and after years of expansions throughout Waterloo region and beyond, will now be returning to their roots right in the heart of our city. Thank you to President Tibbits and his team, as well as the Conestoga College Board of Governors for their vote of confidence in our community.
FEDERATION OF CANADIAN MUNICIPALITIES (FCM)
This past week, I attended the Big City Mayors’ Caucus meetings and the FCM AGM in Quebec City. This was an opportunity for us to meet with representatives from Canada’s major political parties in the lead up to this Fall’s federal election. During the last four years, the municipal movement has made substantive gains in our relationship with the federal government and this election look for us to be promoting platforms committed to a new relationship between Ottawa and Canada’s cities and communities as well as those making predictable and reliable ongoing funding commitments in various areas of municipal infrastructure ranging from climate adaptation and mitigation to transportation and other key community investments.
NEIGHBOURS DAY 2019, NEIGHBOURS NIGHT & SUMMER LIGHTS
This coming Saturday, June 8th will mark the 2019 version of Neighbours Day in the City of Kitchener. This now beloved annual celebration of all things Kitchener neighbourhoods will see thousands of our residents celebrating the best of what our city has to offer with dozens of amazing events throughout our community designed to bring neighbours together, demonstrating why we “LoveMyHood”! For details about all of the things to do, visit our City of Kitchener website at www.kitchener.ca, and type keywords “Neighbours Day”. Also make sure to check out “Neighbours Night” for the first time ever on Friday June 7th, at Descendants Brewery in Kitchener. And summer’s beloved event – Summer Lights will be taking place on Neighbours Day as well this year. So after a busy day checking out Kitchener’s neighbourhoods, make sure you come back to Downtown Kitchener for Summer Lights as we prepare to welcome Summer to #KWAwesome!
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES $49.9 MILLION IN FUNDING FOR KITCHENER
Last month, Government House Leader and MP for Waterloo, Bardish Chagger and Local Members of Parliament for Kitchener Centre Raj Saini and for Kitchener South Hespeler, Marwan Tabarra announced $49.9 million in funding for the City of Kitchener’s Stormwater Management infrastructure from Ottawa’s Disaster Mitigation & Adaptation Fund. This funding will be matched with $72 million in local funding and in total will result in well over $120 million in investments in the city’s stormwater management systems to prevent flooding during future climate change events. The projects funded through these dollars will include neighbourhood stormwater drainage controls, upgrades to the Bridgeport Dyke and replacement of a section of the much-loved Walter Bean Grand River trail that is regularly flooded during major storm events. This partnership is an example of what can be achieved when orders of government work together to build a more resilient, low-carbon economy for Canada’s cities and communities.
iON LAUNCH TO TAKE PLACE ON JUNE 21 at 10:30AM
On June 21st, our new GRT light-rail transit system, the iON will finally launch to a community which has been awaiting its arrival with great anticipation. Opening ceremonies will take place on June 21st at 10:30 at the Fairview Mall station, followed by a community celebration taking place at various stations along the LRT route on June 22nd. And of course, you can use the LRT the weekend of June 22nd and 23rd to enjoy the diverse tastes and sounds of Canada’s cultures during the annual Multicultural festival in Victoria Park on LRT opening weekend.