Larry would have been proud

Last summer Barrie lost one of the few true believers, a veteran local politician who believed devoutedly in people: Larry Taylor.  He worked for more than four decades, as a Mississauga City Councillor, then in Barrie in various roles, to advocate for a greater role for the community in decisions at city hall – and it brought him and I together during the race for Mayor in 2010.

Larry pushed me, during the campaign and afterwards, to continue the work I’d started as a councillor in creating neighbourhood associations in Barrie, and giving them a role in decisions that affect their neighbourhoods – especially planning decisions.  I’m a big believer in these groups but my enthusiasm was nothing like Larry’s was – he was a truly devout community organizer. 

At general committee last week we had a public meeting for a proposed five story building on Cumberland Street in Allandale.  The Allandale Neighbour Association made a deputation, but they also provided written comments, and their letter is the best reason I’ve seen yet as to why these associations are so valuable.   Click here to read the letter. 

This is great – not NIMBYism, but well-thought out argument; support for the development, but a desire for an improved proposal.  The ANA did their homework.  Exactly what a neighbourhood association can do to make a difference – as the Barrie Downtown Neighbourhood Association, the East End Neighbourhood Association, and other less formalized groups are doing in their parts of the city.  Larry Taylor would be proud of them.

Fall Term Preview

The fall term of Council is gonna be one busy time. 

You’ve probably noticed we’re ramping up our efforts to bring a university campus to Barrie.  Aside from the 300-500 jobs a university campus would bring, our employers in Barrie have been telling us they need the highly skilled workforce that a university (and a strong college can deliver).  In addition to the highly successful online campaign, I will be stalking the halls at Queen’s park to push for Barrie to be given a satellite campus.  It’s a $100M investment in our city that could truly reshape our community and our local economy.

We’re also going to see some blockbuster development applications.  Harmony Village, a huge proposed seniors oriented condo complex, is likely to apply this fall based on the architectural competition they are running now.  Click here to see their design concepts.  They have not made any application to the city yet, so no decision will be made on this proposal for some time, but it’s clearly very ambitious.  Development services committee will get the first look at the plans for the Annexation lands on Tuesday Sept 18th.  They are based on a more traditional grid and reflect our principles for development that integrate the best of Barrie’s older neighbourhoods (think old East-end Barrie).  Council will see the full plans in December or January.

Council will also be taking an earlier than usual look (and bigger role in preparing) the 2013 budget.  Cutting back on water rate increases and managing the post-recession fiscal crunch are key priorities.  There is no question 2013 and likely 2014 as well will need to be lean years for all levels of government.  Managing emergency services costs and restraint on the capital budget will be key.

Jobs and economic development remain job one.  Work continues through our small business task force, and our new CAO Carla Ladd is working with Director Hany Kirolis on an overhaul of our broader Economic Development efforts.  I’m speaking at several conferences this fall to work on attracting investors to Barrie.  There’s a new skilled trades initiative in the works, and four Barrie businesses (and another 40 or so GTA businesses) will be joining myself, Mayor Hazel McCallion, and 3 other GTA mayors for the trade mission to China.  I’m working through the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) to push for economic and fiscal reform that will help Ontario companies to fill more jobs locally, and cities to support their growth.  However, probably the most important part of my job on this front is meeting with companies that may locate or relocate to Barrie, and that’s something that I do pretty much all the time.

Last – there’s some fun stuff in the works too.  On Local Government week in October, if they can get it together in time, we will be hosting a first-ever Council meeting at a Barrie highschool, as a way to reach out to younger residents and give them a chance to get involved.  In a few weeks, we will be running a special Barrie bus route to the Agriplex in Essa, for the Barrie fall fair in late September.  And speaking of buses – we’re going to rebrand the bus system and we want you to help us – watch this space for details…