City Council marks its first 100 days in office on March 11th. For me, this is a good time to check in on our initial progress as a Council.
Immediately after being sworn in Council set 4 Strategic priorities for our term. They are: A Vibrant Business Environment, Responsible Spending, An Inclusive Community, and Well Planned Transportation.
Responsible Spending has within it the following goals: Embrace innovation to improve how we do business, Demonstrate value for money, Improve understanding of how tax dollars are spent, and Build a community that respects both current and future taxpayers. So far:
- The City’s budget, just passed, included a 3.2% tax increase – about 0.7% more than the core inflation rate. Of that, operating costs resulted in a 2.2% increase (below inflation), and the remaining 1% is a new Dedicated Infrastructure Renewal Fund – these are funds that will be spent on roads, bridges, sidewalks, pipes, parks, and all other city infrastructure, in order to address the backlog of state-of-good repair projects that have gone uncompleted for far too long.
- This funding will also reduce reliance on debt by some $252M over the next 20 years, saving residents millions in interest payments and reducing the burden on future taxpayers by doing work now instead of at great cost later.
- Included in the budget is a project to convert all 11,000 streetlights in Barrie to LED’s, saving taxpayers more than $2M a year in energy costs – a great example of innovation delivering savings.
On affordable housing, I said during the election that we should build 300 units by 2018, and in my inaugural address challenged Council to pass our Affordable Housing Strategy in the first 100 days. Council made affordable housing one of the goals within its Inclusive Community priority, and has made the following progress:
- The Affordable housing strategy was passed by Council in February, within the first 100 days, including 14 actions to begin increasing the supply of affordable housing
- Budget 2015 provides funding toward 54 unit affordable housing development on Brooks Street at the IOOF campus in Allandale
- Working group of developers, city staff, agencies to begin implementing changes and recommending additional actions to make it easier to build rental and affordable ownership units
On jobs, Council established several goals: Build a global startup community, Eliminate obstacles to business growth and investment, Attract and retain a talented workforce, Promote Barrie’s strengths. These fit well with the “3 E’s” theme of Entrepreneurship, Education, and Expansion discussed at election time:
- Barrie has continued its advocacy for a university campus in Barrie including an information session at Queen’s Park in late January
- We have worked with existing businesses to sell Barrie through the revitalized Barrie Business Ambassadors, who had their first training sessions for new ambassadors
- Invest Barrie has begun expanded Business Retention & Expansion efforts through Phase 1 of a formal employer outreach program
- New 75,000SF manufacturing plant by armoured car manufacturer Streit Inc. coming to south end of Barrie
- Processing time for industrial building permits continues to drop; now 1.1 months, down from 3.5 months in 2010
Council’s fourth priority for this term is Well Planned Transportation, with three specific goals: Improve our road network, Improve options to get around, Improve road safety. To date in this term:
- Our new 5-year capital plan includes critical road expansions and links such as Essa Road, Mapleview East, and the Harvie Road/Big Bay Point Crossing
- Capital plan also includes a substantial expansion in road resurfacing and reconstruction work on many roads that badly need it, such as Ferndale, Morrow Road, Bayview, Duckworth, and many others
- Budget 2015 includes permanent traffic calming measures at 3 intersections in residential neighbourhoods
- Our active transportation plan will continue to roll out in 2015 with road diets in certain locations, there will also be a new performance-based transit contract, and work continues on the Centennial Park expansion and Lakeshore Drive realignment
Council is working well together on many key issues, maintaining a focus on getting things done, and making increased efforts to listen to the residents we serve. Most members of Council are active on social media, and the first of the monthly ward town hall meetings was held in Ward 2 on Saturday March 7th. In my opinion, Council has also shown the willingness to make some tough decisions that may be politically difficult today, but will save money and improve services for decades to come. Still much, much work to do, some issues (such as parking) that we have not yet tackled meaningfully…but a really solid start.