What did City Council do?
Unsanctioned Public Gatherings
Council received information as to what our next steps are regarding Unsanctioned Public Gatherings. We have established a Task Force, which includes a host of stakeholders including neighbourhood associations, students, both universities as well as Conestoga College, police, paramedics, grand river hospital and City staff. We are working on pioneering research on these gatherings in order to help address the problems associated. There will be a draft plan presented to Council this fall, with a final plan in early 2020 as we approach St. Patrick’s Day next year. The main problems we have identified are safety of students and residents, reputation of the City, cost and behaviour. I look forward to the findings of the task force in order to find ways to curtail the party, while focusing on the 4 main problems identified above. As I stated at Council, as much as I too would like to stop the party from happening, I think the idea of a ‘silver bullet’ solution is a fallacy. Hopefully, our research will identify the root cause of the party and help us curtail it to the best of our abilities. I applaud our emergency services teams and the City for ensuring the safety of the students again during this year’s festivities. Lastly, I want to emphasize that although the party is a problem, students in general are not. The demonization of students is not something I am in favour of and I will continue to use this platform to espouse the great benefits, economic and otherwise, of living in a student City. In many ways the vibrancy of our City is a direct result of our student population, while the party is unfortunate, let’s not lose sight of that.
The Uptown Public Realm Strategy began in 2017 and analyzed 5 components for the Uptown; parks & open space, connectivity, urban form, heritage and public art & culture. Council received a report analyzing the findings of this strategy and although the implementation of these initiatives may be years away, the report is intended to help guide our decision making through this lens going forward. The three priority initiatives are all extremely exciting and I look forward to the day when these are implemented fully as I think they are transformative to the Uptown. The first initiative is the Laurel Greenway initiative, which is intended to act as a linear park connecting the Laurel Trail to the Waterloo Town Square LRT stop and into Waterloo Park. The second initiative is the Civic Common initiative, which is intended to activate the LRT stop at Allen Street and connect Brewmeister’s Green, Heritage Green and the Region of Waterloo pumping station on William Street. Lastly the Willis Way Shared Street initiative is intended to connect Waterloo City Hall, the Cenotaph and Waterloo Town Square to the LRT stop at Willis Way in the vision of a shared street. Each of these initiatives are long term visions and really exciting to think of activating. I encourage you to peruse the document above for more info on these amazing projects.
Council heard the emerging themes from our Strategic Plan development team. The final plan is going to be forthcoming in the next month or so, with a complete Council workshop happening in April. The emerging themes from the initial plan include; sustainability and the environment, safe & sustainable transportation, inclusion, strong communities & resilient neighbourhoods, quality of place, affordability, infrastructure renewal, engagement & communication, growth & development and corporate excellence. As a reminder the strategic plan is the guiding document for all decision making within the City. 10 themes are likely too many, so we will see some of these themes rolled up in the coming weeks. I’m excited to be a part of this process and look forward to helping guide the team. One of the interesting takeaways was that residents of Waterloo have a 91% satisfaction with the City as a place to live, which is quite high compared to other municipalities. We have a great community here and we need to keep building on it to keep this going!
Asset Management Plan Policy Update
The Province of Ontario has mandated that we have a plan in place by July of this year. One of the main takeaways from this process is that we have an infrastructure funding gap of $20-$23 million dollars per year as identified in our plan put together last year. We have been focusing on linking our Long Term Financial Plan to our Asset Management Plan in order to determine next steps. We have been engaging in significant public consultation on this process, but we need to do better in explaining this to residents. Essentially, the Province has offloaded significant infrastructure requirements to municipalities over the past number of years and we now need to find a way to address it in order to ensure the long term viability of our infrastructure. This is likely to require significant tax increases, but we are also engaging in further discussions around alternatives to help mitigate the costs. Much more will come from this in the coming years and I would love to meet with residents to discuss the challenges further. Reach out for a more in depth discussion!
Waterloo Park 2019 Priorities
Council approved the report for Waterloo Park priorities in 2019 and in principle for 2020-2022. For 2019 the focus will be on improvements to Silver Lake, including the plaza, trails and terrace, building the new splash pad in the West end of the park, wayfinding signage and enhanced entry points at Seagram Drive and Erb/Caroline. 2020-2022 will see a focus on the Bauer Parking Lot, a new Laurel Creek crossing, frontage improvements at the Northwest end of the park and the East end splash pad.
Draft Inventory of Significant Cultural Heritage Landscapes
Council received an initial report on CHL’s in the City as mandated by the Province of Ontario. We will be looking at these 27 landscapes in the near future to determine whether they proceed and what we will do with them. The options for CHL’s are to celebrate that, incent them, plan & guide or conserve them. There are a number of great areas on the City on this list including Waterloo Park, the Grand River corridor and Veteran’s Green Housing. In Ward 2 the two areas on the list are the Forested Hills area (Environmentally protected areas of Vista Hills and Columbia Forest) as well as the Town of Erbsville. I look forward to the next steps on this report.
Lastly, Council approved a staff report (in conjunction with resident input) on parking and traffic calming strategies at Gatestone Park for the upcoming T-Ball season. I was very closely involved with elements of this report, as I canvassed the neighbourhood regarding the traffic calming portion of the plan. I am pleased with the outcome and am happy to see that Council approved it as constructed.
Council was busy this month talking about a host of other issues including Uptown Sidewalk Patios, a few planned demolitions of buildings on Erb Street, sidewalk reports, Alexandra Park expansion, budget debriefing, approving community cash grants, approving a pedestrian island at the Spurline Trail crossing on Union Street, approving festivals and events for 2019, receiving information on the outdoor sports field strategy and awarding funding for the reconstruction of Mocassin Drive. If anyone would like me to go into more detail on any of the above, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Outside of the Council Chambers
The Sustainability Committee is continuing to work towards our goals and focuses for the next four year term. I look forward to working on some of the amazing ideas that our team comes up with. Economic Development had an excellent meeting this month with updates from the Waterloo EDC, which is a group that helps bring businesses to the Region. Lots of exciting news from them and the City of Waterloo continues to support their endeavours whenever possible. We also heard an update from the Arts & Culture team regarding the Lumen festival, which took place this past fall. Over 10,000 people attended the festival, which is an amazing number for a first year event. We had over 227,000 tweets regarding the event and we look forward to the second annual event this fall!
This month included two meetings hosted by the Region. One being an all council meeting with my colleagues from throughout the Region, updating us on a host of Regional initiatives. We discussed the opioid crisis, Smart Waterloo Region, Waterloo Region Tourism Marketing Corporation update, Waterloo Wellbeing survey and Alert Waterloo Region. A lot of information to digest and in particular with respect to the opioid crisis and wellbeing within the Region, a lot of work to do. The other Region meeting was a property tax training course, which was very informative and helped understand some of the direction that the Region is going on a few tax related issues.
Community Meetings & Events
I was privileged to be able to attend a number of community events this month. In particular the Child Witness Centre’s pancake lunch and Lobsinger Family fundraiser were exceptional causes to support within our community. I was happy to attend the public information session at the Waterloo Memorial Rec Centre to discuss proposals on Waterloo Park, in particular regarding Silver Lake. Attending these sessions are a great way to learn about plans going on in the City and to communicate directly with City staff and elected officials. I always appreciate the opportunities to hear directly from residents on the issues going on in the City! In that vein, I also attended a walkabout with school council, City staff, Waterloo Region Police Services and the principal of St. Nicholas school to address the issues surrounding traffic safety during school drop off on Laurelwood Drive. This was an excellent discussion that hopefully will lead to some tangible solutions to the problems. More to come on this topic for certain. I also felt inspired in attending the International Womens Day lunch, hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University as well as the KW Coalition of Muslim Women awards gala. Representing the City at these event and hearing inspiring stories from accomplished women in the Region, while having the opportunity to speak to young women on their issues was very informative. Lastly, I felt so privileged to be invited to attend the Global Solutions Conference at the University of Waterloo, which addresses how we can achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Listening to amazing young adults who have accomplished so much already in their lives, talk about the challenges and opportunities ahead of us in addressing these problems was excellent. I hope to bring that lens with me in my decision making here at the City of Waterloo
I met with a number of residents this month to talk about a host of issues. I am particularly excited about the possibility of affiliating the neighbourhood association in Vista Hills with the City. Hopefully, the neighbourhood is excited about this as well and we will have some momentum on this topic in the coming months. I also had discussions around improving walkability, particularly within the Canadian Tire plaza on Erb/Erbsville and I look forward to working towards a solution on this issue as well. If you are interested in meeting with me to discuss any issues within the community, please contact me directly.