The world has changed significantly in the course of the last 30 days. I will briefly touch on a few of the topics reviewed in regular Council meetings (which seem like ages ago, but believe it or not happened this month) and provide further updates on COVID-19 related topics towards the end.
What did City Council do?
Large Street Gatherings Task Force Final Report
Council approved and received the final report from our large street gatherings task force. This task force included an impressive level of collaboration with stakeholders and experts from the community, including representation from; post-secondary institutions, student unions, police services, municipal enforcement, neighbourhood associations, paramedics and more. The task force came forward with 41 actions across 12 recommendations within four overarching themes. The themes are surrounding Operational Excellence, Culture Change, Community Impact and Ongoing Initiatives. The report is comprehensive and highlights a path forward to changing the trajectory of the St. Patrick’s Day and Homecoming events. We have already seen some success around Homecoming, with HoCo 2019 involving a significantly reduced presence versus prior years.
Spurline Trail Pedestrian Crossover (PXO) at Regina Street
The Spurline Trail is an integral component of our Active Transportation infrastructure within the City of Waterloo. As we continue to expand and integrate our network of Active Transportation, one of the main challenges is safety at intersections/crossings. Council approved the implementation of a PXO at Regina Street in order to address concerns at this crossing. Based on data/analysis, the volume of crossings (nearly 700 in an 8hr period) at this location warranted the implementation of the PXO. I look forward to seeing it constructed and the improvement it will make for cyclists and pedestrians along the trail.
Municipal Funding for Key Cultural Institutions (KCI’s)
Council received a report and approved a review of the funding model for the KCI’s in our Region (Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener Waterloo Symphony and THE MUSEUM). The assessment process for funding the KCI’s was initiated in 2016, with some key findings for 19/20 being; Maximizing Space and Facilities, Strong Attendance, Operational Scarcity vs. Quality Programming, Effective Communications with Council and Increased Stable Funding. A further review will indicate next steps in the City of Waterloo’s role in ensuring the long term viability of these fundamentally valuable institutions.
Formal Meeting – Your Neighbourhood Credit Union (King and George St)
Council approved a proposed zone change amendment for the YNCU at King/George Street. The proposed development includes an 8-story building with commercial uses on the first/second floor with 34 units (44 bedrooms) in the stories above. The main amendments needed were to adjust the zoning to view the parcel of land as contiguous with the detached home that the applicant owns on George Street. The unique nature of the site makes it important for Council to secure connectivity between the old Regional pumping station on William Street and the Heritage Green area as part of our Uptown Public Realm Strategy.
Additionally, Council reviewed 2019 museum operations, approved cash grants for 2020 and more. We also engaged in a strategy session surrounding a debrief of our three-year budget. I still intend to provide a full update on the three-year budget soon, please stay tuned for that. If anyone would like to learn more on any of the above topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a chat.
Outside of the Council Chambers
Prior to the shutdown I attended an event at SJAM organized by the Canadian Student Leaders Association, called the Change Café. During this meeting, a number of community leaders from various backgrounds engaged in a variety of roundtable discussions with students at SJAM about how to make the change they want to see in the community. It was interesting to hear the perspectives of young people on what they would like to see and do. I’ve connected with a couple of students after the fact and look forward to working with them in the future.
I also attended the City of Waterloo’s Transportation Master Plan (TMP) public information session. I have had my opportunity to provide initial input at earlier Council meetings and this was the publics chance to provide their input. It was exciting to see so many engaged citizens interested in the outcome of this plan and providing important feedback on issues such as Vision Zero, Complete Streets, Active Transportation Networks, Speed Limit Review and more.
Lastly, as a member of the Climate Caucus of Canada (a group of municipal elected officials across the country interested in topics surrounding climate change) I have had the opportunity to participate via teleconferences this month as well as with webinars to help keep me connected to problem solvers across the country sharing their successes and opportunities. This month’s webinar focused on Climate Solutions for Transportation, which is timely given our TMP review noted above. Although much of the focus was on transit, there were some valuable takeaways surrounding mixed-use development permissions, concerns pertaining to urban sprawl, communications strategies, electric vehicle adoption as well as looking at transportation through an equity lens. It is clear that Canada has a large, heavy, inefficient personal vehicle problem and it is perhaps THE key component of any Climate Action strategy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives in significant ways and Council is no different. We will continue to work hard during these challenging times to make the best decisions possible for our community. A few notes on changes to start with are below:
Electronic Council Meetings
The Provincial government moved quickly to allow Council meetings to occur electronically during the crisis. Council has approved our ability to engage electronically in order for us to receive updates and to enact changes as needed. If you would like to follow when Council meetings are taking place and watch them via our Youtube channel, please see below. There are no public Council meetings currently scheduled (private meetings are still occurring as appropriate), following the link below will keep you up to date.
Economic Relief Plan
Council approved an Economic Relief Plan in response to the COVID crisis. Council is waiving all fees, interest and penalties associated with property tax bills, water bills or other amounts due to the City for the month of April and May. This amounts to approximately $750,000 in relief offered by the City at this time. As with anything related to COVID-19, situations are changing constantly and we may well need to revisit this in the future. We have received positive feedback thus far from businesses and individuals that this is a good first step. Below is a great thread that provides additional information on this package.
Resources and My Update
The above post from my Facebook page is the latest from me on this crisis. It provides a number of links with valuable resources from the City, Region and Province. Please do your part during this crisis and avoid unnecessary trips to the grocery store. Self-isolate for 14 days if you have travelled abroad or have symptoms. Do not have friends over for coffee. Maintain a two-metre distance from others if you are going for a walk. As I stated in the above, we will get through this together and I am here for you if you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Royce.email@example.com or 519-575-0093.
To end on a more positive note, as the weather improves and you are looking for ways to get out of the house on walks, I’ve created the below scavenger hunt. Please share it within your groups, get out there, and explore the neighbourhood. As I note each location/item are connected in some way. Send me your pics and I’ll tell you and your family what is happening at each location. As an additional bonus when all this is over, I will send a small prize to the first 100 residents who complete it.