What did City Council do?
New All Way Stop in Ward 2
Council unanimously approved the implementation of an all-way stop at St. Moritz Avenue and Montpellier Drive. I was happy to have been able to see this process through to this point. I wanted to use this to highlight how the change took effect. Nearly 18 months ago I was alerted to the issue related to children crossing St. Moritz in order to get to Edna Staebler Public School. This was at a volunteer appreciation event for the rink volunteers at St. Moritz Park. Specifically the resident asked for a stop sign. I initiated this review by the City, which conducts an analysis of traffic to determine whether an all way stop makes sense for traffic flow reasons. The study was conducted last spring and it did not meet the warrants. Following this, I sat down with transportation staff as part of my review of all of the transportation concerns in the Ward and we discussed potential next steps. They suggested conducting a pedestrian gap study to determine the length of time it takes a pedestrian to safely cross the street. This study took place last fall and determined that a stop sign was warranted. This experience highlighted the importance of conducting these studies in order to collect data, revealing the problem. From there transportation staff will use their expertise to recommend solutions to the problem. A stop sign made sense in this instance, in other instances other solutions may be needed depending on the problem identified. There are numerous locations throughout the ward where problems are perceived, I will continue to seek out the data in order to work with staff to find solutions to these problems. If you have an area that you think is not on my list already, I would love to hear about it.
COVID Corporate Financial Update #2
I referenced our first COVID financial update in last month’s newsletter. We received an update in May, highlighting our net losses. Confirmed losses for March and April are approximately $519,000. Projected losses for May and June are $732,000 and $634,000 respectively. These numbers are higher than last month’s update. As we get closer in date our estimates and projections will of course become more accurate. There hasn’t really been any one factor that has driven the increased losses, it is a combination of higher reduced revenues as well as increased expenses related to preparing our facilities and staff for opening. Additionally, we are continuing to monitor our cash flow issues related to waiving interest and penalties on property tax and utility bills, deferring property taxes, extending parking relief and more. We acknowledge that more may be asked of us and we will have to consider additional measures and support for recreation participation, affiliated groups and clubs, promotional support for small businesses, tenant support and more. In addition to receiving this information Council extended our short term measures already in place until June 30th as well as a few other measures to help out small businesses. As I noted last month, the good news is that a focus on our financial position over the past 20 years has put the City in a position to weather this storm for a while. Our Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund is in a strong position, which will be the first thing we dip into to help make up the shortfall noted above. If we start to get back to a ‘new normal’ in the near future, we may be able to handle this situation without further tax impacts or service cuts. That is our goal and we will continue to monitor this on our road to recovery. Federal and Provincial funding support for municipalities is very likely in order to prevent service interruptions. The Federal government recently acknowledged this in authorizing early funding release to municipalities for already budgeted funds. They also acknowledged that more needs to be done and will work closely with the Provinces to provide financial assistance.
Active Transportation and Physical Distancing Motion
Councillor Jeff Henry introduced a motion asking staff to explore ways to expand active transportation infrastructure and to provide more equitable access to safe, green spaces in order to facilitate physical distancing. I was pleased to support this motion and look forward to seeing where it leads. I believe the City is heading in the right direction on the active transportation file; the goal of this motion is to use COVID as the accelerant to enact ‘quick win’ changes that hopefully align with current City policies (Transportation Master Plan, Sidewalk Infill Policy, Station Area Planning and existing Capital Projects). That said there might be new ideas needed in order to facilitate physical distancing and we are open to piloting these where appropriate. This motion will have different meaning for different areas of the City. It was a guiding element of the conversation. For areas in the University District that are parkland deficient and areas in the Uptown with higher density, we are dealing with folks without front and backyards who rely heavily on access to public spaces. I hosted a town hall on this topic to get feedback from residents on how they see this playing out from a Ward 2 perspective. We shared ideas back and forth and they fell into one of five buckets: Bike Lanes, Quiet Streets, Re-purposing Parking Lots, Improving Trails and Improving Open Spaces. Specific locations and ideas were highlighted and I have shared them with staff for consideration. If you have an idea that you would like considered in Ward 2, please reach out to me and I’ll connect with staff.
Supportive Housing of Waterloo Funding Request
Supportive Housing of Waterloo (SHOW) approached Council with a $200,000 funding request to purchase 144 Erb Street West. There are 24 units of deeply affordable seniors housing at this location, which has been owned and operated by the Civitan’s since the early 1970’s. SHOW asked us for a grant to assist in the $2.45 million purchase price in order to continue to provide this affordable housing to our community. Affordable housing is in dire need in our City and increasing the amount of affordable housing in the City is a part of our strategic plan. Finding creative ways for the City to increase affordable housing is imperative. Inclusionary Zoning is a tool we are looking at implementing (check out EngageWR to provide your feedback on this topic – https://www.engagewr.ca/inclusionary-zoning) in addition to other tools. Keeping these 24 units (SHOW will be repurposing a board room to create a 25th unit) affordable, particularly in the core of the City is so valuable and I was overjoyed to see it unanimously supported. The City of Waterloo provided these funds from our Affordable Housing Reserve, which has historically been funded entirely by developers through Section 37 Height & Density Bonusing. Premier Ford took this funding ability away from municipalities last year and Council has approved a $100,000 annual taxpayer increase in order to keep this fund sustainable starting in 2021.
Additionally, Council reviewed annual statements for Commissioner’s Special Projects, Development Charges, Parkland Dedication and Density Bonusing. We also approved funding for the City of Waterloo museum website and approved changes to public participation (including committees) and delegations in light of COVID necessitated gathering restrictions. 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
I was able to attend my first ever virtual conference (Together | Ensemble 2020) this month, including attending a number of panel discussions focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Kitchener Mayor Vrbanovic as well as Mayor’s from across the country spoke, while we had City of Waterloo representation on a panel related to localizing the SDG’s.
In my neighbourhood town hall zoom call this month (follow my Facebook page @roycebodalyward2 to keep up to date); we addressed the completion date for Beechdrops Park in Vista Hills (aiming to be completed by end of this construction season). We also talked about timelines for construction of Platinum Drive and the roundabout at Ladyslipper Drive and Columbia Street as part of the West Side Employment Lands (aiming for roundabout to be completed by end of August, with Platinum Drive hopefully finished by the end of the year, weather permitting). I also heard questions as to the re-opening of the City, what is and isn’t permitted and where things are going. While things are starting to re-open we are certainly not ‘back to normal’ by any means. We are still advising residents to stay home as much as possible. If you choose to go out, some of the restrictions have lifted for things like dog parks, tennis courts, skate parks, passive field use, basketball courts and more. Many things are still not open or permitted like splash pads, playgrounds, public washrooms, gatherings above five people and more. Please follow the City of Waterloo for more updates on this and don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.
Earlier in the month I attended a webinar on Racial Equity During and After COVID-19. It seems apropos given what is happening in the world right now. Words are difficult to come by right now, however we cannot remain silent on issues of racial equity and justice. Let’s start by acknowledging it. Racism is happening in our communities, in our neighbourhood, right next door to us. We do not have to look far for it. As a privileged, straight, white man, I can never understand the lived experiences of folks from racialized or marginalized communities. I can however educate myself. I encourage supportive allies to learn more about the history of racism, racist and anti-racist policies. As a community leader with a platform, I must use that platform to show support and solidarity for people that are hurting and people that are fighting. I encourage supportive allies to use their platforms as well. As an elected official, I need to act and advocate for anti-racist policies. I encourage you to support and advocate for those policies as well. I repeat; Anti-Black, Anti-Muslim, Anti-Asian, Anti-Indigenous racism is here in our neighbourhood. As a community, we need to keep fighting for Equity, Inclusion and a Sense of Belonging for everyone. I’m so proud of my City of Waterloo Council colleagues for embedding this into our strategic plan and making this a strategic pillar for the first time in 2019!
Region of Waterloo – COVID Information
City of Waterloo – COVID Information
City of Waterloo – Neighbours Helping Neighbours Newsletter
Please sign up to the City of Waterloo’s neighbours helping neighbours newsletter. Lot’s of great information included in this month’s newsletter linked below, including the introduction of the Hey Neighbour! program, at home gardening tips from the Waterloo Horticultural Society and more!
Community Resources – Wellbeing Waterloo Region
Please check out the Wellbeing Waterloo page for a list of services that you or your loved ones may need to access or support during this crisis, including; Mental Health Resources, Information for Vulnerable Groups, Healthcare Services, Counselling, Front Line Worker Resources, Sexual Assault Support Centre, Language Resources, Volunteering Opportunities, Pet Food Bank, KWCF and more!
A reminder that as the weather turns, if you are out for a ‘mental health and exercise’ walk, my scavenger hunt is a great way to explore and learn more about your neighbourhood.