What did City Council do?
Draft Strategic Plan
Council had our first opportunity to review and provide feedback on the Strategic Plan, guiding our priorities at the City of Waterloo for the next four years. The final strategic plan is due to be approved on June 26th. As currently constituted, the Strategic Plan includes:
Vision Statement – ‘A leader in sustainability and a future-ready community for all’
Mission Statement – ‘To actively respond to our divers community with bold leadership, empathy and accountability’
Strategic Priorities / Objectives
- Reconciliation, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI)
- Invest in communities to enhance belonging
- Embed REDI across the organization
- Advance Reconciliation
- Action anti-racism
- Environmental Sustainability and Climate Action
- Climate leadership
- Environmentally sustainable economy
- Environmental sustainability mindset
- Complete Community
- Invest in arts experiences
- Vibrant public spaces
- Complete neighbourhoods
- Action to meet community needs
- Infrastructure and Transportation Systems
- Sustainable infrastructure planning
- Mobility and a connected community
- Investment in active transportation
- Innovation and Future Ready
- Support a diversified economy and innovation eco-system
- Partner for social innovation
- Digital opportunities for the future
You can review the draft strategic plan here, starting on page 134; 2023-05-08 Packet Council Meeting (waterloo.ca)) and provide comments. Overall I think the draft strategic plan is in great shape. We had plenty of thoughtful discussion at Council on ways to improve the plan prior to its final approval. Notably I asked about elevating the need to focus on affordable housing and Vision Zero as priorities for the community and I look forward to reviewing, approving and working towards the goals laid out in the final document.
All-Saints Anglican Church Funding Request
Council received a delegation from the All-Saints Anglican Church (Westmount/Northfield) requesting a one-time grant of $120,000 to support the community centre that they are building connected to the church. Ultimately Council chose not to fund this request in a split vote, which I did not support. While I did not support the funding request I do want to highlight that the church is doing wonderful things in the community and I support their efforts. There is high demand for this type of space, particularly in Ward 3, it will serve over 10,000 residents per year and they are partnering with many important organizations in our community such as Camino, Lutherwood and Adventure 4 Change. In the previous term of Council, I supported the church in their request to sever their property and rezone it partially for residential (stacked townhomes). The sale of the adjacent property supported the church and will add much needed missing-middle housing to the community. Given my previous support for the zone change and new development I wanted to highlight why I could not support the funding request. The main crux of my concern was related to precedent and equity. While I have no doubt that the All-Saints community centre will service the community, there are many other faith based organizations that have similar spaces and mandates. It would be very challenging to support this initiative and then turning down future requests, which would create a large budget hole. Moreover, I have fundamental concerns with respect to the role of faith based organizations in delivering services on behalf of the City. As staff pointed out, there are challenges with equity deserving groups feeling uncomfortable accessing or seeking out faith based organizations. I honestly struggled with decision and wrestled with it greatly and wanted to ensure that I transparently shared my rationale.
Transportation Infrastructure Rehabilitation/Replacement (Laurelwood/Gatestone Park Trail)
Council approved the 2023 implementation plan to resurface a host of trails around the community, upgrade trails from stone dust to asphalt and to replace some retaining walls. In the 2023 construction season we are going to see the trail connecting Gatestone Blvd towards Laurelwood Public School upgraded to asphalt. This will help improve some of the erosion challenges along the trail and make a stronger walking/cycling route through the park and the school. Thank you to residents who advocated for this and helped get this done.
Council received a number of financial reports and updates on a variety of topics. Some good news highlighted that in 2022 we had a ‘non-COVID’ surplus of $878,000 (actual deficit, offset by Federal and Provincial COVID relief). $500,000 of that funding was returned to our Winter Control Reserve to offset some higher than usual costs in that area last year, $200,000 was returned to our RIM Park Reserve and $89,000 each to Tax Rate Stabilization and Capital Infrastructure Reinvestment and Rehabilitation. I asked if future surplus allocations and other financial returns to reserve could consider that funding going to our Climate Action Reserve Fund to help find alternative funding sources for that reserve and I am encouraged that a report will come back this Fall to review. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, it is great to see that total revenues in recreational services are up in Q1 from 2022 to 2023 and as a result, in spite of no further COVID relief funding on the way, we are projecting a year end surplus for 2023 of $900,000. Other financial reports included our year end investment report and COVID relief reallocation.
Sidewalk Snow Clearing Workshop
In response to a number of community members asking Council to improve sidewalk snow clearing, Council was presented with a host of options for service enhancements. During this workshop Council shared their views on the various options in advance of a forthcoming report with specific recommendations. The overarching conclusions of the report were that our current service levels are consistent with what most municipalities do there are a variety of options to consider level of service increases. Other conclusions related to the need for more resources to support those increases, alongside an increase in corporate GHG emissions. Service models were given based on 6, 12 or 18 snow events per year and Council could consider components of these over time. While accessibility is acknowledged as an enormous challenge in the winter, these challenges are beyond sidewalk maintenance. Some of the considerations include clearing crosswalks at certain intersections, snow loading of ‘privately owned’ curb-faced sidewalks, increasing bylaw enforcement, enhanced customer service intake, clearing public AND private regional road sidewalks and more. These service enhancements could have tax implications of between 2.3% and 5.1% pending the level at which the service is provided. For anyone interested in discussing sidewalk snow clearing in greater detail in advance of the final report, don’t hesitate to connect.
Other Council Business
Council also received an update from the City Museum, approved a Comprehensive Engineering and Landscape Manual, advanced the Laurel Greenway Master Plan (long term plan for a 2km linear park from Weber Street through the Uptown to Waterloo Park) and approved funding for the expanded after hours call centre. If anyone has further questions on these or any of the above topics, please don’t hesitate to reach out for further discussion.
Outside the Council Chambers
Outside the Council chambers I was honoured to represent Mayor McCabe at Fire Station #2 in support of the partnership between Waterloo Fire and Wounded Warriors. Wounded Warriors is an organization supporting the acute mental health needs of first responders and it was a privilege to listen, learn and support this initiative. It was an honour to attend MPP Fife’s Leading Women, Leading Girls, Building Communities event to honour a number of inspiring women and girls across our city doing fabulous community building work, including Sarah from Ward 2’s very own Bonn Park Podcast! I also attended the official opening of the new accessible Eby farm playground in Waterloo Park. This playground is long overdue, extremely well used already and is hopefully the model for more accessible playgrounds in the City. I also represented Mayor McCabe at the official Button Factory elevator opening, which is also long overdue and seamlessly weaves a modern accessible need into a heritage building, making the facilities top and main floor more accessible for community members. Lastly, community members will note that the 30km/hr speed limit has been implemented in school zones across Ward 2 and the 40km/hr neighbourhood limits are coming soon. Everyone should have received a postcard in the mail talking about this change and if anyone has any questions about the implementation, please connect with me.
Take care, stay safe and get boosted!