What did City Council do?
Strategic Plan Progress Report
Council received a progress report on our Strategic Plan. The strategic plan is one of the things I am most proud of as a Councillor. This plan is an aspirational document, which not only lays out the priorities of the City, but also is the guiding document for staff and Council as we create and approve budgets and business plans. You can read more about our strategic plan in the two links below:
In part, this report updated us on our reporting framework, which includes; localizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, ISO37120 data collection and reporting and City of Waterloo business plans. The work on the first two topics is fascinating and something I have been close to in my role as Council liaison to the Sustainability Advisory Committee. We have more to do in this regard, but the work thus far has been valuable in my opinion. With respect to business plans, even in light of COVID related challenges we are doing well to execute as much of them as possible. These plans highlighted 79 initiatives, 45 of which are on track, 33 of which are delayed and only one of which is on hold. This is a testament to the hard work of staff to ensure that the strategic vision of the City is front and centre. I am excited to see where it takes us in the final 2 years of my term.
2020 Asset Management Plan
Council received our final 2020 Asset Management Plan (AMP) for review. Asset Management Planning is what allows staff and Council to balance costs, opportunities and risks against desired performance of assets in order to achieve organizational and community objectives. It is truly the difference between accidental and intentional decision-making. The City of Waterloo owns $2.6 billion in infrastructure or $57,300 per household. Currently 40% of our tax funded assets and 20% of our enterprise-funded assets are in poor or very poor condition. Without changes to how these assets are funded we will see those numbers increase to 60% and 50% respectively. Council in our 3-year budget (2020-2022) began addressing this shortfall through a special infrastructure-funding levee on the tax base. The ability to resolve these problems in one fell swoop is not feasible and so it is incumbent on us to tackle in small bits over a lengthy period. The AMP is more than just identifying revenue shortfalls, it is a tool (for which the City has won numerous municipal awards) to help prioritize assets, reduce expenses in order to achieve the appropriate Level of Service (LoS) and to help us understand where LoS could potential be reduced. All municipalities in Canada are dealing with this challenge in one way or another, I am proud of the work staff, and Council have done to continue on this journey.
Sidewalk Snow Removal
Council approved a spending increase within our enforcement department to help assist with sidewalk snow removal complaints. I know this is a topic with much passion on all sides of the discussion and I valued engaging in it in some capacity at Council. Currently we have two enforcement officers that tackle this issue throughout the City. We are adding a 3rd officer this season, which will be funded from our winter control reserve at a cost of $32,500. In the current model, it is challenging to provide adequate response and resolution time and the hope is that this will help us increase coverage and ultimately reduce the resolution time. Currently the City of Waterloo maintains 162.42km of sidewalks and trails and we maintain them to a bare pavement standard within 24-48 hours after a snowfall. This represents approximately 23% of all trails/sidewalks throughout the City. The cost for the City to fully take over this responsibility is estimated at $3 million. While that is certainly a significant cost and it comes with a myriad of other issues (speed of completion, prioritization of routes, environmental concerns, service level issues, and more) I believe we need to continue to explore ways to make this better. As I have noted previously, it is incumbent upon us as a city to take care of its most vulnerable residents. Finding ways to ensure that sidewalks are cleared in a timely manner in order to ensure that our kids, parents with strollers, elderly folks and people with mobility devices/issues is paramount. I recognize that we are not yet there, I hope this initiative will improve the situation for this season and I look forward to additional recommendations within our forthcoming Transportation Master Plan. In the meantime if you see a sidewalk that is not clear within 24hrs of the last snowfall, please use the below form to report issues. In particular if you have been frustrated in the past with the length of time it takes to get resolved, I encourage you to try again this season so we can get an accurate representation of the efficacy of the changes we are introducing. Of course you can always reach out to me directly as well.
Additionally, Council approved a funding allocation for the Waterloo Memorial Rec Complex work, approved a second sidewalk on Mackay Crescent, provided funding for Roger Street park, approved the demolition of 292 Laurelwood Drive and held an informal meeting to discuss proposed zone changes at 145 Columbia Street West (second ICON building). 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
This month I held a town hall for residents of Vista Hills to receive updates on a host of infrastructure projects that are occurring within the subdivision. This was well attended by over 70 residents and I appreciate the thoughtful questions and expression of concern for their fellow community members. I also appreciate the attendance of staff in order to help answer these questions and to keep communication open and transparent as these projects progress. A wide variety of topics were discussed, including; Platinum Drive, Beechdrops Park, various new trails, road extensions and completions and more. If you did not have the opportunity to attend and are interested in discussing these topics further, please do not hesitate to reach out. Truly, the passion of community members, combined with the natural environmental beauty of the area is positioning Vista Hills to be one of the best places in all of Waterloo Region to live, work and raise a family.
This month was the third and final module for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Climate Leadership Course for elected officials. In this module, we were tasked with creating a one-page slide outlining some of the Climate Action occurring within our cities. I have made that the header image for this newsletter. It was awesome to hear from Councillors and Mayors across the country sharing the work happening in their own communities. Fortunately, there is a secondary component to the course, which I have also signed up for in order to continue to learn more about what we can do as Cities to address the climate emergency. On that topic, I was also pleased to attend a visioning session/webinar hosted by 50x30WR (https://www.50by30wr.ca/). This session asked community members to envision what the City will look like in 2050 in order for us to achieve our interim GHG emissions reduction target of 50% by 2030. I was pleased to hear ideas from community members and talk about their priorities.
Lastly, we are firmly in the second wave of COVID across Waterloo Region. This comes with additional restrictions, sometimes confusing regulations and further challenges. 2020 has not gone the way any of us anticipated. The virus has touched on all of our lives in one way or another. There is the saying out there that we ‘are all in the same boat’. While I appreciate the sentiment, I believe it is more accurate to say that we are all navigating the same storm. Many folks have been impacted in greater ways; whether directly through a loved one getting the virus, through challenges associated with job or income loss, by being a front line worker or essential worker through this crisis, through mental health issues, through not feeling safe in the environment that they find themselves and more. For those of us who are in a privileged position, let’s reflect on that and be grateful that we live in such an amazing community with passionate community members and volunteers who want to do great things for their neighbourhoods and for the City. I wish everyone the happiest of holidays in these strange times and encourage you to find safe ways to connect with your friends and family this season. Here’s hoping that we turn things around in 2021!
Take care and stay safe!