What did City Council do?
Transportation Master Plan
As previously mentioned, the City of Waterloo is updating our Transportation Master Plan. This plan was developed in 2011 and will be updated this year, forward looking to 2041. Waterloo was a pioneering municipality for ‘Complete Streets’ in 2011 and our new plan is intended to take ‘Complete Streets’ to the next level. Waterloo also implemented an aggressive Active Transportation policy in 2011 and became the first mid-sized city in Ontario to receive the Gold Bicycle Friendly Community designation. The next step in our TMP is to move off the low hanging fruit, towards more challenging initiatives. Lastly, as part of this Council’s strategic plan, Vision Zero is being introduced as a pillar of our TMP. Here there will be discussions around lower speeds, street design, data collection and more.
In September Council participated in a robust workshop to identify Council priorities in this plan. It was a wonderful discussion that touched on all of the above in a more thorough way. During this time I advocated for 30km/hr speed limits in residential areas and ensuring that we have appropriate KPI’s in place to identify whether we are achieving our mode shift targets. Other Councillor’s advocated for similar things as well as ensuring the plan aligns with our Greenhouse Gas target reductions (80% reduction by 2050), this is especially important as from a community perspective, single occupancy vehicle usage is the number 1 contributor to our GHG emissions. There’s still time for you to provide input to this plan (https://www.engagewr.ca/transportation-master-plan-looking-ahead?tool=guest_book#tool_tab).
Large Public Gatherings
Council reviewed a report from our Large Public Gatherings Task Force on what we can do going forward to significantly alter the trajectory of large street parties in the coming years. What we learned is that the students see these parties as a Rite of Passage, as such we are dealing with a necessity to shift the culture around these parties. We also learned that there is a high Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) among students. We heard that selfie culture is driving a desire to be there and although the event is not overly enjoyable, students have a personal identification to it and very importantly ‘no individual important to them is discouraging them from attending’. The research suggests that we are going to have a difficult time changing the culture, but the task force is working on strategies to change this. The focus of the task force is on 4 topics: 1) Operational Enhancements (crowd management pods to reduce density, overnight parking ban to make it difficult for out of towners to attend, bylaw enforcement enhancements), 2) Change Management Initiatives (rebranding, ‘white helmet’ student leaders, clear signage at street entrances, social media plan), 3) Financial Accountability (consider ways to shift cost burden to attendees) and 4) Communications Plan (media firms, orientation week, signage). As noted, this is a difficult challenge that not only the City of Waterloo is having to address. I used this opportunity to ensure that when we are talking about these parties that this is not all students and merely some students. I would venture to say that the majority of students are not the problem and we really need to shift the tone of this conversation away from demonizing all students, after all as I noted if I was in University while these parties were a big deal, I would certainly have attended and I would suggest that is true for most of us. I also used the opportunity to ask Chief Larkin about a heavier handed police presence. His response was that he believes there is a misperception that it is soft handed, given the number of citations given out and given that arrests have been made. He also noted that the crowd management pods will allow easier access for police presence into the epicenter of the party and that officers are trained to pick out instigators. I also inquired about sanctioning the event, which is being considered, but is not currently on the table.
Public Nuisance Bylaw Amendments
Further to the report, Council debated and ultimately approved 2 new amendments to our Public Nuisance bylaw, with the intent of enhancing Municipal Enforcement Officers tools in dealing with these events. The first tool was unanimously approved, which is to declare Nuisance Noise events, which allow us to extend our existing noise bylaw throughout certain days (subject to Council approval, in this case the weekend of WLU Homecoming). The intention is to stop loud parties from drawing the attention of individuals and drawing people to the street. The second tool was to give bylaw the authority to ensure proper identification when issuing charges to individuals. Although I understand the intent to further hold those accountable to their actions, I expressed concerns as to extending this authority (most Cities officers do not have this authority). I believe that beyond acknowledging each of our implicit biases, we need to consider that not all of us have the same reaction to being asked for ID from officers as others. I fear how members of racialized communities will view this, even given our best intentions and I also did not see this as an essential tool in our efforts to control these parties. Ultimately the second tool passed by a vote of 5-3, although disappointed I am happy to see that as a City we also committed our municipal enforcement to explore the recently released report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission on eliminating racial profiling in law enforcement.
Efficiencies and Continuous Improvement
Council received a report from staff in each department highlighting efficiencies and continuous improvement in 2019, with an eye towards 2020. Efficiencies are identified as those that either provide cost savings to the City, enhance service to residents or build capacity going forward. I also advocated to see a fourth consideration for efficiencies that help us achieve our greenhouse gas reductions targets, reduce energy or broadly help us achieve sustainability goals. Some of the highlights include a reduction in outside legal work required, increasing the number of our transactions taking place online, the solar idle project and electric vehicles in our fleet and utilizing AI for pavement quality. There are dozens of other projects that show the cities commitment to a culture of improvement, including our commitment to a more robust Lean 6 Sigma approach internally going forward.
2020-2022 Budget Strategy
Council began our discussions around the 3yr 2020-2022 budget. Discussions included timing, KPI’s, significant challenges associated with the unknowns surrounding Provincial funding vis-à-vis Bill 108 and defining Levels of Service for priorities within our Strategic Plan. A 3yr budget saves the organization over 10,000 staff hours vs. single year budgets and allows both the taxpayer and the corporation the ability to have long term planning. There will be a lot further discussions on this topic going forward and I look forward to engaging with constituents on this in the coming months.
Bill 21 Denouncement
Councillor Vasic brought forward a resolution for debate regarding affirming the City of Waterloo’s commitment to Equity, Inclusion and a Sense of Belonging in light of Bill 21 in Quebec, which restricts the wearing of religious symbols (Hajib, Yarmulkes, Turbans, etc) for public sector employees including teachers and health care workers. I was pleased to support this motion, which received unanimous support of our Council. In particular, given the conversations that occurred in our community regarding the Muslim Prayer Centre, I am committed to the City of Waterloo embedding equity, inclusion and a sense of belonging in all City business. I attended the Community Consultation on Islamophobia last November, which was jointly hosted by the KW Coalition of Muslim Women and the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. To hear stories of discrimination from members of our community here in Waterloo Region is disheartening to say the least and is clearly impacting community members’ sense of belonging. One of the solutions identified in the report that was subsequently released was ‘Solidarity Actions’ and the number one group that was asked to be involved in solutions was ‘Community Leaders’. To the extent that I am a community leader in Waterloo, I feel it is vitally important for me to use my platform to denounce this Bill. I think it is perfectly reasonable for members of our community to worry about a similar Bill happening in Ontario and I felt as though it was important for us to ask the Province of Ontario to commit to not introducing anything similar here.
Additionally, Council reviewed the Region of Waterloos Climate Change Adaptation Plan, approved the final Culture Heritage Landscapes study and engaged in an interesting workshop regarding IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation), which is designed to help the City better engage residents in decision making. If anyone would like to learn more on any of the above topics please don’t hesitate to reach out for a meeting.
Outside of the Council Chambers
What a busy month outside of the Council chambers in the City of Waterloo. On the neighbourhood front I attended the first official event for the Vista Hills Community Association as they launched fireworks to celebrate Labour Day. What a great inaugural event, it was so great to see so many community members out in support. I also attended the Clair Hills Community Association pollinator planting, as we planted a pollinator garden next to the community garden. So many kids came out to help do the planting, leaving the hard work for us adults J. CHCA also hosted their Fall Fun Fest at St. Moritz Park, which was well attended and included a bouncy castle, ice cream, roasted marshmallows and more! The Laurelwood Neighbourhood Association participated in Ontario Culture Days at the Harper Library, with a lot of volunteers from SJAM helping kids create beautiful paper flowers. I also attended the Macgregor Albert Community Association barbecue, which welcomes students to the neighbourhood. The new Neighbourhood Leaders Team held their second meeting this month. This team has representatives from across the City and is tasked with working within our neighbourhood strategy to identify solutions to problems. With the meeting being held in Ward 2 this month, I was requested to attend and offer support, which I was happy to do. Great discussion around special event equipment, volunteer recognition and creating an asset map were had. I look forward to the positive outcomes that will come from this team. Lastly, I participated in the WLU Homecoming door knocker campaign with residents, WRPS, municipal enforcement and most importantly other students. Peer to peer messaging on the dangers associated with Large Public Gatherings may not be the flashy ‘silver bullet’ to controlling Ezra Street, but it is undoubtedly a part of shifting the culture.
I was very privileged to go on a few tours this month. Thanks to Kevin Thomason for taking myself and Councillor Vasic on a tour of the Waterloo Moraine. The moraine crosses Ward 2 and into the Township of Wilmot and is a major source of our drinking supply in Waterloo Region, as we are the largest municipality in North America that relies solely on groundwater for our drinking supply, it is a vital natural resource. To have these Environmentally Sensitive Lands so close to our City, offering beautiful trails, a home for wildlife and of course our drinking water really speaks to the foresight of local advocates like Kevin and many others as well as the Region of Waterloo for creating the Countryside Line to help maintain our rural/urban mix, prevent urban sprawl, protect our farmland/drinking water and to support thoughtful, sustainable development within our Cities. I also had the opportunity to tour the Waterloo Potters Workshop in Waterloo Park as they are working with the City to identify the heritage elements of their property and looking to expand their operations. What a wonderful, unique organization operating right in the heart of Waterloo Park. Lastly, I attended a tour with Joe Mancini of all of the amazing work that The Working Centre in Kitchener performs. From supports for homeless people in terms of operating the St. John’s Kitchen and The Working Centre itself, to affordable housing initiatives to café’s, Recycle Cycles and more, The Working Centre does amazing things for our community and we are lucky to have them!
The Waterloo Park Public Information Session was a great opportunity for the public to view the final plans related to the beautification of Silver Lake including dredging the lake, trails, boardwalks, playgrounds and more. It also gave us our first look at concepts for the first of two splash pads going into Waterloo Park to replace Lion’s Lagoon. The first splash pad will be on the west side adjacent to the skate park and I look forward to seeing it open in 2020! Please feel free to add your comments here https://www.engagewr.ca/waterloo-park-improvements?tool=survey_tool#tool_tab
Finally, I also attended a few community events. REEP Green Solutions does incredible climate action work in the Region of Waterloo and they hosted their Fresh Air Feast inside Waterloo Park. It was a great ‘near zero’ waste event with a multitude of activities for everyone. I also attended the World Religions Conference at the University of Waterloo, which had their annual conference on the topic of creating just societies. It was interesting to hear the perspectives of people from 7 different religions, moderated by Councillor Vieth. The University of Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre hosted their annual PowWow in Waterloo Park as well. It was an awesome event with amazing music, dancing and vendors. Lastly the City of Waterloo hosted our second annual LUMEN event, which is an event dedicated to light, art and technology. There was so much to do and see all over the Uptown and in my opinion this is a quintessential Waterloo event as it brought so many elements of what our City is known for together. Connecting Waterloo Park to CIGI to the Seagram/Shopify building to Waterloo Town Square to City Hall was awesome and really sets a vision for how we can utilize and animate all of these amazing places in our core. I hope to see everybody at this event next year as we continue to make it bigger and better!
Did I miss something, want to get together for a meeting to discuss any of the above or any other issue in our community? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Royce.email@example.com or 519-575-0093.