What I will do
There is nothing more important than to listen and respond to resident issues. You are my number one priority on the job. I will continue to be a strong resident advocate around the Council table.
Local politics and politicians should be representative of the community they serve. While Woolwich has a large 65+ demographic, a significant portion of our population is 45 and younger. Voter data and my experience show that younger people are not engaged in municipal politics. I will create an engagement strategy to include youth in the decision-making process.
Council has requested that the WRDSB start the surplus land process for the old Riverside Public School site on William St in Elmira. I will step up advocacy to ensure that Woolwich Township can secure this strategic plot of land. We need to better plan for specialized high-density accommodation or parkland. I will start the conversation with the community on the old Riverside PS site.
Growth in our communities is mostly managed through proper planning. We currently have no programs that involve integrating and welcoming new residents into Woolwich. I will start the conversation on how as a township, we can welcome and make new residents feel included.
Holding the line on taxes never goes out of style. I will continue to push back on using tax dollars that pay for direct non-municipal benefits to residents. There are hundreds of great ideas that come before Council — taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for all of them. Municipal funding from the province continues to decrease and our liabilities to operate increase. All tax dollars spent need to be justified.
Finding green projects that makes business sense. Woolwich - with the Region of Waterloo - retrofitted our street lights with LED fixtures. These new fixtures will payback in three years and almost $200,000 in energy savings. The WMC underwent a comprehensive energy audit with recommendations for its own co-generation plant using geothermal and natural gas conversions. I'd like to see more of our municipal infrastructures utilizing green energy options. Green also means trees — more is better for all of us. I will support and implement the Elmira Greening Strategy put forward by TWEEC.
There is a lot to learn about municipal politics as a first-time Councillor. I spent much of my first term educating myself and primarily dealing with resident concerns. I am much more comfortable in that role now and would like to expand my effort into new roles. Local issues don't often get resolved without making a little noise. I will champion more issues advocating on the municipality's behalf in my next term.
The job as Councillor, as I see it, is to serve residents with honesty and integrity. While no decision is perfect, the foundation of my decisions come from supportable evidence and facts.
One of my first priorities was to improve how residents interact with the municipality. Residents told me they were not getting questions answered or answers were slow in coming. They received conflicting information, or little help with their concerns. We put new customer standards protocols in place to address expectations. We directed staff to rebuild the township website to provide more info and reporting online. I have seen a noticeable difference and will help ensure that your next experience dealing with the municipality will be a positive one.
I was unimpressed with the available information provided to the Council to make an informed decision on township finances during our first budget. Over the course of two additional budgets, I made numerous suggestions to make the process more transparent and detailed. Staff were receptive and made changes.
A resident had the excellent idea of striking a community task force examining recreation programming and operating expenses at the WMC. I initiated and chaired the task force, made up of residents, staff, and Mayor Shantz. The taskforce was an excellent introduction into the unique challenges staff routinely face due to many of the design features of the building. Recommendations to increase future revenues was identified and presented to Council. Those efforts are on-going.
Council's first controversial decision was whether or not to sell part of Breslau Memorial Park to construct a new Catholic school. In the end, Council decided to pass on the venture. I believe after those year-long discussions that our public spaces should not be for sale. I authored, advocated and successfully passed a new bylaw that would strengthen the protection of parkland and open spaces remaining in public hands.
In my first year, I argued that Township staffing positions needed a review as staffing comprises half of the overall budget. Some positions were re-evaluated and discontinued as a result. Provincial regulations required adding other in recent years but staffing levels are more regularly monitored as a result. I supported the hiring of KPMG to evaluate and recommend efficiencies to the overall Township organization. Those results are expected in 2019.