These are the issues that I feel strongly about:
- Hold tax increases to the rate of inflation
Let’s help those on fixed incomes and everyone struggling to make ends meet in these troubled times. Let’s keep tax increases below the rate of inflation. Did you know that your taxes have increased 57% over the last 10 years? That’s a 33% increase in dollars adjusted for the City of Saskatoon’s rate of inflation. Some say we have one of the highest residential tax rates in Canada. Over the next 2 years, taxes are scheduled to increase by nearly 8%. Inflation is currently running around 1% a year. I know from talking to you that some people can afford these increases. Others find them a challenge. Let’s help average people, people on fixed incomes, people struggling to find work, by stopping tax increases. Zero tax increases does not mean cutbacks in service, it means keeping spending within our means. If we encourage efficiency, we will be able to afford some of the big ticket items our citizens want. Want to see more, click here.
- Prevention through community support programs to give youth and at risk groups opportunities, skills, and choices
- Early intervention: expand role of community safety officers.
- Catch crime early, when people have a greater chance of reform.
Catch criminals early. Many people tell me they are concerned about crime. We suffer from petty crime, car ransacking, bicycle theft, and garage theft. Some see drug drops in our playgrounds. How can we stop this? Catching criminals early in their career, teach people that they will be caught if they veer from the straight and narrow. This discourages them from becoming career criminals. We know that the police are stretched and concentrate on the apex criminals, those who commit murder and other major crimes. I advocate for a small special task force with bait bikes and decoy cars to catch criminals early. Expanding the roles of Community Support Officers and having more bylaw enforcement officers would help detect nuisance activity earlier and provide guidance and, when necessary, enforcement. Lets make our neighborhood safe and discourage people early from a life of crime.
- Community centered opportunities to give youth and others options and skills to avoid becoming trapped by drugs.
Divert people into other activities. Give youth an alternative. I support more community centers close to neighborhoods, particularly troubled neighborhoods. Safe places with a variety of activities including exercise, reading and even video games. Places where community groups and youth organizations can hold activities and prepare youth for life in a troubled world. Prevention is best.
- Improved active transport: bike lanes and better sidewalks
- Community drop off points for recyclables that are no longer blue bin accessible
- Green home renovation grants
Let’s start with green home renovation grants. What a great way to spur economic activity, help the environment, and improve the quality of life for the average person. These are a better option than our current council’s proposal of home renovation loans, with similar rates and terms to a second mortgage on your home. Do you think City loans at commercial rates will help? Do you think the City should be getting into the loan business? I propose green grants to kick start environmentally friendly renovation. The grants would cover 80% of a home energy audit. Homeowners could then make their own decisions and take the information to a financial institution to get a home equity loan.
These green grants could be funded by stopping the millions in tax abatements and incentive grants for developers in the inner City. For example, the City recently approved a $2.3M tax abatement for a luxury tower that is not energy efficient. This brings the total amount of tax give aways to over $12 million. Our City is not currently growing; COVID and closed borders have seen to that. Our pressing need is for new employment opportunities and environmental responsibility. Let’s help individual homeowners reduce their environmental impact and live more comfortably though a green grant.
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The Federal Government has recently earmarked $3Billion to help with pandemic control infrastructure. This includes money for sidewalks and bike lanes, so this seems a great time to discuss cycle paths.
Varsity View has one of the highest cycling rates in Canada (10.8%) In Haultain cycling is the second most common method of getting to work used by 8% of residents. Lets make it easier for all of Ward 6 to cycle. Bike lanes are great way for people of any age to get around, they are very cost effective for those with limited incomes. Recently, bikes have been flying off the shelves at out local bike stores.
There are three major hurdles to cycling, safety, connectivity, and generating broad based community support. Cyclists need to enjoy the same level of safety as pedestrians and people in cars. Cyclists feel safest, and motorists are happiest, when bikes and cars are physically separated. For me, this means either expanded sidewalks with paths or, a new idea, back alley cycle paths. As I talk, there seems to be support for back alley cycle lanes as an efficient way of separating cars and cyclists. They would have to be paved and given priority at intersections. There could be secondary benefits in reducing crime (more eyes on the alley) and some residents might beautify them. Both the expanded side walk and back alley solutions address two common motorist concerns; there would be no loss of parking and no road clutter. I propose one new (or substantially improved) North-South and one new East-West bike route in each community. The routes would be chosen by the community but they must meet up and go somewhere e.g. the University or the Meewasin trail. In the downtown area I would like to see better links between the bridges and bike trails, and wider or new trails along the Meewasin.
A misconception is that bike lanes are expensive. Just over 4% of Saskatoon residents take the bus to work, we devote 8% of our taxes to transit. Two percent of residents use cycling as their main method of transport (Statistics Canada, 2016 survey) to work and the amount of taxes spent is too small to even register in the city accounts. However, we should still look at options that make cycle paths easier to maintain, like putting both lanes next to each other so that they are easier to plow.
Community drop off points for recyclables. There are many residents who would voluntarily take glass, hard to sort plastics and items that cannot be placed in the garbage like old fire alarms to community drop off points. These are an inexpensive option for diverting material away from our landfill. We also need to look at new ways to recycle, driveways made from recycled tires are an existing option but new ones should be explored.
Roads and Sidewalks (See environment for bike lanes)
I stand for improved roads and better parking. Potholes are still a bane to many residents. We spend 3 times as much money on road maintenance as we did in 2012 but our roads still suffer from potholes and poor repair. The problem is unevenly distributed, some roads are in good shape, others get potholes year after year. Part of the problem is increased traffic and heavier loads. Another problem is that much of the money goes to filling and patching, this year the amount of money spent on long term fixes actually decreased.
Let’s spend money either to rebuild roads in the core neighborhoods or look at other options – like weight limits.
I support rebuilding our many sidewalks that have dangerous cracks and uneven surfaces where ice forms. My pet peeve? Cut outs for driveways that go completely across the sidewalk. These become treacherous icy slopes in winter. New subdivisions do not have this problem, the curb is rounded instead. I want to see rounded curbs and cut outs restricted to a maximum of half of the sidewalk. This could be applied to all new sidewalks and to old sidewalks as they are replaced. Some sidewalks in high pedestrian traffic areas could also be widened to ease social distancing. Do you think a new pedestrian bridge across the river could be helpful? Please let me know whether you think this would be a good use of federal grant money or not.
Community led development:
- Residents and city planners develop a plan together
- Adhere to the plan, no on the fly changes
- Architectural controls to maintain character of neighborhood
- Infrastructure to support development
We all want a strong community. As out community grows we need better infrastructure. Better roads, sidewalks, and bike lanes to transport the added people. Our parks need more facilities so that they are used to their full potential. I believe that growth should be accompanied by improvements in infrastructure so that we can all enjoy an improved neighborhood.
I believe that our communities can work with City planners to build the best development plans. Community plans are mandated by Provincial law. Let’s make them meaningful. A lot of time is spent developing Community plans, they take a holistic view, identify needs for density, infill, and additional infrastructure like sidewalks and park improvements. Sticking to community plans is cheaper. Every time a non conforming development is proposed a lot of City and residents time and energy is used to discuss the merits of the new building. Sticking to community plans gives certainty to residents so that they can renovate their homes knowing what the future holds. Sticking to the Community plan reduces the risk of abuse. Millions of dollars in value hang on City council votes for non conforming buildings.
- Limits on corporate and union campaign donations (like many cities in Canada
- Timely reporting of major campaign donations
- Annual resident satisfaction surveys of City’s progress
- Timely reporting of survey results
- Timely opening of city election office