On Safety

Standard

As we reach the beginning of the voting period, I wanted to talk about safety in Middlesex Centre, and specifically Ward 4.

Over the next 10 years there is going to be a great deal of road reconstruction happening. We have an infrastructure funding gap of roughly $42,000,000 worth of infrastructure repairs that need to be addressed as soon as possible, and roughly another $43,000,000 worth of infrastructure repairs that need to be addressed over the next 10 years.

In that infrastructure there will no doubt be roads that need to be repaired and rebuilt. I asked municipal staff recently whether any of those roads were slated to include bike lanes, and I got this response:

“At the present time, no specific bike lanes / routes have been slated for inclusion with any one particular reconstruction project.”

As a pedestrian, cyclist, and driver, I find this extremely disappointing. The staff member goes on to remind me that bikes can share the road with vehicles, and while that’s true it’s not really a solution. All over the world we’re seeing municipalities of every size embracing dedicated bike lanes as part of a solution towards making roads safer, for both cyclists and drivers, and yet we have none slated here in Middlesex Centre.

Additionally, there are a host of issues we need to explore and determine how to resolve. These are the types of issues and potential solutions people are discussing with me:

  • Replacing intersections like Glendon and Vanneck/Jefferies with roundabouts
  • Paving the shoulders of Glendon Drive and installing bike lanes – this would make the road safer for all users
  • Replacing some STOP signs with YIELD signs – this has been shown to be effective in some situations
  • Incorporating/mandating the “complete streets” philosophy in new developments and reconstructions
  • Curbing speeding in residential areas — ideas here include introducing speed bumps, reducing the standard speed limit to 40kph, building narrower streets, etc.
  • Installing a traffic mirror at the Coldstream Rd underpass
  • The school crossing at Fieldrun Drive and Oxbow Drive could also include installing rumble strips, increasing police presence for an extended period of time, eliminating the back-and-forth with the TVDSB and funding a crossing guard, and so on.

We have to put a stop to the rising number of collisions on our roads, and some of this will include coordination with the County and even the City of London. Ultimately we continue to see mitigation methods put in place that are not working, with little follow-up, or a lack of communication about what else can be done.

You love living in this area. I do too. And that’s why safety is so important to me, to you, our children, and even adults who are trying to stay active. We can do better!

Together we can build communities that are connected, respected, and protected. Vote for Derek Silva for Councillor of Ward 4!

On Communication

Standard

Almost every time I speak to someone about my campaign for Councillor of Ward 4, especially when canvassing, I talk about communication. Middlesex Centre does occasionally sending out the CentreLine, a small feel-good pamphlet about things happening around the municipality. It’s mostly fluff though – the last one talked about the new splash pad, public skating rates at the arena, etc.

Where’s the newsletter or pamphlet about the serious stuff? Where are the public announcements (other than the website) about public participation meetings? Where is the easy-to-access mechanism for feedback on things like new subdivisions, or to see how your Councillor voted on an issue?

The reality is that it isn’t there. These things simply do not exist now in Middlesex Centre, and it is time that changed.

As Councillor of Ward 4, I pledge to:

  • Hold quarterly town halls where citizens can ask questions, and I will answer them as best I can
  • Send out a regular newsletter that details recent Council decisions, important decisions coming up, how I plan to vote and why, along with background info
    • I have already begun collecting email addresses for this newsletter while canvassing, and you can add yourself to it at the top of the page! I will only use this list in the event I’m elected Councillor.
  • Send out notifications about upcoming public participation meetings
  • Send recaps of public participation meetings and other major meetings
  • Write regular blog entries about upcoming municipal business, where I stand and why — residents will be able to comment here and provide feedback
  • Introduce a measure to implement an online platform to easily view issues up for debate, background info, and even citizen voting on those issues — the current method of viewing PDFs is not efficient, or sufficient (e.g. DemocracyOS and Loomio)
  • Introduce a measure to implement a metric-tracking system similar to the City of St. Albert’s StATRACKER
  • Introduce a measure for Middlesex Centre to look at duplicating the State of Iowa’s snow plow tracker system across the county – this would be a partnership with the county, other nearby municipalities, and the City of London
    • This is about safety, yes, but also about being transparent with regards to how well snow removal is happening and where the plows are; I think it would set a great example to lead on something we all know is coming every year in this great nation of ours.
  • Introduce a measure to explore live streaming committee and council meetings, as well as archiving them online
    • This would benefit residents and the press as well, providing a reference for any statements made by Councillors or confusing back-and-forths
    • I would like to keep the initial capital expense for this initiative under $1,000 and use an existing service that would make this far less expensive than how other municipalities handle live streaming

And really, these are just some of the things we can do. I have already made myself available via Twitter, Facebook, email, phone, and even at home. I will continue to re-visit the most popular methods and make sure that the mediums residents use, I use also. I want to be your representative. I want to find out what’s important to you. Only together can we build communities that are connected, respected, and protected.

What’s your position on Arva Fire Hall?

Standard

This is a question I’ve been hearing a lot lately, especially since closing Arva Fire Hall was just put to a vote last week. My understanding is that a decision was deferred for a year, which I was thankful to hear, but it also means I’ll be voting on it if I’m elected Councillor. So to make my position very clear, I’m posting it publicly.

I took the time to read the staff report and recommendations. While I tend to appreciate the effort that staff and consultants put into such reports, I must say that I cannot bring myself to agree that Arva’s fire hall should be eliminated for a number of reasons:

  • There will, no doubt, be additional growth in Arva in the future. Arva’s fire hall is also the second busiest in Middlesex Centre!
  • Eliminating the fire hall in Arva puts its residents more than 11km away from a Middlesex Centre fire hall, resulting in an instant increase to property insurance rates (property insurers use 8km as their benchmark) unless the municipality has an agreement in place that London’s nearest fire halls will service Arva.
  • As outlined in the report, existing volunteers may choose to not support the Ilderton or Bryanston stations, resulting in a decrease in the number of firefighters available for an increased workload.
  • If the Arva Flour Mill ever catches on fire… well, I think we all know how flour reacts to fire, and the resulting damage could be devastating to multiple properties in the area depending on the severity of the incident.

So, that’s a long way of saying that I’m against closing any existing fire halls. We have a large municipality and need all the coverage we can get, and we need to ensure our volunteers have the equipment they need to respond to emergencies. I want to work together with citizens to build communities that are connected, respected, and protected.

“Do you have any signs?”

Standard

The more people I talk to, the more frequently I hear the question, “Do you have any signs?”

I’m flattered that people are asking, but for several reasons the answer is, “Sorry, I don’t.” Here’s why.

My platform includes talk of fiscal responsibility. It is something I truly believe in, especially when you are spending other people’s money. We have all seen too often, whether here in Middlesex Centre or around the province, just how easy it is to be flippant with funds provided by others.

When I talk of fiscal responsibility, I am talking about how I treat my own money, and how I would treat the municipal budget. It isn’t something to simply read over and pass. It’s something that can always be under going minor tweaks in order to get the best value for the dollars being spent. The Kaizen approach, if you will. And looking for better and less expensive ways to do the same thing is not something that should simply be reserved for budget time.

I don’t look at my personal finances once a year. I am always evaluating whether I’m spending the right, or least, amount of money for the services I consume. If I can make something more inexpensive but attain the same result (e.g. property insurance, Internet service, phone service, purchasing groceries), I do. The same should be able to be said about any government. And as I outline in my platform – it’s not about cutting jobs, but finding better and more efficient ways to do things.

So instead of choosing to spend hard-earned campaign contributions on a bunch signs that would not be used for another four years – to the tune of at least $5 per sign – I have chosen to knock on every single door in the ward. You will see me at events, you might see me at your door, at the arena, or even walking/running around Kilworth. Feel free to engage with me at any of these times, because I feel we can get a lot more done speaking to each other.

Comments on Development Charges Study

Standard

Last Wednesday there was a public participation meeting at 4pm in Middlesex Centre Council chambers. Unfortunately only two members of the public (including myself) and one member of the press were able to make the meeting, but a consultant named Andrew from Watson & Associates Economists Ltd. was on-hand to give a presentation of the background study, its conclusions, and a proposed development charge bylaw to replace the existing bylaw.

The most important takeaway from the proposed bylaw is that Middlesex Centre will move from varied development charges in Ilderton, Ilderton West, Komoka, Kilworth and Delaware to a single, uniform development charge. This will make things simpler for developers, easier for the municipality to apply, and also far easier for the municipality to project revenues. It’s win-win.

Answers to questions I asked at the meeting are as follows:

  • School boards are exempted from paying development charges under the Development Charges Act. This was a huge blow to further development in Delaware since the London District Catholic School Board didn’t have to pay development charges for the new Our Lady of Lourdes.
  • We are recouping 100% of what we can as allowed under the Development Charges Act.
  • Development charges will be indexed based on StatsCan data.

Upon further review of the data and proposed bylaw in the study, I came to some additional concerns that needed to be submitted. I wrote the email below and sent it to the Clerk for inclusion in Wednesday’s agenda as a comment on the background study.

Hello,

I am submitting these comments for inclusion in Council’s agenda for the upcoming Council meeting on July 23, 2014 regarding changes to the proposed development charges by-law.

I have read the report and proposed by-law assembled by Watson & Associates Economists Ltd, and I have some concerns that are not addressed in the report or analysis.

  1. There are no provisions here for recovering costs associated with expanding police services to new developments. The provincial development charges law provides provisions for recovering 100% of the costs associated with police detachments, police rolling stock, and small equipment & gear. At the public meeting on July 16, 2014 I was told by Andrew, from Watson & Associates, that the proposed by-law would institute development charges to recoup 100% of the eligible fees. At the moment, this does not appear to be true. At a time when police services costs are skyrocketing, I feel it’s extremely important to set aside funds, collected through development charges, to help Middlesex Centre cope with rising police services costs.
  2. The development charge for libraries that is proposed to be levied against apartments appears to be artificially low. Apartment dwellers are just as likely, if not more likely depending on their demographic, to utilize libraries.
  3. In 2013 I was told by my Councillor that Public Works had to defer purchasing a new vehicle due to financial constraints. And yet the proposed development charges for Public Works has been reduced compared with existing fees. Why is that? I cannot find justification in the document.
  4. The table on page 113 clearly illustrates that the Water Reserve Fund will begin experiencing substantially negative cash flow, and will be in deficit by the year 2022. This deficit continues until 2034. Given the lack of major projects that the Water Reserve Fund will finance, in direct contrast with the Waste Water Reserve Fund, I encourage Council to consider increasing the Water development charge slightly in order to reduce the municipality’s debt, if not avoid it entirely with respect to the Water Reserve Fund.
  5. Lastly, I’m disappointed that the graphs shown on Wednesday at the public meeting – graphs illustrating how high/low Middlesex Centre’s current and proposed development charges are and will be in relation to nearby municipalities – are not included in the background study. I thought these were good fodder, but now I can’t reference them.

In light of the issues and questions above, I am urging Council to defer this back to staff for further review. I believe we’re very close to having an effective development charges by-law for 2014, but we are not quite “there” yet.

Thank you,

Derek E. Silva

A member of the public and a member of Council both expressed an interest in knowing what would happen if we reduced the industrial development charge to $0, hoping it would entice more industry to Middlesex Centre. This is something that several municipalities near us have already done including London, Woodstock, and St. Thomas. Given the lack of “big wins” over the last few years, I don’t see this strategy working. For starters it means the slack would have to be picked up elsewhere, and that elsewhere would almost certainly be property taxes. In addition to that, every economist I follow, and every discussion about where to set up a new business I’ve been privy to, has rarely (if ever) mentioned development charges as part of the conversation.

What is discussed instead is the labour force available, the land available, access to infrastructure, and so on. Access to infrastructure, especially Internet infrastructure, is something we could focus and have a direct effect on. Waiving development charges on new industrial buildings just means citizens are subsidizing the development charges instead. I cannot vote in favour of that, but that is the road some will try to take us down.

If you would like to learn more about the Development Charges Act, or the proposed bylaw for Middlesex Centre, I am happy to answer any questions!