Tag Archives: Doucet

New beginnings

 WHEREAS seniors living In our community have indicated to Councillors and elected officials that they have a limited ability to pay property taxes – forcing them to consider selling their homes;

AND WHEREAS many seniors live on a fixed income and often live at the poverty level once retired;

AND WHEREAS it is desirable and cost effective to individuals and their communities for seniors to continue living in their homes for as long as possible;

NOW THEREFORE THE COUNCIL OF THE CORPORATION OF THE CITY OF PORT COLBORNE RESOLVES AS FOLLOWS:

1 . That the Government of Ontario be requested to develop a new system of calculating property taxes, which in addition to assessed property value, takes age and income into consideration so that seniors pay less in property taxes than the average working individual.

  1. That this resolution be forwarded to the Premier of Ontario, the Ontario Minister of Finance, local Members of Provincial Parliament, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Region of Niagara and Local Area Municipalities for support.

The motion above was passed on Monday November 24 at our last meeting of this term of council.  It should begin the process of discussion and resolution to the hardship that some of our seniors experience.  They can often live at the poverty level once retired.  There already exists a program that presently helps seniors with their property taxes.  It is managed by the province of Ontario.  Go to this link to get more details to see if you qualify for this program.  It indicates that individuals can receive up to $500.00.

Port Colborne is starting to replace all city street lights  with LED lighting.  The information we now have indicates that it will pay itself off within a short time-a few years.  These lights are warrantied for 10 years and all indications are that they will all be up and running by May of 2015.  The company that won the tender will be starting in December by replacing all lights that CNP report are out and need replacing.  Everyone must realize that these lights are very directional and will light the street and not inside the houses as the present lights do.   Light will go where the fixture is directed.  The LED lighting is considered the most efficient form of lighting.  Only time will tell if we can save a considerable amount of money in doing so…..  Have a great week.  Remember inauguration of the new term of council was on Monday December 1 at 7:00 pm in council chambers on the 3rd floor of city hall.

Advertisements

Ongoing support for our youth, seniors and the most vulnerable members of our community

In the next 4 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

This issue is one that Ward 2 must be conscience about because it appears to be all around us.  Youth, Seniors and the most vulnerable make up a large portion of our population.  The youth often feel betrayed by the establishment due to this establishment forgetting how important they can be in developing and expanding our social networks to help other youth in our community.  The youth find it difficult to speak to anyone but people their age.  We need to engage them as much as possible and make them understand their worth to this community.  That comes back to MYAC(Mayor’s Youth Action Committee) and their importance in helping council understand the needs that youth have and will have in the future.  I am the council representative on MYAC with many young people that care about their community and want to take part in creating a future that includes them.  This council has been open to the youth.  We should continue to engage our young people for the future of our Port Colborne.

The Seniors deserve our gratitude for all they have done within our community.  With them at the helm, they have created a future that we can be proud off and continue to expand.  This respect has been well deserved and we must continue to help them through their time with us.  That is why I am part of the Seniors Advisory Committee which is a committee of council.  This group has been very active and very vocal in their wishes and guidance  to council.  They continue to be active and we need to listen to their needs as the years go on.  They have created a baseline for us that is high but if we follow their example we can only hope to develop and leave such a baseline for the next generation.  Their wisdom is important for all councils in our country.

The last part of this issue is the care we must give to our most vulnerable in our community.  This defines us as a humane and understanding society.  Community Living helps us reach out to these people and allows us to understand their needs.  I often speak to many handicapped individuals.  They often need the help and understanding that is characteristic of a society that cares for all its members.  I will continue to interact with them and Community Living to insure a good quality of live for all individuals in our city.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

Keeping Port Colborne open for business

In the next 5 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

My friends,  this issue is extremely important to our city and The Niagara Region.  We have often been told we need more activity on this file.   Council has been very active on this issue although there has been very little public knowledge of the activity.  Confidentiality  is necessary to be able to gain the trust of all industries that are interested in Port Colborne.  All industries demand this confidentiality or they will not even entertain a visit to the city in question.  There is some great interest in Port Colborne due to our positioning on the canal, the rail lines and the mid-peninsula corridor that has become a priority to the Region and Province.

This council has been very active in inviting and showing off our great city.  We have been very cognizant of the need to drive this file forward.  Any individual that tells you that we have not been active is not aware of the realities of the file.  I must also state that much of the activity is often done in camera which makes much of the information out of reach of the citizen until the industry is prepared to make their decision public.  Council has been as active as we can be.

As a city we have prepared documents that are sent to such industries indicating to them the amenities and the fact that we are on the canal, rail line and highway as well as our proximity to the USA border.  This gives any industry the ability to reach millions of people .  Our closeness to the USA border should give us an advantage that many other communities do not have.  It has attracted some interest and we continue to actively interact with these industries.  Will they all come to Port Colborne?  I hope so.  Many of these industries have received packages from other cities as well.  Once the industry in question has created a short list they visit the individual communities to assess the fit for their company.  That means we may not get all of them but we are working at it.

This council and your ward 2 councillors have been very active at attracting new industry.  The fact is that most of the negotiations are done in camera.  It must stay at that level until the industry is prepared to release their decision publicly.  This cannot change due to the fact that much of it is covered by the Municipal Act.  The information is out of reach of the general public until a deal is struck.

Port Colborne is open for business and we must continue to be open.  We are actively reaching out to industry that is interested in  our city.   Your council continues to have your best interest at heart.  Your council continues to have meeting after meeting to negotiate a deal that will allow us to expand our tax base.

Last but not least is the fact that it is against the law to bonus a company.  The Municipal Act deems this an unlawful action by a council or city.  There are consequences to any city trying to bonus an industry.  All of council can be charged with this illegal action and can lose their position.  Examples of this activity are negotiating a deal with the industry that would allow them to use a building or land rent free for a number of years,  not paying taxes for a number of years, selling land at below market value,  etc.  All of this is illegal.  We often hear individuals request that council approach interested industry with some of these deals.   Not possible.  This type of activity is bonussing and NO city can do this legally in most situations.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

Continued Fiscal Responsibility

In the next 5 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

This is an issue that always brings up some nasty comments over the years.  It is important to remember that your city council has meetings, at the end of each year and early in the next year, over a budget that will be used by staff and council to make important decisions over that next year.  This therefore means we met in late 2013 and early 2014 to set such a budget that would take us into this year.  That is done every year.

All documents are public and available to anyone that requests this information.  All you have to do is ask the city clerk or go to the city website for all documents.  During this time, all meetings that are held are open to the public and any citizen can attend the meetings.   If we have to discuss sensitive issues, covered by the Municipal Act, we must go in camera to discuss those issues.  At the end of those discussions we return to the public meeting.  These meetings are rarely taped by Cogeco and are rarely presented on TV.  Most are not recorded.

Citizens in the audience can sometimes  participate and get their opinions about budget issues on record.  It is sad to say that very few citizens attend these meetings. Yes they can be dry and boring at times but they must take place or council would be guilty of mismanagement.  We often have only 0, 1 or 2 citizens at these important meetings.  Another method to affect change can be to speak with your council person about the budget.  You can have your questions answered through that individual.  Example is a young man that approached me during the last sessions and brought up some points for discussion.  I presented these to council at  meetings and these discussions let to changes in the budget that helped us set a better rate for our tax payers.  Ladies and gentlemen, your opinion and ideas are important to us to help develop a plan that will allow everyone to get better service for your dollar.

In the future, it may be necessary to decrease some services to affect a better tax rate .  You need someone that  has the experience to see this coming and to present it to his electorate before the final vote.   The Ward meetings held by the present councillors have helped us with this consultation process.  We are also moving into a time where our infrastructure will need more attention than we thought.  At the presentation, by the consultants, most councillors were surprised at the investments still needed in this area due to the fact of large investments already made by this council.  This may lead to an increase in taxes or a decrease in services to pay for such investments.  It may also help in developing a new method for calculating  the cost or repairs.  Only the future can tell but we now have this report to help in most decisions.  I want to be there for those discussions and to help protect the citizens.

These meetings also include a review of the city’s 5 year capital budget  and  helps with planning all major expenses over the next 5 years.  This budget is reviewed every year to make certain it is accurate.  We must also guarantee that the city has the funds available.  There have been times when council has needed to adjust these expenses  to the next year.  If we don’t do that, the tax increase would be out of the realm of inflation.  We have tried to stay within that increase.  If anyone tells you that we should have no rate increases they are simply delaying the expenses to another year. This city did this in the early 90s and the expenses finally caught up to the citizens with large increases.  That would not be responsible management.  The city, like all citizens, must live with the inflation costs from salaries, supplies, etc.  We are not immune to this and we must deal with these realities every year that must be met or we will not be able to continue to give good service to our citizens.

The bottom line  is that this council has a plan, sets and reviews budgets to help make good decisions and continues to be responsible managers of the public purse to get the best bang for our buck.  Does everyone agree? No.  Are all the decisions public?  Yes.  Can anyone review all these documents and suggest changes through appropriate channels?  Yes.  We welcome the involvement of all citizens  in the process to make reasonable and accountable adjustments  to our expenses and get good service for our citizens.

This process also allows us to review the city debt.   We have limited debt for a city of our size(9% of our worth) and are in good standing with The Region of Niagara.   The Region of Niagara is the government we must use to get our needs met  for a debenture.  We can often get a 10 year, 20 year, etc. and even longer debenture.  This  council has been very responsible in keeping this number as low as possible.  This council often did not take a debenture until one was paid and then we used the monies available to leverage another debenture to do the work necessary on infrastructure(water, sewers) without increasing the bottom line to our citizens and therefore to the tax rate.  Have we added to our debt? Yes but only when we have had to do so.  We often did it with sorrow but it had to be done.  That is good fiscal management of our  situation.  We must manage all our expenses while making certain that repairs to our infrastructure continues to be done.  Anyone that suggests that there is no plan in place, no management of our monies, no thought of  what is  going to happen during the year or even over 5 years has no idea of what has been done, what  is being done and what will be done for our citizens.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.

 

Continued Transparency and Accountability

In the next 5 weeks I will be blogging about the issues as I see  them  and as I have been able to extrapolate from the last 4 years.  Please feel free to comment and discuss the issues.  I do not have all the answers but feel free to contact me and I am willing to discuss them.

These issues always instill disagreement during any election.   They are catch words that some candidates use when they do not have a viable platform.  They are often used to complain about a situation during the election but rarely result in any constructive solutions.  Although I am using them, it is with the understanding of what they really mean and accurately reflect decisions that this City Council has acted on.

Two of the most important issues are:  Accountability and Transparency.

Accountability

Accountability means that the elected officials are going to work for and with the electorate to offer solutions and solve the issues that are important to them.  It may not be an ideal solution or one that is preferred by the constituent, but it will be one that is fair to everyone concerned.  That might mean  a resolution may only partially solve an  issue.

Example:  A young man called and then messaged me on Facebook.  He wanted something done about his neighbour and felt the situation next door was potentially dangerous to his family.  He did not want anyone to visit him but he did insist on a fast resolution.  I contacted the city bylaw officer and the police over some legal complaints.  As I looked into it,  I agreed that it was a potentially dangerous situation and used the proper channels to resolve the issue in question.  While the solution that the constituent wanted would have stepped on someone else’s rights, the final solution was a team effort of myself and staff with bylaw violations dealt with quickly.

I  also have a friend who disagrees with a neighbour in the way he cares for his home.  I have explained to him that his standards are very high and the city cannot impose them on others.  Although he doesn’t like it, he understands.

Accountability is for everyone.  You can be guaranteed that I will always resolve an issue with everyone’s rights being protected.

Myself and Councilor Desmarais have had Ward 2 meetings twice per year since 2010.  We spoke to all that came and helped them with their issues.  We shared information that helped them understand their situation, etc.  Interestingly enough, the other 2 candidates have not attended any of these gatherings.  Why?  I am not certain but I do know that when I was preparing to serve the citizens of Ward 2, I attended all Council meetings for eighteen months prior to the election so that I could understand and be prepared to serve the citizens.

Elected officials are accountable to ALL of the electorate and not just a small group.  That is responsible accountability.

Transparency

 An interesting concept that is important to the citizens of Port Colborne is transparency.  This describes the action of  someone is looking for information and being told that it is available only to a select group.  Like most municipalities, Port Colborne also has a group of people that make frequent formal requests for information that the city has not yet received or has not yet been presented to council.  When they are told this, they feel that the local government is not transparent to the citizens.  It is important to understand that this release of information by government is legislated in the Ontario Municipal Act, therefore, City Council cannot hide information unless it is spelled out in the Act.  All activity by government staff and elected officials is defined in the act and must be obeyed.  This includes the silence of Council and staff on any business that is discussed in-camera. (ie behind closed doors)

The information shared in in-camera meetings could be about staff, legal information directly related to the city’s activities for the citizens, the sale of city property, etc.  Our city clerk is responsible to manage and archive this information appropriately.  She is very much tuned in to the Act and makes the final decision on who can be given information.  This is done to protect confidential information as well as the rights of all citizens.

The current and past councils have always made Council meeting agendas and minutes available to anyone.  Agendas and minutes are available a few days before each City Council meeting by email.  Printed copies are available by contacting the city clerk at least one week before meetings.  Agendas are also distributed at each Council meeting and and are archived with the minutes at the city library.

Transparency is critical to all citizens of Port Colborne,  City Hall and the elected officials have nothing to hide. I have been open and transparent to everyone unless it has been regulated otherwise under the Municipal Act.  I can state that the seventeen years I have been on Council, there has been very little information that has been deemed protected and confidential.  Any citizen that wants information on the issues can find it if they want to.

Conclusion

During this election, all citizens should ask each candidate for their position on these critical issues of accountability and transparency.  I am prepared to answer on these and other questions as they pertain to this important issue.

Election 2014 is all about the issues that are important to you.  Read more about me and what I will do for you.    If you have any questions, there may be an answer in my frequently asked questions.  Feel free to  contact me with your own comments and questions.  Thank you for your continued support.