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On the Buses by Karen Pagratis

On the Buses

A heartfelt thank you to the federal–provincial Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and to MP Mark Gerretsen for helping to ensure that Kingston and the Islands are receiving 6.8 million to improve transit service. Along with the 2.3 million in provincial gas tax funding which MPP Sophie Kiwala announced earlier, this is truly great news for Kingston, all of Kingston.

Seven new buses! What a boon. However I do question why our local Transportation Services tells us that they “will all be dedicated to a new express service route along Montreal St.” (Whig-Standard, Feb 11/17) Don’t get me wrong, I offer kudos to Kingston Transit for the innovative steps they’ve taken in recent years, especially with express services and secondary school student subsidies and subsidies generally. However has a vital part of our community perhaps been overlooked in all these plans?

We have no transit service of any kind north of the 401 or east of the subdivisions along Hwy 15 in Pittsburgh. Does Countryside District not require any public transit? Countryside has approximately the same number of residents paying the same amount of property tax as any other district in the municipality of Kingston, yet with the happy announcement of seven new buses, not even one is earmarked for service in Countryside? How is this fair, how can this be justified and how can we, the residents of Countryside, be expected to go on accepting the fact that our need for services and infrastructure appear to be consistently ignored?

When a transit windfall such as this lands in the lap of our municipality the outlying regions of town should expect to share in the benefit to all.

Kingston residents don’t just live and work on express routes, we’re spaced throughout our fair city and we need access! We pay for it in our taxes. As MP Mike Bossio said, “Everybody thinks about the urban areas, but the rural areas also have a desperate need for transit.”

Karen Pagratis,

Resident and

Candidate for Countryside

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Countryside Growers of food and community, we give Kingston the edge

Countryside

 Growers of food and community, we give Kingston the edge.

 Countryside produces much, if not most, of our local food.  Can anything matter more?

The vagaries of weather and climate change present unique challenges to this district and require urban sensitivity to rural issues.  Drought effects Countryside in some life-altering ways not always apparent to the urban gardener and needs to be addressed going forward.

Communications and internet services are an on-going concern in the less densely populated areas surrounding the city.  Yet we are all equally dependent upon the information highway.  It’s where we all buy, sell and learn nowadays.  We have to have equal access.

Public transportation.  Our tax dollars go towards it like everyone else’s.

Why don’t we see any buses on our roads, near our homes?  At the very least we deserve far more convenient park and ride locations and some limited bus routes north of the 401 and east along Hwy 2.

Since we pay city taxes, we should enjoy at least some of the amenities our urban neighbour’s do.  We need our roads to be plowed after a snowfall, we need our potholes fixed promptly and we need sewage infrastructure.

Countryside, the natural jewel in Kingston’s crown, combines rural beauty with recreational opportunities and an abiding sense of community.  Remember all that we have to offer at budget time, because we require infrastructure.

Karen Pagratis

Resident

To buy or not to buy

Council should, by now have adapted to the ‘new council’ (7 new members and a new mayor) after three budget meetings and a regular meeting! and they have. Perhaps it was the budget discussion prior to priority setting that made them put off again the purchase of the Dry Dock site .  The chair of the Marine Museum made an impassioned plea for purchase of the site, but he, Councillor Stroud,the Marine Museum’s firmest supporter, was put off by the Whig ad by the members of the Marine Museum’s board.Instead, the Council as a group, decided to move the problem to the Federal Government ,by asking the Feds to make the whole site an Urban apparently there is a precedent for this as the Feds had declared Downsview ( partially a federally owned property)  an Urban Park.

 

This question dominated the meeting of Council.Should the City put off all the other

priorities to buy the property. This poses a BIG problem for the city and I it’s approach to museums generally. While the City is committed to the Pump House, it has offered only money to the Marine Museum.While Museums tend to be monuments to their founders- in this case  Maurice Smith, the Tourism group may have something to say about potential support for the M.M. If this museum is supported what about the museum of Health Care, the Geology Museum, and others- are they to be supported as well? Can the property be separated?  Can Public Works come clean about their involvement with this property as Councillor  Hutchison says they have not. Perhaps the support of the Feds depends on their potential support of changes to theKingston Pen, which has not yet made it through the maze of administration to be sold by Public Works. It is unfortunate that both essential pieces of waterfront have come on the market at the same time- unfortunate for the new Councillors.

 

Of interest is Councillor Neill’s notice of motion to dispense with the retainer of the Integrity Commissioner.This is a controversial area- integrity. It is rumoured that this issue caused  Councillor Glover to not seek re-election. Councillor Neill was a supporter of Councillor Glover,in that they usually supported each other.The report of the CAO

indicated that neither of the two people who responded to the RFP indicated sufficient regard for educating Councillors.The RFP would be re-issued in  a form stressing the need for education and the periodic issuance of retainer funds would be cancelled. Does this mean an integrity Commissioner would be paid all at once? Who knows? – perhaps the C.A.O. It may mean that the Integrity Commissioner will be paid only by the hour – educating members of Council and rewriting the Council Code of Conduct.

 

Councillor Neill’s notice of motion opens one of the rare opportunities for a new Council to review the work of the past Council. Let’s see what will be made of it.

 

Should the City buy the Dry Dock

City Council Meeting Dec.16th 2014

 

Jason here. At the first meeting of the new Council a few themes emerged. McLaren (Meadowbrook- Strathcona)emerged as the activist- four petitions mostly regarding traffic issues and myriad amendments mostly surrounding the issue of the day- the Marine Museum(MM) The question of the day is Should the city buy it.(It, being the marine museum, Dry Dock and surrounding land.)   It is historically significant – the corner stone was laid by Sir John himself in 1890. It is the last piece of waterfront available to the public There are, as was recognized, some things to be sorted out before a vote is taken. Where does this stand relative to the third crossing? the Wellington St. extension? The price divergence between what Public Works wants and what the city is prepared to pay is one. Another – and a non-starter, is the request by the Marine Museum that any money that is gained by sale of property to a developer (in this case, Homestead) be put aside for their (the MM’s) use. No one trusts the initial estimate of $19.1 million to repair the dock-given the Tett Centre’s overrun. There are two outstanding issues here; one is the emphasis by the current mayor and Council on access to the waterfront and the other is the potential docking facilities for tour boats. These items won’t come cheaply. Look at the facilities in other cities-mainly on the ocean- a landing shelter is the first step. The current initiative is to work with the MM to extend their lease. More later I’m sure. This isn’t an easy question. Given the extent of the public angst over the Rogers K Rock Centre the purchase of the Dry Dock and surrounds is likely to generate similar angst, but it will probably come to pass.

 

Other items of note at the first full meeting of the new Council were, among others, the presentation of a cheque fulfilling the motion by the city to build fences along Princess St. and Taylor- Kidd, to protect turtles, if concerned citizens raised half of the money estimated as necessary. They did. This may be the beginning. If citizens feel strongly about Nature, they will have to put their money where their mouth is, without encumbering the tax base, or without taking money from people- and particularly their housing.

 

The new mayor, Paterson spoke three or four times, relinquishing the chair to the Deputy  Mayor. What he said was probably not too important, but he does read well – better than Gerretsen as shown during the congratulations etc. section of the meeting. He made it clear that Councillors, who intend to make motions or amendments to motions, had better type it out for the clerk in advance, so that it can be displayed properly or the motion or amendment would be ruled out of order.

 

Apparently the AMS requested that sidewalks surrounding the University be given better winter (snow) attention so that students and staff would not have to walk on the roads. This was one of the occasions when the mayor relinquished his chair to ask staff if they would be doing this anyway. The answer is yes. Also this will be the first scrambled intersection in the city – the intersection of Union and University. You can expect more scrambled intersections (red or green on all sides, pedestrians can walk diagonally) once the city finds this is a great move.

 

All in all, while it was a long meeting, the new mayor was securely in the chair and Councillors were finding their feet. The difficult issues are still with us.

 

It was a great speech (the new mayor’s inaugural).

City Council Meeting Dec.2.2014

Jason here. It was a great speech (the new mayor’s inaugural). It was delivered standing without notes (but with a teleprompter). It was a development speech. It stressed what Kedco could do for us by empowering those section of business in which we have expertise- health care and the military. And it paid respect for the history of Kingston and its buildings- even quoting Sir John A- clearly a supporter of the 200th anniversary of Sir John’s birth. By the By has the new mayor declared the technological break though dead? Voting at the inaugural meeting was by the old method- ‘raise your hands’. We will watch the next meeting. I think this is doubtful as too much money has been spent on it.

One of the interesting aspects of alphabetical seating by Council, is that Jeff McLaren is between the left wing duo of Hutchison and Neill. McLaren represents Meadowbrook-Strathcona. His leanings have yet to be determined. Perhaps the effect of this has been lessened by having Mary-Rita Holland beside Hutchison. Both have run for the NDP in the past.

Other interesting seating’s put Laura Turner (daughter of Isabel) in the place of Scott and Countryside’s in Berg’s.

The meeting was encased in pomp . The new mayor and all the councillors were led into the Chambers by a piper and all were presented by Justice Brian Adams. Although who decided on the roster of Councillors should be disciplined. They came forward in a mixture of returning councillors and new councillors with no apparent order.  Maybe it was alphabetical for wards? The new Council is expected to give more prominence to neighbourhood issues, if so, the stage is set for disagreement with the mayor who stressed intensification in his speech. Whatever… good luck to the youngest Council on record.

Gerretsen’s report card

What should we expect of a mayor? Most Kingstonians think  this is a position of great power. The ‘ strong’ mayor system which most assume- the ability to veto and to determine the budget is not available to Kingston. We have a mayor who is merely one vote out of 13. Any power the mayor has is one of influence which can be great. Over the past few mayoralties we have seen this influence grow. Staffs have grown, and our population has grown.  Most cities now have a CAO. The mayor is the  connection to the staff- a powerful position indeed. And one that is given by the Municipal Act to the Council .As such he can influence, in broad terms, the direction of the city. His relationship with the CAO is probably better than that of his predecessor who let Council get out of control.  The early emphasis on the procedural by law was probably a determination not to let Council get out of control. Gerretsen is correct ” if you don’t like it, change it”. Nobody tried. The City of Toronto was granted new taxing powers.in 2006, (land transfer, vehicle registration, and ‘sin’ taxes) but no changes to the mayor’s position were made. In fact Gerretsen chaired reasonably well in spite of his need to speak on nearly every subject.

Our mayor Gerretsen has put the Strategic Plan and Sustainability front and centre. Both have gone far to increase the influence of the mayor as he is the interpreter of both.  Pundits think that the incoming Council will stress the cultural, social and environmental pillars of Sustainability rather than the economic pillar. It remains to be seen if the Strategic Plan has as much influence with the next Council. A Strategic Plan does give new Councillors something to hang on to and it gives returning Councillors more influence as they know how the system works and can include their priorities. The Strategic Plan was initiated by the CAO and outlines how Council will spend the city’s money over the next year.  Remember that the CAO was the budget guru prior to becoming CAO so everything has to be costed.  If the money isn’t there then services must be cut, or priorities changed

The current mayor(Gerretsen) has brought young people into the political world by his use of Facebook and Twitter , which makes his vote on excluding students more puzzling AND he has been a great Public Relations person and public relations  cannot be overlooked as most people assume that this is the main job of the mayor- is it? If it is, Gerretsen does a great job! One has only to view the presentations of merit at Council to see how important people feel about this.

His errors mainly the vote on students. He is supposed to be mayor of ALL the people. In Kingston, that includes students. This has been a major problem for this Council as it was overturned by the OMB. One can forgive his vote on the Casino as he is the guardian of the tax base, although the majority of voters were against a Casino, anywhere. Is the fact of 7/6 votes in Council a negative for the Mayor in that he did not draw it together? No, every Mayor must deal with powerful personalities that often do not agree with him. This is particularly true of Councillor Glover who probably did not run again because of his conflict with Gerretsen. This Council was no different from others in the past and the one in the future. Councillors will and must disagree.

Is he lazy? Is he arrogant? Is he’ entitled? Many think so. Certainly he needs to improve his reading skills .He fumbles names early in Council meetings. He reads items for the benefit of viewers, poorly. He has not served us well by being in the chair for only four years. But, all in all, I would give him a passing grade B.