Jason here. All would be impressed by the quality of debate last evening. What is going on? First of all, the quieting of Councillor Neill has been impressive. Secondly, the mayor must have something to do with it! But what, Jason does not know. Maybe it is just a steadying influence. Maybe he spoke to Councillor Neill.
Third is the addition of Councillors Allen and McLaren- the latter between Neill and Hutchison. Maybe it makes a difference where one sits. So far we have not heard from Candon. Boehme is quiet, as is Turner.
The much anticipated reform of non-statutory advisory committees happened last night. Gone is the near campus advisory committees as dysfunctional and the Memorial Centre advisory committee and the non-working Kingston Entitlement Access Committee, merged are the Municipal Heritage Committee and the Museums and Collections Advisory committee. This may have to be broken up again as ‘heritage’ is very important to Kingston. The Rural Advisory Committee made the cut as did the Housing and Homelessness Committee although the latter was advised to meet less often. All committees were advised to submit an annual report (they should have anyway) KEAF- drawing as it has on the experience and expertise of Queen’s, St. Lawrence and RMC and CRCA was the committee that Council hated to abandon, in fact it was saved by being thrown the carrot of climate change later in the meeting by McLaren and Allen. The environmental committee has been overwhelmed by in-house experts and the ‘environmental ‘ portion of Sustainability. Perhaps ‘ overwhelmed is not the word. In fact this committee is the last one -as staff grows- to appoint members with experience and expertise. So – over to them re climate change rather than the city’s staff.
Also under the gun was the City’s RFP procedure-. Councillor Hutchison’s amendment for future revisions to the Transportation Master plan which passed 7/5 was an example of the inadequacy of existing RFP procedure. Jason has thought for a long time that familiarity with Kingston should be worth at least 5 points
Jason here. Finally, we have a sitting member Former Mayor Mark Gerretsen of the same party as the government. Will this mean we finally will get funding for the third crossing? Perhaps although it is not yet ‘shovel ready’. The access ramps have yet to be constructed and the design of the bridge and the decision whether four lanes or two to be determined. Last but certainly not least the access to the downtown – the Wellington Street extension passed, or not. All this requires councillors of great foresight. I hope we have same.
The meeting last night was a meaty one. Taken up mostly by a debate on the parking garage proposed by Homestead on the north block and by a presentation by the CAO on how to accomplish one of the City’s priorities in the strategic plan clicking on ‘foster open government’. Who knows what he was talking about? Councillor Schell made the comment that she needed a librarian to find the information that was now on the city site. I know what she means! Anyway we are in for an upgrade to the site. If you want to know how, please check out the link. I think the CAO is perhaps ahead of most Councillors and the public as I could understand the questions but not the delegation by the Chief Information Officer , Mr. Johnson. Somewhere on the city web site is an examination of parking in the downtown area. Apparently development will kill up to 400 spaces and they will have to be replaced as Councillor Allen (Countryside) remarked as his constituents drive into the City. The proposed parking garage would replace 278. Debate centred around the cost of the structures and whether or not, approving the parking arrangement gave Homestead a leg up in the planning approval process although the motion said it did not.
Councillor Stroud moved that perception was the problem. Council had to not be perceived as giving Homestead a bye in the planning process. However his motion was defeated. For the life of me I cannot see the opinion of staff that changing the motion would change the buy/sell agreement- the city will buy the parking garage from Homestead for $18 million – It is a lot of money and this is just the beginning! Council had to give Homestead pre- approval whether they liked it or not.
Sandwiched between these contentious items were plans by utilities Kingston for the future and what they are working on now. Hard to understand, but apparently we are going to have smart meters that talk to one another and we are going to be able to see what electricity and water we consume on a moment to moment basis.
This in conjunction with smart appliances will all be easily hacked by my grandkids in Australia. Welcome to the new world.
As well, we are going to embrace the service economy. We are going to be polite. We are going to respect the owners – the electorate. So we do already- what’s new?
Jason here. In analyzing the reason for short meetings one is left with the inevitable conclusion that the deeply conservative mayor and the left leaning Council have not yet come across a divisive issue. There are many potential ones but most obvious are the issue of intensification vs neighbourhood concerns. Perhaps they need Councillor Glover to shake things up! On the other hand, the self-muzzling of Councillor Neill has been a great improvement- ‘never use one word when 100 will make your point better’ add to this a mayor who doesn’t feel the need to speak on too many items(unlike the last mayor)- although he does speak on some, where his voice is respected. Could it be because he does not use it often?
High on the agenda was the solar farm in Countryside district and the staff response to solar farms in general as they will present it to the Rural Advisory Committee. This district has seen a great turnover in representatives. Perhaps Councillor Allen has more staying power… Anyway the merger of the Ontario Power Authority and the -Independent Electricity Systems Operator has left the municipalities with more power to object- just. – Not the power of the Planning Act- in zoning matters they could say NO. Clearly the province doesn’t want that or no solar or wind farms would be built. So instead they have given points for community support. In this case staff has relied on a previously prepared report on landscaping and site design, which, although it contains no support for decommissioning a solar farm (Perhaps this is part of the environmental assessment) is very comprehensive and no doubt in use across the province. What will the Rural Advisory Committee make of all this? I think, among other things that they will feel important- something that has been missing in Rural issues.as Councillor Allen is quoted as saying- Countryside gets all the things no one else wants- garbage mainly.
Another issue was that of the Sustainability agreement for the future. What is the level of community involvement with which the Sustainability group has been charged? It is not great, I think. In spite of the very impressive list of community sponsors, much needs to be done to make Sustainability a community endeavour. Welcome though the four pillars of sustainability, economic, environmental, social and cultural, were, can economic sustainability exist when most people just want the snow shovelled? Maybe the problem is with the word ‘ sustainability’
The city has gone out on a limb and funding it-creating a separate stand-alone group rather than taking it in to the municipality. The funding will decrease as time goes on, so the group will have to rely on funds from others. There has been impressive thrust on the cultural front when the city realized that the city did not even recognize one of the pillars-culture. Also on the agenda was Arts Funding- something that did not exist a few years ago. Today the funding stands at over $500,000 disbursed by the Arts Council on behalf of the city.
It was a meaty meeting – there were five presentations- two from Blue Dot (which Jason had never heard of) one from Sustainability Kingston and two others which remain forgettable, plus a petition from Lisa Osanic’s constituents.
Jason here. It was a grab bag council meeting notable for the replacement of Councillor Neill with Councillor Allen as chief talker. Jason is glad that the representative of Countryside has found his voice. Passed: Final caps on commercial, industrial and multi-unit residential buildings indicating again that no one, including Jason, understands this. Passed: Youth employment strategy. Make no mistake; this isn’t for ALL youth from 16-24. This is an extension of the Homelessness initiative. Passed: John Counter Blvd- progress to construction of the bridge over the CNR line. Beginning with the move to four lanes of Sir John to Indian Rd and Princess to the tracks. Passed. Surprise! A grant has been found to protect turtles. This is to accept the Ministry of Natural resources offer of $50,000 to protect turtles and to build turtle breeding areas. The money collected by the Turtles group will be added to the final cost of the project. Passed: Against staff recommendation a ‘scrambled’ crossing at Union and University on a motion by Councillor Neill, on the assumption that pedestrians are more important than cars, passed: Passed. Two large solar projects North of McAdoo’s Lane. McLaren and Allen were congratulatory. The former saying that this is the non-tax revenue that the city should be pursuing, the latter perhaps because the land was not good for anything else.
There was a briefing by the CAO, and although the info said it was all inclusive Mr. Hunt said it was preliminary and Councillor Hutchison’s complaint that social ideas had been left out would be covered in the booklet to be produced in August. He went on- at great length- about Open Governments and the changes that would be made to the city’s website. It is hard to imagine how the site could be more comprehensive. It contains much more than one person could ever want now. We will wait to be impressed.
The Portsmouth town Hall is being repurposed into a small business acceleration centre- staffed by volunteers. Is this the proper place for an acceleration centre? Much as we need one? Perhaps when it gets too crowded, it will revert back to St. John’s Ambulance.
The remainder of the meeting was consumed with Dawn House and whether or not to extend free bus passes to Grade 12 students. It was not difficult to see the latter coming as free passes had been given to grades 9, 10, and 11. Is this just a step away from putting the whole transit system on the tax base and giving everyone a free pass?
Why doesn’t Dawn House fit into the 10 year plan to eliminate homelessness? The report of Sheldon Laidman– director of Housing and Social Services is here so that you can judge for yourselves, it is clear that Council is not happy about the ramifications of the plan to eliminate homelessness over 10 years and that Dawn House finds it easy to come to council.
The city ‘ where history and innovation thrive ‘ has a test before it in the intent to demolish 101-109 Princess St,