Council deputation- Midland Matters-Sept 22
Click here for accompanying slides: http://bit.ly/1mpM4hb
“ENGAGING THE COMMUNITY TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE LOCAL ECONOMY”.
– Good evening and thank you for allowing Midlandcommunity.ca time on tonight’s agenda.
My name is Roy Ellis and our discussion will focus on “Midland matters”. Midland matters and community engagement matters more than ever because we are clearly at a “tipping point”. We have a choice to build on some recent successes of this Council or we can choose to go back to the dark days of watching a lost Ship in Midland Bay where the captain and crew lacked direction on how to get home safely. Future Council needs to embrace this Council’s vision of more responsible and focused spending that supports economic development and growth.
We believe community engagement, support and input has contributed to the successes this Council has achieved. We all perform better when others encourage us to do better in our pursuit of excellence. And we believe continued community engagement will help Midland achieve its full potential.
For our TV audience who may not know us, we are a concerned community group, representing all demographics, with 900 +member/contacts, motivated to improve the Quality of Life for ALL Midlanders.
I think it’s important to note that Midlandcommunity.ca has been in existence for this entire Council cycle, some 4 years. Members of our group have spent 1000’s of hours observing and writing about virtually every Council meeting, General Committee meeting, planning meetings, visioning meetings and most other meetings the Town engages the public in.
We pride ourselves on knowing both the issues and the opportunities, and feel justly qualified to comment on both.
Sadly, a year or so ago we lost a voice in the community, a newspaper called The Free Press. At that time, we decided to increase our efforts and presence to ensure the people of Midland receive quality information about town affairs in a timely fashion.
Times have changed dramatically over the last 20 years or so. Education looks different, Health Care looks different, technology and social media look different, support programs look different, employment looks different, recreation looks different, housing looks different, families look different with many struggling to make ends meet, even the weather looks different. All that to say, ALL levels of Government need to think and act differently, more strategically, more responsibly and with a greater sense of urgency. Its no coincidence the much-used word “sustainability” has become the buzzword of this millennium in virtually everything we do and measure.
In response to these changing and somewhat troubled economic times, we believe it’s critical for Midlanders, the voters, your customers to get timely, unfiltered information about the collective success of Council. It’s critical that Midlanders know the candidates in the upcoming election, know the “issues and the opportunities” and then speak with their vote.
Midlandcommunity.ca’s immediate goal is to intensify awareness around “the election issues” as well as provide to the voter a more focused look at the candidates themselves.
In terms of the how we will accomplish this:
1) First, we are here this evening providing more facts about Midland’s state of affairs to include a high level assessment of this Council’s accomplishments and in some cases, missed opportunities or failings.
2) We have sent all declared candidates slide 1on the screen inviting them to respond to four specific questions.
Slide 1: ELECTION 2014- Candidates question template:
1) I am running for Midland Town Council because…
2) My vision for Midland is …
3) I will accomplish this vision by focusing on the following three things.
4) Describe your top three accomplishments that make you a good candidate for Council. For current or previous members of council, please focus on your top three in that role.
Midlandcommunity.ca facilitated this on-line information gathering process hoping all 27 candidates would share their views on these key questions for all voters to consider.
These four questions are ones often asked when applying for a new job. Running for office is similar, in that the voters are essentially interviewing you and are asked to make a choice.
We remain hopeful the voters of Midland will have this rich information from all 27 candidates, with less frills and spin customarily found in campaign brochures, and that this added dimension would assist the voter gain the necessary insights and confidence they need to make the right decision for Midland, its people, and our future on Election Day.
19 of 27 candidates have responded to our request and we remain hopeful we will see even greater participation before our deadline.
We’d like to personally thank those candidates who did take the time to respond, who see the value in the exercise, and your responses will be prominently displayed on our web site tomorrow.
3) We have teamed up with the BIA to host two “meet the candidates nights”; the first will be for all declared nominees for Council for Ward’s 1, 2, and 3, which will be held on October 6th. The second will host the Mayor and Deputy Mayoral candidates on October 7th. Both events are open to the public and will be held at NSSRC from 7-9. We are hopeful that ALL 27 candidates will participate in these forums for the benefit of the Downtown merchants and the broader population at large.
4) We believe that the sum of the above steps will result in heightened public engagement and awareness around the candidates and the issues, which should lead to greater voter participation and turn out at the polls.
So what has performance looked like going back 14 years to the new millennium?
On the screen to my left, please take a look at the chart (slide 2) we are calling Midland 101 in order to get grounded on some basic facts.
Slide 2- Midland 101 chart:
This high level scorecard helps us understand the historical and current state of our Town.
The chart shows a 14-year growth in spending that is both excessive and some consider irresponsible, when you view this result in the context of other indicators.
1) Local tax charges have increased 116% from 2000-2014. Let’s be clear; we’re speaking about local taxes, the portion Midland Council controls – not charges for County services and education that others set.
2) # of households are up only 13% – less than 1% growth per year.
3) At the same time our population has declined by 1%. AND
4) The CPI, the accepted measure of price inflation, over the same period is up only 30%.
So you have inflation up 30%, households up 13% – you’d think taxes should be up maybe about 40%. Not even close -116%.
Midland has increased its taxes almost 4 times the rate of inflation with virtually no growth to help support this spending trend. This means current residents and businesses take the hit right in their wallets.
Simply stated, Midland has become unaffordable and excessive, misdirected spending has clearly impeded growth.
The chart shows that local tax charges were on a very steep trajectory upwards through the years 2000-2010.
While this Council has started the journey to control and direct spending more wisely, we need to go back to the decade beginning in 2000 and fully understand why there was millions of dollars in new spending and taxation against virtually no growth to support this spending addiction.
From 2010- 2014 we note this Council has embarked on a more responsible approach and we’ve begun to see spending flatten out.
This Council has also welcomed and mandated more definition and action around Economic Development and growth, to include Tourism; for which you get high marks.
So the foundation is starting to come together and the building blocks are being put in place.
To those who support an ongoing spending review and continued restraint along with Economic development as must do’s and strategic imperatives, thank you.
To those who contributed to the misery of this chart, in the coming weeks, please shed some light on why you believe you deserve our vote on October 27th.
Let’s now do a deeper dive on what’s working and what’s not?
We’ll start with the Good:
1) As mentioned, the spending increases have declined over the last four years thanks to those who saw the need to change the trajectory.
2) After a few false starts, this Council took control of the Unimin site and its future use by adopting an Interim Control By-Law to prevent new industrial uses on this amazing waterfront jewel, and later went on to purchase the property.
3) We observed some MODEST action on the town staffing and resource front where we witnessed a few staff reductions through early retirements as well as some structural changes. We welcomed some new talent, and adopted a “toe in the water” approach to testing change to certain service delivery models.
4) We witnessed better cooperation with neighbouring municipalities and some coordination and pooling of resources with both the Economic Development and Tourism initiatives.
5) During this term of office, Council invited KPMG to the party. Council had the wisdom and the courage to bring in an outside resource to take a look at what’s working and what’s not, in an effort to help us find greater savings and efficiencies. The KPMG study remains a “North star” in our pursuit to “create a sustainable local economy”.
The Bad or unresolved:
1) We witnessed continued BAD behaviour by some members of Council and the town spent needless time and money on a variety of internal complaints. The word “respect” clearly comes to mind.
2) We endure spiraling, unsustainable costs associated with emergency services. It’s clear the emergency services model needs a serious re-boot.
So in conclusion, we have had some success and we have more heavy lifting to do.
Slide 3- “Top Ten list”:
Finally, Midlandcommunity.ca has prepared a “top ten list” of things to consider for those who wish to join the Council ranks later this year. While we don’t have time to review the list in detail, we have copies available in the room and it is available on our web site
We are hopeful that those aspiring to sit in your seat or perhaps find yourself in a different seat will find comfort and alignment with our “Top Ten List”, which we truly believe matter.
In the meantime, thank you for what you do each and every day. For those who are running in this upcoming election, good luck with your campaign and look forward to seeing you on Oct/6/7th.
At this time, I’d be happy to respond to any questions you may have.
TOP TEN LIST
The following is “what we believe matters” in 2014- 2018, the election cycle and beyond.
1. Implement the KPMG recommendations, capture the significant savings in our operating budget and then commit to keeping annual spending increases at or below the rate of inflation.
2. Get Midland and area back to work through targeted development and leverage the new economic development office (EDCNS) and other local and regional agencies. We need to market our value, our assets and our beauty.
3. Commit to creative planning and a friendly regulatory environment that supports new housing and business development. Avoid red tape and regulations that create significant costs without delivering public benefits.
4. Recruit and involve talented volunteers from the community to provide input to Council and senior staff on complex matters like Planning, Finance, & HR.
5. Consider alternative models for delivery of services, especially emergency services that consume more than 40% of all taxes.
6. Involve citizens directly and meaningfully in the operation and management of underperforming Municipal assets. Many citizens already know what it takes to run a household or business with limited resources.
7. Embrace the downtown revitalization plan and accelerate the vision for the Unimin lands (Midland Bay Landing), where success equals jobs plus community pride.
8. Redefine Midland as a ‘staypoint’ not a ‘waypoint’. Turn the Tourism and Culture Plans into reality and put Midland back on the map as a happening destination while leveraging assets like Little Lake Park.
9. Focus on major issues and opportunities – the 20% of things that significantly affect 80% of residents and businesses rather than the 80% that affect only 20%.
10. Leave business to business and make Midland investment-friendly. Avoid subsidized enterprises that consume resources and compete with business.