Category Archives: Regional Councillor Jane Mitchell\'s Blog

Knox Presbyterian Church and Democracy: on the Occasion of The One Year Anniversary of the New Church.

Greetings and congratulations from Chair Ken Seiling and Regional Council. Like Peter Braid, I would first like to talk about Caroline and Erb.  Although people, of course, do talk to me about the traffic, this intersection is iconic. There is commerce with Waterloo Square, politics with CIGI, the arts with the Clay and Glass and religion with Knox. We are always hearing about commerce and politics, it is so important to have religion on this corner.

Secondly, on behalf of the Region of Waterloo, I would like to thank Knox for letting us hold our public meetings here. Just last week, I listened to a speaker who was helping us as we move to urbanization, telling us about placemaking and making the Region comfortable for people.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited China on a personal visit. It is a great country but with 1.7 billion people, they must build a lot of LRT and subways. We passed by a hoarding and our guide told us that the last subway line was built in one year. One year. It is taking 12 years to put the shovel in the ground for our Light Rail Transit.

I thought it over. China does not have environmental assessments or public meetings. I was very interested in hearing that your church had lots of meetings deciding how and where to build the new church.  Some say the Region’s meetings are endless, some say we don’t have enough. In the end, it is decided and some people don’t get what they want and some do.

That’s democracy.

Which brings me to the famous public meeting in your church, the one where people were looking at the uptown alignment for the LRT.

The members of Knox said, ” We’ve just built this church and the LRT line is going right beside it.”

We said, “The LRT is electric, it’ll be quiet.”

The members said, “Oh, we don’t know.”

Then other people in Waterloo began to agree with you. The alignment should be changed. The Region changed the alignment to go along a preexisting rail line through the parking lot of Waterloo Town Square.

That’s democracy.

Thank you for your devotion to community and democracy. Congratulations on your first year.

My Light Rail Transit Speech and some Nifty LRT Pictures.

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My Speech

Thank you to staff who have worked and are working so hard on this project.

Thank you to everyone who emailed, mailed, met with me, twittered or phoned me.  And  the delegations and the people at the meetings. Well over 600 emails. If I haven’t gotten back to you yet, be assured I will. Regional councillors answer their own email.  I have never had anywhere near the response I have had on this issue.  Most of the people who have contacted me are for LRT.

also went door to door during the past municipal election. I personally visited thousands of doors, as I always do.  There were people against LRT. A lot were against because they needed transit in their area. Which is why I support increased regular transit and would like to see more in the future. I will deal with cost later. There were also people for LRT.

Most people just had a lot of questions which I was pleased to answer. This I believe is what happened at our public meetings. People came with a lot of questions and our staff answered them.

The public have spoken and we’ve listened. However, listening does not necessarily mean doing what people ask. For some here tonight, I have listened but I have said No.

Light Rail Transit runs quietly on electricity. It doesn’t spew smog into our air. I hope in the future we can run the system on renewable energy.

With less staff and more passengers, it is more economical in the long run.

As the Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority, I have been travelling from Cambridge to Waterloo in the rush hour.  There is more congestion in Cambridge than there is in KW. Could this be because more people ride transit in KW?  I’m glad we’re ramping up transit in Cambridge but we need to start stage 2, LRT to Cambridge as soon as possible.

No one has talked about jobs and the LRT. The province and the federal government have given us a jaw dropping amount of money. Why? To help Waterloo Region through the recession. Jobs have disappeared in our Region and most of them were to do with the car industry, particularly the automobiles that eat gas. We need to reinvent our economy again and LRT helps with this.

LRT is estimated to create up to 23,000 new permanent jobs in the station areas. Everything from flower shops to tech start-ups. This isn’t even including the jobs created building and running the LRT.

During the election, I stated that I wanted Bus Rapid Transit back on the table. I voted for that and it was done.

The public and myself had the chance of another look. Unfortunately, almost everyone has found it wanting. Those against The LRT, such as Taxpayers for sensible transit  are for abrt which is a souped up Ixpress that will still be caught in traffic.  All the problems people think exist for LRT, like its dedicated lane, are also part of BRT. And experience elsewhere shows that BRT quickly creates its own congestion.

My second request during the election was that staff bring a report on keeping the costs down. The other concern at the door. They have put in some cuts. But I am most pleased with Councillor Wideman’s amendment that reduces the tax increase to  .7%.  I said during the election that I did not want property tax to increase on the capital portion left over after the province and feds had put in their money. These reductions do this.

The City of Waterloo will finally get its due. Light Rail Transit benefits Waterloo the most.  It will develop our industrial area on Northfield and our R and T park. Waterloo is up to its borders and must intensify. LRT helps do this. The trains will transport our young professionals and university students. The Ixpress, number 9 and mainline 7 are jammed with passengers.

Uptown will have huge benefits from light rail. I wish I could show some of the pictures I have from downtowns around the world that have light rail. People cycling and walking beside the train. Even a fountain between one of the tracks. I wish you all could have travelled to Edmonton, Calgary and Portland, even  Switzerland years ago, as I have.

 Cars don’t shop, people shop.  I ride the bus (yes I use my car and transit) and many times I have come from the region, gotten off at Waterloo Square and done some shopping then hopped back on the bus and gone home or onto Conestoga Mall. I can even go up to the Market and the Outlet Mall in the same trip. Think of 450 people getting off the bus at Waterloo Square.

Waterloo Park will be fine. I have seen a picture of a train with grass growing through the track. People will be able to easily cross the tracks and our report talks about the sensitivity to the heritage of the park.

When the LRT phase one is finished, my new grandson will be around six years old. We will get on my number 9 bus, then onto the train and get off at Waterloo Park where we will visit the zoo and the Wonder of Winter Lights. Then we will head home the same way. He and his generation are the future.

I support LRT.

My Campaign Promise on Rapid Transit.

Reporter Jeff Outhitt just wrote to me the following: I’m reviewing your campaign pledge, in which you said you could not support increasing property taxes to support the LRT proposal. I need to know if you intend to break that pledge or vote against the LRT proposal.

Here is my response:

Here is what I actually said in the election, still on my website, janemitchell.ca. 
 
“I do not support increasing property taxes to cover the current capital shortfall of the LRT proposal. I was the councillor who asked that a line be inserted in the LRT motion that it would not go forward without council  supporting how it is funded. This was included.”
  I want to see two thrusts to this project.
1. Put the Bus Rapid Transit project back on the table.”  DONE 
” 2. A staff report on LRT showing various ways we might build Light Rail Transit without raising property taxes for the $225 million capital portion” DONE 
 
 Ideas for ways to decrease the property tax increase came to council a few weeks ago. They decreased the 1.5 percent increase by half to .75 approximately.
At present, the 1.5 to 2 percent proposed increase per year is for the capital shortfall, operating, regular transit, and a reserve fund.  I still need staff to break out what is what in this amount as to my mind, the reductions above will cover the capital shortfall (and also most of the operating).
Update from staff: .3 of the 1.5 is regular transit, of the 1.2 % tax increase the RT capital component is approximately .64% with the operating / maintenance cost component approximating .56% .

 

Addition of new info: There may also be motions on the day that will find funds to   cover more of the operating and capital. Regular Transit is increasing 25 % as part of the 1.5% increase  .
As mentioned in the article by Tim Mollison, over 100 million was taken from the proposal before it went out to the next round of public consultations.
I am adding here:
I will not be saying how I will vote until you see me vote on June 15th, out of respect for the people presently sending me feedback. Someone may bring forward something important not taken into account.
It is  too bad that councillors’ words are twisted to say we were against LRT in the last election when we were against the increase due to the government funding shortfall.
 I am keeping my promise. It is too bad my comments were not included in the article. That is why I have this blog.
Everyone will know how I vote in time for the next election, as they all knew how I voted in 2009 before the last election. (This is assuming I run in the next election)
 
Sources for my comments:
25% increase for regular transit for Regular Transit from Memo from Thomas Schmidt answering questions posed by Claudette Millar.
 
Decrease in amount for LRT proposal :
http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/April_12_PW_Report.pdf  A bit hard to find but the suggested reductions are there.

We don’t need a referendum on Rapid Transit

There are many reasons why starting a referendum process so close to the final vote on what system we would use for transit is not a good idea.

I am going to speak about the public process for Rapid Transit so far. This process has been going on since 2003 with many, many meetings and a decision in 2009 that generated a lot of public response. There have been two elections (2006 and 2010) of municipal councillors as this process continued. I’m not counting the 2003 election as the process had just begun.

 People have had a say and are continuing to have a say. I have had over 100 emails on this topic since January and that’s not including all the mails I had before that time. I have had the most emails ever on any topic. And these are from separate individuals (I counted each person once). 80 percent at least not the “usual suspects” or advocates for one side or the other. My mail has been running 50/50 pro and con. I send all of the emails to staff to put into the count. I also record pro and con of the telephone calls.  This doesn’t even cover the many, many people whose main topic of conversation with me when I meet them is Rapid Transit. Everyone from the owner of the manicure shop to my book club to dogwalkers to people at various events.

There have also been various groups like the realtors and the tech industry running their own surveys of members. The Record Metroline survey should be very influential as no one can say they are biased because they are the Region. A friend of mine also told me that she answered an Angus Reid poll recently (Not the Region, I asked) I wait for that one.

I also listen to the Jeff Allan show, Rogers 20 talk local, CTV and read The Record and The Chronicle. The Region has a clipping service, so I have also read all the regional articles about Rapid Transit. Not to mention blogs, twitter and Facebook.

Finally there are all the public meetings the Region has held, not to mention the on-line comment form. http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/comment.html

Councillors get numbers and summaries of all.

Here is the list of the public meetings the Region has had with the public.It is in pdf format because there were and are so many. By the way, I have personally attended a number of these meetings, right back to 2006. And not all the meetings are even listed. I attended the Leadership Waterloo cafe recently and that’s not on the official list. Neither are the Probus and Rotary meetings staff presented at, to mention a few.

Rapid_Transit_Public_Outreach_Summary_May_2011

If you have not managed to phone me, or send an email , you can still do so. My information is at the side of this blog.

The final public meetings are May 31 and June 1st at council chambers. If you can’t make them, the decision day is June 15th in the evening at council chambers.

Here is what I am hearing from many of the public, most of them before this referendum question came up.  “Get ‘er done. We are tired of it. Make a decision.”

I hear you and I am going to.

Regional Budget Increase 1.44%

I was hopeful we could decrease the budget slightly this year but it was not to be. Sean Strickland did bring forward reducing the supplementary taxes going to reserves by 2.5 million as a permanent move that I supported as it was greater than the 1.5 million I suggested in a note to councillors.  

I should also note that the budget was decreased by 3.7 percent approximately with money that was saved by the uploading of Ontario Works and Disability funds to the province.

Although there were many other small cuts, council eventually felt that a 1.20 percent increase in Regular transit with an emphasis on crowded routes (a topic I heard a lot about going door to door) and a small increase in money to fix homelessness and other programs (around .5 percent) were important.

As I said to council about the homelessness initiatives, we do know that these programs have reduced the number of “frequent flyers”, people who use emergency rooms, ambulance and police resources to an extraordinary amount because they have no other supports or help with physical and mental problems. In this way we save a little on expensive but necessary police and ambulance service.

Ten of the thirty police officers will be hired in December at a cost of 24,000 dollars. Of course this means at least 10 new officers in 2012, but I still hope we can add officers over say three years rather than the two requested.

I asked after the budget vote (I voted for the budget as I always do if I agree with it over all) for the Region to continue looking at our programs to see if some are redundant or can be made more efficient. We have done this in the past with Housing, Courts and inoculation services among others. It was too late at the 11th hour to start chopping programs and would be irresponsible in  my opinion without an in-depth review. Sacred cows would stay and overlooked programs without champions would go!

How to Talk to your Councillor so the Councillor will Listen.

Been getting a bit of mail on the LRT and Policing issues. Here’s some thoughts on what works and what doesn’t in convincing me.

1. Don’t tell me I am for the trains because I didn’t have a train set when I was a boy. Hello! I am a woman and if I was voting for a rapid transit system because of what I didn’t get for Christmas when I was achild, we would be looking at Barbie Camper Rapid Transit (BCRT)

1a. Don’t say it’s Ken Seiling’s legacy. Ken is the last person to want a statue or legacy, really.

1b. Don’t say I am Ken’s or Carl’s or even, at other times, Doug’s toadie. I think and decide for myself, that is one of the pleasures of municipal politics vs party politics.

1c. Don’t write about the City Fathers, ’cause I then know you are the age of my father should he have lived. And I’m no spring chicken.

2. Don’t say that any of the councillors or myself are on the take.  Do you really think slander gets your point across?

3. Don’t say staff is stupid. Our staff work hard. Sure say you disagree.

4. Don’t say councillors don’t know anything about how the average person lives or pays taxes (Particularly after you have quoted a property tax bill that shows you live in the rich part of town). I always know what my taxes will be because I actually live in a house with average assessment.

5. Don’t say it’s all a done deal. Particularly in the case of LRT. Whatever side you are on, I won’t go into details, but the vote is closer than you would think.

6. Don’t have all your followers send an email that is exactly the same and worse, exactly the same and long. Individualize or it seems like a spam.

7. Don’t send really long and rambling emails at all. 2 paragraphs, polite, short and to the point. Add an url to your blog if you want to go on (and on and on).

Two of the recent comments on this blog show good examples of replies I listen to. The one from Ruth about LRT and the one from Eric about the environment (OK, Eric, you are right about the hydro rates).

They address me by name, so I know they realize I am a real person and not that strange creature called a “politician”. While passionate, they are polite and make their points. Thanks!

For more ideas on how to “Fight City Hall”, go to my e-book, located here

My Waterloo Region Includes Cambridge.

If you say something over and over and it gets quoted over and over, eventually people will believe you, even if it isn’t the truth. For 10 years I have listened to Mayor Doug Craig say that the Region ignores poor Cambridge. Twice in the last few weeks he has claimed that the Region did nothing to help Cambridge get a GO train.

Untrue! The Region commissioned a 100,000 dollar study (That was paid for by Waterloo taxpayers too — more about that later) to show that Cambridge needs GO trains. We have also lobbied for it.

Cambridge is not the poor step-sister of the Region. In fact, as shown by a study done by the Record, my city, Waterloo, gets the least amount of Regional funds.

But lets face it, whining works. Ten years ago when I got on Regional Council, the Region took over transit. When Cambridge owned transit, it sucked. One of my friends in Cambridge had a bus go by her house, but to get the half mile to the city centre, she would have had to travel for an hour because the bus only travelled one way.

Now that bus travels both ways, she can go to the mall and she can take a fast bus to Kitchener and Waterloo when before there was no bus between the cities.

Money has been poured into Cambridge roads, the redevelopment of 150 Main St. into a Social Services building and social housing. Garbage collection now includes large item pick-up. Cambridge has the lion’s share of new industrial lands while poor Waterloo is knocking up against its boundaries.

Cambridge has a Regional Historic Site and  a Regional daycare that has just been expanded. Waterloo has neither. The Police Headquarters is in Cambridge.

Yes KW could have LRT first, but it would cost twice as much to extend it to Cambridge in the first phase. And Cambridge doesn’t have the ridership of KW — see my comments about Cambridge’s previous lack of transit. Guess which city will get the most benefit from Light Rail?  That’s right, Waterloo with its two universities and tech park.

Staff and councillors tip toe around Cambridge. Regional committees I belong to worry that Cambridge is included. They make sure they have meetings in Cambridge. When I was first on the Region, Waterloo citizens often had to go to Kitchener City Hall for public meetings. I got that changed and now there are meetings in Waterloo and /or at regional headquarters. But, Cambridge, they always get public meetings.

Now I don’t begrudge Cambridge a thing. I’m the first to say that Cambridge should get their phase of the LRT as soon as possible after the first phase, should we choose Light Rail.

And I have nothing against people being for Bus Rapid Transit. But don’t be for BRT because Cambridge, for once, isn’t getting what they are whining for.

By the Way, I will continue to ask for a historic site in Waterloo. But really, we don’t have to feel bad about neglect in Waterloo. Some of the costs we don’t get in Waterloo are because we don’t need the social services. If Cambridge is the Quebec of Waterloo Region, Waterloo is the British Columbia. Our Prince Charming turned out to be a tech guy.