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02-19-2010, 01:33 AM
Kitchener State of the City Address
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02-19-2010, 01:33 AM
Kitchener State of the City Address
February 25, 2010
Start Time: 5:30pm
Kitchener City Hall Rotunda
http://www.kitchener.ca/calendar/calendarEventDetailFull.aspx?tid=17944&caldate=Thu Feb 25, 2010
Please note the date and time! This year's event is being held after work, rather than first thing in the morning.
Click Images For PDF Versions
02-26-2010, 08:48 AM
Mayor Zehr says he’ll stand up to mudslingers
February 25, 2010 | Melinda Dalton | The Record
KITCHENER – Mayor Carl Zehr said he’ll stand up for the city in the face of anti-amalgamation mudslinging as Kitchener and Waterloo move one step closer to merger talks.
“While I respect individuals have a right to their own opinions, as the mayor of this city, I should not and will not allow unfounded comments to stand,” he told a crowd of about 200, who filled the Kitchener City Hall rotunda Thursday to hear the annual state of the city address.
“To do so would be a disservice to the people of the City of Kitchener – people who have worked together with our neighbours for decades to help build a strong and vibrant region where an individual’s quality of life is measured by their hopes and dreams, not their address.”
The event, which for the first time in years was held in the evening rather than early morning, was also a fundraiser for the Kitchener Mayor and Council Fund, which supports local charities.
Zehr’s speech focused on quality of life for city residents and how, by providing jobs, services and amenities to the citizens of Waterloo and the region, the city has already demonstrated “we are better together.”
The councils of Kitchener and Waterloo have voted in favour of putting a question on the October municipal election ballot asking residents if they want the cities to start talks about the advantages and disadvantages of amalgamating. The referendum question still has to be approved by Ontario’s municipal affairs minister.
A vocal amalgamation proponent, Zehr acknowledged that merging may not be a cheaper opinion, but said joining forces with “our neighbours to the north,” will make the municipalities more efficient and more influential on the national stage.
Waterloo only agreed to add the question to the ballot this week, but the subject has already ignited a heated debate from those on both sides of the amalgamation issue.
Zehr said he’s hopeful the majority of the discussions ahead will be thoughtful and respectful, but acknowledged Kitchener may be the subject of anti-amalgamation criticism.
The city has traditionally been modest about its achievements, he said, but now is the time to “dream big” and speak loudly about what Kitchener has to offer.
“Do not take our modesty for complacency,” he said. “While we might not brag about it much, over the years Kitchener has invested more into the lives of our residents’ quality of life than virtually any other similar-sized municipality in Ontario.”
The mayor touched on this year’s 2.9 per cent tax increase, pointing out that the city was able to keep to keep that hike below its goal of 3 per cent in spite of a difficult budget year and without major cuts to city services and amenities.
He also highlighted money in the city’s 10-year forecast for quality of life projects, including $37 million for parks, trails and sports facilities.
Investment in those areas not only benefit residents of this city, but the whole region, he said, adding the city pools, rinks, libraries and The Aud are often frequented by non-Kitchener residents.
While unemployment in the city is “still too high,” Zehr said the city has invested well in the region’s economy. The new University of Waterloo health sciences campus and the digital media hub, both in downtown Kitchener, are creating jobs that will be filled by people from across the three cities and townships, he said.
The mayor said he’ll move forward on the amalgamation discussion “respectfully and in the spirit of wanting to build a better community for all,” acknowledging that ultimately it will be the voters who decide what’s best for the two cities.
02-26-2010, 08:55 AM
Way to go Carl!! I hope he's running for Mayor again.
02-27-2010, 08:43 AM
Kitchener State of the City Address 2010
Presented by Mayor Carl Zehr
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Kitchener City Hall
On behalf of Kitchener city council, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2010 State of the City Address. I am extremely pleased that each of you have decided to join me this evening. I know how busy you all are. I know there are other things you could have chosen to do this evening. So, I truly value your time.
I would like to recognize a number of elected officials who are with us today. In particular, I would like to acknowledge members of Kitchener City Council – some of whom are in the audience today. It is not an exaggeration to say that over the years your efforts and your support for our ambitious forward-thinking agenda has made a huge difference in the lives of the residents you represent. So, thank you for attending this evening and thank you for your ongoing service to this community.
Net proceeds from tonight’s event go towards the Kitchener Mayor and Council Fund held by the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation. The money benefits local charities, so thank you for your support.
Last year the City of Kitchener finalized and released its first-ever, comprehensive strategic plan for the future of our city.
Meant to serve as a roadmap to a better community – and a better tomorrow – our strategic plan describes a shared vision for our future and it identifies six priority areas for us to act upon.
Leadership and Engagement
Quality of Life
Over the past five years the annual State of the City addresses have focused our collective attention on five of those six community priorities.
In previous years, I have spoken to you about the importance of each of these areas. I have recounted much of the progress we have made together and I have challenged us all to put our minds to our future.
This year, my remarks will focus on the final and most important of our priorities – improving the quality of life of residents in our city.
Today, I want to tell you in no uncertain terms why I am proud to be a Kitchener resident and why I am proud to be the Mayor of this incredible city.
While boasting about all that is good in our city is definitely not my usual style, I truly believe that it is exactly what is needed today.
As our entire community prepares to engage in a discussion about the future of our city – and the future of our neighbours to the north, it will be more important than ever that we hear from everyone, and not just the naysayers, the critics and the cynics.
It will be more important than ever for us to dream big, imagine the possibilities and dare to be different. After all, where would we be as a community if we hadn’t taken the road less traveled before? Imagine what we would have missed out on.
In the weeks and months ahead much will be said about the character, the history, the people and the potential of the City of Kitchener. And while I am hopeful that the majority of those comments will be made thoughtfully and respectfully, there will no doubt be some who will choose to throw mud and make misinformed comments about our city.
While I respect individuals have a right to their own opinions, as the Mayor of this city I should notand I will not allow unfounded comments to stand.
To do so would be a disservice to the people of the City of Kitchener – people who have worked together with our neighbours for decades to help build a strong and vibrant region where an individual’s quality of life is measured by their hopes and dreams, not their address.
It is no secret that I am a strong supporter of efforts to open a dialogue on a potential merger between the cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. My 22 years of public service – 13 of which I have served as Mayor – have proven to me that, while a merger may not save us a lot of money – it will certainly make us more efficient and give us a stronger voice on the national and international stage.
While I have been advocating for some form of a municipal merger for many years, and I will continue to argue strongly for its benefits, I will do so respectfully and in the spirit of wanting to build a better community for us all. And – it is looking more likely than ever that at the end of the day it will be the members of this community that will get a chance to decide on our collective future.
Kitchener residents are proud of our neighbours. We understand our shared heritage, we recognize the strengths they bring to this region, and we do not seek to diminish or devalue those things that make them unique – even as we recognize, celebrate and seek to leverage all that is similar and shared between us.
As a community Kitchener is sensible, modest and humble. We have been from the very beginning. But do not take our modesty for complacency.
While we might not brag about it much, over the years Kitchener has invested more into the lives of our residents’ quality of life than virtually any other similar-sized municipality in Ontario. And as a community, Kitchener residents understand the investments we make in our quality of life benefit the lives of residents across this entire region.
When Kitchener invests in upgrades to the Centre in the Square, attracts another singing sensation to The Aud, hosts the region’s premier blues festival, or builds a new LEED certified multi-sportsplex, we know those facilities and events benefit patrons from across the region – and they improve the quality of life of residents far beyond our municipal boundaries.
When Kitchener builds one of Ontario’s largest solar-roofs, achieves ISO certification for its vehicles, invests more money in our green spaces and spurs community-based environmental action through our $5 million LEAF fund, we know those efforts help improve the air quality of the entire region.
When I represent this region as the Chair of the Big City Mayor’s Caucus, I am advocating for funding from the federal and provincial governments that will benefit all local municipalities – and all residents’ quality of life.
And – when Kitchener taxpayers invest $110 million into biotechnology, education and knowledge creation, digital media and advanced manufacturing, we know those dollars will spur economic growth reaching far beyond our boundaries. This is no different than the research and technology park in Waterloo which provides job opportunities to residents living right here in Kitchener.
It is simply a fact that the UW’s Downtown Kitchener Health Sciences Campus and the Downtown Kitchener Communitech Digital Media Hub are set to become two of the region’s strongest engines for creativity, innovation, prosperity – and jobs.
Just as importantly, as Kitchener invests in the new economy, we cannot and we are not turning our backs on the economic pioneers of our region.
As the global economy continues to transform itself, Kitchener is doing all that we can to help this region’s traditional industries embrace, transform and succeed in the economy of tomorrow. It is important to note that these companies do not seek to verify addresses as part of their hiring process – instead they employ thousands of residents from across this entire region.
While unemployment is still too high and some in our community continue to struggle under the weight of the global economic downturn, Kitchener’s investments in the economy of this region are helping to position us for the third highest growth rate in Canada – next only to Toronto and Vancouver.
And – ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely proud to report that by taking a balanced approach to our budgeting, and taking full and strategic advantage of our city-owned gas utility and our stake in Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro – Kitchener has made all of these investments while maintaining one of the lowest property taxes in Ontario.
Let me repeat this very important and often overlooked point. We have made all of these investments into the lives of our residents while maintaining one of the lowest property taxes in Ontario.
Make no mistake about it. Kitchener residents are proud of our investments in the quality of life of our city and we welcome the benefits that extend beyond our boundaries because we have a strongly held belief that:
we are better off when a child living in Waterloo can learn to swim at any one of our seven pools, or they can learn to read at one of our five libraries.
we are better off when an unemployed high-tech worker living in the Bauer Lofts finds a job at Kitchener’s Christie Digital, Igloo Software, Canada’s Technology Triangle or Desire2Learn.
and we are better as a community when a new Canadian settling near Wilfrid Laurier’s main campus attends ESL classes at one of our 14 community centres, or learns to skate on one of our 10 ice pads.
It is a collective belief that – together we are better – and that our community does not end at some seemingly arbitrary border drawn on a map decades ago; barely visible to passersby today.
It is important to note that Kitchener’s influence and our commitment to the wider region is nothing new. It is interesting to note that more than 50 years ago it was three prominent Kitchener businessmen who helped found the University of Waterloo – an institution whose positive influence on this entire region cannot be overstated.
And while this city’s residents are proud of our contributions to this region, we are equally proud to call Kitchener home. Now – I understand that some might consider me biased when it comes to talking about the successes of our community – but the facts speak for themselves.
When Kitchener residents recently responded to a survey conducted by one of Canada’s leading experts in public opinion research, their support for the city and their satisfaction with the programs and services we offer was very clear – and very positive.
81% believe Kitchener is heading in the right direction;
84% are satisfied with Kitchener’s municipal government, and;
88% are satisfied with municipal services.
When asked about specific city programs and amenities, residents are also very satisfied. Look at these numbers. Look at the high scores. 90. 87. 84 per cent.
90% are satisfied with Kitchener’s parks;
90% are satisfied with Kitchener’s fire fighters;
87% are satisfied with Kitchener’s public library system;
84% are satisfied with Kitchener’s gas and water utilities, and;
83% are satisfied with Kitchener’s community centres.
As you can see, Kitchener’s residents are also very satisfied with our delivery of core municipal services. Again, very respectable numbers.
81% are satisfied with street sweeping;
78% are satisfied with municipal leaf collection;
74% are satisfied with municipal grass cutting, and;
72% are satisfied with snow removal.
In fact, when we consider the 48 different programs, services and amenities Environics asked residents about in 2005 and again in late 2009, satisfaction levels have increased in all but seven areas.
Overall it is clear that the vast majority of our residents are proud of the progress we have made together – and they are proud to call Kitchener home.
Engaging our citizens through this survey also helps us to focus on areas that require our continued attention and action. The Environics survey indicated residents want us to continue working on our transportation system, our downtown and important facilities like The Aud and the Market.
Some of these areas come as no surprise to us. They are challenges we have been working on for many years. We know that as our city continues to grow and change we must continue to work hard and remain focused on improving residents’ quality of life.
We have known for some time that we must work with our partners at the region to plan our neighbourhoods and our transportation systems of the future – planning that will see our roads, buses, rapid transit, GO and VIA rail service all converge right here in downtown Kitchener. To that end, early last year Kitchener City Council endorsed the city’s first-ever, comprehensive growth management strategy and later this year we will begin the process of developing a full transportation strategy.
We have been working hard to re-energize our downtown – and our vision for its future is now coming to life as a place for employment, people and for vitality. Downtown Kitchener is already an entertainment and festival hub for the region and it is a place where residents go to celebrate and embrace our community’s true diversity. Downtown Kitchener already has a medical school and emerging biotechnology cluster at one end and we will soon have a consolidated regional courthouse and legal cluster at the other. Tying these two powerhouse economic engines together are a wealth of investments and projects both public and private. With residential and employment growth already happening downtown, we are now working with the downtown BIA to implement an aggressive retail attraction strategy that will reanimate more of our retail spaces.
Over the years Kitchener has taken our social responsibilities very seriously. Unfortunately, there are some within our region who continue to live under the delusion that homelessness, hunger, mental illness and poverty do not exist right in their own city – right in their own neighbourhoods. For some, it is much easier and more convenient to believe that these are downtown challenges best left to others to solve. It is a fact that Kitchener has the highest concentration of social support agencies, social services and supportive housing of any municipality in the region – by far. It is also a fact that many of the users of those Kitchener-based services live in other neighbouring municipalities. Just a quick glance at these five Region of Waterloo brochures starts to tell the story of this troubling imbalance. By my rough calculation, of the social services highlighted in these brochures 64% are offered out of Kitchener – while we only have 42% of the region’s population. And that calculation doesn’t even include all of the many not-for-profit and community organizations providing valuable social services in this region. Kitchener residents continue to welcome, embrace and support all of our citizens, regardless of the size of their bank account or their life’s circumstance. However, effectively tackling the social challenges facing our entire region requires all of our municipal partners to be at the table and equitably share in the distribution of these important services.
While there is still more we can do to help improve the lives of the less fortunate, improve our transportation systems and continue our downtown transformation – everything I have spoken about so far – all of this work and all of these investments, have resulted in a better quality of life for Kitchener residents and for the broader community.
After all, helping one another is our most basic and important task. It is the reason city councillors seek to serve their fellow citizens. It is the reason city staff come to work each day – and it is the reason community groups organize and mobilize.
The city’s strategic plan describes our collective vision of quality of life as, “a community that invests in maintaining basic services, in addition to amenities such as community centres, museums, theatres, art galleries, and leisure facilities, even if that means paying higher taxes.”
This vision was recently confirmed through our Environics survey when 66% of residents indicated they would prefer a high-level of services, versus 30% who would prefer lower taxes.
It is also important to note that when we look closely at the three key elements of that shared vision:
maintaining basic services;
adding community amenities; and
paying for all of these initiatives,
it is clear that we have done a lot of work and achieved much progress in these areas.
Maintaining Basic Services
Investing in and improving our most basic municipal services goes to the core of our responsibilities as a government – and yet they are often overlooked or taken for granted. So let’s take a few minutes to focus on a few of our core services.
Clearing our streets of snow quickly and effectively allows residents to travel safely and efficiently. Recently the city has made a number of operational changes which have resulted in our streets getting cleared of snow on average six hours faster than just two years ago.
Not without controversy, last fall city council implemented a number of changes to our leaf collection program aimed at getting fallen leaves off the ground faster by sharing responsibility between the city and residents. Our new leaf collection program allowed us to complete leaf pick-up 4 weeks faster than previous years – with some help from the weather.
Our roads, sidewalks, sewers and bridges are instrumental to meeting the most basic of our citizens’ needs.
The federal and provincial governments are to be congratulated for their investments in municipal infrastructure over the past year – investments that are creating jobs and helping address some of Canada’s infrastructure deficit.
In a recent poll conducted by The Strategic Counsel, 96% of Canadians said that as the federal government begins to deal with its deficit, funding for local infrastructure should be maintained or increased. In fact, Canadians ranked continued investments in local infrastructure second only to health care on their list of federal funding priorities.
Clearly Canadians understand the crucial role our core infrastructure plays in their quality of life. As the federal and provincial governments begin to tackle their deficits, they would be wise not to do so on the backs of municipalities.
Now let me be clear on one important point. While I will continue to argue strongly for other orders of government to invest more into our infrastructure, that does not mean we here in Kitchener have been sitting back waiting.
In 2004 we implemented our Accelerated Infrastructure Renewal Program and more recently we have turned our attention to the creation of a utility that will allow us to properly fund and maintain our stormwater infrastructure – protecting local source water and the natural environment.
While we still have a long way to go, these steps have put Kitchener well ahead of other municipalities in addressing our infrastructure deficit.
One of the most important initiatives we have undertaken in decades to improve the core services we provide to residents is the construction of our new Consolidated Maintenance Facility – or CMF as it is commonly known.
The new CMF will replace the city’s current patchwork of inefficient, inadequate and aging facilities located at a variety of random locations across the city.
Once complete it will house more than 40 per cent of the city’s workforce and the vast majority of its vehicles and equipment. Essential and valued services will operate out of this modern but modest facility.
In the years ahead, the CMF will enable the city to provide enhanced services to taxpayers through the delivery of faster, more efficient and better-coordinated municipal services.
Beyond the provision of core municipal services, Kitchener has made significant investments into the quality of life of our residents by building and operating an incredible variety of facilities, amenities, programs and services.
Very few other Canadian municipalities offer the variety and the number of community amenities found right here in Kitchener.
Unlike almost any other city in Canada, over the years Kitchener has proactively built a network of 14 community centres located throughout our city. These centres are a defining part of who we are as a community and they play an immeasurable role in the quality of life of our residents.
Through our unique partnerships with neighbourhood associations and other volunteer groups, our community centres provide a wide range of resources and outreach programs for all ages, geared to the recreational, social and cultural needs of the areas they serve.
>>Parks, Trails and Natural Areas
Outside of our community centres, just last month city council passed it’s 2010 budget which substantially increased funding for parks, trails, natural areas and sportsfields to a total of $37 million over the next ten years.
In addition to this increased commitment and funding for the green spaces located across our city, our 2010 budget significantly accelerated the clean-up of Victoria Park lake with preliminary design work potentially beginning as early as this year.
These are positive steps in the right direction. But, there is still more we can do to create a fully connected and well maintained system of parks, trails and natural areas throughout the entire city.
>>Sports and Recreation
Ensuring residents have an opportunity to enjoy the sports and recreational opportunities they and their families want is no longer as simple as building our next arena – although that is still important.
2 Golf Courses
2 Skateboard Parks
175 km of Trails
Indoor Walking Track
BMX Bike Park
4 splash pads
Huron Natural Area
While there is certainly more we can do to meet the sports and recreational needs of our residents, Kitchener is well-positioned ahead of other municipalities in responding to the needs for such a diverse range of facilities and opportunities.
Arts and Culture
For decades Kitchener has recognized the importance and the benefits of investing in a strong and vibrant regional arts and culture community.
Through our investments we have created a city that is not only an arts and culture hub for this region, it is also a sought after destination for the creative minds of tomorrow. Try to imagine any other city of our size that has anything comparable to this list of facilities, organizations and opportunities.
Waterloo Regional Children's Museum Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts
Woodside National Heritage Site
Doon Heritage Crossroads
Joseph Schneider House
Homer Watson House
Centre in the Square
KW Art Gallery
Unfortunately, in recent years a funding imbalance has developed as Kitchener has invested 2-3 times more per capita than other municipalities into the regional arts and culture community. At the same time as the Prosperity Council is asking for additional funding, the fact is that in 2007, for every dollar Kitchener spent per capita to support and build a strong local arts and culture community, Cambridge spent 44 cents and Waterloo spent 29 cents.
While those dollar figures may have changed over the past two years, this significant funding imbalance continues today.
This inequity in support for our arts and culture community cannot continue if residents from across the region hope to continue to enjoy all that our artists bring to this community – in entertainment and in economic growth. Hopefully, through the Prosperity Council’s initiative to create an arts and culture enabling organization, we can help address this imbalance.
As I close my remarks to you this evening, I think it is important to talk about the ongoing role all of us can play in continuing to improve the quality of life of our fellow residents.
As a municipality, we build and operate facilities and programs to give residents recreational choices. We invest in the diversification of our local economy to help create jobs. And – we implement environmentally friendly policies to help improve the region’s air quality.
Just as importantly – as citizens and leaders within this community, you donate money to local charities to ensure our most vulnerable have a place to live and a meal to eat. And you volunteer your time with youth sports teams so that our leaders of tomorrow can laugh, play and learn together.
Your role – the role of citizens in improving the day-to-day lives of our families, friends and neighbours cannot be overstated. Because, while this city council and those before us have made great progress – more work remains to be done by the next city council and those that follow.
While councillors and mayors come and go over the years, it is the citizens – the heart and soul of this community – to whom responsibility falls to continue our momentum towards a better future.
Before we leave this hall tonight I challenge us to stop and think of all that is good about this city – and all that we have built together.
A city well served by recreational and cultural amenities, facilities and events.
A city continually improving the delivery of our most basic services.
A city that proactively invests in the economy and the jobs of tomorrow.
A city already taking concrete steps to address our infrastructure deficit.
A city that cares and invests in our quality of life and in the quality of life of our entire region.
A city that holds firmly to the belief that – together we are better.
I am proud to call Kitchener home – and I trust you are too.
02-27-2010, 10:40 PM
Very good read, thanks for posting UrbanWaterloo, I would like to see Mr. Zehr relected as Kitchener's Mayor.
02-27-2010, 11:30 PM
Good speech indeed.
And I too would like to see him re-elected.
02-28-2010, 03:22 AM
You can add me to the Zehr Fan Club too.
03-10-2011, 08:16 AM
Kitchener State of the City Address 2011 Invite
You are cordially invited to hear Mayor Carl Zehr deliver the
2011 State of the City Address on March 31, 2011 at 7:30 a.m.
in the Kitchener City Hall Rotunda.
Tickets are $30 including HST or table of 8 for $240.
Register your attendance with us by calling 519-741-2602
or on the city's website: ticket purchase (http://ev9.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventInfo?ticketCode=GS%3ACITS%3A10-11%3ASC0331%3A&linkID=cits&shopperContext=&caller=&appCode=)
03-10-2011, 09:21 PM
There's a 7:30 in the morning now?
03-31-2011, 08:07 PM
Kitchener State of the City Address 2011
Presented by Mayor Carl Zehr
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Kitchener City Hall
Good morning everyone – and welcome to the 2011 State of the City Address.
Special thanks to Steve for those welcoming remarks.
I would like to recognize a number of elected officials who are with us today. These elected officials dedicate their days to making a positive contribution to our community. I thank you for your ongoing efforts and for your attendance here this morning.
The net proceeds from this morning’s breakfast will benefit local charities through the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation – so thanks to all of you here this morning for your support.
Over the past several years I have focused my annual State of the City address on the six community priorities we have identified, worked on, and invested in together.
These priorities, and our collective vision for a better future, were not chosen lightly – and they do not represent the ideas and ambitions of a narrow few. They are the result of years of consultation and input from thousands of our citizens who took the time to get involved and make a positive influence on their community.
Of course, the true value in our collective vision is not in the nice words you see before you –the true value in our vision comes from decisions we make and the actions we take to build a better community for today – and for generations to come.
You are all aware we have a majority of new council members. This gives me a chance to reflect on what it is like to be a City Councillor, listening to people at their doors; and to think about why we as elected officials are here and what it is we are trying to achieve.
Now – to be completely open with you this morning – the past few months have not been without their challenges. As Kitchener’s new city council has begun to find its feet and work together, we have hit some bumps along the road. And that’s ok – in fact, that’s to be expected.
It is no secret that all members of city council – new and returning – have had a significant learning curve since inauguration night – including myself. After so many years in elected office I am having to re-learn and redefine my role on this new council.
I am truly encouraged and excited to see the energy, passion and commitment with which our new city council has taken up their task. I am very confident that this council can – and will – do amazing things for this community over the next several years.
However, this city council has not yet had the opportunity to truly define a collective vision for the future of our community, nor how we are going to be successful in helping our community to achieve that vision.
So, that is where I would like to spend my time with you this morning. In describing the role I believe city council can play in building a better future for our community – and the role you can play in helping us achieve that vision for tomorrow.
After 22 years in elected office I have seen the positive influence an engaged and visionary city council can have on this community when we put aside our differences and focus on those things that bind us together.
To be very clear with you today – I do not believe it is good enough for us to say no to everything, criticize all things, and stand for nothing.
We owe it to ourselves and to the citizens we serve to come together and:
Work towards a positive, long-term collective vision for the future of our community.
Make decisions not only as elected officials, but as community leaders – and finally
Focus on decisions that will benefit this city not only today, but tomorrow as well.
After all, this city council is not only responsible for the corporation’s annual bottom line – we are responsible for this community’s future.
I am acutely aware that building a collective vision amongst 11 individually elected members of council will not be easy – but it is possible. After all, in recent years thousands of our residents have come together to build a collective vision for our future and set our collective priorities. If our residents can come together – so can we. And we must – that is why we are here.
I acknowledge that each member of council has been elected on individual platforms and priorities. We spent weeks, if not months, walking door to door and heard clearly from many of our constituents about the priorities of the day.
But – and this is a very important point – while we may have campaigned as individual candidates, now is the time for us to come together and govern collectively. After all, we were not only elected to represent our constituents, but also to act as community leaders. I am not suggesting that individual councillors should forget about what they heard at the door, or ignore their own personal beliefs and values. Indeed those are the things that have grounded me throughout all my years in public office.
I’m suggesting that we begin to work together to find those things in common between us that will help define and build the kind of community our residents want and deserve. I can tell you that this is no simple job, knowing what we’ve learned from Environics about this community’s different perspectives.
In the coming months, the city will be updating its strategic plan which lays out the community’s collective vision and priorities.
The foundation of this plan has been built on years of input from thousands of residents. We owe it to those residents to respect the time they have dedicated to helping us build a vision for our community, and truly consider their input as we move forward — even if these individuals seem to be appearing before council time after time. It is unfortunate they are sometimes seen as self serving, rather than fully engaged in our community.
Updating our strategic plan will be an excellent opportunity for city council to begin to work together to define the role we want to play within the community – a role I believe needs to go beyond the day-to-day challenges of municipal service delivery and public financing – and look towards leading and truly building a better community.
Earlier this month, City Council finalized the city’s 2011 budget. In a good year, setting a municipal budget is not an easy task – even for a council that has worked together for many years.
It is truly unfortunate this council had to deal with the city’s budget before we were able to come together to develop a collective vision for the role we want to play in leading this community —especially given the complexity of this year’s budget due to the introduction of the city’s new storm water management utility. That lack of clarity around our collective purpose no doubt made an already challenging task even more difficult.
Having said that, while some would say our work together on this year’s budget got off to a rocky start, I was extremely encouraged by the eventual outcome of our discussions and decisions.
Early in the budget process, all members of city council — I repeat all of council —recognized the need to lower the overall impact on Kitchener households. Having set that collective objective, in the final days of the budget process, council came together, debated ideas respectfully and came to a collective and democratic decision.
While I would hazard a guess that no member of council was 100% satisfied with the budget – I know I wasn’t – our final budget decisions truly represented our collective values and priorities. And that ladies and gentlemen is democracy in action.
And while I respect those in the community – and those on council – who were not happy with the final budget, I believe it was a success because it struck a balance between three important pressures:
Keeping the property tax levels competitive and affordable.
Providing high quality services our residents and businesses have told us they want from their city – and
Making investments in the long-term health of our community. [SLIDES]
On keeping property tax levels competitive and affordable – I know there have been a lot of percentages flying around about the impact the city’s 2011 budget will have on Kitchener households. In an effort to help residents understand a very complex budget we showed those impacts two different ways during the budget process.
Regardless of which way you chose to look at the numbers and what you decided to include in the percentages – the final dollar impact on the average household was the same. And when we consider the extensive variety of city services residents get for their tax dollars, I believe we were able to come to a reasonable tax rate and fee structure.
When we look at all of the services residents get from the City – services they value – it is astonishing to note that for every dollar we pay in total taxes, only eight cents goes to municipal government.
On providing high quality services to our residents – the city’s 2011 budget will allow us to continue to accelerate the development of McLennan Park and open the Bridgeport and Kingsdale Community Centres later this year.
And finally, on making investments into the long-term health of our community – our 2011 budget maintained the city’s commitment to our economic development investment fund, ensured the imminent clean-up of Victoria Park Lake and continued our accelerated infrastructure renewal program.
Indeed, when we look at each of these three areas, the City of Kitchener has seen considerable success over many years. Success we should be proud of, success we should not shy away from – and success we can build upon in the months and years ahead.
Now, I’d just like to take a moment to put those three pressures I talked about in context:
In keeping property taxes competitive and affordable – year after year Kitchener is consistently ranked as having one of the lowest property taxes of similar-sized Ontario municipalities.
In providing high quality services to our residents – I would draw your attention to a February 7th news article that appeared in The Record titled, “Kitchener best city hall in region, survey suggests.”
As you can see on the screen, that article noted, “Kitchener provides residents with the best balance of cost and service, an annual survey of local city halls suggests.”
The article went on to say, “Kitchener provides the highest level of service at a middle cost. Overall rank: First”.
And finally, in making investments into the long-term health of our community – I would simply encourage you to consider three simple words – King and Victoria.
This city’s long-term investments into diversifying and modernizing our local economy are already paying off much faster than even we anticipated in the form of increased tax revenues, private sector investments and employment opportunities for residents.
To demonstrate this point I again draw your attention to an article in The Record that noted, “In the office market, one of the biggest trends in 2010 was the move of some high tech tenants, including Google and Communitech, from Waterloo to Kitchener.”
That article went on to quote John Lind of Colliers as saying, “The wall is down. Kitchener is as cool a place to be as Waterloo”.
Now, let’s take a minute to put all of that into perspective.
Comparatively low property taxes, efficient and effective municipal services, increased assessment growth, private sector investments and job growth back to pre-recessionary levels – municipalities across Canada would consider themselves lucky to be in the same position we are as a city.
Now do not get me wrong, we do have challenges that we need to face as a community –and we should not shy away from them.
Given the financial pressures and public expectations on Canadian municipalities, this city council will be challenged to balance our short-term financial responsibilities as elected officials with our long-term vision as community leaders.
But that is a balance I believe we must strike – regardless of how hard it will be. While it is important for us to keep our eyes on the bottom line, we also need to set our minds to the future.
Indeed, it would be quite easy for this council to focus solely on the short-term day-to-day challenges faced by this community. Keep taxes low at all costs. Don’t spend any money. Blame public servants for poor services and financial challenges.
Sure – that would be easy. But we would be selling ourselves and our community short. Don’t misunderstand me – I am not suggesting for a minute that we shouldn’t remain vigilant about spending tax dollars efficiently and effectively. What I am suggesting is that being responsible with tax dollars isn’t just about cutting and keeping taxes low – it is also about investing wisely into the future of our community.
I understand that there are some within our community who would argue we should not be concerned about future generations when making our decisions. This concept is simply beyond my comprehension, and my understanding of our moral responsibility to our children and grandchildren.
As a city council I believe it is our job to present a positive vision for the future of this community – and then set to work together to do things – not because they are easy, but because they are right.
Think of it this way. Imagine if our city leaders had chosen to focus solely on the balance sheet of the day – no expressway, no Auditorium, no Victoria Park, no gas utility, no community centres, no health sciences campus, and no digital media hub. We would indeed be a very different city.
I recently read comments by New York Mayor Bloomberg reflecting on actions taken by leaders going back as early as the 19th century. He said, “Today, it is impossible to imagine New York City without the infrastructure that was built 100 years ago by a generation that looked forward and understood their obligation to their children.” He went on, “Now, it is our turn — to think ambitiously, act boldly, and invest wisely.”
Think ambitiously, act boldly and invest wisely. That too is my hope for this council.
Perhaps the best example of our need to look to the future while making decisions today is our local and national infrastructure deficits. Investments made into our roads, sewers, sidewalks and other infrastructure are expensive, they are not sexy, and they do not grab headlines.
But they are absolutely necessary, and they require investments to be made today for the benefit of tomorrow. They require us to look at our future – and not just our finances. For too many years, all orders of government have failed to invest the necessary resources into maintaining and renewing Canada’s infrastructure.
In an effort to begin to rectify that situation before almost any other Canadian municipality, in 2004 the City of Kitchener began to dedicate greater resources to this challenge through our accelerated infrastructure renewal program. Unfortunately even that program – and recent economic stimulus projects happening around the city – are not nearly enough.
It is simply an unfortunate fact of the Canadian constitution – and our federal system – that urban municipalities do not have the financial powers they need to fund Canada’s infrastructure needs even though they house 80% of the country’s population.
Given our limited sources of revenue and the number of years these issues have been left untouched, municipalities across Canada can no longer afford to fix their infrastructure on their own – they have required contributions from the federal and provincial governments to help make a dent in addressing Canada’s infrastructure deficit.
With both of these orders of government now facing significant deficits of their own, the pressure for municipalities to find infrastructure funding will only increase.
However, we have been pleased by strong signals we have recently received from all federal parties with respect to our advocacy regarding the need for a long-term infrastructure plan. I urge you to remind all candidates in the federal election that this is a priority to support a successful economy.
As well, on Tuesday the Province presented a cautious budget that referenced the success of stimulus funding. The message to our Provincial government and all parties is that continued investments in municipal infrastructure are absolutely essential to ensure strong cities and communities.
Once again – city council has a decision to make. We can take the easy way out and leave these challenges for someone else to face down the road, or we can fulfill our role as community leaders and meet these challenges head-on. We must think long-term.
The city’s new storm water management utility is a perfect example of this struggle and balancing act between the short-term financial impact on our residents and the long-term benefits to our community.
The need to improve our storm water management system cannot be disputed.
A recent independent evaluation of many streams running through our community clearly demonstrated we have to do a better job in this area. The relatively poor condition of our community streams is simply unacceptable.
Too often politicians talk a good game about protecting the environment and investing in our infrastructure – but when push comes to shove, little action is taken. The City of Kitchener’s new storm water utility is about walking the green talk and putting words into action. We have a history of walking the talk – LEED certified buildings, Air Quality Report, Local Environmental Action Fund. Now, this is the next step.
The new storm water utility will help us keep pollutants out of our storm water system and limit the impact of flooding. While we replace aging infrastructure, we will also be providing incentives to encourage residents to become more environmentally friendly by managing storm water run-off and we are accelerating important community projects like the long overdue clean up of Victoria Park Lake.
I recognize this new utility has a financial impact on our residents, organizations and businesses and that it is not universally popular. However, it is the right thing to do for the long-term health of our environment and our community, and it is a fairer approach to funding this important environmental initiative.
My comments so far have focused heavily on the leadership role city council can play within our community. This is actually something I have tried to avoid in previous addresses, because the State of the City is not all about us as a council. It is about us as a community. While city council has a leadership role to play, we will only be as successful as the community around us. And, remaining connected with the citizens we serve will be critical throughout our four year term.
City Council is only 11 individuals, elected to represent 230,000 people with widely diverse interests and priorities. We work for all of you.
An elected official can choose to be merely a voice box to repeat what individuals say to us. But to be truly effective in our role and to best represent all of our citizens, we need to do more than that. We need to be community leaders.
As council looks to strike a balance between the short-term and long-term and make decisions based on a collective vision for a better future, we will need all of your input, your continuing energy and your passion.
As I conclude my remarks this morning, I think there is one word we would all benefit from remembering as we leave this hall today – balance.
As community leaders, I am hopeful that we will find a balanced approach to achieving our collective, positive vision in the weeks, months and years ahead. A collective vision that will:
Balance our short and long-term responsibilities.
Balance our fiscal responsibilities with investments in the future.
Balance the impact of our decisions today with the benefits we will reap tomorrow.
Balance the input we receive everyday with our own values, vision and priorities.
Balance the views of what at times seems like the vocal minority with the silent majority _ Balance keeping property taxes competitive and affordable with providing much needed services.
Will it be easy? No, it will not.
However, I can assure you it will be extremely rewarding.
Because, really, it is the community who stands to benefit from our efforts.
It is why we are here.
And it is within our grasp.
Together we can build an even better community.
03-28-2012, 10:09 PM
Mayor Zehr presents 2012 State of the City address
March 28, 2012 | City of Kitchener | Link
Mayor Carl Zehr will celebrate community, culture and commerce when he delivers the 2012 State of the City Address this Friday, March 30, in the Kitchener City Hall rotunda.*
The event will run from 7:30-8:45 a.m., with a breakfast buffet beginning at 7:30 a.m. followed by the mayor's speech at 8 a.m.*
Tickets are $30 each (includes HST) with net proceeds going to a community fund administered by The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation.*
What: 2012 State of the City Address
Where: Kitchener City Hall Rotunda
When: Friday, March 30, 7:30-8:45 a.m.*
Those who wish to attend can purchase tickets by calling 519-741-2300 or visiting www.kitchener.ca and searching “State of the City Address.”****
03-30-2012, 02:57 PM
Mayor declares Kitchener ‘city of the future’ during State of the City address
March 30, 2012 | City of Kitchener | Link (http://www.kitchener.ca/en/newslist/index.aspx?newsId=JmWS0uN3PlUsJPtN9fDA6TPlUs0geQuA leQuAl)
In the wake of federal and provincial budget announcements earlier this week, Mayor Carl Zehr used his State of the City address this morning to paint a vivid picture of how years of strategic thinking and wise investment has put Kitchener on sound financial ground - and in position as the “city of the future.”
“The city enjoys a strong financial position relative to our comparators,” Zehr told his audience, who attended the annual address and charity breakfast, held in the city hall rotunda. “We have excellent investments. We’re fiscally accountable and we have established a solid track record of sound financial planning. We are resilient, and we are daring. We embrace innovation and technology, and we believe in long-term investing.”
As Kitchener celebrates its 100th anniversary of cityhood this year, Zehr also reflected on the evolution of the community – both financially and socially.
From landmark initiatives that have strengthened - and diversified - the city’s economy, such as the city’s 10-year economic development investment fund (EDIF), to investments in community, culture and the environment, Zehr noted that over the decades, Kitchener has always been progressive.
“Kitchener has always fostered innovation, industry and investment. This city has been shaped by its past and is motivated by its future,” he said.
Zehr added that this city has always absorbed economic and social changes by being resilient and adaptable.
From the “Official Factory Policy” of 1874 which granted tax exemptions to new manufacturing businesses, to the city’s recent investment in the Lang Tanning building - the focal point of the city’s Innovation District and the home of several successful and up-and-coming technology firms – Kitchener has a long history of building partnerships with citizens and business to reinvent and redefine the community. And, the city will continue to invest with the launch of KEDS, the Kitchener Economic Development Strategy.
“Innovation creates industry,” Zehr said. “We are not merely on the edge of technology. Regionally, we have been leaders in digital exploration for years. Today, Kitchener is enjoying much of that growth while playing a key role as a partner in the future of this sector. What has been happening is an evolution of Kitchener’s economy and identity. Technology has changed the way we live and the way we work. Kitchener – and this region – are not merely keeping up with the change – we are setting the pace.”
Zehr also shared his city’s goal: To be the best place in Canada to start a business.
“We see three key opportunities to make this happen: offering effective and innovative business services; being a magnet for entrepreneurs – locally, nationally and internationally; and capturing and embracing emerging start-up companies,” he said. “We will continue to move forward because we dare to dream and we dare to be different.
However, he stressed that achieving this goal will take a collective effort on the part of the entire community.
“We all need to be city builders,” he said. “We need to recognize the critical role and responsibility each of us has in ensuring that our city has the tools to grow, generate wealth, care for all of its citizens, and attract world-class talent and world-class companies.”
Proceeds from the State of the City address and charity breakfast will support the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation.
2012 STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
Presented by Mayor Carl Zehr
Friday, March 30, 2012
Kitchener City Hall
Good morning. On behalf of Kitchener City Council, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2012 State of the City address.
I’d like to recognize the city councillors here today: Scott Davey, Frank Etherington, Yvonne Fernandes, Dan Glenn-Graham, Bil Ioannidis, Zyg Janecki, Paul Singh and Berry Vrbanovic.
I’d also like to acknowledge MPP John Milloy, Mayor Doug Craig and Mayor Brenda Halloran. As well, thank you to Regional Chair Ken Seiling and regional councillors Tom Galloway, Geoff Lorentz, Jane Mitchell and Jim Wideman for joining us.
As in previous years, this breakfast benefits the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation. Thank you very much for your support again this year.
Traditionally, State of the City speeches reflect on the past year and look to the goals ahead.
For Kitchener, this is a significant year for reflection – as we celebrate 100 years of cityhood. Even though, as a community, we are more than 200 years old, it was the royal proclamation on June 10, 1912 that officially made Berlin a city.
So, please, make yourself comfortable as I prepare to read from all of the documents we could find in our city archives.
So, how is Kitchener doing?
Financially, we’re in good shape. The city enjoys a strong financial position relative to our comparators; we have excellent investments. We’re fiscally accountable and we have established a solid track record of sound financial planning.
Like municipalities across this country, we have been facing a new economic reality. But we must also recognize just how fortunate we are with this region’s current economic climate.
While the 2012 budget process was challenging at times, once again, we created a final budget that strengthened our long-term financial position.
For those of you with contacts in other municipalities, or if you keep up with the news headlines – you know some cities weren’t so fortunate this year.
It’s always dangerous to look at only a singular, isolated financial measure. Doing this does not give you the entire story, nor does it give an accurate picture.
For example, if we focused solely on this corporation’s debt level, we would be seeing a skewed perception of our finances – one that does not take into consideration the other side of the ledger, which includes assets of considerable value, such as the city’s continuing investment in Kitchener Utilities and the Kitchener Power Corporation.
When you consider our debt to equity position, I put the challenge back to anyone to evaluate how corporate Canada would stack up.
The fact remains that the Corporation of the City of Kitchener is financially sound.
Of course, the national reality is that all municipalities are facing serious pressures as Canada’s 19th century taxation system continues to take too much out of our communities – while returning too little.
Councillor Berry Vrbanovic, who is also the President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, recently stated “…federal and provincial treasuries consume the income and sales tax revenues generated by economic growth. Canadian municipalities, unlike many of their international counterparts, are left to rely on slow-growing property tax.”
In fact, municipalities are responsible for 53% of Canada’s infrastructure – up from 36% in the 1960s – yet municipalities receive only 8¢ of every tax dollar you and I pay to all orders of government.
Today, cities are more important than ever before. With over 80% of Canadians living in an urban setting, Canada is one of the most highly urbanized countries in the world.
Expecting municipalities to continue to rely on the outdated, regressive property tax system is simply not sustainable.
While I’m not sure yesterday’s federal budget is going to significantly assist municipalities in addressing this outdated tax system, we are encouraged that the government has re-affirmed its commitment to a long-term infrastructure program when the Building Canada fund expires in March 2014. It also appears that there has been a missed opportunity to address the need for a national rental housing strategy. We will be looking at the details of this budget in more depth in the coming days.
Further, in the provincial government budget on Tuesday, while we would have liked an expansion of the infrastructure plans, we understand the need for restraint and are pleased that the three year commitment of $35B was retained. Regarding interest arbitration, the government is moving in the right direction with a "more transparent, accountable and efficient" system, however; fundamental changes are required to reverse the trends of arbitration decisions that are simply not sustainable for municipalities.
Yet, this is our 2012 reality, and cities have been dealing with these realities for more than a century – albeit on different scales.
As we begin to celebrate 100 years of cityhood, we are discovering that throughout the decades, Kitchener has always invested strategically – both financially and socially.
We invest in programs and initiatives that contribute to an active and engaging community for our residents, our neighbours and our visitors.
I call that a “City of the Future”.
In fact, I think this city has always been a city of the future. Listen to a number of significant Berlin and Kitchener-firsts:
1882: Ontario’s first kindergarten class, taught by Miss Janet Metcalfe, opened at Suddaby School in Berlin.
1910: Berlin was Ontario’s first municipality to receive electricity generated in Niagara Falls.
1928: The huge American chain store, S.S. Kresge, located its first Canadian store in downtown Kitchener – at a cost of $100,000. Four years later, Walter Zeller, a native of this city, opened his first Kitchener store on King Street.
1947: Ontario’s first trolley system was up and running in Kitchener. (Watch for its updated return in 2017!)
1969: The now-iconic Canadian band, the Guess Who, debuted their number-one hit, American Woman, at a Kitchener curling rink.
1976: Mark Yantzi, who later became a Kitchener Alderman, started the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program, which has become an international cornerstone of Restorative Justice.
1979: Electrohome introduced analog data projection for the business community. By 1995, the technology evolved into digital technology, allowing Electrohome to reinvent itself under the Christie banner.
1982: Canada’s first Independent Living Centre was developed in Kitchener to give new freedom to those with disabilities. I was part of that first board and I am proud of its successes in just 30 years.
2008: Canada’s only co-op school of pharmacy opened. This University of Waterloo campus, at the corner of King and Victoria Street, is the first new pharmacy school in Canada in 20 years.
I think you get the idea … Throughout the decades this community has been resourceful and inventive.
And innovation creates industry.
Kitchener has a long-standing reputation as a leader in manufacturing and, in fact, we still excel in that sector. Factories in this city have employed thousands, and provided jobs that have spanned generations.
In 1913, for example, three significant manufacturing companies were born in Kitchener:
The Dominion Tire Company
The Williams, Green and Rome Shirt & Collar Company – later known as Arrow Shirt, and
The Buffalo Forge Company – later known as Canadian Blower and Forge.
By the 1970s, factories accounted for over 15,000 jobs, making manufacturing a substantial part of Kitchener’s legacy.
Granted, there are some factories that are no longer manufacturing. Many of those landmark properties, however, are being repurposed, from the Bread and Roses co-op to the Lang Tanning building, a stellar example of successful repurposing.
Once the largest tannery in the British Empire, this property has been magnificently transformed into what Premier Dalton McGuinty recently described as:
“… a place with a bright future in the new economy; a hub for digital innovation.”
In fact, the Premier describes Waterloo Region as Canada’s most important tech cluster and a place he visits to “get his energy fix”.
And, he’s right.
There IS a vibe - a certain energy - in this Region.
Our highly-regarded post-secondary institutions attract and nurture bright minds and progressive thinkers.
These innovators imagine, create, and do. They are taking this region beyond traditional commerce and building a new economy that is exciting, sustainable and growing.
Make no mistake: we are not merely on the edge of technology. Regionally, we have been leaders in digital exploration for years. Today, Kitchener is enjoying much of that growth while playing a key role as a partner in the future of this sector.
Yet another characteristic of a city of the future.
What else defines this city?
Commitment to the environment? Absolutely.
The solar panel roof at the Kitchener Operations Facility – the largest solar roof in Canada – is the result of a partnership between the federal, provincial and municipal governments as part of the infrastructure stimulus program.
We are pleased to report that in its first year of operation, the solar roof generated $403,000 in revenue and created 580 MW of energy - the equivalent of powering 51 homes while eliminating 137 tonnes of Co2 going into the atmosphere.
Closer to ground, let’s talk about McLennan Park.
The city entered into a lease agreement with the Region of Waterloo and transformed this former landfill site – a visible example of our collective commitment to increasing green space, adding to our recreational land inventory, and enhancing the local environment.
What we have created is an amazing 97-acre playground, offering all of the traditional elements of a park and … (so I’m told) … a totally “sic” BMX bike park.
Kitchener has become a cosmopolitan city. For decades, people from all corners of the world have been enticed to come to this region. We welcome them because we know the value they bring.
And, our commitment to diversity has not gone unnoticed.
For two years running, Kitchener has been awarded the Chamber of Commerce Integration Award. This speaks to our hospitable spirit and it is an honour to be acknowledged as a city that supports its newcomers.
Canada is a country of immigrants. Today, in our region, many cultures live side by side – and they are celebrated here.
Of course, we have always known that who we are has been shaped by those pioneers and community builders who were hard-working, resourceful and civic minded.
Kitchener is a proud community. We are proud of our ancestors, and we are proud of the many things we are today.
We are agriculture. We are industry and retail. And this region has become recognized as leaders in education, health care and the technology sector.
We have survived plant closures, store closures and the changing economic cycles. And – yes – we will have one more closure to deal with.
When the Schneider’s plant closes in 2014, hundreds of workers will lose their jobs. But, in the spirit of this community, we are not merely standing by waiting for the closure. Representatives from Maple Leaf Foods are already discussing next steps and have invited the city to be part of its task force.
Like all cities, Kitchener has enjoyed times of prosperity, and survived times of hardship. This city, however, has always absorbed economic changes, and today, new jobs are being created that will offer opportunities to both seasoned workers impacted by closures, and those just entering the workforce.
An interesting observation was noted in a history book about Kitchener, coauthored by Professors John English and Kenneth McLaughlin.
“…Kitchener was struck hard by the recessions of 1981-1984 and 1990-1993, but the city proved resilient and adaptable.
…newcomers and older residents lost work in the old industries, but, new jobs appeared in the service sector and in new industries.
… The presence of the universities and Kitchener’s very successful Conestoga College were important in the appearance of new ‘high tech’ sectors in the area.”
Isn’t that interesting... the recession in the ‘80s and again in the ‘90s forced this city to be “resilient and adaptable”. And in those decades, we answered that call to action by creating new jobs and venturing into the … technology sector.
Everything old is new again…
Let me tell you a story about a local company that began as a tech start-up business – four University of Waterloo engineering grads and their robots.
Their company, Clearpath Robotics, has grown from a broom-closet space at the Accelerator Centre to their new 10,000 sq. ft. facility on Manitou Drive.
Clearpath is a technology sector company – and a manufacturing company. With their imminent growth, they will certainly be hiring technical staff as well as those with traditional skills for office work, product assembly, and shipping and receiving.
It is evident that as the technology sector grows, there will always be a demand for diverse job skills.
Kitchener is strategic and forward thinking. Constantly looking to the future, we have learned how to overcome challenges – and turn trials into opportunities, and opportunities into successes.
We are resilient, and we are daring. We embrace innovation and technology, and we believe in long-term investing.
And, for lack of a better phrase, Kitchener puts its money where its mouth is.
Eight years ago, we launched the Economic Development Investment Fund: a 10-year investment plan, a $110M commitment and a pledge to significantly develop employment lands throughout this city.
What has been our return on that investment? In a few words: increased employment, increased tax revenue, and increased public and private sector investments. In fact, approximately $660M worth of commercial, residential and institutional construction has occurred in the downtown alone since this fund was announced in 2004.
More importantly, through this investment plan, we have positioned this city at the cutting edge of the new digital economy.
Of course we know that a dynamic city needs more than a strong economic base. Together, with our neighbouring municipalities, we have created a region that is renowned for its quality of life.
There’s something here for every interest, every skill and every age: from Kitchener’s extensive public library system to an incredible range of social opportunities, active lifestyle choices, and a vibrant local arts scene.
And, we’ve always enjoyed a good party in this city.
Canada’s first major Sängerfest was held in Kitchener in 1862. Tens of thousands attended this three-day German singing festival.
The great Friendensfest – or Peace Festival - of 1871 was another great celebration of German heritage and culture.
And of course, since its launch in October 1969, Oktoberfest has grown to become North America’s largest Bavarian festival.
These days, the independent music scene has taken hold of this city – and in a most unsuspected location: the boat house at Victoria Park.
You have heard of the boat house, right?
Built for canoe storage and as a winter shelter for skaters to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate…
Today, this little building has, literally, been transformed into a powerhouse for independent music.
Last year, there were more than 300 nights of live performances, with some 700 performers. We know of no other venue in Waterloo Region that has hosted as many independent musicians – from all genres.
Kitchener has always been a city that DOES. We believe in active partnerships: entrepreneurs, government, and citizens working toward a common vision.
For example, Kitchener committed funds to assist with the environmental cleanup of the Lang Tannery site.
We also provided seed funding to Communitech, located in that building, and, a year later, they reported that the impact on the region was significant: 450 startup jobs and 300 new companies emerged in the region in 2011.
Desire2Learn, also located at the Tannery, recently told us that they are at 430 employees. And, as John Baker said, this really is astonishing, considering they started in “downtown with just two full-time people in 2000”.
Steve Woods, Google’s director of engineering in Canada, calls this area an amazing location. He was quoted in “Site Selection” magazine as saying:
“This area is innovative and very high tech. It’s a world attractor for those who are top-end computer scientists and engineers.
… Really, there is nowhere else quite like it … we are here to stay.”
The article goes on to say that when Google was looking for its location, the search was driven by finding the “best mix of technology and lifestyle.”
And, we welcome our newest tech-neighbour Electronic Arts – who moved in right next door to city hall, above Shoppers Drug Mart. I know there are a few ‘gamers’ – sorry, I mean council colleagues – who are thrilled to look out their office window and see that EA logo.
The future has arrived in Kitchener.
We recognize that economic development is fluid – and Kitchener’s strategies have always been designed to flow with the economic tides.
We also recognize that sometimes cities need to refine their role when it comes to economic development. Our participation in Canada’s Technology Triangle’s trade mission is but one example of broadening our horizons. Kitchener is here to help businesses bring their dreams to life.
Government and business in partnership? Radical thinking? I’m not so sure….
Years ago, a manufacturing company came to the city seeking an investment of $25,000 to expand its operations.
The city agreed and that investment helped build a $250,000 factory for the Canadian Rubber Company.
That was in 1912.
The tax ledger from 1912 showed tax payments were $221,000. This investment of $25,000 was an incredible 11% of the city's budget for one year. 100 years later, in today’s money, that investment would be only 0.5% of our annual tax levy.
We can trace this city’s support to business even further back. A tax exemption was granted to Emil Vogelsang in 1868 to establish his button factory. Again, in 1881 the button factory received a further five-year exemption.
This municipality’s support for local industries was so prevalent, that in 1874 an “Official Factory Policy” was established to provide five-year tax exemptions to all new manufacturing businesses.
That official factory policy, I’m afraid, is one of those “good old days” initiatives. We’re not giving those kinds of exemptions today …
But what we are doing, is investing in business – and what has been happening is an evolution of Kitchener’s economy and identity.
Kitchener’s new entrepreneurs are contributing to the future of this city. Technology has changed the way we live and the way we work.
Mark my words: Kitchener – and this region – are not merely keeping up with the change – we are setting the pace.
In Kitchener, we are setting the pace with our Economic Development Strategy – KEDS.
KEDS identifies five core areas of focus to reach the collective goals of creating a sustainable economy and fostering an unparalleled spirit of entrepreneurism.
Kitchener’s goal is to be the best place in Canada to start a business. We see three key opportunities to make this happen:
offering effective and innovative business services;
being a magnet for entrepreneurs – locally, nationally and internationally; and
capturing and embracing emerging start-up companies.
We will continue to move forward because we dare to dream and we dare to be different.
In 1954, a small publication was produced to celebrate Kitchener. From that, I quote the editor, E.F. Donohoe, as he describes this city:
“Unlike other communities in Canada, Kitchener has a character all its own.
From the Mennonites came pickled corn and the sweets and sours of their peculiar tables.
From the Germans came spareribs, roasted pig-tails, almost innumerable sausages and lager beer.
… the city has become a melting pot of the peoples who have come in to man the industries.
The pattern and characteristics of the past may be a little less defined, but the original spirit has lost none of its vigor and none of its purpose.”
Remember – that was the perception of Kitchener in 1954…almost 60 years ago. Even then, this community was shaped by its heritage and defined by its vigor and innovation.
As we prepare to celebrate 100 years of cityhood, we will remember our ancestors – those pioneers of construction, business and community building.
We give a nod to the past, and while we celebrate our culture, community and commerce, we are progressively shaping our future.
What does that mean to us today?
It means that now, more than ever, we all need to be city builders. We need to recognize the critical role and responsibility each of us has in ensuring that our city has the tools to grow, generate wealth, care for all of its citizen, and attract world-class talent and world-class companies.
We are all city builders, community builders.
As you leave today, I ask each of you to think about, and ask yourself:
What can I do to help build a better city?
What difference can I make for my community?
What role can I play in continuing to build Kitchener into the city of the future?
Remember, Kitchener has always fostered innovation, industry and investment.
This city has been shaped by its past and is motivated by its future.
That is a City of the Future.
That is Kitchener.
03-30-2012, 08:01 PM
Not a fan of "city of the future" - I can hear it now "Kitchener is a city of the future.... and always will be!"
The 2013 Address
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