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03-05-2010, 06:25 PM
Waterloo State of the City Address
<a href="http://www.wonderfulwaterloo.com/showthread.php/1055-State-of-the-City-Addresses-2011?p=27265#post27265" title="2011 Address Info">http://www.wonderfulwaterloo.com/election/WaterlooCityCentre.png</a>
03-05-2010, 06:25 PM
Waterloo State of the City Address 2010
Mayor Brenda Halloran
March 5, 2010
Link (http://www.waterloo.ca/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=1&def=News Article View&ItemId=1209) | PDF (http://www.waterloo.ca/Portals/57ad7180-c5e7-49f5-b282-c6475cdb7ee7/LIBRARY_Plans_documents/2010StateoftheCity.pdf)
Good morning everyone. Welcome. And thank you for being here.
Let me start this morning by telling you how very proud I am to stand in front of you to deliver this speech.
I look forward to this event each year because it presents a unique and important opportunity. This morning, I get to talk to you not just about the issues of the day or the stories making the headlines.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I know that issues make headlines because they are important to our community. But I also know that as important as they are, they will change. Today’s headlines will be rewritten, focusing on something more pressing tomorrow.
Today, however, we talk about the big picture. Today is an opportunity to talk about our community in its entirety. And I can tell you about the many ways in which your elected officials, City staff, and the community have been working together to deliver on the promises and commitments outlined in our Strategic Plan.
When I think of our strategic plan, I see not only the tasks, but the outcome - the sum of the parts, if you will, and I see how those tasks can and have moved our community forward.
When I think of our strategic plan, I also think of fundamental elements that have allowed us to move ahead through it. Over the past year, and in fact, over the past four years, I have seen commitment, creativity and collaboration as constants.
I have seen these things demonstrated by staff who work tirelessly to bring projects from concept to completion.
I have seen these things demonstrated by Councillors who have been both champions and stewards for our strategic plan.
And I have seen these things demonstrated by members of our community who have actively participated in many, many ways to see us succeed.
Because of these things – commitment, creativity and collaboration – I can stand before you today and say this with great certainty: Waterloo is a community that measures up.
This morning, I am proud to be able to take some time to talk to you about the many ways we do.
A Vibrant Uptown Core:
Let’s start this morning by taking a stroll through our vibrant uptown core. The heart of Waterloo continues to grow and change like never before. These are transformational times. Last year, I talked to you about possibilities and plans. Today, I talk to you about potential realized.
After its opening last spring and facing what some might call a bit of a bumpy beginning, I am very proud of the way Waterloo Public Square has been embraced. Placemaking is not a process that happens overnight – you don’t cut a ribbon and suddenly have a new space that is constantly filled with people. It takes time.
Yet in the relatively short amount of time that our Square has been open, more than 50,000 people have attended events there. And some wonderful things have happened there – Perimeter Institute’s Quantum to Cosmos Festival, our Freedom of the City ceremony, welcoming the Olympic torch – to name just a few.
And without commitment, collaboration and more than a little creativity, we would not have seen the opening of our rink in the Square. Council made a difficult decision to stay within budget on this project. That meant delaying construction on some of the features. Community leaders – both individuals and businesses – came forward and presented a solution that had visitors skating on a new rink before the end of the year. Our community will be forever grateful.
Around the corner from Waterloo Public Square, construction on the Perimeter Institute expansion and the Balsillie School of Excellence continue. Both of these institutions have put our community on the map. In Waterloo, research that can and will change the world is done.
Our Bauer Lofts have also changed the face of Waterloo – open in the fall of 2009 this development has transformed a building that was more than 100 years old into a trendy spot to live, eat, shop, or do business.
In addition to the Bauer Lofts, we’ll see significant developments at the corners of Park and Allen streets. Two new developments will add a total of just over 160 new units. One will be a 19 storey building. The other, a 3.5 storey building. Each, though, will offer unique features, and will greatly enhance the options available to people who want live uptown.
If you want to talk about significant transformation, let’s talk about the Barrel Yards on Father David Bauer Drive. A construction value of more than $200 million. Two new 21 storey residential units. Two 11 storey office towers. Two 25 storey condominium towers. And an eight storey hotel. Beginning later this year, construction activity on this site will be constant. What a tremendous addition to our core this well be!
When you consider all of these developments collectively, the result is a transformed uptown. Intensification is taking place across the city. But the heart of Waterloo will be abuzz when these buildings are complete. As a community with hard boundaries, our growth model will change from outwards to upwards. In that regard, we have taken great strides.
And while it perhaps doesn’t sound as exciting, the infrastructure work on Caroline Street, Park Street and William Street has been critical. It has enhanced the flow of traffic in the uptown, as well as added much needed servicing upgrades that will be required for further intensification.
Investment in Infrastructure:
On second thought, this is one year when I can say that the infrastructure work taking place actually is kind of exciting. Last year at this time, communities across Canada were facing significant challenges. Aging infrastructure meant difficult choices and deficits across the board.
Thanks to a creative and collaborative response from the provincial and federal governments, economic stimulus funds have helped Waterloo get many of its shovel-ready projects off the ground. Though sorely needed, without the generous funding from these levels of government, these projects wouldn’t be possible.
I am very proud to say that our approach to this stimulus funding was to ensure that we didn’t incur any debt in making our submissions, staying true to our commitment to fiscal responsibility.
Our recreation facilities will be better as a result of this stimulus funding – that includes Albert McCormick, Moses Springer and the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.
So will our roads. This summer, we’ll see the completion of Columbia Street (from Westmount to the railway tracks) and Bearinger Road, and the reconstruction of Davenport. And we’ll see University between Bridge and Lexington reconstructed.
But we’re not just repaving and reconstructing. On Bearinger and Davenport in particular, we’re making innovative improvements – taking a road diet approach that incorporates not only vehicle lanes but bike lanes and pedestrian islands as well. Our commitment is to ensure these roads are reconstructed in a way that keeps all of our residents safe. an integrated transportation framework.
A Healthy and Safe Community:
There are so many other initiatives linked to a healthy and safe community. Let me highlight a few of them this morning.
There’s excitement on the west side as the combined facility moves from concept through construction. The John M. Harper District Library and Stork Family YMCA celebrated its official groundbreaking this past fall, with construction moving at a steady pace. Residents in that neighbourhood can expect to see the structural steel in place later this spring, with completion marked for the spring of 2011. When complete, this facility will boast – among many other things – the second major green roof installation on a city facility.
We were also very excited to mark the groundbreaking for our fourth fire station on the City’s east side this past fall. Additional staff are being hired for the station and we expect to see it open mid-summer. This will result in faster response times to all types of emergencies on the east side and enhance fire service across the City.
I’m also proud to say that both our west side combined facility and our east side fire station are being built to satisfy the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - referred to as LEED - silver standards. These projects are a reflection of our commitment to environment, to focusing on sustainability.
Within the City, two of our departments have reorganized to enhance their ability to meet the community’s needs. Our By-law department has increased its capacity to respond to concerns and provide better service, and our Recreation and Leisure Services department has finished a significant reorganization. You will see Community, Culture and Recreation Services as the new name of this department, reflecting a new direction that puts community first.
With thanks in part to infrastructure funding, we are also able to move ahead with the development of a premiere sports field at RIM Park. I say ‘in part’ because a great deal of credit is due to the Waterloo Minor Soccer Club. This group has stepped forward to work with the City to help fund these fields by providing $900,000 of the $4.9 million. Without their participation, this project would not be happening.
This project will transform seven existing outdoor fields into four medium-sized fields and two international fields featuring FIFA-approved dimensions, artificial turf, lighting and spectator seating.
These new fields will have a dramatic effect on our community. They’ll help address growing programming needs. They’ll support our local athletes. They’ll be a shining example of a creative, collaborative solution.
Today, I am particularly pleased to tell you that Supportive Housing of Waterloo – SHOW – is slated to open its doors this May. Each of the 30 permanent apartments in this complex on Erb Street will offer affordable rent and supports to those who might otherwise be on the street.
Arts and culture are also key to our community’s well being. Over the past several years, the community has benefited greatly from the work of the prosperity council. Through their work, the request came for each municipality to contribute $1.00 per citizen. I am happy to say that Waterloo has responded to that call. As part of out budget process, we set aside a total of $153,000 - $120,000 based on that dollar per person request, and the remainding $33,000 being set aside to help support the new enabling organization costs.
Business in Waterloo:
While some communities continue to see challenges in the business sector, Waterloo businesses continue to succeed. We have seen Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS) open its new offices on King Street in Waterloo. We have seen Agfa Healthcare announce that its new Research and Development Facility that’s going to open in the Research and Technology Park, creating 100 new jobs. And we’ve seen RIM expand to include two new office buildings in the City’s north east side.
Just this week, we had the announcement that the province will invest nearly $34 million in Open Text as the high-tech firm creates hundreds of new jobs in Ontario over the next five years. In total, Open Text plans to spend a total of $225 million over the next five years on research and development - a project that will create nearly 400 “high-value” jobs at its operations in Waterloo, Richmond Hill and Ottawa.
This comes on the heels of Open Text’s announcement late last year about its major expansion. When complete, they’ll double their current footprint in the Research and Technology Park. Just think – this company began with a handful of employees who had a dream. Today, it’s a global company. What’s really wonderful is that this global company continues to choose Waterloo as its home. We take great pride in that.
In our retail sector, Conestoga Mall has grown not only in size, but in substance. More than 30 new stores have opened as part of an expansion and renovation. It’s included interior and exterior upgrades and an expanded food court. By spring of this year, the mall will have grown from 100 to 142 stores.
I was very pleased to see the Waterloo Museum included as part of that expansion – it represents a creative opportunity to bring our community’s heritage closer to the people as one of the new tenants in the mall. With thanks to the mall management for the forward thinking that helped make this happen.
We have also seen continued progress on the Ira Needles Commercial Centre. When complete, this development will include a new two storey fitness centre and 10 screen movie theatre, a Lowes, two four storey office developments – and that’s just a sample of the attractions that will be included in this much needed west side development.
This project is unique in that it crosses the borders between Kitchener and Waterloo – it’s presented a great opportunity to work in collaboration with our neighbour, as well as with the Region. When it’s finished, it will amount to close to a half a million square ft. development in each of our two cities. The end result – both communities will benefit from what will be one of the region’s largest commercial developments.
Beyond our borders, we’ve continued to actively keep Waterloo on the global map. This past year, I was part of a business mission to Chongqing, China. I joined a group promoting our community as a viable home for businesses looking to relocate or expand to North America. Through that visit, we have signed a friendship agreement with Chongqing. This is a relationship that will prove beneficial not only in attracting business, but attracting international students and individuals from around the globe to Waterloo.
In fact, one of our notable achievements over the past year was receiving top grades from the Conference Board of Canada when it comes to attracting new people to our community. In other words, we’ve got what they’re looking for. Only six out of 50 communities ranked came out with a Grade A. The report cited our worldwide reputation for high-tech excellence in education and business. It also spoke of our strong results in our economy, innovation and housing.
It’s not possible to talk about measuring up without also talking about finances. I am very proud to lead a Council that has delivered on its commitment to use the Municipal Price Index as a target for our tax rate. For 2010, that meant that property taxes in Waterloo increased 1.57%, which represents the lowest tax rate in the Region.
I am also very pleased with the outcomes of our three year budget process. This process has afforded us not only stability, but the ability to remain nimble in times when we have required change. And it has provided a framework that has allowed staff to plan effectively and efficiently.
As part of that process, Council created the Capital Infrastructure Reinvestment Reserve Fund. In 2010, CIRRF (as we fondly call it) was fully funded – which means that each year, $500,000 is being directed to help address the overall shortage in infrastructure funding.
Positioned for the Future:
Up to this point, I’ve talked about projects that are either underway or will begin shortly. I’d like to spend a little time on projects that ensure we are well positioned for the future.
First, our Official Plan – as you know, this is no small undertaking. Work on this project has continued over the past four years. Later this year, the draft of the plan will be complete and presented to Council and to the public for input.
While it’s extremely detailed, here are some key observations from the draft plan:
it has a distinct focus on intensification and infill
it recognizes that there is a limited land supply for Waterloo
it has stressed the need for a stronger relationship between transit and land use, and
it recognizes that creative, sustainable cities are supported by strong and interconnected social, cultural, economic and environmental systems.
This is a document that sets the stage for development for upwards of 20 years into the future. Additional public input later this spring will be critical.
Our environmental strategy also focuses on the future – identifying actions we can take today to ensure we protect and conserve our environment for tomorrow. Here’s what it’s looking at:
Energy, air and waste
Planning and growth
Green space, and
I’m also pleased to report that our wind energy research initiative will soon be complete. While it’s early to tell, the results to date show we may well be able to harness the wind to power some municipal facilities on the east and west side.
We are also moving ahead with our transition to a stormwater user fee. This is an important and fundamental shift. It supports a more equitable way of funding stormwater management. In creating this model, it allows us to better fund this essential service and to be proactive about infrastructure renewal, water quality enhancements and responding to climate change.
Our first ever transportation master plan is close to complete. It is a comprehensive plan that considers the needs of all modes of transportation – cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles – in balance. Our work here has garnered provincial and national attention – and earned us the proud honour of hosting the Share the Road cycling summit this past fall.
While I do look forward to this event each year as an opportunity to share and celebrate our community successes, I would be remiss in not also mentioning some of our challenges.
There is a continued effort to bring resolution to the residents – whether they are permanent or students – who live in the area commonly referred to as Northdale.
The student population in Waterloo is significant and we can all take great pride in the many ways those students contribute to Waterloo, making ours a community rich with a diverse population.
Unfortunately, it only takes the actions of a few to have a negative impact. We have worked with our community to address the issues that continue to prove challenging in this neighbourhood. This is not a situation that was created overnight. Nor will it change overnight, unfortunately. There is a continued commitment to resolving the issues here. I look forward to hearing more from staff on their review of the proposed vision for this neighbourhood.
I am also pleased that student leaders from both universities are active participants in this process and will play a critical role in any solution.
A further challenge will come in how we develop what remains of our employment lands. These lands are in small supply, but high demand. The challenge comes in making sure we use these lands in a way that has maximum benefit for our community.
As you are all well aware, we are in an election year. This means that residents of Waterloo will be asked to cast their ballot for municipal representatives this fall.
On this year’s ballot, however, you will find a question that asks whether the Region should continue to fluoridate our municipal water. And - depending on the response from the Minister of Municipal Affairs - you may also be asked whether Waterloo should enter into discussions with Kitchener about the advantages and disadvantages of a merger.
I don’t believe this morning is a time for politics or sharing my personal views on either of these issues. In fact, I believe that the answers to both of these questions (should they both appear on the ballot) rest firmly where they belong - in the hands of the people.
So I will encourage you to give careful thought to both of these questions and to have your say on these key issues by exercising your right to vote this fall.
Our time this morning will soon come to a close. I started by saying that through this morning’s remarks, you would see that Waterloo is a community that measures up. And that it measures up because of creativity, commitment and collaboration – all of which seem to be constants that run deep throughout our community.
As I look back over 2009 and as I look ahead through to the rest of 2010, the list of initiatives in which we can take great pride is long. When the Strategic Plan 2007-2010 was approved by Waterloo City Council, an important component was ensuring that processes were in place to measure and report the progress being made along the way.
To list all of the projects and initiatives that have been part of our community’s success story would take more than these few minutes we have had today. I would encourage you to glance at the handouts that are on your tables and to visit our Web site for the details of the progress that we are making in our community.
I do hope, however, that in being here this morning, you will agree with me when I say that we are a community that measures up. And that we are a community made rich by the creativity, commitment and collaboration that are the cornerstones of all we do.
With creativity, commitment and collaboration as cornerstones, I believe we are also poised to address the challenges that have yet to be resolved.
That, my friends and colleagues, is the State of the City, of our Waterloo.
Thank you again for joining us, and thank you to the Rotary Club for your support in hosting us this morning.
03-05-2010, 07:17 PM
Hmm. No mention of the potential amalgamation talks. I figured she would mention something just as Carl Zehr did.
03-07-2010, 10:39 PM
Especially since she's been such a proponent of at least talking about it.
03-10-2011, 07:16 AM
Waterloo State of the City Address 2011 Invite
March 9, 2011 | Link (http://www.waterloo.ca/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=1&def=News%20Article%20View&ItemId=1499)
Mayor Brenda Halloran will deliver her annual State of the City address later this month at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Rotary Club of Waterloo.
State of the City Address
Date: Friday, March 25, 2011
Time: 7:30 a.m. – Buffet breakfast
8:10 a.m. – Call to order
8:25 a.m. – State of the City address
9 a.m. – Adjournment
Location: RIM Park, Forbes Room, 2001 University Ave.
Tickets are available until Friday, March 18 by advance sale only at http://waterloomayorsbreakfast.eventbrite.com. The cost is $45 per person, which includes a $25 donation receipt, or $360 for a reserved table of eight with a $200 donation receipt. A media table will be set up for reporters.
Net proceeds will benefit KidsAbility (http://www.kidsability.ca/), a local not-for-profit organization that empowers children and youth with disabilities in Waterloo Region and Guelph Wellington.
03-10-2011, 08:21 PM
There's a 7:30 in the morning now?
03-25-2011, 11:21 PM
Waterloo State of the City Address 2011
Delivered by Mayor Brenda Halloran
March 25, 2011
Link (http://www.waterloo.ca/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=2361) | PDF (http://www.waterloo.ca/Portals/57ad7180-c5e7-49f5-b282-c6475cdb7ee7/LIBRARY_Plans_documents/State_of_the_City_2011.pdf)
Welcome to the 2011 State of the City address. As mayor of Waterloo, I’m excited and proud to share our recent successes and accomplishments, and to give you a glimpse of some of the exciting initiatives we have planned as we move forward.
I would like to start by reflecting upon the fall municipal election. I enjoy this time as residents often become more engaged and really open up and share their thoughts with us. They ask questions and offer feedback to candidates at public debates, by phone or email, and as we go door-to-door canvassing.
They also tell stories. For some of our senior residents, these were stories about growing up in Waterloo at a time when it looked much different than it does today. And for others, it was about raising families here, watching their children grow up in a safe and vibrant community. And for some, it was about starting prosperous businesses and careers here. They were amazing stories. What I took away from these exchanges was the great sense of pride that Waterloo residents have in this community and our collective heritage.
That pride dates back to Waterloo’s early days, when Abraham Erb first arrived on this land. As you well know, Abraham was a determined man who was inspired by Laurel Creek’s fast-moving waters. His decision to build a grist mill there in the early 1800s is credited with laying the foundation for this area’s economic and cultural development, spurring settlement in this community.
In his footsteps followed a long line of big thinkers who have played pivotal roles in successfully propelling Waterloo through the decades to where it is today. Names that immediately come to mind are Moses Springer, Joseph E. Seagram, Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.
Waterloo’s history, present and future have and will continue to be written by people like this. Pioneers. Dreamers. Big thinkers. Collaborators. Innovators. Doers. Many of the people gathered here today fall into these categories.
Right now the City of Waterloo is working on our next strategic plan, a document that will guide us towards future success. Our living environment, a healthy and safe community, economic vitality, commitment to excellence, and partnerships and collaboration are the five core pillars in the existing plan – our accomplishments over the past four years have been rooted in these concepts.
Our living environment is about providing the best environment possible for our residents and visitors. This includes protecting our natural resources and environmental features, and pursuing excellence in our city’s form and design. In 2010 we did that by adopting urban design guidelines, updating our Environmental Strategy and taking a leadership role on many environmental projects, ranging from Earth Day activities to grassroots creek cleanups.
Another highlight was our move to shift stormwater fees from a tax to a user rate, creating a more equitable model of paying for stormwater management and addressing shortfalls in funding. This was a significant step forward for the city, and we were thrilled to receive a certificate of merit from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators for our program.
In 2011 and beyond, the city will continue to live our environment-first policy and build upon the objectives in the Environmental Strategy. The environment is high on our priority list based on our discussions with you. Our new official plan will be launched this year to guide land use and development. And right outside these doors the new TD GreenLab will help us spread the message about water conservation. This spring we’ll also recognize excellence in private and public urban design projects through our new Urban Design Awards program, among many other exciting environmental initiatives and projects.
Fostering a healthy and safe community refers to our focus on wellness, and on creating opportunities for all our citizens to participate and feel welcome, safe and included. It’s also about respecting and treasuring our heritage and culture.
Last year, we made significant progress on this front by opening a new fire station on the east side of Waterloo that has enhanced our service delivery to residents in this area. We also focused on offering a wide array of arts, cultural, recreational and wellness opportunities at our world-class facilities each and every day. You’re in one of them right now. RIM Park alone is visited by more than one-million people each year who enjoy its indoor and outdoor sports facilities, its lush parkland, and its heritage and art features. It’s a one-of-a-kind facility that we should all take pride in.
Looking to the future, we have so much underway, starting with the grand opening of our new skateboard park in Waterloo Park. We’re also building a premier outdoor sports field complex here at RIM Park thanks in part to funding from the Building Canada Fund and the Waterloo Minor Soccer Club. We are committed to getting the community involved in all we have to offer, whether you’re interested in arts, culture, recreation or wellness.
Also in the works is a bylaw that will protect the health, safety and welfare of residents in low-rise residential rental units. Right now city staff and council are collecting public feedback on this proposal and considering the options while keeping that goal in mind.
Economic vitality, meanwhile, is always at the forefront. It’s about building our thriving economy by strengthening our relationships with all sectors, and spreading the message that Waterloo is the place to learn, live and do business. In this past year, we’ve done that by keeping the tax rate stable, continuing to pay down our debts and attracting talented people to this community.
The cranes that speckle Waterloo’s skyline at almost every turn are another indicator of Waterloo’s economic vitality. The intersection of Erb and Caroline streets is a prime example. Construction is underway on its four corners at the Balsillie Campus, the BarrelYards complex, the Perimeter Institute and the Knox Presbyterian Church. Growth isn’t confined to our core though ... it’s happening throughout the city. In fact, the construction value of building permits issued in 2010 was more than $800 million. To put that figure into perspective, the value was $334 million in 2009, which means our permit values in 2010 were almost 2½ times what they were in 2009.
Fiscal responsibility and transparency will continue to steer the city’s decision-making and planning. That means we’ll carry on with our debt repayments as well as develop prudent and reasonable operating and capital budgets. In fact, as part of our commitment to openness, we’re in the process of developing a citizens’ taskforce to advise the city on the development, implementation and evaluation of our upcoming three-year budgets.
As well, the city will continue to leverage our position internationally. Being named the World’s Top Intelligent Community in 2007 propelled our collective accomplishments onto the global stage. We’ve remained in the spotlight over the years thanks to our high-tech sector, our prosperous economy and our world-class universities, not to mention visits by Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Stephen Hawking. It’s no doubt this internationally competitive city will continue to be a strong force in the world economy.
Turning to our commitment to excellence, this city, as an organization, encourages and strives for excellence and fosters a culture that focuses on innovation, best practices and values. This commitment extends to all groups and organizations with whom we work.
One of the recent projects that highlights this commitment is the creation of new guidelines for engaging residents. With a focus on informing, listening and learning, consulting, collaborating and empowering, the Public Involvement Guidelines enhance our ability to make appropriate decisions for this community.
Also in 2010, the city’s continual-improvement process initiative increased effectiveness and efficiency in the organization based on employees’ suggestions, and the restructuring of the Community, Culture and Recreation Services department was completed.
Over the next few years, the city’s commitment to excellence will be reinforced through our new strategic plan. Please visit www.myfuturewaterloo.ca if you’re interested in more details about where we’re headed with it.
We’re also working to improve communication, especially two-way dialogue, with all our stakeholders, but with residents in particular. Tangible examples of this will be an improved website and increased focus on our social media sites. Our Facebook page already has many fans, and we’ve recently launched a Twitter page to keep the community abreast of events and issues as they happen. And if you’re interested in watching this speech again, it will be available on our YouTube page! Sooner than later, these will be the first places residents turn to when they need information about what’s happening in Waterloo. This is just another way we’re keeping you informed and engaged.
The final pillar of our strategic plan is partnerships and collaboration, arguably the two concepts upon which Waterloo was built and, subsequently, has flourished. We will continue to seek new partners and deepen our relationships with existing ones to improve our community.
There are endless examples of this in Waterloo. In the past couple of years, it was evident by the many road projects and upgrades to our recreational facilities that got off the ground thanks to funding from the provincial and federal governments’ economic stimulus funds. This work came in at about $17 million, which we certainly wouldn’t have been able to undertake without funding support, especially in light of our current infrastructure deficit.
Then there’s the John M. Harper District Branch Library and Stork Family YMCA facility. This project wouldn’t have been possible without a partnership between the city, the Waterloo public library, the YMCA and the University of Waterloo – this collaborative spirit will greatly enrich the lives of west-side residents once the facility opens its doors this summer.
On a daily basis, city employees collaborate with our partners in neighbouring municipalities. In fact, the City of Waterloo currently is involved in more than 40 joint initiatives with the City of Kitchener on projects ranging from winter control and leaf pickup, to accessibility staffing and programming and cemetery services.
The skating rink in the Waterloo Public Square is another significant example of collaboration. A group of four community members took it upon themselves to raise enough money to establish that wonderful venue for fun and recreation in the heart of the city. As you can see from the smiles on the faces of the skaters there in the winter, Jim Playford, Paul Rossi, Rick Dubeau and David Martin were most successful in garnering support for this worthy project.
Waterloo is, and always has been, home to people like them. People with great vision. Pioneers. Dreamers. Big thinkers. Collaborators. Innovators. Doers. When considering the state of the city, I’m reminded of the words of Winston Churchill who said, “I am easily satisfied with the very best.” Waterloo was built upon this mantra, and it’s an institutional belief that lives on today in all sectors.
At the end of the day, Waterloo’s past successes and future accomplishments are and will be thanks to the collective force of its visionary residents. People who have never been willing to rest on their laurels, but rather are always looking ahead to the next juncture. People like you and me.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the state of the great City of Waterloo. Our future will indeed be a bright one. Thank you for being a part of it.
03-23-2012, 02:11 PM
Waterloo State of the City Address 2012
March 23, 2012 | Delivered by Mayor Brenda Halloran | Link (http://www.waterloo.ca/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=2361) | DOC (http://www.waterloo.ca/Portals/57ad7180-c5e7-49f5-b282-c6475cdb7ee7/COUNCIL_documents/Mayor_Brenda_Halloran_2012_State_of_the_City_addre ss.doc)
Thank you for being here with us today for my annual State of the City address. Working on this speech each year gives me an opportunity to pause, and reflect upon where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going as a city.
After launching the Mayor for the Day contest, I found myself reminiscing about when I embarked on my first campaign to be mayor in 2006. Back then I was like Izabella. I had a vision for what Waterloo – my home – could be in the future.
My dream was to lead Waterloo in its evolution towards becoming an even greater community in which to live and work. Many of the elements I had envisioned in that Waterloo have been incorporated into our current strategic plan. We have our priorities straight in this plan, focusing on what really matters – the environment, public engagement, health and safety, vibrant neighbourhoods, getting around and economic vitality.
After coming to office six years ago, I realized that achieving this vision would not be easy and would be met with many hurdles. But I knew this community and our dedicated city employees and council were up for the challenge.
We have a mandate to provide residents with a broad range of vital programs and services. We do this with 3½ per cent of all the taxes you pay, according to the Fraser Institute. To break that down for you, the average family in Ontario paid $40,350 in taxes last year. Of that, residents of Waterloo paid $1,400 to the city.
With this $1,400, residents receive fire protection, roads, trails, parks, sewers, recreational facilities, libraries, snow and leaf removal, and much more. Programs and services that impact your family each and every day. And at a cost that’s around what the average household pays for landline and cellphone service each year!
This council is committed to fulfilling our obligations to you while maintaining modest tax rates that are fair and provide services at the level you have come to expect. Keeping the tax rate modest while ensuring we have enough money to cover our budgetary requirements is a delicate balancing act that comes with challenges, especially in a large community like ours. We made headlines recently when Statistics Canada named Waterloo region the 10th biggest urban area in the country.
Conservative budgeting and decision-making have removed us from the top of the municipal debt list. That’s something we’re extremely proud to have accomplished. And we continue to grow our reserves at a steady pace, giving us flexibility to both plan ahead and deal with unexpected issues. These are complicated but prudent choices that will benefit us in the long run.
Much like many other cities across the country, another challenge we face is aging infrastructure that requires significant reinvestment. Right now Waterloo’s infrastructure needs are estimated at $250 million – that may sound like an exorbitant figure, however, it’s comparable to what other Canadian municipalities are experiencing.
It’s a problem that didn’t develop overnight, and it won’t be solved tomorrow. But that won’t deter us from reviewing our funding options and banding together with other municipalities to lobby the federal and provincial governments for stable infrastructure funding.
You may be wondering how I remain confident that my vision for a greater Waterloo can be achieved in light of these challenges. It’s because I believe so strongly in our city. I believe success is the culture of our community. It’s just the way Waterloo is. I know there will be bumps in the road and detours to be made. But we won’t stop moving forward.
Waterloo is a great city, known around the world for its innovation and success. It’s a city with a rich past, a spirited population and a bright future. If 2011 is any example of what can be achieved, I’m certain we will face our challenges and reach new heights in the future.
Guiding us on this journey is our 2011-2014 strategic plan, which is based on six strategic pillars: sustainability and our living environment, public engagement, health and safety, vibrant neighbourhoods, getting around and economic vitality. The achievements and progress we make in these areas will contribute towards the fulfillment of my vision for a greater Waterloo.
Sustainability and our living environment is at the heart of our operations. We follow an environment-first policy and are committed to leaving a legacy of environmental responsibility for future generations. Protecting our resources and being stewards of the environment are natural directions for us.
Our draft official plan is a shining example of that. Set to be adopted by council this year, its pages are filled with concepts that put our environment first. An official plan guides a community’s growth and change, and, in Waterloo, ours will revolve around intensification – growing up instead of out, environmental planning, and rapid and active transportation. It also addresses planning for infrastructure capacity that meets the needs of our community.
Being awarded gold-level certification for the construction of our new east-side fire station under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system was one of our greatest environmental achievements last year. The facility’s careful architectural, mechanical and electrical design led to projected energy costs savings of 33 per cent compared to a standard building.
There are also many private-sector examples of this kind of commitment to the environment. One that comes to mind is the student residence in the heart of the university district that recently received the first ever platinum certification for student housing under the same rating system. This kind of development is the way of our future.
When developing our strategic plan, we heard from residents that we needed to enhance our approach to public engagement. You want to be engaged in what the city’s doing, not just told about it. You want more opportunities to have your voice heard.
Public engagement is a cornerstone of democracy. And it’s key to the way we do business in Waterloo, starting with our strategic plan, which contains elements from the thousands of voices who provided input.
We took public engagement to a new level throughout this year’s budget process by opening our books to a citizens’ budget task force that reviewed various facets of our financial processes and provided us with constructive recommendations that we endorsed in principle. You’ll hear more about this soon when we share a report card that reflects our progress in these areas.
Our all-access budget town hall was a turning point in our engagement strategy as it gave residents the opportunity to ask questions from the comfort of their homes and watch as they were answered in real time on our Facebook and Twitter sites. No budget-related topics were off the table – we answered them as they came in, demonstrating our commitment to transparency and accessibility. This meeting was unprecedented for us and was one of the first times a Canadian municipality has attempted to use live social media in a public meeting.
Moving forward, we plan to broaden our social media offerings through our new blog, which was launched recently. We will also be circulating an e-newsletter and releasing an improved website to ensure the information you’re looking for is only a few clicks of the mouse away and accessible in multiple formats.
The health and safety of our residents continues to be a top priority, and we’ve made significant progress on this pillar over the last 12 months. We were recently named a member of the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities for our commitment to assessing and improving our age-friendliness. This honour has been bestowed upon less than 50 cities in the world, and speaks to our desire to be inclusive of all members of this diverse community. It’s truly an incredible achievement.
Along the same vein, a significant investment in seniors was announced this summer. The Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging will develop a research and learning centre on the university’s north campus, giving students, researchers and educators the opportunity to interact directly with seniors in a long-term care environment. This project is the work of many partners, including the city and the generous Schlegel family, and is yet another example of what can be achieved in Waterloo thanks to our innovative and collaborative spirit.
Promoting recreation and culture are important aspects of a healthy and safe community. We’re fortunate to have an abundance of both in Waterloo. The world-class facility we’re in today recently marked its 10th anniversary. If you haven’t ventured past this building, you might not realize the park is actually a 500-acre facility with trails, a golf course, heritage elements, public art and parkland. It’s been exciting to watch RIM Park evolve over the past decade into an outstanding destination for both indoor and outdoor recreation that has been visited by millions of people, including our prime minister.
One thing RIM Park doesn’t have is a designated area for skateboarders to practice their sport. But enthusiasts are in luck – our first skate park opened this fall in Waterloo Park, by the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, and it has already become a hub of activity. The youth in Waterloo put their stamp on this facility by providing input into its design – their efforts certainly resulted in an amazing park!
Throughout the community, our vibrant arts, culture and heritage scenes continue to delight residents and visitors alike. Whether you drop by the City of Waterloo Museum to take in the latest exhibit, dance to the music at one of our uptown festivals or take in a movie in Waterloo Park, our lives are enriched by the multitude of opportunities in this city and beyond. To ensure this continues in the future, the city is working on a culture plan that will provide direction and strategies for supporting local cultural opportunities because it’s so integral to our community.
Something else that is important to our community is safety. Our dedicated Protective Services team is committed to providing a high standard of service and safety to residents. Thanks to the completion of our east-side fire station, firefighter response times in that area are much improved as they’re better positioned to respond to emergencies. That’s critical to residents who are waiting for help to arrive.
Vibrant neighbourhoods is a new strategic pillar for Waterloo, and one that impacts us all, whether you live in a high rise or the suburbs. Neighbourhoods are where we live and where things happen at a grassroots level.
We have many active neighbourhood associations that bring residents together to get things done. We see that each year when neighbours roll up their sleeves and work with the city and community partners to build new playgrounds for their kids to enjoy. Council recently supported a funds-matching program to ensure there will be more citizen-led projects aimed at improving the quality of life in our neighbourhoods in the future.
Located near the two universities, the Northdale neighbourhood is high on the city’s agenda. It’s home to both long-term residents and to students, with challenges on both sides of the fence. The status quo is not an option for the people who live there, so we’ve embarked upon a land use and community improvement study to revitalize the area. Change on this scale takes time, which is why council recently supported an interim control bylaw that will temporarily halt new development in Northdale. We’re going to take a step back and work together to revitalize and reurbanize this neighbourhood.
Getting around means different things to different people. That’s why a central objective of this pillar is to support all forms of transportation. And this is where our transportation master plan enters the picture, with its focus on getting people to leave their cars at home and opt to walk, ride a bike or take a bus.
Continuing to build bicycle networks and complete gaps in the trail system are key components of this plan. We’re gaining momentum on both fronts, and were thrilled to receive a silver Bicycle Friendly Communities Award in Canada at the Ontario Bike Summit this past summer. As for filling in gaps in our trails, we’ve been working with the region on this for many years and have made significant strides throughout the community. Cyclists here enjoy about 130 kilometres of trails and 50 kilometres of on-road bike lanes. Waterloo continues to be a wonderful place to cycle.
On your way here today, some of you may have driven by – and maybe on – the bike lanes on Davenport Road. The reconstruction project on that road transformed it into a complete street that accommodates all road users and lowers traffic speeds. For this innovative improvement project we were awarded a Sustainable Communities Award by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in the transportation category. Accepting this award on behalf of the city was a proud moment for me.
Our final pillar is economic vitality. A survey released recently by CIBC World Markets pegged our regional economy as the third strongest in Canada as of the third quarter of 2011. While this is a great news story, we’re not immune to the effects of the global economic downturn. Stories of layoffs and plant closures made headlines last year, and many of us know families who are struggling financially.
Waterloo’s economy is resilient though, thanks in large part to its diversity. The tech sector continues to gain momentum regionally, with more than 1,000 open jobs in that field.
On the academic front, we’re fortunate to have global think tanks and such renowned institutions as the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College within our borders. We’re particularly excited about Laurier’s new state-of-the-art Global Innovation Exchange facility on University Avenue. These organizations truly are anchors for our economy, and we’re committed to enabling their success. Of course, we’re home to robust financial, insurance and manufacturing companies as well.
Collaboration is an essential ingredient in our economic vitality and community building, and we’re fortunate to partner with many organizations on projects that benefit our residents and propel us into the international spotlight.
You’ll often hear me say, “we wouldn’t achieve as much in Waterloo if it wasn’t for our partners.” Among many other projects, the John M. Harper Branch Library and Stork Family YMCA, the Balsillie School and the newly expanded Perimeter Institute stand as testaments to that statement. The benefits of these, and other, relationships are widespread.
The YMCA-library project is a prime example of this. One of its earliest challenges was finding a location. Thankfully, the University of Waterloo stepped in and generously agreed to lease us the land upon which the facility was built for $1 a year. In return, we service the site, providing roads, watermains and sewers for the university’s northwest campus. This arrangement is now underway, and we can look forward to more investment and talent as this campus develops.
The city’s economic development team entered into 35 partnerships and collaborations in 2011 alone, guided by the belief that collaborative investments in our time and money will elevate this community’s collective wins to greater heights than any one of us could achieve on our own.
Canada’s Technology Triangle’s efforts to build international relationships by sending local mayors abroad on targeted missions is an example of this kind of strategic investment. These trips foster a global business presence for the region, while also forging new business, government and institutional relationships.
I had the pleasure of leading a delegation to Chongqing in 2011 in support of our friendship agreement with China’s largest city. I certainly felt at home when I visited their Garden Expo, which featured a recreation of Waterloo Park’s Victorian garden. That was an experience I won’t soon forget.
This trip also granted my fellow delegates and me the opportunity to strengthen our economic and cultural ties with Chongqing, while sharing our local story. I can tell you, it’s a story that’s being heard around the world.
Closer to home, our uptown core continues to be a recognized success story thanks to its vibrancy and the reinvestment we’re seeing there. I’m sure it will be one of the top destinations for visitors who flock to Waterloo for the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at Grey Silo Golf Club this year. The classic tees off on June 21, and is expected to generate about $25 million in economic impact annually for the region through hotel stays, restaurants, retail sales and more. St. Mary’s General Hospital Foundation has been named the official charity partner, a truly worthy recipient. We’re proud to have this event in our city – we'll be gracious hosts!
Congress 2012 is another event that’s expected to have a significant impact on our local economy this year as well as propelling us into the national spotlight. The humanities and social sciences scholarly community will arrive by the thousands to participate in this conference, which is being co-hosted by Laurier and the University of Waterloo. We’re looking forward to hearing what innovative ideas and research come out of the eight-day Congress.
And finally, what would a conversation about Waterloo’s economy be without mentioning the construction that continues to spread across the community? I’ve been saying for years that our skyline is speckled with cranes, and that’s something you can expect to see for many more to come. Our building permit value hit $450 million in 2011 alone, which is about double of what we historically considered to be a “pretty good” year.
As I was putting the finishing touches on this speech, I was struck by the scale, magnitude and diversity of the work we all undertake in Waterloo each and every day. The topics I’ve addressed here merely provide a snapshot of what we all do.
We celebrated many tremendous successes in 2011 – the Global Network of Age-friendly Cities recognition, the 10th anniversary of RIM Park, the Sustainable Communities Award for Davenport Road, the John M. Harper Branch Library and Stork Family YMCA opening and the Chongqing Garden Expo, to name only a handful.
Those successes wouldn’t be possible without you – our residents, staff, council, volunteers, students, community leaders, philanthropists and organizations. Thank you.
Despite the challenges that lie ahead, I’m confident my vision for a greater Waterloo will be achieved. The progress we’re making in the realms of sustainability and our living environment, public engagement, health and safety, vibrant neighbourhoods, getting around and economic vitality speaks to that. Our hard work, partnerships and tough decisions will pay off.
Looking back, I admit that the mayor’s job isn’t exactly what I had envisioned it would be ... it’s even better. That’s because I’m charged with leading this great city, dedicated council and exceptional staff on the journey into Waterloo’s future, facing challenges head on and celebrating many successes along the way.
The Mayor for the Day contest helped to put that into perspective for me. It gave me the opportunity to take a step back and consider why I’m here – why we’re all here. It’s simple ... we’re here for Waterloo, the great city we’re all fortunate to call home.
Sometimes it takes a 10-year-old Grade 5 student to remind us that Waterloo is an incredible place to live, and that being mayor is an honour, a privilege and a joy.
Thank you for joining me today.
03-19-2013, 09:00 AM
State of the City address on Friday
March 19, 2013 | City of Waterloo | Link (http://www.waterloo.ca/en/news/index.aspx?newsId=79e167d1-195e-4846-aaff-f24195844eb4)
Mayor Brenda Halloran will deliver her annual State of the City address this Friday at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Rotary Club of Waterloo.
State of the City address
Date: Friday, March 22
Time: 7:30 a.m. – Buffet breakfast
8:10 a.m. – Call to order
8:25 a.m. – State of the City address
9 a.m. – Adjournment
Location: RIM Park, Forbes Room, 2001 University Ave.
Mayor Halloran will be introduced by grade 5 student Josh Bechtel, the winner of this year’s Mayor for the Day contest. His winning entry, a creative video, will be showcased during the mayor’s address. Josh attends N.A. MacEachern public school.
Net proceeds from this event will benefit KidsAbility (http://www.kidsability.ca/), a local not-for-profit organization that empowers children and youth with disabilities in Waterloo Region and Guelph Wellington.
03-22-2013, 03:41 PM
MAYOR BRENDA HALLORAN’S 2013 STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
Thank you for being here with us today for my annual State of the City address. And thank you Josh for that wonderful introduction. The Mayor for the Day contest is one of the highlights of my year – it’s rewarding to see so many grade 5 students are interested in local government and eager to learn more about my duties as mayor.
I loved Josh’s contest entry. It was inspiring, creative and funny, and I’d like to take a moment to share it with all of you.
Congratulations again Josh – I know you’ll be a great mayor. The youth of today are our leaders of tomorrow. It is critical that we create a community for future generations to enjoy, and I believe we are on the right track to making this happen.
If Josh were to take over mayoral duties today, he would find this is a city rooted in its rural Mennonite farming past but celebrating several breakthroughs that have landed us on the global stage.
We enjoy a strong economy because of low unemployment rates, the best postsecondary institutions in the country, stable housing and real estate markets and low consumer and business bankruptcies.
We have been ranked among the top 20 startup hubs in the world because of the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars our startup companies generate for our economy.
And because of these and other achievements, we have been earmarked as a growth community by the Province of Ontario. People are drawn to this city for all it has to offer. Our ability to reinvent ourselves and to diversify our economy has made Waterloo a city of choice to live, work, learn and play.
But what exactly have we done to make such a bold statement? I believe the strength of our city lies within the pillars of our economic vitality: technology, knowledge and education, finance, manufacturing, opportunities and culture. These pillars empower usto weather financial storms, retain our current population, attract newcomers and grow a city worthy of global recognition.
We are technology
It’s no secret to the people in this room that we are known for technology. The invention of the BlackBerry has thrust our community into the global spotlight … and for good reason. Formerly known as Research In Motion, BlackBerry has experienced success beyond measure – no small feat that has served our city well. BlackBerry is a very important local organization that continually gives back to our city ... it’s truly an example of a great community partner. Plus, I love my BB10 – I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Running alongside this technological giant are Teledyne DALSA, Descartes, OpenText and the Accelerator Centre, among many others. So much is being accomplished right here in our backyard.
OpenText is always one of my favourite good news stories. What started out as a spinoff out of the University of Waterloo has become the largest independent provider of enterprise content management in the world and one of Waterloo’s top employers for 2013. With more than 20 years of operation under its belt, OpenText is one of our most successful flagship companies.
The Accelerator Centre, meanwhile, is an award-winning centre that cultivates technology entrepreneurship. Over 80 per cent of its graduates remain in our community. Two examples are Kik Interactive and Magnet Forensics.
Kik Interactive was launched in 2009 by a group of UW students. Over 40-million people use their product, Kik Messenger, a messaging service geared towards the younger generation to use on their iPods or smartphones.
Magnet Forensics assists police services with crime investigations by recovering Internet-related evidence on computer hard drives. They have over 1,000 customers, including the OPP, New York City Police Department and even Scotland Yard.
But why are we one of the premier destinations for startup companies? It begins with our strong entrepreneurial spirit. Our municipality, business community and education institutions attract some of the youngest and brightest, helping us differentiate ourselves as a leader in the Canadian business world. The spinoff companies founded by our graduates and professors helped drive a software and hardware-building revolution, turning this area into “the Silicon Valley of the North.”
Waterloo is seen as a leading model of an innovative community, which stems from UW's intellectual property policy. It triggered a wave of entrepreneurship that propelled the technology and innovation culture into our community – coupled with the business acumen that Wilfrid Laurier University is renowned for, we have a recipe for entrepreneurial magic!
We are knowledge and education
In my opinion, a love of knowledge and a sound education are key elements of a fulfilling life, and I am thankful our city provides that foundation for so many people.
UW has been ranked Canada’s most innovative university for the past 21 consecutive years and boasts the first and largest co-op education program in the world. Plus, 22 per cent of all spinoff Canadian IT companies were launched from its incubator programs – what a telling statistic.
Laurier is a leading Canadian university whose popularity is about to skyrocket thanks to its Global Innovation Exchange. Slated for construction in 2014, this exchange will allow the university to meet the growing local and global demand for business and math programs.
We are also proud that Conestoga College has a campus here. Almost half of the regional population has participated in training and education activities at Ontario’s leading college. I certainly have fond memories of my days at Conestoga.
Turning to our research institutes, we’re home to the Balsillie School for International Affairs, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Perimeter Institute and, most recently, the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Institute for Quantum Computing and Nanotechnology, among others.
When the Perimeter Institute was founded by Mike Lazaridis in 1999, not much was known about theoretical physics. Year after year, however, we have seen the quality of its research rise. This was illustrated in a recent study that showed Canada ranked first in citation impact in physics among G8 countries in 2010; without Perimeter Institute, it would have ranked fourth.
Stephen Hawking, as you know, is one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists in history. He is also the Perimeter Institute’s distinguished visiting research chair, so I believe him when he says that the “Perimeter Institute is now one of the world’s leading centres in theoretical physics, if not the leading centre.” The scientific research and breakthroughs coming out of this facility will undoubtedly change the way we view the world – science so powerful that we may once again be thrust into the global spotlight as Quantum Valley.
And speaking of Quantum Valley, I am delighted by the announcement this week that BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin recently launched the Quantum Valley Fund. This is a $100-million private fund to advance the development of breakthroughs in quantum information science. This investment will create new industries focused on science and solidify our reputation as a world-class centre for quantum computing.
Quantum computing, ladies and gentlemen, is no longer a dream, but a reality that is going to pay significant dividends to this community in the near future. The contributions Mike Lazaridis has made to both of these research institutes will transform Waterloo and the world.
We are finance
Finance also plays a key role in our economy, with several major players in the insurance and financial services industries located within our borders.
The revitalization and success of our uptown core is due in large part to major financial institutions setting up offices there – they recognize the stability and strength of our city.
Insurance giants like Manulife Financial, Sun Life Financial, Equitable Life of Canada and Economical Insurance also have offices in Waterloo. Together, they employ about 7,500 people in our community and have contributed to our moniker, the “Hartford of the North.”
Over the years these insurance companies have developed strong communitypartnerships to enhance our quality of life. Sun Life Financial has sponsored the Waterloo Busker Carnival for many years. Meanwhile, Manulife Financial sponsors the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic at Grey Silo Golf Course and is the namesake for the Manulife Financial Sportsplex and Healthy Living Centre at RIM Park.
Speaking of the LPGA, last year’s inaugural event truly shone an international spotlight on our city. About 66,000 people came out to watch the event, which generated $20 million in revenue for our local economy.
This year, the event will run from July 10 to 14 and tickets are on sale now at www.manulifeclassic.ca. I’d like to thank the organizing committee for its generous donation of two any-day passes that we will give as a door prize later this morning.
We are manufacturing
We have an extensive manufacturing background dating to the early 1800s. Food production was the mainstay for our founding Mennonite fathers and while we still see glimpses of our heritage at local markets, we have come a long way with companies like Piller’s, Martin’s Family Fruit Farm and others leading the charge.
Everybody knows about the Toyota plant in Cambridge, but have you heard about our city’s contribution to the auto industry? The Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research at UW is one of Canada’s premier automotive research centres and serves the broader regional and global economy.
And let’s not forget BlackBerry. One of its manufacturing facilities is on Philip Street, right here in Waterloo.
A great support to the manufacturing industry is the MIN, the Waterloo Region Manufacturing Innovation Network. This online resource facilitates collaboration and helps businesses self-promote and connect with other local suppliers instead of searching the world over for raw materials and services.
Manufacturing is alive and well in our city and we will continue to support this industry to remain competitive nationally and internationally.
We are opportunities
Now to opportunities … and there are many in Waterloo.
Land development is booming in our city – look to the skyline and you’ll see construction cranes in just about every direction. We currently have 10 cranes in operation and our building permit value is strong with about $387 million in construction value generated in 2012. Council recently approved a phase-in of the development charges increase over a three-year period to ensure we keep this vital growth in our community.
Other steps we are taking to stimulate fiscal growth include the creation of an economic development reserve and a recently approved tax increment grant that will encourage the redevelopment and intensification of underutilized lands and buildings around the city.
You may have read about the development of the former NCR lands at Northfield and Weber. This exciting multi-million-dollar project will see office space, a data centre, restaurants and maybe a hotel. It also has the potential to create about 4,500 jobs.
Development opportunities like this contribute to our historically low unemployment rate. In 2012, Waterloo Region’s unemployment rate was 6.6 per cent compared to the provincial average of 7.8 per cent, and we currently have more than 1,000 open tech positions.
Something near and dear to my heart is the work we are doing to attract medical professionals. The Boardwalk on Ira Needles includes a state-of-the-art medical facility that will open this fall. And the Schlegel Learning Research Innovation Centre will be built next year on UW’s north campus. This long-term care and research facility will help our city and the province prepare for and support our aging population.
We are culture
Culture is the heartbeat of our community. And we acknowledge the importance of cultural development – that’s why we’re working on a plan to guide us in this field for years to come.
Our uptown is an urban escape with the public square at its core. The square is a vibrant gathering space for the community to host and participate in high caliber events and festivals. Cultural institutions such as the Clay & Glass and the WaterlooCommunity Arts Centre bring the arts together, while the stories of our heritage are captured at the City of Waterloo Museum.
And now we can boast about the Creative Enterprise Initiative Studio, which acts like an Accelerator Centre for the arts, offering discounted studio space and support for arts entrepreneurs.
I’m always amazed at how many sporting events take place in this city. For starters, the 2013 Ontario Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s provincial curling championship was held at the Granite Club in January. This year, RIM Park will host several first-class events including competitions and provincial championships in volleyball, speed skating, ringette, basketball and figure skating.
A favourite destination for our residents is Waterloo Park. Thanks to a federal government grant, this jewel of our city will undergo upgrades in the near future. And then there’s the Stork Family YMCA and the John M. Harper branch library. This facility has brought these important services closer to our west-side residents, making it easier for them to access recreational opportunities and the library.
Certainly an important component of our culture is our focus on fostering healthy and safe neighbourhoods. At a municipal level, we provide such quality services as clean drinking water, snow removal and fire protection, while aiming to grow more inclusively. Our city remains among the safest in Ontario and we will continue to work with community partners to build and maintain strong, safe neighbourhoods.
We truly enjoy a vibrant lifestyle - people move here and stay here for a reason!
We are forward thinking
Waterloo is a destination of choice for thousands of people. I truly believe our residents, students, city staff, councillors, businesses and volunteers all contribute to this success. But we can’t rest on our laurels; we must always think about the future and how we can overcome challenges. And there will be challenges.
The Region of Waterloo estimates our city’s population will exceed 150,000 in 2031. This growth will demand a shift towards intensified development, more sustainable methods of transportation and infrastructure upgrades.
These challenges are not unique to us – they are faced by other municipalities across Ontario. That’s why we’re actively planning and laying the groundwork to address this deficit. For starters, we have created a cross-functional team to identify the needs of our city as well as funding requirements. We surveyed residents about our road and facility conditions to understand your feelings about the level of service we provide and how our funding is allocated. We are also committed to building our reserves so we can fund unexpected emergencies.
Right now our infrastructure needs are estimated at $250 million. This figure may sound high, but it’s realistic when you consider the resources needed to provide clean drinking water, working sanitation systems, safe roads and building infrastructure.
Intensification is a reality for us simply because we are growing out to our borders, which impacts how we live. The BarrelYards at Father David Bauer Drive and the condo development at Park and Allen streets provide urban lifestyles that will alleviate some of the stress on our borders while contributing to the vibrancy of our uptown. But this type of rapid development can put a strain on our infrastructure. The Laurel trunk sewer, for instance, is already at capacity. We are upgrading it to accommodate population growth and to mitigate any potential flooding problems in these areas.
Guiding us along the way is our official plan. This document was approved by council in 2012 and helps us maintain our quality of life in a manner that balances the needs of residents with our ability to provide quality service. Collaboration is key to solving the practical challenges of growth and we look forward to moving ahead in the direction established by our community through council.
We also are making strides to improve local transportation. The light rail transit project is getting underway and we will work very closely with the region to carefully monitor the changes in traffic patterns and impacts on local streets.
And we’re striving to meet the needs of our avid cycling population. Since we won the silver Bicycle Friendly Communities Award in 2011, we have made significant progress to our local transportation corridors. Cyclists enjoy 130 kilometres of trails, 50 kilometres of on-road bike lanes and our first ever “complete street.”
The challenges we face didn’t develop overnight, and they certainly won’t be solved tomorrow. But we will continue to review our funding options and explore opportunities for creative solutions. And in my opinion, finding creative solutions is one of our specialties.
Top of mind is our neighbourhood matching fund. This creative program is back for a second year in a row because it truly makes a difference at a grassroots level. The advantages are two-fold – it allows citizens to take ownership of projects that ultimately benefit the city and it allows us to increase capacity and solidify community relationships.
Then, last year we were awarded the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant. This threeyear $50-million competitive grant program is IBM’s single largest philanthropic
initiative. We were one of 31 cities around the world, and one of only two communities in Canada, to receive this prestigious award, which will allow IBM’s experts to provide recommendations for an action plan to rehabilitate and reinvigorate the Northdale neighbourhood.
Supporting all members of this community is important. That’s why I’m pleased we are working on an older adult recreation strategy to meet the needs of our aging baby boomer population. This strategy will complement the work we do as an Age Friendly City – a prestigious designation awarded to only four cities in Canada and 42 in the world. I am so proud Waterloo is among this celebrated group.
Going forward, we will continue to make tough choices on spending. Our tax increases are among the lowest compared to our neighbouring municipalities, increasing only 1.6 per cent in 2012 and 2013 combined, after taking the stormwater phase-in to a user fee system into account.
As a municipality we are in the service delivery business and we recognize that employee costs make up a large component of our operating budget. Our goal remains ensuring balanced agreements that respect the needs of our employees, as well as you, the taxpayer, whom we ultimately are all here to serve.
It is also important to note that our municipal debt load has been on a steady decline for the past three years. In 2010, our debt stood at $78 million; in 2011 it decreased to $70 million; and at the end of last year, it was $63 million. This decline is due in part to the tenacity and smart choices this council and our city staff make every day, as well as our dedication to living within our means. The challenge, however, lies in maintaining our quality of life and preparing for the future. Positioning our city for further intensified growth depends heavily on adequate infrastructure and a superior lifestyle. We will continue to maintain modest tax rates that are fair and provide services at the level you have come to expect. We will also continue to place an emphasis on transparency -- there is more financial information on our website than ever before.
Globalization makes it more important than ever to maintain and enhance our quality of life so we are an attractive place for foreign investment, startups and a place where families are comfortable planting roots and building a future.
We are well positioned for the future
So what does the future have in store for us? As mayor, I am taking steps to ensure Waterloo remains a desirable community from an international perspective – that’s why I have traveled to China and India to promote our competitive advantages. Companies there have expressed interest in our food and water expertise and technology, our innovation ecosystem and our reputation for software and academia. I am working closely with our friends at CTT to follow up on several promising leads and to secure a business relationship and future investments from these countries.
Our relationship with China is stronger than ever. In July 2012 I became the first mayor in Canada to blog on China’s popular Weibo site. We now have over 21,000 followers, many of whom have inquired about education and development opportunities here.
Closer to home, our new website is just over two months old and continues to draw many positive reviews. One of the most successful aspects of this project was our commitment to public engagement. We listened to our residents and created a website that puts the information and online services they need right at their fingertips.
Speaking of online services, have you heard about PingStreet? If you haven’t already, download this app on your BlackBerry device. We developed PingStreet with eSolutions and BlackBerry to provide residents with real-time access to everything from garbage days, to reporting a problem, to contacting elected officials and more. PingStreet is the only complete municipal app of its kind and I am delighted that we played a role in its development.
As I was putting the finishing touches on my speech, it really hit me that we all play an important role in making Waterloo the great city it has become – each and every one of us. It is a city with a treasured past, a dynamic present and a bright future. It is a city that future mayors will be well positioned to lead because of its strong foundation and strategic plans for the future.
When Josh grows up and becomes mayor, he will lead a city that fosters home-grown solutions; that has a diversified local economy; that is an intelligent community built on technology, knowledge and education, finance, manufacturing, opportunities and culture.
When Josh becomes mayor, he will govern with passion and a proud heart because he will be leading the great City of Waterloo. I know this from experience.
Thank you for joining me today.
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