Thunder Bay Development Charge Proposal

The City of Thunder Bay is currently in a position where it is struggling to generate enough revenue and provide the services that the residents desire from it. As with many other Canadian cities; Thunder Bay is currently struggling with a significant infrastructure deficit; which compounds the backlog of projects annually. The heavy industrial industrial tax base has been reassessed to much lower levels and significant strain is being placed on the residences to make up the difference. These challenges are made worse by poor urban planning in the past which promoted urban sprawl; the de-urbanization of the core and the belief that the car/cheap gas would power society through the next 100 years. Merriam-Webster calls urban sprawl: “the spreading of urban developments (such as houses and shopping centers) on undeveloped land near a city.” The financial mistake we now call urban sprawl was covered by growing industrial and commercial taxes which allowed for residential taxes to be artificially kept low. As these have tax pillars slowly have been eroded we have seen this burden placed on residential housing to cover the cost. In conjunction with an aging and declining population the City of Thunder Bay faces a significant revenue issue; it simply does not pull in enough money in order to fully fund its costs. Projects, programs and debt are deferred to further years which increases the costs and adds to the backlog of items needing work. One area in which traditionally the residential tax base has seen growth is to allow for single detached homes to be built in the undeveloped areas as a means of bringing in additional money. Areas such as Neebing, McIntrye and Northwood (all 3 in certain instances) are a semi-rural where large numbers of city services are provided with little substance to add to the tax base. Every resident in Thunder Bay can attest to how certain areas have been built for new housing on what was once swamp, forest and bush; all natural remedies for storm protection and animal habitat. This development has been promoted because often the repair costs for the roads, sewage, etc come up at a 20-25 year period. Long after the presiding council is gone and passed onto a younger generation of resident. Unfortunately we see that this though process is actually a drain on city coffers as the farther the development is allowed to go the more costly services like fire, EMS, garbage become.

As seen in this photo there is significant cost associated with building and providing homes on the edge of our communities. The only people who get rich off of homes in the suburbs are the developers who push these developments and promote their ‘positives’. As the City of Thunder Bay looks to find ways to bring in new income I propose a development tax on the construction of new homes and buildings within the community. This development tax would not apply to additions to buildings or repairs/renovations of existing units. The City of Toronto is one example of a community that uses a blanket development tax and uses that income for programs including the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Public Libraries, food programs, etc. In 2013, Toronto considered raising their development charges which they expected would bring in an addition $3 billion dollars in 10 years. This would be in addition to the existing income that the city receives from the development tax. These taxes have been used by communities such as Mississauga to artificially keep taxes low or in Toronto’s case help to shift the load off tax payers for these projects. The issue I have with this program is that it provides the same blanket to the downtown cores as it does the suburban areas which does not help to continue the process of infill and density growth. Had Toronto not had areas like the Financial district to draw people to live in downtown Toronto they may have had issues of making a program like this work. In my mind for Thunder Bay I would like to see a development charge based on distance which would help to actually cover the costs of building on the fringe for the city but also make it more challenging for companies to continue the urban sprawl.

Please forgive the poor paint job but this would be a representative idea of what the plan would look like. Based on the two cores the city would be broken into rings where the farther from the core the more it costs you to build. This fee would be a percentage of the cost of the construction and would also result in lower scores for staff members time meaning it would take you longer to get an inspection done and approvals. In order to further promote development in the established areas the city would provide a subsidy in the red areas which would reduce the cost of building in these areas which would lead to urban renewal and density. This plan would be directed to low level residential and commercial spaces but with medium to higher density the rings would be further out. More dense construction or mixed-unit construction would receive top priority from the city and be in line for higher percentages off which would allow for this type of development to be promoted.

The red ring in this instance would lead to a 5% off the cost of building a unit; priority sequence for staff attention and approvals. For a developer working on a unit that costs $100,000 this works out to a rebate of $5,000. These costs would be covered by the fees paid by developers in other areas; as to avoid further challenges to the city’s coffers. If a program like this only bring in a small amount of money or is cost neutral how is it beneficial to the city? In discussions with a developer looking to build a 8 unit home by the Safeway on Dawson road; Councilor Shelby Ch’ng asked the taxation income of this unit compared to a single unit residential on the property. Administration representatives told her that the new home would bring in approx. $16,000 annually compared to the current $2,500 being brought in. If this program can lead to density growth for the city that means large income for the cities coffers. Increased levels of density also helps to benefit other systems and programs as well. Transit ridership increases; use of services like libraries, schools etc increases and these areas become hotbed for development of private industry.

The orange ring would have no development fee associated with the area and would have a regular priority for the city’s departments. Green would have a 5% fee associated with the charge meaning a $100,000 development now brings in the city $5,000 for the unit; it would also have a regular priority for city department needs. The further away would lead to increased cost for any developer with blue being 10%, purple 15% both of these would have a lower priority for city staff and could be jumped by developments closer to the core even if they were submitted later. The areas not surrounded by a ring which would affect mainly the McIntrye Ward and Needing would face a 25% fee and the lowest level of support from the city. These wards continue to cost the city thousands of dollars which are not recouped even with lower levels of services and higher tax rates. The promotion of a semi-rural lifestyle with the amenities of the city but away from the city itself is unsustainable. Even if services like sewers or water aren’t provided we see increased costs in these areas especially from services like emergency services which are required to provide 24/7 coverage. In certain instances it also requires additional infrastructure to protect these areas; once such area is Fire. The Fire department has a fire hall specifically for Neebing because it typically lies outside of its 6 minute target radius. A fire unit alone can cost up to one million dollars and the cost of staffing outweigh almost all income form this area.

Another example: The city is spending $250,000 a year to chip seal dirt roads in McIntyre due to complaints about dust from residents. Council approved in 2015 an addition to a residential development in Neebing. The addition if taxed at $7,000 a year was only expected to bring in $125,000 annually which means that urban areas are now forced to subsidize the rural areas because they are not self-supportive. Another example: The City of Thunder Bay is expected to spend $5 million dollars on phase 3 of the Golf Links expansion much of which is to support growth in suburban areas and flow in and out of the city. This cost is born by the city to help support suburban desires which rotting out the core of the community.

Thunder Bay has this negative idea that density and high rises are means of poverty and lower income. That only the white picket fence can show the true income of the homeowner and those who live there. This connotation is coming from the American dream and the community wanting to relive the glory days. Without significant change in the way the city does business it will build itself so far out that it cannot afford even the basic services. It will take political will but I hope that the people who are running in 2018 see the danger that a city the same size of Montreal with a declining and aging population is facing.

References:

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/urban%20sprawl

Looking to City of Thunder Bay Budget 2017

2016 has quickly come and gone and it is time for the City of Thunder Bay departments to bring together their wants/needs/deferrals and dust off the projects that got put on the shelf a long time ago. As Thunder Bay departments look to the future I think its necessary that those on City council take a step back from the political posturing (Councillor Verdiramo) and really try to deal with Thunder Bay’s realities. Council last year deferred projects and items that will come back to make this years budget process even harder. The decisions that we make today are going to effect us going forward. We need to make the right decisions in order to truly create the city that people will want to live in and move to. Some of the items below aren’t going to be directly related to budgetary concerns but as the minds of Thunder Bays departments come together it could lead to policies that improve and help to direct the city going forward.

Policies:

  1. Density Targets – The Province of Ontario is setting new and increasingly dense targets for communities in Central and Southern Ontario to address the concerns of urban sprawl, transit and more. While Thunder Bay isn’t a part of this new plan its time that Thunder Bay adopted these guidelines and policies to help create the density it needs. Thunder Bay has a density of 330.1 people per square kilometer which is incredibly low for a community of this size. It means that our services are stretched longer and cost more and that the people that live in the community are less healthy. Adding to our density will work towards helping improve the life of our community and stretch our dollar further.
  2. Humanity and Clean&Green – As Thunder Bay moves forward and plans/builds new facilities I believe that it is time to provide a safe space for everyone. We continue to see groups of marginalized people like those of the LGBQT community face daily challenges. As a small means of solidarity; I would like to see the City of Thunder Bay develop a policy that includes gender neutral bathrooms in the design as a mandatory component for city buildings. Additionally I would like to see the city establish electric power stations at its new facilities to help facilitate the expansion of electric vehicles within the community.
  3. Green Buildings/vehicles – Many of the City of Thunder Bay’s facilities are older and are built for a time before climate change. Its time to look at creating a plan to reduce the footprint the City of Thunder Bay has and creating modern, efficient buildings that cost the city less and produce less harmful effects for the environment. The city of Thunder Bay as an entity created 30,078 tonnes eC02 and used 4.280 million litres of fuel throughout 2015. As we look forward we need to consider the types of vehicles and units we use; if there are legitimate environmentally friendly options for the city to use instead. Every penny that fuel costs rise cost transit $44,000 and with the projected costs only to go up we need to make these decisions now.
  4. Investing in Technology – Technology has become an important part of how we as a society function and operate. There are always new and emerging ways to make the job easier, quicker and reduce the negative effects on individuals bodies. Thunder Bay Police Service is one institution that could easily benefit from additional technology. Many officers are still stuck writing tickets by hand and stuck for extended periods of time writing multiple copies. Cruisers are small but they can be adapted to work for the officers benefit. Printers that double as a head rest are just one example. Instead of taking 45 minutes to write 3 copies of the same paperwork it could be done once on a computer and have the officer onto the next call in significantly less time.
  5. Modern Parking lot Codes – Thunder Bay is obsessed with parking and the opportunity to park as close to the establishment as possible. This is not only unhealthy for the user as it promotes a lazy lifestyle but for the environment as well. The modern parking lot acts as reflective shield bringing large amounts of water to the storm sewers and catch basins. Whereas green space would catch this or a portion of the water the asphalt deflects it. Requiring those who plan to develop parking lots or fix established ones in Thunder Bay to change how they create this space. If a business wanted to create a 200 stall lot under the old standard they would see this happen but if we introduced new rules it could develop more greenspace. Requiring 20-20% of land to be used as green space for shrubs, grass, trees etc would reduce water flow to city sewers and provide green spaces within the community.

Budgetary concerns:

  1. Printing Office – One has wonder if Thunder Bay needs to own and operate its own printing unit. Can things be done by the private sector for less cost? do we need to be printing as much as the city does? While I don’t want to see people lose their positions or their income one has to ask if there is a need for this under the city umbrella
  2. Staffing – Without knowing the direct operations of the City of Thunder Bay its hard for me to truly provide either a criticism or a positive on this topic but for many companies staffing amounts for 90% of their operational costs. This leaves little for other items and can handcuff corporations now and into the future. Conducting a review whether it is necessary to cut or add positions has to be a necessary evil. A review starting from the top and working down is just one step.
  3. Infrastructure upgrades benefiting urban sprawl – in 2018 the city has 750,000 projected for the NW Arterial route for property acquisition. Then additionally a projected cost somewhere in the tune of $20 million for the road itself. This infrastructure project only benefits those who live in the fringe of the community and make it easier for their suburban lifestyle. This project should be scrapped and the money reallocated for other infrastructure projects. Additionally as the expansion of road projects gets further from the cores we should start to consider additional factors like does it support urban sprawl, could transit/multi-use better suit the space etc.
  4. Development fee – Building in Thunder Bay continues to expand on the fringes of our community. A recent decision by council to increase the size of Neebing ward by 120 units means additional cost beyond revenue for the city. Its time to require development in the fringes to pay for their cost. I propose a distance based fee with the 2 downtown cores as the anchors. As the development gets x distance from the core the cost to develop increases. While developing in the core itself could net the developer a rebate on their building costs; building in Neebing or Mcintrye could cost someone 15-20% of their development costs through a fee which could be put towards infrastructure.
  5. EIRP – Simple enough, it needs to continue and potentially expand to work with Confederation College and Lakehead University to address some of their costs. Both institutions bring in youth and huge sums of money into the community. Making them more profitable and their image better only serves to benefit the community today and tomorrow.
  6. Proper Funding – Its hard to come to the community and say its going to be this percentage or this percentage. Its much simpler to let the department heads deffer projects because of variance issues at the end of the day. Its time to forgo this practice and properly fund the departments and stop dealing with the fires of variances as they arrive. Thunder Bay Police Service Chief J.P. Levesque continues to come to council with the budget they require and then council cuts it. At the end of the day we end up in the same place. When I budget I do so for my expenses and then a contingency for those issues that arise and the City of Thunder Bay should too.

 

References:

http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=3558004&Geo2=CSD&Code2=3543042&Data=Count&SearchText=barrie&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&Custom=&TABID=1

http://www.thunderbay.ca/Assets/Strategic+Plan+2015/docs/Implementation+Plan.pdf

http://www.thunderbay.ca/Assets/City+Government/Finance+$!26+Budgets/docs/Budget+2016/2016_TAX_CAP_I$!26O.pdf

 

Explaining snow days to Thunder Bay students

I remember in first year that the Lakehead University campus had 2 snow days back to back at the beginning of the school year. It was joyful for the Orillia students but seemed to irk the Thunder Bay students that they weren’t getting days off. Students were making comments about the inability of southern Ontario drivers to deal with a Canadian winter. I totally understand where students are coming from and have personally seen both Thunder Bay and Central Ontario drivers not comprehend driving in the snow. There is one major difference though for students at the Thunder Bay campus to know about the campus down here though and why we may get more snow days.

In Thunder Bay the campus and a majority of its students are in Thunder Bay. There isn’t much driving required for Thunder Bay students to get to the campus and those that make the trip from out of town are smaller portion of student. Which means less reason to shut down the school if only 10-20% of class is commuting. Here in Orillia that statistic is much different. A significant majority of the student population commutes from outside of Orillia to the campus. The best example would be taking the Thunder Bay campus and placing it in Murillo or Lappe and expecting students to drive there during dangerous weather conditions. Large portions of students drive in from the surrounding communities and from Barrie which is the hub of Simcoe County. Highway 11 from Barrie to Orillia is 35 km one way and lined with farmland meaning squalls and whiteout conditions are common. Traffic is also much heavier leading less room for mistakes and more accidents to deal with. The geographical location means a significant portion of the class will be unable or unwilling to attend class due to the weather. Central Ontario also deals with snow drifts like I have never seen before, they are much more common than Northwestern Ontario and more severe. Add in a less comprehensive transit system and the location of school being a primarily car oriented design it doesn’t leave much room when the weather is dangerous.

As Lakehead Orillia deals with another snow day sit down and think if the campus was in Lappe would you take the time to drive there in blowing snow and squalls?

City of Thunder Bay Budget 2016 – Wants/Wait and Toss

Editors Note: Updated on 01/24/2016 to make some changes, grammar/spelling and introduce some more lines of content to add clarification

Want:

EIRP Program reinstatement

– The EIRP program was introduced in order to reduce the amount of infrastructure deficit that the City had under its belt. Every city has a deficit and many have followed Thunder Bay’s lead in reducing this through a designated tax allotment of between 1 – 1.5%. We have seen much progress towards reducing the infrastructure deficit with the Thunder Bay plan. We saw the negatives associated with it last year when council and administration decided to defer the program. Road projects were delayed, scrapped or seen their scope reduced in size. I want this program to return and start to invest in the Infrastructure that the City of Thunder Bay needs. Many projects have been put off for years and we need to see them finished; every year delays means a huge increase in the cost in the next year. I would like to see a change where the program focuses on more complete projects for example: when your ripping up a road your changing the sewers, storm sewers, internet lines, roadbed, sidewalks, beautification and then the resurfacing. These total projects get the most amount for the money when we look at these projects. It also avoids the issue of ripping up roads only to redo it a couple years later for sewer or water issues.

Transit Operational funds/pilot project/transit land use

– Transit is one the of the best ways to get more for your infrastructure dollar and help to improve the environment. Thunder Bay is a very large city with very low density which means that it takes more money to provide a reliable service to Thunder Bay transit users. I would like to see more money allocated to Thunder Bay transit in order to help make the system run better and improve the way it operates. A more reliable services means more people will use it and create a cycle of use.
– Transit A) Thunder Bay transit uses a lot of fuel and per person it takes on average 6 people on the bus in order for it to be environmentally neutral. Thunder Bay also has very high cost associated with fuel which means that City of Thunder Bay operations can be negatively impacted quite heavily by rate hikes. Thunder Bay transit alone spends $44,000 for every penny that the cost of a litre of diesel goes up which steals money from the service as a whole. I would like to see Thunder Bay Transit run a pilot project on electric buses in order to reduce this cost. While they have a higher initial price cost the savings in the end in diesel will more than make up for the cost.
– Transit C) Thunder Bay has a very low density meaning that it has to stretch farther and work harder to get people to ride these service. Working with the planning department the City should work to create reduced tax zones around transit routes which would be available for high ride, medium rise and higher density buildings. These people would be more likely to take transit and would increase the ridership numbers for Thunder Bay. It would also increase city density and reduce the cost to the city’s infrastructure.

Sports Assets

– The City of Thunder Bay needs to commission a report on how it can be improving, replace or eliminate some of its venues like baseball diamonds, arenas and other sporting venues it operates. Many of the rinks for example are built to 1960’s standards, standalone facilities, are extremely cost ineffective and don’t meet the needs of their users. Grandview and Neebing arena are too small, costly and don’t meet the needs of its users. A 2006 report on city venues recommended these 2 for closure and replacement as they were costing the city almost $1 million dollars between the 2 of them. We need to see venues are that are more flexible to the needs of the residents, meet accessibility needs and work with city growth into future. Looking to other cities like Orillia where their venues are multipurpose. The rotary club has 2 sheets of ice, space for a resturaunt and other related shops but it also has attached on the land other sporting facilities to act as a draw. If the ice is down then the sports field bring in people to keep the facility active and full of life.

Consumption Tax:

– We have all hear people say “I don’t use that facility why should my taxes go up in order to pay for that service” etc. etc. They are in some means right why should they pay the full cost of a service which they neither use or benefit from. Someone out in McIntrye doesn’t likely benefit from an improvement to a ball diamond in Westfort and someone in Neebing doesn’t benefit from a rink improvement in Grandview. I believe that the people who get the most benefit out of a venue or an asset that the city owns should pay for it repair and operations. While there is the cost to rent the venue it doesn’t pay for it annual costs. I believe that the city should implement consumption tax to help with repairs. For example, a rink rental is roughly $200, we would reduce this price by 5% on the operational side of the budget. This would leave the cost to rent ice at $190 and if we were to use the consumption tax of 15% this would bring it to $218.5 of which $28.5 would be directly saved for that venue. The cost would bring down revenues to the operational city budget but reduce the capital city budget by 10% more than loss of revenues. Which would be a positive for the city budget to reduce capital costs. This concept of adding money to these specific venues will reduce the capital cost at these specific venues and they would free up money for other venues that maybe are not as often used. If the city rink runs 6 am – 11:59 pm which is 18 hours a day and the rate of $28.5 I saved up per hour. After a day of use the consumption tax has added $513 ($28.5 x 18) and a month they add $15,390 ($513 x 30). Which means every 2 months they make enough money to purchase a new scoreboard and the $185,000 a year the tax generates for the venue goes into much needed repairs and upgrades.

Electric power:

– The City of Thunder Bay through Thunder Bay Hydro have invested a lot of money into solar power production. Yet, the city itself still relies on traditional gas/diesel engines to power its fleet of vehicles. Not every vehicle needs to be electric but it would be a good investment for the city too look at green vehicles and introducing them to the fleet. Introducing charging stations in parkades, city sites, parks and other items to increase their use by the public. The money saved through electric vehicles reduced non-renewable energy resource consumption would be huge and provide the savings necessary for the city to reinvest in other items. Many charging stations have a small cost associated with their use and this can lead to revenue for these items but it also allows people who may be considering green vehicles more peace of mind when it comes to the purchase of environmentally friendly vehicles.

By law Enforcement Officers:

– If you knew that come 4:30 pm Monday to Friday, you wouldn’t get a ticket for parking illegally; would you pay? Most people likely wouldn’t and most likely don’t. We need additional parking enforcement and bylaw enforcement to make sure that the city is getting as much revenue as it can from these infractions and fines. It’s not acceptable to have the city unregulated come a certain time because you don’t want to pay people to do a job. The revenues from the tickets would be much greater than the cost and would keep people honest. Businesses in the downtown cores rely on available parking for customers and we cannot have people sitting for hours in specific spots. We also need more bylaw enforcement officers to reduce the amount of time police are spending with silly items like noise complaints, parking, clutter and more. A bylaw officer is paid less than an average police officer and they are better suited to be dealing with these issues. Additional bylaw enforcement officers means more revenue, you free up police officers reducing OT and provide a better service to the city. On that note the city ticket office also needs to stop being so lenient when it comes to traffic tickets and who pays/doesn’t. More often than not tickets were reduced or eliminated by people working the ticket booth. Accidents happen where it is the mistake of the ticket writer, clerical errors and more. We need to hold people accountable for their actions; what’s the point of writing tickets if they get ripped up. If $1000 worth of tickets walks out the door every day because you’re being nice that works out to $365,000 annually. Its unacceptable to be paying people to do a job and not benefit from the proceeds of these tickets. These funds could be used to pay for new services or maintain the ones we have.

Wait:

Road Expansion:

The City of Thunder Bay is a very vast and large landscape meaning the cost of delivering service, infrastructure renewal and more is greater. One item that has come to mind is how the City has been so prudent on expanding exterior roads making it easier for suburban drivers to get around. The people who want the joys of the city life but also the joys of living rural. We cannot afford to continue these policies of expansion outwards and providing additional vehicle capacity on rural roads. Valley road is just one example of a suburban road that was expanded to meet capacity which is helping to promote suburban living. The additional road use is coming from people who are living in newly developed residential out on the edges. This is neither beneficial environmentally, tax wise or smart city planning. We need to do better than this and build our city up rather than out. Urban density and renewal allows us to build on the existing infrastructure that we have and bring in additional revenue. I applaud the city for allowing in late 2015 a project to advance that would eliminate a single house and replace it with a much larger house on the site. The difference in tax revenue is around $15,000 and only benefits the city as it sits on existing infrastructure.

Urban-Suburban costs

Residential Development in the burbs:

– While there may not be large chunks of land in Thunder Bay established that can handle new subdivisions we need to be doing a better job to reduce the amount we are allowing expansion into forested and swampland. Northwood is one example of city planning gone bad, we continue to develop into a swampland which helps mitigate floods, collects runoff and promotes wildlife. Yet, we wonder why these areas get so badly hit in storms and then also end up spending millions upon millions for flood reduction and mitigation. Smarter city planning is a must. Looking to other cities and planning we need to try and find ways to make higher density structures and planning easier to process and easier to get through the approval process. If that means they are assigned priority or we create incentives for these projects then we need to do that.

Conservatory expansion:
– Recently a story came out that the city put the conservatory on its list of projects for the Canada 150-year birthday fund. I must say that I instantly face palmed at this news, the conservatory use numbers is very limited due to its poor hours, lack of maintenance and general issues. The city recently installed a counter to determine how many people are coming to this site and how well it is being used. That money should be held onto if it is given to the city in order to determine if this facility is something we want to hold onto. If a viable business plan can be brought forward with this new building to market the facility, have it become as revenue neutral as possible and meet more citizens needs then we need to do that. If we can’t then this facility needs to be looked at for the cutting block. Its been years since I have personally been to the conservatory but I must admit its a very beautiful site. We have allowed it to degrade to a point where the costs may be prohibitive to continue and operate it.

Editors Note: I must give credit where it is due. There is a citizens action group that has worked very hard to make this facility a more enjoyable and prosperous place along with a lot of city workers. I commend them for this action.

Assets:

– I would love for the city to keep everything and do everything but unfortunately we can’t so we as a city need to have the discussion on what we can and can’t do. We have assets that we don’t need and we have assets that we cannot afford anymore. We need city hall to look at its assets and make the tough decision to cut items. It will not be politically easy and it will not be clean but we need to make these decisions. I would much rather have the city offer 4 services it does exceptionally well rather than 10 it does mediocre to ok. Items like campground are in my mind not a city service we should be in. That is something that can be offered by the private service and done for a profit. If we can shed some of these items that are on the fringes of city services then we should and reinvest that money in things we are already doing great on.

Lack of Technology use:

– We live in an age where there is so much technology available that we could save the city millions by doing this more effectively. I am no expert at snow plow operations but we have all seen how a sidewalk plow pass and clean off the sidewalks only to have the road plow come an hour later and undo all his good work. Doing a job twice doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t help productivity and burns money. If we were using more effective tracking services, we could know that Section A is done its good for the sidewalk plows to go through and they won’t have to come back to clear it off again. Or Section C is still a work in progress hold off the sidewalk plows till they are able to finish. Crews could be on the road and receive information on storm sewer work or other work that needs to be fixed with the right technology we could have these crews provide up to the minute updates, do their paperwork in their vehicle and then onto the next call without ever having to come to the office. We need to invest and the workers/admin need to get on board with these changes. Instant communication between the boss and the employees on work that is being done. This could then be passed on to citizens and provide a more transparent and open government. The Government of Ontario has started a program to introduce tracking for snow plows so citizens know when and were they are on the roads. We need more opportunities to improve all our city operations by introducing the right technology in the right hands.

Event Center

The Thunder Bay Event Center wasn’t and never has been about a AHL team, tourism or how much money a facility could make. It has been about investing in the community that we call home and taking pride in our city. Thunder Bay currently has an arena that is 60 years old and doesn’t meet the needs of the people today, going forward or 20 years into the future. Councils of past have deferred this conversation until almost at the bitter end (Major renovations required in the 2020 range). Every year we delay we are one year closer to having to spend millions on a facility that can’t accommodate those with physical or mental handicaps. It grows harder for an older population to access and doesn’t meet the desires of an environmentally friendly young generation. Businesses are being left to wait for an answer from the city and the electorate to if they will have their major boost. We are left with a decision to make on whether we need to build this center or not and I believe the answer is yes.

Our city is undergoing a major transition from its resource based roots to a more diverse and stable economy. We seeing the errors of our ways when we decided that building on the fringes was the best option. The mindsets of city leaders, planners and developers are now about centralizing and supporting the things we already have. The city determined through an impartial third party that the city members supported this and that the marina was the best option. It’s the best option because its supported by the surrounding businesses and fits in the city’s plan to upgrade our community. It’s about improving the image of our community, supporting the businesses and community members that make the city tick. Most importantly it’s investing in us, our community and our people. We take pride in the fact that we have the most hockey players per capita but yet our facilities are underfunded, old and falling apart. We complain about the conditions of our infrastructure… well ladies and gentlemen this is a part of that infrastructure and it has been neglected for too long. We need to proceed with the plan for the event center and invest in our community. Our region is small so busloads of people will not come to the facility but the people that come out to support the Lakehead Thunderwolves will continue to come out. The parents who support their kids through hockey seasons and comes to the games will come and fill the seats of the event center.

This plan is not perfect, it will need some revision and the community should be able to provide ideas for this but we cannot let a minority of people express their thoughts louder than those in the majority and perceive them as right. We need to do what is right for our community today, tomorrow and 50 years from now when they look to a new building. People say a lot of things about this plan and how its negatives outweigh its positives. The fact it will lose money or the fact that we won’t ever be able to truly support a professional team. To me this project gets people so amped up because it has that potential to really bring the community together and be that spark that lights a fire under people. It is a major change from the way the city has conducted itself in the past. It challenges the mindset of thousands of people into a new, greener way of thinking. A downtown location is the best option for not only Thunder Bay but for major sports arenas around the world. We have seen Edmonton, Calgary, Minneapolis all look towards their downtown cores as the best option for their redeveloped arenas. We are even seeing Kanata look and see the error of their ways with the development of the Ottawa Senators home arena so far away from town. This project is about more then simply saying we want to have world class hockey here in Thunder Bay.

It’s not about the money, the AHL or a downtown hotel. It’s about the people of this community and giving them the chance to attend a world class building. It’s about investing in ourselves and making ourselves a stronger community and how we represent ourselves to those around us. Our city needs to have that boost where we invest in the recreational facilities that we as a community enjoy. This is about improving the quality of life that we expect to have in our city. The money issue can be figured out as well as the parking but I believe that this is truly about us as a city.

Lets build it Thunder Bay.

Proposed Changes: Westridge Bus Route

The longer I stay in a community the more I challenge myself to come up with new ways for the community to come together and become a better place to live. When I use Orillia transit I have always wondered what the plans are for the future to make sure the transit service services the proper areas for those who want to use it. Western Orillia is undergoing a massive expansion in the number of residents, businesses operating in the area. A large influx of students has moved and continues to move into the area to attend Lakehead University and Georgian College – Orillia. As the area changes the services need to change with the community and this is where my idea comes in. Large numbers of students who live close to Lakehead (within a 20 minute walk) drive to school and the school is currently focused on finding ways to alleviate the pressure from the single commuters. One means of reducing the number of students who drive to school is to make the transit system more attractive to use. Moving the Westridge route to where the new developments are ongoing would help to alleviate the pressures placed on Lakehead. Currently, the bus follows the main road to the school and for students/individuals who are going to live in the new additions to the subdivision there isn’t a great place to go and catch the bus. They’re stuck in between two bus stops and neither are an attractive offering when having to walk in the snow. This lack of viable options means that students are more likely to drive to school and the city misses out on a real opportunity to increase ridership. I figured that it would be a better idea to bring the bus to them in order to get them to their destination in a environmentally friendly way.

Westridge Change

Above in red is my proposed changes to the Westridge route that would take students to the university. I purposed these changes based on the positive impact that the transit system more effectively servicing this area would do. Isabelle street alone in undergoing a massive influx of new residents that would be perfectly served by this addition. 5 new town home units are being built which should add another 100-120 residents to this street alone. This road is also connected to 3 massive clearing where developers are preparing to start construction on 3 new sections of the subdivision. Large numbers of people could be served perfectly by this change in the bus route which would increase transit ridership and decrease the parking issues at Lakehead campus. Adding the stops in the subdivision would give people a closer spot to gather for the bus and would better service the subdivision construction further away from the main road. It would add additional time to the route which would need to be accommodated for all route in order to continue running the service on time. Additions to the other routes could also likely be found which would help to service more people to and from these areas.

In future, council would need to look at servicing rotary place and servicing the new Costco that is going to be developed along this route. The proposed changes made here are just one step in helping to expand the active transportation offerings that Orillia has and reduce the greenhouses gases put out by the city and its residents. With how fast the community is changing it might be time today to look at changing the transit system to meet the growing needs of the community and its residents.