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

 

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Victoriaville: The Future

The City of Thunder Bay is looking for input into what the citizens would like to see happen to this space. Since its inception it has polarized the citizens and for many is the reason that the Fort William side of town has gone into a decline. Much has changed since the days of old and the city itself has changed. The question still remains as to what do we do with the Victoriaville Mall and how do we move forward?

I think we need to take a step back and come to an agreement that no matter what decision we make whether to tear it down or to keep it up; the area will not boom like people seem to predict. Thunder Bay is a much different place then when the mall was created and we as a society have changed as well. This idea that if we tear it down everyone will come rushing back into the area is a fallacy and it just wont happen. Fort William downtown still struggles with a bad reputation, high crime rates and lack of a real draw. I know personally that if they tear down the Victoriaville Mall; I will still have no draw to go there.

The decision on what to do with this half filled building that has struggled to bring in business and customers is an extremely challenging one. On one hand if we keep the building as such then we run deficits and spend millions for repairs to a facility we may not need. Yet, if we tear it down the question becomes the next steps for the space, the people who lose their businesses and employment. The larger picture must also be considered in this decision. The decision to invest millions in the waterfront redevelopment was not done on its own; it was done with the implications it would help the surrounding area and the investment would incite other investment.

The City of Thunder Bay needs to look to a much larger plan then simply the space that Victoriaville occupies and create a plan to bring life into this area again. This means dealing with issues such as public intoxication, businesses supporting potentially illegal or antisocial actions and beautifying the area. We have a gentlemen in Mr. Habib who has taken the time to present his vision for the area in order to bring life back to this part of town. It is going to take a vision on a grander scale to address the issues facing this part of town and it is a multifaceted one. Looking to modern urban design principles, the realities of the city and its population along with a multitude of potential tax policies will be important.

The City of Thunder Bay cannot take this on their own and they need to introduce private partners to the plan. Residential development or having people live in the area is an important part of improving the area and bringing in other investments. Council can work with developers to create multi use facilities that build on each others success. There are a number of buildings that can be torn down to introduce these new spaces for developers to establish themselves. Toronto is one community that succeeds because they build on each other. Bottoms floors are rented out to things that the community would need like grocery stores, gyms and cafe’s while upstairs are residential areas, the people who work and use these areas. Thunder Bay needs to look to this vision beyond just the Fort William area but specifically for the plan of the Victoriaville Mall how to best create mutli-use facilities.

To the idea of what to do with the Victoriaville mall; I really hope that while the city gets input from the citizens as a whole it places more emphasis on those who work, live, and play in these areas. As someone who hardly uses this area my opinion should have less value then someone who would lose a business, employment or a recreation space due to this decision. I hope that the city looks to a pedestrian facility where people can come, sit and relax while taking in the area. A space for vendors to provide food, meals and allow for a community connection. I hope that the city takes into account aboriginal features as this area does have a larger Aboriginal population.

I guess my thoughts on this topic are that we cannot expect a miracle to happen either way. We need too look beyond this area and make the effective investments that improve life and the users of the space should have more say then those from Neebing, McIntrye or even the north core who haven’t used the space in 30 years.

Mr. Habib vision: http://visitfortwilliam.ca/NeighbourhoodNews/Avisionfordowntown.aspx

Thunder Bay in 40 years

Its hard to truly say what Thunder Bay will look like in 40 years and what we can expect of not only our city but our leadership. It’s likely that city council be more gender equal and we will see more representation of minority groups like First Nations; both of which would be positive advances from where we are today. Yet, there are also concerning factors for Thunder Bay that cannot be ignored and today’s leaders need to start laying the groundwork for. It’s often tough to look beyond that 4 year stretch and make decisions that will have little to no impact on your term in council today but these decisions need to be made none the less. Thunder Bay is continually faced with tough decisions when it comes to budget seasons and the future holds no different. Infrastructure deficits, pressures on emergency services and more all play a big factor in how Thunder Bay functions as a city and how it operates. For Northwestern Ontario and Thunder Bay they face the additional challenge of out migration and economic issues associated with the geography of the territory. As city council struggles today to make ends meet I believe its time that we start to look at what exactly are our core responsibilities as a municipality, how we can improve our city through urban design and how we can address the future challenges.

Thunder Bay stands at 108,359 people according to the 2011 census a decrease of 0.7% over the previous census in 2006. It has a population density of 330.1 per square kilometer and has a median age of 43.3 years old. While I have lived in southern Ontario for the last 3 years, I have seen a lot of similarities between Thunder Bay and Barrie but there are distinct differences between the two in the statistics. Barrie has a population of 135,711 per 2011, an increase of 5.7% over 2006, its population density is 5.3 times higher then Thunder Bay at 1,753.10 and its average age is 37 or 6.3 years younger then Thunder Bay. It’s right to wonder what these numbers mean for both communities but the simplest answer is that Barrie will have a much easier time attracting economic development to its community, supporting that development with services like transit and providing quality of life to its residents. Thunder Bay on the other hand due to its sheer size, its aging and declining population will be forced to make significant cuts to services necessary for its citizens.

If we were to look at the data for population for the City of Thunder Bay it has decreased at a range of roughly 4% between 1996 and 2011. This mean at a population base of 109,000 people the City of Thunder Bay would lose 4,360 people every census. Given that 40 year span and 8 censuses between now and then if the city continued to lose at that rate it would lose 34,880 people or in 2056 be a population center for just under 73,500 people. Factors such as increasing median average age will also play a factor in decreasing populations and the large size of older individuals (65+) in the City of Thunder Bay will also affect the numbers in a negative way. Items such as Aboriginal influx into Thunder Bay will have a positive correlation on this total population as Aboriginal people are one of the fastest growing and youngest demographics in Canada.

For the city to potentially lose 34,000 people would be devastating to the city’s tax base and to the services that rely on them. Many services would either be diminished or drastically cut that they would be a shell of their original self. In a 60 year period Detroit lost 64% of its population and it is suffering from poverty, addictions, crime and corruption and its services have been slashed and burned. To lose almost 30% of your population would be just as drastic and have huge implications to the city and its residents. So the time to act is now to prepare ourselves for the future and make sure our feet are firmly planted going forward. We continue to feel the effects of the Orval Santa’s regime where their 0% tax increases were loved by the populous but are being felt on the roads, parks and under our feet in the sewers. Thunder Bay needs to look for new ways to address these issues and make some tough decisions.

I truly believe that if we want to support the programs we have today that we are going to have to let things go.

Councilor Ch’ng has been an effective fighter for more infrastructure money and we need to see others get on board with this. We cannot let our infrastructure get further behind because every day we do we fight the interest clock and changing values/ideals. Infrastructure investments are beneficial to those surrounding them and they provide an economic boost to the city. Infrastructure like parks, roads, disaster prevention all play an important role in improving the life that citizens of Thunder Bay have come to enjoy. Making smart investments with our infrastructure resources is also an important factor which means reducing the sprawl of Thunder Bay and investing in the cores/established areas. Thunder Bay needs to continue to infill its established lands and build up; it cannot let residence slow down or fight density. Making sure we are investing the proper amount into this field will held to address unknowns like the gas tax refund cities get. What does transit and infrastructure funding look like if the gas tax is gone or severely reduced? If we find a way to pay for these items now we can provide the flexibility for a lot of other items going forward.

That being said there are operations within the city that need to be done by the private industry to get these costs lowered or eliminated from the city’s books. We need to look at centralizing city operations and the number of individuals that we employ with the corporation. Its much tougher given that Thunder Bay is very reliant on the 3 levels of government for a vast majority of its larger employment centers but if the statistics are right we need to make these changes now. If we can find ways to reduce the organization in scope and size starting at the top we can avoid the issues now. We can avoid the nightmare scenario of Detroit where someone comes in and makes the decisions to cut or we have to do it whether we like it or not. Thunder Bay needs to have administration in my eyes sit down and really plan out the future beyond its long term projections and we need to make these decisions matter to the future. Using the seventh generation principle of the Iroquois “applied to relationships – every decision should result in sustainable relationships seven generations in the future.” The decisions council and people make today affect tomorrow and well down the line.

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.

2014 Council Predictions

Mayor: K. Hobbs (I)

– Mayor Keith Hobbs has been very important to the City of Thunder Bay when it comes to a number of difficult topics. Aboriginal relations, infrastructure and the event center. With a growing First Nation population in the city; Keith Hobbs has been at the forefront to attempting to make ammends for past government mistakes and inaction. This has created the foundation of which the City, Fort William First Nation and other First Nations can work together on different issues. Infrastructure has also been a major improvement under this council which has been allowed to falter under others. A 1.5% annually tax increase dedicated strictly to infrastructure has helped to reduce the deficit and the long term costs to the city. The Event Center has also been a important topic for the city and this is one where Mr. Hobbs has taken a stand. I agree with his stance of pro-event center with the declaration of additions funds from provincial and federal governments. While we may need to look at toning down the size of the building, the pro stance sits well with me.

At Large: R. Johnston (I)
Rebecca Johnston has been a powerful voice overshadowed in the need to curtain the spending of council but also spending the money to add culture to our city. While I may not agree with all the decisions made by council to add ‘culture’ to our city this is important to the city’s beauty. Rebecca has also be a strong voice in attempting to cut city services that were once able to be carried by the taxbase but no long can be. In a council with more pro-business and tax conscience minds around her we should see a change in how council operates. I also like her as a mentor to the new young minds on council as someone who can mold and drive these individuals.

B. Streib
Barry Steib has a strong reputation within the local business community and a strong push to do things in the community. A partner in helping to create one of Thunder Bay’s best annual events in the Blues Fest these types of ideas are just what we need. A strong business background will also help get the city’s books in order and make sure that the money we are spending is going back in the best possible options. I also like that he isn’t a council veteran so not tied up into the politics but a man with a lot of experience. He can help to guide the city to a better fiscal position and make sure our financial situation is good going forward.

A. Roberto (I)
Aldo is a firecracker and I like that about his personality. He isn’t afraid to show up to council with his ideas and bring forward new ways of doing business. I like Aldo as a moderate on council which will help to facilitate a council which has a lot of right leaning individuals then we are traditionally used to. Many times before Aldo has brought forward the idea of changing the way the city runs it venues and the number of spaces we have. This is the type of thinking we need to make sure that the fields and arenas are safe for users, efficient and reduce the amount of money the average taxpayer pays.

R. Rikards
Rikards is a strong blue collar worker Councillor who brings the perspective of the middle of society to council. I like his ideas to help rejuvenate the downtown Fort William core and he will help to balance out a council which should be business oriented. His service in the military will help him to lead his ideas through the bureaucracy of council and administration. He will help to provide that incite into the needs of the average person and their voice on council. He is also new which means that he doesn’t have an prior affiliations and is coming in with a new set of ideals and views.

F. Pullia
Mr. Pullia took a 4 year break from council and I think that this could help him to bring new ideas to the council table. He has that financial management background that could help to get the city a good deal with regards to the event center and help to find those budgetary cuts the city has been tip toeing around the past 10 years. I like the vision Mr. Pullia has and his background on council can help to mold and guide the new people on council into the future. As part of a business friendly council I can see us pushing through the changes we need to make in order to make our city venues top notch and sustainable through the future.

Neebing: G. Abthorpe

McIntyre: L. Ollivier
Mr. Ollivier brings in a new vision to city council with the eagerness of his youth to back it up. I like his platform and I like the way he conducts himself on a personal level. Being a business owner on a business friendly council he will be able to help push through changes for not only McIntyre but the city in general. Being from outside of the city he has no long term connections to old Thunder Bay values and ways that have kept the city in the 70-80’s for too long. He will have a good chance to assert himself in this campaign and this term of council.

Current River: A. Foulds (I)

Northwood: S. Ch’ng

Mckellar: K. Kuznak

Red River: D.G. Noonan

Westfort: J. Virdiramo (I)

The reviews behind the individual people are those people who I have the intention of voting for on this upcoming election. This are simply predictions and my thoughts on these individuals. I want to thank everyone running in this campaign as it takes a lot of work, money and time to campaign and then to sit in public office. I believe the current council has done a good job but it is time for a change and new ideas in this city. It will be an exciting race and there are a number of people that were close contenders to those who I have on this list.

EIRP – a success that needs to continue

One of the best things that this sitting of Thunder Bay City Council did was address the major issue of under investment into the city’s infrastructure. They achieved this with the addition of a 1.5% annual tax increase directly solely at city infrastructure. With the election on October 27th, 2014 there is still a chance that a plan like this could be scrapped to gain political praise with people living in the community. For years the conditions of the city’s roads have been noted as the #1 concern for residents but a tax increase is always a hot button election issue. As a citizen I would like to throw my support behind this particular plan and see council lay out the plan for the future.

Thunder Bay has a major problem when it comes to the state of our infrastructure. As of 2009 there was a roughly 300 million dollar backlog in sewer repair, replacement and more than 50% of the 2000 km of roadways in Thunder Bay was below par(Province average is 64% ok). Years of underinvestment has left the city with an annual 15 million dollar infrastructure deficit. Even with this new tax dedicated to our roads, sewers, lights and parks we will still need years to catch up. 3 years of EIRP increases have allowed the city to invest and additional $7 million dollars that wasn’t being invested previously. Still that is less than 50% of the annual deficit facing our engineering department and roads division. Much more investment is necessary when you account for the fact that we need to be spending more than that $15 million to attain the status quo.

Continuing this program is the only viable way to dent the backlog of infrastructure projects that require our attention. I believe that it should be continued indefinitely at the annual rate of 1.5% unless there is significant tax base growth that the city can cover that increase based on new income. Continuing the program until 2017 will see the city spending the correct amount annually on its infrastructure. But spending to the status quo can’t be acceptable going forward; we will need to beyond the $15 million milestone to prevent our infrastructure from decaying. I believe that when the city hits $18 million annually (2019-2020) that we need to change the direction of this funding in terms of how it is spent and on what. Changing the focus from quantity to quality will need to start in the way the city tender’s its projects.

The city’s tendering process is a point system that gives contractors points for a certain things like cost, locality and more. The #1 in the point system is the cost to the city for the work that will be done. While continuing to focus on best cost for the taxpayer I feel that we need to focus on quality into the future. Initial focus on eliminating the deficit and then investing significantly into quality materials, consultations and effective work schedules. This can only be achieved by having the city add in quality of the workmanship to its tender process, consolation with the public and have an effective timeline for work completion. Providing these additions to the point system will force the contractors in Thunder Bay to achieve more for the public dollar. Finishing more complete projects like Algoma St. and the scenic route projects will make Thunder Bay a better place to live.

Why do something twice when you can get it done properly the first time? If we spend a little more money and expect better quality out of the construction companies then these projects wont fall apart on us nearly as quickly. It will easily cost us in the long run to redo work that could have been done properly in the first place. I would also like to see better consultations with the public in terms of more effective information passing, working with businesses around construction zones and effective detouring. Thunder Bay drivers consistently complain of being detoured into another construction zone. Having the companies work together to make this less of a headache should be important. I know that everyone in the city hates when a project is ¾ completed for months. All it needs is the top layer of asphalt but the company is gone with no one in sight for weeks. If the city were to remove this it would benefit them, the company and the citizens.

When the city finally hits that 18 million dollar plateau I would like to see them divest from only investing in the city’s infrastructure. Open up the money to help fund projects from institutions like Lakehead University, Confederation college and the Regional Health Sciences center. Helping Lakehead build new spaces, redesign the exterior of their buildings or Confederation College build new residences are just some of the potential projects. A post secondary student helps bring in $15,000 to the local economy (from out of town) making these investment have a huge social/economic return. These investments in their infrastructure will help to make them more viable, attractive and bring wealth into the community. Keeping the overall tax increase at 1.5% but then splitting the tax; to 0.75% city and 0.75% outside investment would provide a cash infusion missing from Thunder Bay. These increases will allow the city to keep up with inflation but also allow for spending outside of their traditional areas. Investing in the health sector, post-secondary sector or social projects in the city will prove to be a valuable investment for the future.

In order to try and keep these increase from making the city tax base bear a huge burden the city should look at making effective cuts. Looking for a 2% annual cut to the operating budget would allow the city to provide a tax break to the citizens but also invest properly to the city. As noted in other blog posts I talked about how the city could save money and assets it should look to drop in order to reduce costs. Service cuts are never nice things to deal with but with a stagnant population and a missing industrial based we cant continue to pretend we are what we were in 1970. Things like Thunder Bay Transit, infrastructure and emergency services should be the only areas of the city that are immune from tax cuts. See https://thenotsonews.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/police-cut/?preview=true&preview_id=1126&preview_nonce=1ae93fc9fe and https://thenotsonews.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/the-firefighter-dilemma/?preview=true&preview_id=998&preview_nonce=8af3dc764b are just potential options for emergency services savings.

In the end I want to see the EIRP program continue with the next iteration of council. We need to be investing in our infrastructure and no politician going after some ‘easy votes’ should be able to cancel the program when it is so desperately needed. Fix our infrastructure first and then some investment into outside infrastructure projects that will have a positive effect on all of the community. Investing in infrastructure if one of the best returns on your investment. It has been said that for every $1 invested you get a $1.16 return to the local GDP of an area. Lets continue the good work we have done so far and fix the issues facing Thunder Bay.

Time to divest assets

Thunder Bay is a city that has been in decline for years. Youth and vision have been leaving the community in boatloads, money has walked from city coffers. All of this has happened while the city has pretended that it can continue to offer the same level of services without massive increases to taxes. In reality the situation is much different, years of underspending has left the city in a position where its assets are crumbling. Arenas that are 50 years old and getting close to their end of life, sewers well past their breaking point and buildings falling apart. The city needs to desperately look at the things it owns and is involved in. We cannot pretend that we are a city with a booming industrial sector, population growth and money to burn. Below are the items I believe that the city should look at getting rid of and a short reason as to why.

Chippewa Park – The city has a very limited vision for this area. There are so much potential for the area in terms of housing, activities and there isn’t the money. The roads here are terrible, the zoo is a money loser and we have invested considerable amounts into the RV park that doesn’t provide the proper return. The pavilion needs to be turned into a year round facilities and promoted better then the city has the ability to. Truthfully I believe that the city could sell this to Fort William First Nation. I believe they would have more of a vision for the future for this land.

Trowbridge Campground: This campground is a generally well run facility that is attractive to city residents and to travelers. The issue comes when the city cannot provide an adequate service to people who are coming into the park past 8 pm. The city leaves it self open to thousands in losses with people coming in late and being turned away or staying and then running. This would be great to sell to a 3rd party operator and get the maintenance and staffing costs off the books. This is a facility that is close to breaking even and with a 3rd party ownership could be a money maker.

Daycares: This is one of the services that the city provides where I agree at one time it was necessary but isn’t anymore. The Daycare portion of the city loses thousands of dollars daily and will continue to do so for years to come unless something drastic changes. We should not be in this business anymore, it is not a quality of life issue to eliminate this money losing service. I believe that we should continue to own the buildings in which they are housed out of and open these spaces to private business. We cannot afford to keep subsidizing this service, it is not fair to the workers who have random hours and the taxpayers. With the introduction of all day daycare into the province and increased competition. We cannot and should not be competing.

Conservatory: This was a hot button issue for the city. It was a building put together for the 100th birthday of Canada and has a lot of great attributes. This issue has come when the building has aged with limited investment and seen annual loses rise to $600,000 a year. This building will not succeed under the City of Thunder Bay and we cannot afford to invest millions into a new building with limited use. There is a group that is attempting to save the conservatory and make it a more effective overall attraction for Thunder Bay. I think the city should gift this building to that group and have them take it off of the city’s hands. It was a beautiful building but with the repairs necessary and tax issues facing Thunder Bay we can’t keep everything.

Sporting Venues The city has an issue with its sporting venues that is going to require massive amounts of money to fix. The city’s venues were designed too small, too spread out and are coming to the point in their life where they need massive investment or replacement. Grandview arena and Stanley arena are both facilities that are in need of replacement because they don’t meet the need of the users present and future. They cost the city annually $1 million dollars in losses alone a major detractor for the parks division. They city needs to replace these with second sheets of ice at other city facilities and they would continue to lose money but reduce the amount substantially. The city also needs to consider a long term plan for the Canada Games Complex and the Tbaytel Stadium. The Canada Games complex is a important part of a potentially sports complex in this area but it needs a plan. It needs investment to keep it relevant and bring down the annual costs to the city. Tbaytel stadium while operated by a 3rd party is going to need investment to replace the building here soon. We need to decide if we are willing to invest millions into a facility that draws 900-1,300 people a night for 20-30 days every summer. We need to make this facility more then baseball.

The City of Thunder Bay has 2 billion dollars worth of infrastructure under its belt and it needs to lessen the load. That total is almost 7 years worth of operating and annual budgets. We aren’t the same city as when we built many of these pieces of infrastructure. Its time to lessen the load on taxpayers and provide a leaner more effective municipal government. Truthfully, any money saved by reducing these costs from the city’s general costs should be shifted into 1) Infrastructure renewal, 2) Transit and 3) Taxpayers rate savings. These choices are going to be tough and going to be hard but all the important decisions are.