Positioning Kingston to Win the 2020 Curling Canada Brier

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Kingston is officially one of several Canadian cities in the running for the 2020 Curling Canada Brier, and I am very confident that we can win it! Kingston has so much to offer, with a top rated venue in the midst of a premier downtown location. When Kingston hosted the Scotties Tournament of Hearts back in 2013, the feedback that we got from athletes, coaches and spectators was tremendous. Kingston has a thriving curling community and we have a significant team of local volunteers ready to be ambassadors and provide the support needed to have the tournament run smoothly.

At next week’s council meeting, I will be asking all of City Council to support a proposed city contribution to the Brier of $200,000 as well as facility support and transit service. This is a great investment when you consider that the Brier will attract over 130,000 spectators and have an economic impact to the city of anywhere from $11-15 million dollars. This is probably one of the biggest sporting events that Kingston has ever hosted, and what a great way to showcase our amazing city to the rest of the country!

As mayor I am proud to join the community wide effort to bring the Brier to Kingston, and a key piece of this effort is to have as many people as possible put down a $50 deposit to reserve a seat at the Rogers K-Rock Centre to watch the action in person. The deposits are refundable if Kingston doesn’t win the Brier, and the deposits are a great way of showing Curling Canada what tremendous support and enthusiasm there is in Kingston for this event.

You can submit your deposit online at http://bit.ly/2BarbyB, by phone at 1-855-985-5000, or in person at the Rogers K-Rock Centre. You can also get more information about the Kingston Brier Bid at www.kingstonbrier2020.ca. I’m confident in our ability as a community to bring the Brier to Kingston and look forward to welcoming the Curling Canada Brier here in 2020!

State of the City 2018: Looking Forward to an Exciting Year Ahead!

SOTC Blog Post Graphic

Over the next few weeks I have the privilege of giving a ‘State of the City’ address to a number of organizations across the community. This annual presentation is always a great opportunity to update Kingstonians on the latest news, the status of projects, or anything else that’s happening across the city. Here are a few things that I’m highlighting in this year’s state of the city address, as we look forward to an exciting and busy year ahead:

Airport Expansion: shovels will soon be in the ground as work begins to expand the terminal building and extend the runway.

Rideau Heights Community Centre: this new facility is set to open soon, with a whole variety of activities and programs offered for all ages.

John Counter Boulevard Overpass: construction is slated to begin later this year on the overpass over the rail line. This is part of the work to widen John Counter Blvd to 4 lanes between Princess St and Sir John A Macdonald Blvd.

Mayor’s Innovation Challenge: it’s incredibly exciting to see students at our post-secondary institutions jump into this competition. I’m looking forward to seeing their proposals later next month, and awarding the winning team a paid internship with the city this summer!

Belle Park Visioning: following last fall’s decision to close the existing 9 hole golf course, the work now begins to map out the future of this urban green space. Watch for opportunities coming soon to share your thoughts on what should be included in the final vision.

Third Crossing: the current plan calls for final design work to be finished this year, and then shovels in the ground starting in 2019. Of course all of that work depends on securing a $60 million contribution from the federal government. Stay tuned on this one!

From the Mayor’s Chair – January 9th

From the Mayors Chair

Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!

At the January 9th Council meeting one of the big items of discussion was the annual review of the Rogers K-Rock Centre and approval of the 2018 operating plan. Council heard about the projected increase of events in the coming year and about creative uses of the space when hockey games and concerts are not taking place. Last night, Council also approved the first step in the visioning process for Belle Park which includes creating a working group. Finally, Council approved a plan to renovate the washroom and change room facilities at Grass Creek Park.

Watch the January 9th edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE

Looking Back at 2017

2017 Highlights

It’s hard to believe that 2017 is coming to a close. It’s been quite the year! Here are a few highlights that come to mind:

  • The Third Crossing – after 50 years of debate and discussion, City Council approved the construction of the new bridge. If we can secure the remaining $60 million in federal funding soon, we will be able to get shovels in the ground in early 2019.
  • Feihe Groundbreaking – construction of Feihe’s new $225 million production and research facility is underway in the city’s west end business park. The plant is projected to open in early 2019 and will mean hundreds of new jobs in Kingston.
  • Mayor’s Innovation Challenge – after a great launch this fall I’m very excited about the level of interest among post-secondary students in Kingston. Teams will compete for a paid internship next summer to implement their innovation to make the city better.
  • Kingston Pen Tours – how exciting to see over 100,000 visitors come through KP this year. The tours helped make this the biggest year ever for tourism in Kingston, and we were able to raise $800,000 for the United Way to help eliminate youth homelessness.
  • Breakwater Park – we broke ground on a new vision for this great waterfront park, including a new pier for swimming – the Gordon Edgar Downie Pier.
  • Providence Care Hospital – it was very exciting to see the opening of this new state of the art facility, putting Kingston on the leading edge of health care innovation in the province.

There’s no question that 2017 was a great year for Kingston, but I’m even more excited for what’s coming in 2018! I’ll have more updates to share on what’s ahead in January, but until then, Merry Christmas and safe and happy holidays to all!

Merry Christmas

From the Mayor’s Chair – December 19th

From the Mayors Chair

Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!

At the December 19th Council meeting one of the big items of discussion was over the city’s pet licensing system. The city has been working with Docupet, a company with an online system for registration, and the system has seen an unprecedented growth in pets registered and animals safely returned to owners. Council also raised a number of questions and concerns to ensure privacy of information and also to ensure the right balance in messaging in communicating to residents the importance of registering their pets. Last night Council also received an update from discussions with the province over the siting of a cannabis retail store opening in Kingston later next year. The expectation is that the location of the store will be announced early next year, likely in an existing commercial plaza. Finally, last night council received information from staff on the potential introduction of a rental licensing system after looking at other programs in other cities across the province.

Watch the December 19th edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE

Why We Need More Housing in Kingston

CMHC Vacancy Rates

We recently learned that Kingston now has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the entire province. The graph above is from the 2017 Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) report and shows that the vacancy rate in Kingston is just 0.7%, which is now lower than anywhere in the Greater Toronto area. This compares to last year when the vacancy rate was a much healthier 2.6%.

This new data shows the urgency for more housing in Kingston, whether it be new homes, condos or apartments. Without new housing, prices for homes and condos and rental rates for apartments will continue to rise quickly and it will be more difficult to find a place to live in the city. Multiple offers and sales above listing price are becoming increasingly common in the Kingston housing market and there are no signs that the pressure is going to let up. New residential developments in all parts of the city are needed if we are going to keep Kingston as an affordable place to live, work and play for everyone.

The city did get some good news this week when the Ontario Municipal Board approved the new University Suites development at the corner of University and Princess Streets. This development was actually approved several years ago, but has been stuck in the OMB appeal process until this week. The photo below shows what this project will look like when completed.

Development University Suites

If the city is going to avoid further suburban sprawl, we will have to make quick progress with new infill developments across all areas of the city. I strongly believe that we can effectively address the current housing situation in Kingston by being smart, proactive and making housing across our city a priority as we move into 2018.

The Inaugural Mayor’s Arts Awards

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This week I was thrilled to present the first ever Mayor’s Arts Awards and recognize the contributions of five tremendous artists in our community. This exciting new event has been a number of years in the making, as a way to celebrate Kingston’s arts and culture scene and to raise the profile of great artistic talent in our community. There is no question that for a city of its size, Kingston punches way above its weight in both the quality and the diversity of our local arts and culture. This development in the arts hasn’t happened by accident; it’s been driven by a host of talented, entrepreneurial artists, musicians, producers and arts champions in our city. The Mayor’s Arts Awards is one way that we can recognize their efforts in building the cultural vitality of our city.

Here are the five winners of this year’s awards. Take a moment to watch the great videos profiling each of the artists who have contributed so much to Kingston’s arts and culture.

Armand Garnet Ruffo – A Queen’s University National Scholar in Indigenous Literature, Ruffo’s award-winning works include plays, film and books of prose and poetry. His collection, The Thunderbird Poems (2015), was inspired by the art of Norval Morisseau.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKkaiLCrFlM

Su Sheedy – Known for her use of colour and texture in her paintings, Sheedy’s work has been exhibited in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Prince Edward County as well as Kingston. With projects like the Shoreline Shuffle, Sheedy has used art to help highlight the need to conserve and improve access to waterways.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzTOe7yhrJE

Matt Rogalsky – A founding member of The Gertrudes, composer and multi-media artist Rogalsky, is also the force behind The Tone Deaf Festival of Experimental sound and sits on the board of the Skeleton Park Arts Festival.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIT4-J4y9pY

Yessica Rivera Belsham – Drawing on her passion for her Mexican heritage, Yessica facilitates performance workshops, cultural and wellness events that feature painting, drawing, sculpture, jewelry design, sewing, drumming and singing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okk6Pb6Xxv0

David Kemp – The artistic director of the Frontenac Children’s Teacher’s Theatre Company and co-founder of Artists in Community Education program brought the arts into Kingston classrooms, inspiring generations of youth.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OlEpLvBntY

From the Mayor’s Chair – December 5th

From the Mayors Chair

Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!

The December 5th Council meeting began with a land deal between the City and Podium Developments. This is good news for the downtown as it will expand the supply of parkland in the core of the city. Council also approved a contract with WSP Canada Group to begin work on the new central Kingston growth and infill strategy. This is a plan to deal with the increasing number of monster additions to family homes as a way to provide more student housing around Queen’s and St. Lawrence College. The work is expected to take 18 months and will lead to a very different zoning framework to help deal with the pressure on student housing.

Watch the December 5th edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE

Preparing for an Exciting Year Ahead: The 2018 Budget

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This is budget week at City Hall. After two nights of presentations and deliberations, City Council approved the proposed city budget for 2018. The budget includes spending forecasts for all city departments and also a range of city funded agencies; everything from the library board to policing to tourism and economic development.

I’m happy to see that the draft 2018 budget respects the limits imposed by council, with a proposed property tax rate increase capped at 1.5% for operating costs plus the annual 1% levy for infrastructure. It’s essential that we live within our means. Holding property tax rate increases to the rate of inflation is an important way to do that. I’m a big proponent of growth and development as a way to limit tax increases, and this year thanks to a $2 million plus expansion in the city’s tax base, we can hold tax increases to inflation and still make important investments in key projects like the Third Crossing, more transit routes and other enhancements to city services.

This is also the last year of our term as City Council and it’s important that we finish up important work that we pledged to do, as we continue to make Kingston a Smart and Livable 21st Century City. To that end, here are a few of the highlights from the 2018 budget:

  • Kingston East Community Centre – $10.5 million
  • Montreal Street Express Transit Route
  • Investment of $2 million to support new affordable housing
  • Kingston East Library Expansion
  • Operational support for the new Rideau Heights Community Centre

In the coming year we’ll also see the final phase of reconstructing Princess Street (Big Dig 4), the completion of the North King’s Town Secondary Plan (exploring alternatives to the Wellington Street Extension) and the start of construction of the new bridge over the rail tracks on John Counter Boulevard. Overall, it’s looking like another exciting and busy year ahead!

 

A New National Housing Strategy: Hopeful News for Affordable Housing in Kingston

Affordable Housing 1

I was heartened this week to hear the Prime Minister’s announcement of a new national housing strategy that will provide billions of dollars for affordable housing across the country. Expanding the supply of affordable housing here in Kingston is both a personal priority and a key element in City Council’s strategic plan. There’s no question that affordable housing is important to our community, but it is also very expensive.

One important point that I have raised with both provincial and federal officials is that Kingston needs more funding, not just to expand the supply of affordable housing in our community, but also to maintain the existing stock of housing. There are a couple of exciting affordable housing projects on the horizon, at 7 Wright Crescent (see above) and at 671 Brock Street (see below). However, there are also many affordable housing developments in the city that are aging quickly and need investment from upper levels of government to make sure that we don’t lose old housing units as we work to add new ones.

The launch of a national housing strategy is an important first step, but there’s still a lot of work remaining. The next step in the national housing strategy will see the federal government negotiate with each of the provinces to bring in additional provincial funding and to work out more details on allocating dollars across communities. I’m looking forward to learning more about these details and about what investments will be made in affordable housing here in Kingston.

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