City Council’s strategic planning sessions begin this coming Monday night, and going into these meetings, the airport expansion will be my top investment priority. Here are seven reasons why we should invest in this important community asset:
An expanded airport will make it more convenient and cheaper for residents to fly out of Kingston rather than driving to Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa or Syracuse.
An expanded airport will boost economic development in the city.
An expanded airport will help KEDCO attract more conferences and sporting events to the city to boost local tourism supporting our community and a healthy downtown.
If we don’t expand our airport, we risk losing the air service that we have.
A larger airport terminal will allow more than one airline to operate in Kingston, creating competition and lower prices for flights.
A longer runway will allow for longer distance flights out of Kingston, to destinations well beyond Toronto and Ottawa.
An expanded airport terminal will create an important first impression to business travellers, tourists and other visitors that Kingston is a modern, growing, smart and livable city.
At the March 24th council meeting, the city will be presented with a proposal to revitalize and relocate the outer train station from its current location Montreal Street to the southern edge of Doug Fluhrer Park.
The Third Crossing is a vital project for our entire community. Together with the widening of John Counter Boulevard, this bridge will facilitate an east-west traffic corridor connecting the city and making it easier for residents to get to work, school, shopping and community events. The Third Crossing will be a catalyst for redevelopment in both the city’s north and east ends, ease traffic congestion in the downtown and enable better response times for emergency vehicles going to or from the east end. For all of these reasons, I am encouraging my fellow councillors to commit to getting the Third Crossing shovel ready as one of our goals for the 2014-2018 strategic plan.
What will it cost? Of course the number one concern for most people is the cost of the bridge – and this is a concern that I share! That’s why when I ran for mayor I not only spoke in support of the Third Crossing, but I also advocated strongly that as a city we need to live within our means, by keeping property tax rate increases at or below the rate of inflation.
So how do you build a $140M bridge and keep tax rate increases capped at inflation? We will work hard to get funding from the provincial and federal governments. And for the city’s share, half will be funded by development charges – money that the city collects from developers over time, and the rest from our capital budget. In fact, in our city’s 15 year capital forecast, taking into account funding from other levels of government and the contribution from development charges, only $34M remains of the $140M price tag. Now don’t get me wrong, $34M is a lot of money. But, to put this into perspective, in the 2015 budget just passed by council, we approved spending $63M for phase 3 of the John Counter Blvd widening while keeping our tax rate in line with inflation.
We can find a balance. We can contribute our share of the Third Crossing, invest in a number of other capital projects and still keep taxes low. I believe the key is to use our tax dollars wisely, continue to encourage growth and development in the city, and make targeted investments that improve our quality of life. It can be done!
It’s been a busy and rewarding first 100 days as your mayor. Over the last three months, I have met with more than 125 community residents and groups, led consultation on a youth employment strategy and worked with council to pass the city’s 2015 budget with a tax rate increase in line with inflation.
I’ve crafted this space to update you on city business and to share my thoughts on key issues and how I see things from the Mayor’s chair.
I’m launching this website on March 12, my 100th day in office. This milestone gives me an opportunity to touch base on the work I’ve done so far and to set a plan for the next four years. One of the biggest highlights from my first 100 days has been meeting with over 100 community leaders, and building partnerships across our great city so that together we can realize our full potential as a community and make Kingston a truly smart and liveable city.
I look forward to working with you! Please stay connected;