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!
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.
Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!
The November 21st Council meeting began with a recommendation from staff to begin some preparatory work on the Third Crossing with the hope that a decision on federal funding for the bridge could come in the next few months. Another item discussed at length was the proposal for a two year grant to go to Innovate Kingston. Council voted to approve just one year of funding and to evaluate progress before deciding on funding for a second year. Finally, council received a presentation from the province on plans for the new Wolf Island ferry terminal. The province committed to a second ferry that will run between Kingston and Wolf Island by 2020 and an expanded dock and new terminal building. Given Council’s decision to explore the potential for a deep water dock right next door, an expanded terminal and a deep water dock has the potential to transform this prime stretch of waterfront.
Watch the November 21st edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE
A question I’ve heard often over the years is if it’s possible to have a deep water dock that would allow cruise ships traveling through the Great Lakes to stop in Kingston. I think Kingston would be a very attractive place for cruise ships to land for a day. Every cruise ship would mean hundreds of tourists an afternoon to shop and visit restaurants in our downtown, which would provide a big boost to our local economy.
At our last meeting, City Council voted to explore the possibility of building the existing Queen Street dock into a deep water port for cruise ships. Some preliminary analysis from staff suggested smaller cruise ships would be able to dock at Crawford Wharf at the bottom of Brock Street, but larger cruise ships would require a new, longer dock. The best spot for a new dock would be as close to the downtown core as possible, and so the Queen Street dock seems like an ideal location.
This is also the perfect time to look at the future of the underutilized Queen Street dock as the province is now moving forward with a plan to expand and revitalize the Wolfe Island ferry terminal next door. This expansion is designed to accommodate a second ferry that is scheduled to be added between Kingston and Wolfe Island in 2020. What’s really exciting is that a new ferry terminal combined with a deep water dock for cruise ships could completely transform this part of Kingston’s waterfront into something incredible, both for residents and tourists.
There’s still lots of work to be done on this, including market analysis to understand what the potential demand for cruise ship landings might be in Kingston, but I for one think this is a great opportunity for the city, both to attract more tourists and to improve our waterfront!
Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes!
One of the big topics on the agenda at the November 7th Council meeting was the potential for a deep water dock for cruise ships. Council decided to move ahead with the plan to look deeper at this possibility and also do more market analysis to understand what the cruise ship industry could mean for tourism in Kingston. Council also heard a presentation from the Association of Municipalities Ontario on a province wide push to increase the HST by 1% in order to fund infrastructure needs for cities and town across the province. Kingston currently funds its infrastructure needs out of a 1% property tax levy. Council decided to endorse the plan but also agreed that should the 1% increase in HST ever happen, that the City would then look at reducing or eliminating the 1% property tax levy. Finally, Council passed a motion to make naloxone kits available in all city facilities and to endorse further distribution in partnership with KFL&A public health.
Watch the November 7th edition of From the Mayor’s Chair HERE
When I talk about the vision to make Kingston a smart and livable 21st century city, people sometimes ask me what I mean by a “smart city”. Well, one of the most important ways to make Kingston a “smart city” is to harness new technology that will improve services for our residents. A great example is this week’s launch of a new way to pay for downtown parking, using only your smartphone!
Most of us can probably remember times we’ve been huddled in front of a parking payment machine on a cold, snowy day, fumbling to insert a credit card, push the right buttons and wait for what seems like an eternity while the machine prints out a ticket to put on the car dashboard. Or what about that time you were eating at a restaurant or sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office and had to rush out to the machine to top up your payment? Well, now you can pay for parking at any downtown parking lot in Kingston from your smartphone using the Honk Mobile App.
I downloaded the app on my smartphone this morning and it’s very easy to use. Once you open up the app you just sign up for an account and enter your vehicle and credit card info. The app lists all the parking lots in the downtown, so all you have to do from this point on is select the lot where you want to park and choose how much to time you want to buy. It’s convenient, it’s fast and it’s easy – exactly how services in a smart city should be.
Right now the Honk Mobile App can only be used for parking lots in the downtown so you still need to use payment machines for on-street parking. However, if all goes well with this new way of paying by smartphone, I’m hopeful that soon this option will be available everywhere in downtown Kingston.
I’m a big believer in the importance of two way communication between City Hall and residents. It’s vital that the city (and the mayor!) provide regular updates to the community on what projects we are working on, what decisions are being made at City Council and what changes people can expect. However, it’s equally important that the city regularly hears the opinions, questions and ideas of all Kingstonians.
I enjoy when a resident stops me on the street or in the grocery store to offer a great idea about how to make the city better. Now you can submit your idea for Kingston to a new online forum called “What is Your Idea”. The forum is part of the city’s new Get Involved webpage which you can find at: GetInvolved.CityofKingston.ca. Posting on the forum not only ensures myself and other city staff know about your idea, it also gives all Kingston residents a chance to see your idea, share it on social media, and vote on it. Creative ideas have already been posted about a city wide bike rack registry, how to improve Cataraqui Woods Park, and suggested locations for tour bus parking in the downtown.
The Get Involved website is also a one stop shop for providing your input on a whole range of current city projects. All you need to do is sign up once and then you can quickly and easily provide feedback on any listed project. Right now that includes everything from a survey on the city’s new bike share program, to ideas for revitalizing Richardson Beach, to input on the Vision Zero road safety program. I encourage all Kingstonians to sign up, get involved and provide us with your input and ideas to help make Kingston better!
Canada’s very first hybrid cardiac ablation procedure has been successfully performed right here in Kingston. This is a procedure meant to treat patients with atrial fibrillation – the most common type of irregular heart rhythm. This innovative hybrid procedure is far less invasive for patients than many of the traditional approaches.
Here in Canada, atrial fibrillation affects approximately one in four people. Cardiac ablation procedures are used to restore normal heart rhythms by creating scars inside the heart which prevent abnormal electrical signals from moving through the heart tissue. Traditionally this is done by inserting long, flexible tubes with wires into the heart through the groin or by using more invasive surgical approaches that often require opening the chest and stopping the heart.
Dr. Bisleri and Dr. Glover showed me the new technique and tools they are now using to treat atrial fibrillation. With the new procedure, a cardiologist uses digital technology to map the inside of the heart while the surgeon performs ablation on the outside of the heart using a specialized device. It requires just three keyhole incisions to navigate to the heart which means patients heal faster, they stop or reduce their use of medication, and they spend less time in the hospital during the procedure and have fewer admissions following treatment.
I think it’s exciting that this cardiac mapping system technology is being used in Kingston. A less invasive procedure means better care for patients with atrial fibrillation and also means inpatient beds are freed up for others that need care. Dr. Bisleri and Dr. Glover are passionate about this technology but also about the research that accompanies their work. They are looking at how lifestyle, diet, and exercise can help control the risk factors that lead to atrial fibrillation. It’s great to see leading edge health care initiatives like this being developed in Kingston!
If you know of a fresh or innovative approach being taken by a community group, organization or business, I want to hear about it. Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram by following @MayorPaterson and the hashtag #MITour.