So . . . the first St. Catharines City Council meeting (not including the Inaugural) is in the books, and for the last meeting before Christmas, it was an eventful one.
The biggest decisions made on Monday night had to do with certain committee positions, as well as the Deputy Mayor. Congratulations to Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips, who was unanimously selected for 2015. Having served with Bill for the last 4 years, I think he’ll do a good job over the coming year representing the City and Council.
The biggest committee selection was the Ad-hoc Budget Committee for 2015, which will be composed of myself, the Deputy Mayor, Coun. Matt Harris, Coun. Mike Britton and Coun. Dave Haywood. The committee will have the largest task of the year – deciding on a budget that helps the community move forward and progress, while being respectful of taxpayers and of the increasing burden faced by many families in our community. I look forward to the challenge, and and I’m also looking forward to getting started as soon as possible; that’s started with a review of last year’s budget, as well as the previous year’s budgets, and also the Municipal Program Measurement Program reports for the last 6 years.
From a personal standpoint, I also was very lucky to be added to 4 other committees;
- St Catharines Transit: Having served for 4 years as a Transit Commissioner, I was excited to be named back to the Commission for 2014-2018. We have made some significant progress in transit over the past four years, from the introduction of new Automated Vehicle Locators so that residents can see where their bus is in real-time to the improvements in weekend service, but there is plenty still to do. Regional transit and the on-going efforts to obtain permanent, daily commuter GO Rail will both occupy my time, and I look forward to the challenge.
- Committee Review Task Force: Tasked with looking at how we structure committees, with an eye to making the process more efficient and ensuring that the residents who take time to serve the community are heard properly, and their ideas and views are acted on appropriately.
- Downtown Association: Having served on the the Association for the previous term, I know how important the next four years is for downtown. We need to take advantage of the public sector investment that has happened and turn it into new private sector investment.
- Lincoln County Humane Society: As anyone who has talked to me over the last 4 years knows, I have a keen interest in how the LCHS does its business in the city. While I don’t have a vote on the Board of Directors, I will have the chance to ask questions, and push for the change that many of us have wanted for a long time. I am sincerely looking forward to the challenge.
Outside of Council appointments, the agenda was relatively light; a motion endorsing the previous Council’s opinion and direction on Port Dalhousie was passed, Council helped the brownfield developer at 583 Welland Ave continue to move the project forward, and several of the new Councillors were able to advance positions they had campaigned on. All in all, it was a very productive night.
I sincerely hope that the next 4 years are as smooth as last night. The new Mayor did very well, the new Councillors picked up how Council works very quickly, and Council was able to keep moving forward, building on the momentum of the last two terms of Council. The future continues to look bright in St. Catharines.