Reflections: Council, One Year In

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December 6, 2011

One year ago today, I was officially inaugurated as the Councillor for Ward 6. In my first address to Council, as a male engineering graduate I reflected on the tragic events of December 6, 1989 at Ecolé Polytechnique and the need to work hard to promote inclusion and diversity in our community. Tonight, I’m honoured to join the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region for the annual vigil in recognition of those tragic events.

Reflecting back on the last year, we have made a lot of progress together. Here is a brief sample of some of the work we’ve done over the past twelve months:

  • On the first regular Council meeting, we began the Northdale Land Use and Community Improvement Plan study, which will help us address the long-standing issues in that neighbourhood. I ensured we took the status quo off the table at the start by adding a goal of reurbanizing Northdale, and I have supported the special project committee as their Council liaison. Council and the stakeholder committee unanimously endorsed the results of the first phase last week, which contained an inspiring vision and principles statement.
  • We have and will keep tax increases low, including property tax rate increases of 0.78% in 2011 and proposed increases of 1.09%, 1.21%, and 1.44% over the next three years. This is after the storm water phase-in costs are transparently transferred out of the operating budget and into its own utility over four years. Council will receive a plan to provide credits for people managing their storm water early in the new year. I have and will continue to scrutinize the budget proposal to make sure we have found the right balance between serving community needs and the capacity of our residents to fund those services.
  • Council adopted a Strategic Plan that emphasizes environmental sustainability and adds new pillars for public engagement, vibrant neighbourhoods, and getting around. I have asked staff to consider identifying environmental implications in staff reports and supporting community environmental projects in the cash grants process.
  • Council approved a new low-density Rental Housing Licensing By-law to reduce impacts on neighbourhoods and support safer housing for renters, and a Transportation Master Plan that promotes real transportation choices. In my work supporting transportation choice, I’ve been successful in saving bus service for seniors on Regina Street, and I have argued for better trail connections in the completion of Allenby Court.
  • I have engaged a number of neighbourhood associations on the issues that matter to them, including Beechwood II and Beechwood South on special area levies, Beechwood Park on parking near their community facilities, and Beechwood-Bridle Gate on rental housing.
  • Recognizing the increasing mental health challenges facing our high school and university population at the key age of onset for many mental illnesses, I recently convened a Town and Gown summit to see what more we can do together. It was the first time the hospitals, community mental health providers, school boards, police, city staff, and universities had been around the same table on this issue, and we made good initial progress.

The next three years will continue to present challenges, and I will continue to look for your input and involvement as we work to make our City an even more vibrant and inclusive community that supports all of our residents. Feel free to contact me about the issues that matter to you by emailing me at jeff.henry@waterloo.ca