hen I ran for Council in 2010 property taxes were the main issue of concern for 80% of the residents in Ward 3. While I was on Council from 2010 to 2014 I fought for more responsible levels of taxation in Brock and an improved system of budgeting. Many of those arguments fell on deaf ears. While I have not sat on Council during 2014-2018 I have very closely watched the actions and inactions of Council with respect to property taxes in Brock. Click here for my concerns and reviews of property taxes in Brock and how I believe they must finally be dealt with in a comprehensive and Council-led fashion.
Safety in Brock Township, as in so many other places, is a very important issue. Whether it's the ability of residents to safely walk their own streets or for us to know we can drive on our roads without being harassed by aggressive drivers it all comes down to some very simple priorities. However, we need members of Council who are willing to do more than simply sit and listen to complaints while passing them on and saying "It's somebody else's problem now".Click hereto review my thoughts and concerns regarding safety in our communities.
Transparency in our local government is critically important to knowing that the people we elect are doing the job we elected them to do. Transparency is more than just the catchphrase of the day.... it is at the heart of any democratic system. Furthermore, there is more to transparency than simply "talking the talk". Our elected representatives must "walk the walk". While many elected representatives will claim they support transparency it's not always provided to us. Click hereto review my thoughts and ideas.
I have always felt that communication is critical between elected representatives and the public. Communication is more important than simply saying "I'm online" or "I have a Facebook Page". Communication is both about content and the quality of that content. Communication with constituents is more than telling people about the most recent ribbon cutting ceremony or sharing with them the recipe of the week. In this day and age there is no reason why there cannot be excellent and useful communications (both ways) in our local government. Communication drives engagement and engagement drives real change and action. Click here to see more of what I'm talking about.
Brock Township is a great rural community composed of several small communities all with their own unique history, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and people. We should all be proud to call Brock our home. However, the very things that make rural communities great places to live can present their own challenges and often have unique solutions built in. To make these solutions work even better I believe our Township government needs to take a proactive yet responsible approach. Click here to see the discussion on our communities in Brock.
While we may live in Brock Township we also live in Durham Region. Durham Region is responsible for many aspects of our lives in Brock including maintenance of regional roads, water and sewer systems and rates, transit, police, public health, social housing, and more. Our Council has two representatives at Regional Council (The Mayor and Regional Councillor). While I am not running for representation at Regional Council it is important to know that the other members of Brock Council have a duty and obligation to make sure our voices at Regional Council are heard and understood. The Regional level of government takes the majority portion of each resident of Brock's property tax bill and there should be appropriate services for that. Click here for that discussion.
The saying goes.... "infrastructure is not sexy". Well that may be true but it sure is important and a huge topic of discussion in Brock. Brock Township, along with every other municipality in Ontario, has a huge infrastructure debt which will likely never be fully funded or dealt with. That being said, we must continue to identify, prioritize, and manage our infrastructure issues while still making sure Brock is an affordable place to live. There has been excellent progress in some areas over the last decade but more needs to be done with our roads, bridges, culverts, sidewalks, parks, buildings, and more. We need to know what we're going to be realistically spending our money on and that it is a priority for our residents. Click herefor the full discussion.
Just as I did when I sat on Council from 2010 to 2014 I am pledging that if elected by the fine people of Ward 3 I will be contributing up to one half of my councillor salary to the non-profit organizations and charities serving Ward 3. I am not in this for gain and believe our local groups and organizations need as much help as our Township can give. This is just me putting my money where my mouth is. I also pledge that similar to last time all such donations/contributions will be fully transparent and available.
Our local Council works for us, represents us, and is charged with making decisions in the best interest of our Township. Those decisions are for the betterment of Brock now and into the future.
Our Council members should be respectful of our residents and taxpayers in those decisions. It's not always an easy balance and, as the saying goes, you can't please all of the people all of the time.
I believe some aspects of how our Council has operated needs to change and be revisited.
There has been much debate in the last year about the remuneration received by members of Council. Included in these discussions have been the implications of Council member expense reimbursements and tax-free allowances.
I propose for the new term of Council that all members of Council sit on a committee which will also have equal public representation to review how members of Brock Council are paid for the work they do and how expenses are, and could be, reimbursed. Council remuneration should not be a reason a member of the public runs for office but it should also not be an overriding reason they don't run.
It is important that everyone, including the public, understand the time demands placed on our members of Council. The committee I mention would be responsible for determining recommendations on any possible changes to our Council remuneration and benefit policy including whether to continue medical benefits, RRSP contributions, expenditure reimbursements, and general salary levels. All of this can be done openly and with reference to fair comparisons.
I welcome your input on this issue. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me your feedback on my Facebook Page.
For many years now our Township has acknowledged that the property taxes in Brock are high and cause an undue hardship on our seniors. To help our seniors manage Brock's high property taxes a special rebate was introduced many years ago for qualifying seniors.
The rebate provides a $250 reduction to the property taxes for a senior who is receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement as part of their OAS Government Pension. The rebate must be applied for each year and there is a specific process for it.
However, the rebate has never been adjusted for inflation. While our property taxes have steadily increased year after year the rebate we provide to some of our hardest taxed residents has remained the same. This has caused the $250 rebate to lose a huge part of its intended benefit where it is now worth only about $170.00.
My pledge to the seniors in Brock Township will be that during the 2019 budget process I will move a motion to have this rebate adjusted to a present day value of $353.00 and I will ask that the rebate be indexed every year in line with inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. If we truly wish to help our seniors manage the high taxes in Brock then let us at least show it.
It's time to revisit our Township's involvement with our local non-profit sector.
The non-profit sector in Brock is a substantial part of what makes Brock a satisfying place to live. Our local non-profit groups add to our services, they contribute to our economy, they improve our communities where The Township leaves off, they pay taxes, and so much more. In my opinion many of these groups get only a passing acknowledgment from our Township. It's time for a change that means something.
I propose a number of steps to start better assisting this vital part of our community:
Disband the Brock Sports Council which appears to not be fully meeting its mandate and replace it with a Brock Non-Profit Advisory Committee. This committee will be composed of representatives from ALL groups and not just sports. The committee will be there to actually support our non-profit groups and organizations to help make them stronger not watch them fail. This committee MUST be useful and achieve results or it too will fail.
Review the possible extension of property tax savings currently only extended to registered charities to the full non-profit sector in Brock subject to certain provisions and lobby The Region of Durham to do the same.
Use the resources of The Township to help strengthen the volunteer base of these organizations. For years many organizations have been failing due to falling interest in volunteerism in our Township and this must change or we risk much.
Review and formalize policies and procedures related to the free use of Township facilities for tenancy, meetings, events, and other NPO activities so that everyone is on a level playing field
Review and formalize the policies and procedures with respect to donated assets to The Township. This will ensure everyone fully understands the process and it will make sure that Council is fully aware of the upfront and ongoing cost of accepting donated assets from not only non-profit organizations but also from individuals.
It may not sound like a big deal but one of the responsibilities of a municipality like Brock Township is to provide its residents with proper and effective animal control services.
In a rural area like Brock there is always going to be more animals in and around our neighbourhoods than would be found in larger urban centers. However, that is no excuse for our Township to essentially turn a blind eye to some of the serious problems that can develop as a result of these populations.
Over the years there has been an increasing problem in some parts of our Township with stray animals including pockets of stray or feral cats. These cats can pose a serious health problem not only to humans but to other animals and themselves. These cats can spread parasites and disease to both humans and other animals so allowing these populations to go unchecked is not a responsible thing for a municipality to do.
To combat this I propose the following as a start:
Township by-law enforcement should review the animal control by-law governing these animals. Permitting people who harbor excessive cats (and dogs) to simply keep them with no further action is not a responsible part of the by-law
A comprehensive education program targeted to trouble areas of our municipality so that people harboring and encouraging these populations understand the serious consequences of their actions.
Township should develop a plan, in conjunction with residents, veterinarians, and interested non-profit organizations to manage this issue. This plan should include the following in a short, medium, and long term process:
Identify problem areas of The Township and regularly update it
Develop a TNR strategy (Trap, Neuter, Return) to begin the process of reducing the populations.
Enhance partnerships with local farms who may need/want such animals for their properties
Develop partnerships with residents harboring these animals to provide safe colonies while the TNR process is carried out. These residents, in consultation with their neighbourhoods, would be responsible for proper feeding, litter control, and housing of the animals for a set period of time during the TNR process.
Provide sufficient funding through the annual animal control budget to carryout this short, medium, and long term plan
Ensure that the process is carried out in the most humane way possible
Given the health implications it may also be of interest in speaking with other levels of government (such as Durham Region who is responsible for local health issues) and other national organizations to determine what assistance and financial resources may be available.
Some people may view this issue as "minor" and "not my problem" but I believe with some commitment and nominal financial resources by The Township we can begin the process of tackling this serious community issue. Permitting residents to enjoy their properties without worry of the consequences of these animals IS the responsibility of everyone.... including The Township of Brock.
For many years Brock Township has had, in one form or another, a Brock Economic Development Advisory Committee (BEDAC). The Township has also taken part in various "economic development" initiatives and tourism initiatives. Some of these have been done at little cost and some with Provincial tax dollars. I believe we have to start seriously looking at the work we put into these initiatives and what we're seriously expecting from them. We need to institute some metrics to measure the success of these projects and expenditures. Are we gaining businesses because of them or despite having them? Have our downtowns and other business sectors really benefited from them and to what degree? Has tourism in Brock increased, decreased, or stayed the same over the years because of these initiatives or despite the work done? It's important to know if we're making progress on these issues as The Township plans to initiate more projects, working groups, and committees. Many residents feel such committees just "spin their wheels" and some committees have lost members out of frustration that "nothing gets done".
We should not be afraid to review what we do, how we do it, and whether or not it's achieving the desired results. Anecdotal evidence of success or failure should not be the only way we measure or Township initiatives.
There are many economic issues our Council has to make very soon and committees like BEDAC should be actively developing recommendations to give Council. Municipalities are being given the opportunity to decide whether they wish to have private marijuana sales take place in their communities. BEDAC should be taking the lead on this discussion to advise Council on this major issue but I've seen no sign they are even considering it. BEDAC can be a powerful tool of Council.