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How do we define Burlington?
What words can we use to describe the place where we live, the place where we work, and the place where we raise our children?
As Canadians, we often define ourselves by what we are not.
In our case, we are not Toronto. We are not Hamilton. We are not Oakville.
What and who is Burlington?
There are the obvious facts and figures.
We are a city of almost 180,000 people, plus the babies born at Joseph Brant Hospital this morning.
We have a picturesque waterfront, a thriving downtown and a rural area featuring rich farmland and the Niagara Escarpment.
Burlington is all of this.
And so much more.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
I would like to offer a warm welcome to my fifth State of the City address.
Thank you to the Burlington Chamber of Commerce for their ongoing support of this event.
The historic relationship between the City of Burlington and the Chamber is a rich one.
It was the Burlington Chamber of Commerce that presented Mayor John Lockhart with the chain of office in 1958. Every mayor has worn the chain since then.
The Chamber is a tireless supporter of business in our community. Burlington is a better place because of your dedicated efforts.
I also want to acknowledge today’s sponsors. Thank you Scotiabank, Bell Canada, the Centre for Skills Development & Training, the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington and BDO Canada.
TVCogeco also deserves recognition for filming today’s event, and for covering the important moments in our community every day.
Burlington is my hometown. I grew up here.
I remember watching the trains at Freeman Station with my mom, dad and sister. I remember learning to skate on a homemade rink my dad built in the backyard of our Roseland home. I remember opening my own business on South Service Road.
It is a profound privilege to be your mayor, your advocate, your leader.
A good leader knows teamwork is the key to success.
NBA legend Michael Jordan said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
I’d like to recognize the team that has lead Burlington with insight, wisdom and a lot of heart, and will do so again this term.
Please welcome councillors Rick Craven, Marianne Meed Ward, John Taylor, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman and Blair Lancaster.
I’d also like to recognize our city staff in attendance. Thank you for being there for every play and for every victory.
I would be remiss if I did not credit the work of interim city manager Pat Moyle. I want to thank him for stepping in and managing the bench.
I also want to thank Nancy Shea-Nicol, who is our acting city manager until our new city manager, James Ridge, joins us on March 23.
2014 was a year of community strength
The unthinkable happened on Monday, August 4th.
Burlington received almost 200 millimetres of rain over a mere five hours.
This was the equivalent of two months’ worth of rain in a single day.
The downpour caused flooding on our streets, highways and in thousands of our homes and businesses throughout Burlington.
Damage to public and private property was significant.
Our community banded together in the following hours, days and weeks.
Neighbours provided shelter, food and comfort during this time of need.
They bailed out water and offered a shoulder to cry on.
Firefighters, police officers, paramedics and other staff from the city and region played a key role in preserving the safety of our residents.
My home was one of the thousands affected. More than four feet of water filled my basement.
Fred Rogers, the beloved host of the public television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
We were reminded that day, as we are every day, that Burlington is filled with helpers.
Burlington city council helped.
We approved a grant program to help homeowners cover the cost of building permit fees related to the flooding. The program will be available until December 24th of this year.
Council also requested financial help through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
The Canadian Red Cross visited almost 11,000 homes to collect information from residents about the impacts of the storm.
Samaritan’s Purse worked with World Renew to organize volunteers to clean up basements and yards after the flooding.
The Burlington Professional Firefighters Association also helped organize volunteers and participated in the cleanup.
The United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton stepped up to serve as the temporary keeper of donations.
The Burlington Community Foundation subsequently led the creation of the Flood Disaster Relief Committee and took over fundraising.
This committee, under the leadership of Ron Foxcroft, proved instrumental in raising more than 900,000 dollars. The claims committee received 310 claim applications.
The Government of Ontario proved they too were helpers by coming through to match community donations at a 2 to 1 ratio.
As a result, approximately 2.7 million dollars is currently being distributed to those who need it most.
As of last Thursday, 77 claims have been processed for a payout of 696,000 dollars. There is still much work to do.
A recent email sent by an approved claimant to the Burlington Community Foundation read:
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate you, your team and the email we received an hour ago. Please find attached the signed declaration with our many thanks. I don’t need to explain our nightmare, as I am sure you have heard far too many. Just know how much this means to my family. We appreciate all of your efforts. Thank you very much!”
Looking forward, we are working to reduce the impact of a future storm.
Our weather will continue to evolve to be warmer, wetter and wilder. We need to be prepared.
An additional 4.5 million dollars of funding is now allocated over the next four years for surface water drainage projects and renewal.
We have added an additional 100,000 dollars to our operating budget for activities within our watershed areas.
A consultant’s report will be presented in June. If we need additional financial resources to address the issues, we will find the money.
The Region of Halton has also committed 5 million dollars to address requirements from the Basement Flooding Mitigation Study.
Approximately 3,500 homes and businesses flooded on August 4th. We are working to reduce future flood risks to not only these properties but all properties in the city.
We are also focused on finding preventative measures for a group of approximately 80 homes that have flooded on multiple occasions.
2014 was a year of economic renewal
Last year was a period of great progress and reorganization for the Burlington Economic Development Corporation.
Frank McKeown was named the executive director at the BEDC.
A new, fully-engaged board was also established, as was an updated Strategic Plan for the organization.
The Strategic Plan has been developed to address three key economic community needs.
These needs include: investment and assessment growth, growing local employment opportunity, and accessible Industrial/Commercial/Institutional land.
The updated strategy also includes clear and specific key performance indicators for all areas, as well as defined tactics to achieve these results.
Increasing investment in new and existing businesses will help bolster our assessment base. This will moderate increases in residential property taxes.
It will also foster opportunities for more residents to not only live in Burlington, but to work here as well.
Amidst the restructuring, more than 270,000 square feet of new Industrial, Commercial and Institutional space was constructed in 2014, with a total value exceeding 216 million dollars.
The BEDC worked with 27 businesses that either expanded or relocated to Burlington.
Our unemployment rate is at 5.8 per cent, which continues to remain lower than the provincial average.
An estimated 1,200 new jobs were added in 2014 and we look to continue that trend in 2015.
2014 was a year of fostering a vibrant downtown
The implementation of initiatives in the Downtown Core Commitment was a focus last year and continues to be through 2015.
A review of downtown real estate was completed, which will be part of a comprehensive strategy report to city council this year.
Our downtown core is the heart of Burlington. It is a business centre, a cultural centre and a residential centre.
A thriving downtown is the foundation of a strong community.
The number of businesses stayed quite stable, with 30 businesses opening and 24 businesses closing or moving.
While this is a modest increase, it is the first time since 2010 the number is on the positive side.
We saw the addition of a fresh food purveyor with the Brant Street Butcher and Market.
A campus of 80 students came to Village Square with the opening of Blyth Academy.
A variety of amenities is the key to a walkable, vibrant neighbourhood.
Tourism Burlington reports the nearly 300 events held downtown by various organizations were attended by approximately 660,000 people.
Great cities have prosperous downtown cores with a good mix of opportunities to live, shop, work and play.
I’m proud to say we have all that, topped off by a breathtaking waterfront, in downtown Burlington.
2014 was a year of continued fiscal responsibility
The approval of the 2014 budget brought a city tax increase of 3.5 per cent.
When combined with Halton Region and the education component, the overall property tax rate increase was 1.42 per cent.
The 2014 budget also saw the final increase to the levy for the city’s contribution to the Joseph Brant Hospital redevelopment project.
2014 was a year of milestones
Last June, city council approved a settlement related to the Brant Street Pier that totalled 2 million dollars for the City of Burlington.
The amount more than paid for the city’s legal costs.
While the Brant Street Pier struggled as a project, it is now one of the most popular locations in the city.
The pier is complete. It’s time to enjoy it. I look forward to next year’s State of the City address, when I will not even mention the pier.
We also celebrated another milestone in the redevelopment and expansion of Joseph Brant Hospital.
The Halton McMaster Family Health Centre opened its doors this past September.
I had the opportunity to visit this state-of-the-art facility as a patient, since my family physician of 54 years, Dr. Procter, has moved his practice there.
The centre is currently serving almost 9,000 patients - with capacity for more.
Groundbreaking will take place this spring for the second phase of construction.
When construction is complete in 2018, Joseph Brant Hospital will feature 172 acute inpatient beds in the patient tower, a new emergency department, a larger cancer clinic, nine new operating rooms, expanded medical, surgical and outpatient services, and more.
This is a pivotal moment in the history of health care in our city.
Joseph Brant Hospital currently treats more than 250,000 patients each year. It opened its doors in 1961, but hasn’t had a major renovation since 1971.
This project is a much-needed shot in the arm for the city of Burlington. City council is proud to have committed 60 million dollars to this project.
The Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation has made significant strides in fundraising for the redeveloped and expanded hospital, with more than 65 per cent raised of its 60 million dollar goal.
The foundation’s efforts were bolstered last year by a generous 11 million dollar donation from community builder, philanthropist and entrepreneur Michael Lee-Chin.
2014 was a record year for building
The construction value for building permit applications the city received in 2014 was the highest on record for Burlington.
The steady activity represents an estimated construction value of more than half a billion dollars.
Last year, the city received more than 2,100 building permit applications, which was the second highest in the last decade.
Industrial, commercial and institutional sectors accounted for approximately 60 per cent of the total volume, with the residential sector representing 40 per cent.
Looking forward, we anticipate there will be strong growth in construction activity in 2015 and associated construction value for building permits.
There were close to 650 new residential completions in 2014. Apartments made up more than 75 per cent of this new residential development.
This is a significant change to even five years ago when singles, semis and townhomes were 70 per cent of new home completions.
The type of residential properties is clearly shifting as we reach build out and look to grow within our urban boundaries.
The average price of a residential property in Burlington last year was almost 513,000 dollars. This is a 5.5 per cent increase over 2013.
While our real estate market remains strong, affordable housing continues to be a challenge.
The 2014 Vital Signs update released by the Burlington Community Foundation reports that 7.6 per cent of Burlington residents live in low income households.
These residents, many of whom live month to month, need affordable places to live.
Halton Region’s Official Plan sets a target that at least 30 per cent of new housing units produced annually in the region are affordable or assisted housing. This is easier said than done.
A housing success story from last year was city council’s approval of a 13-unit townhouse development by Habitat for Humanity Halton on Glendor Avenue.
I look forward to working further with Habitat for Humanity to create affordable home ownership opportunities for hardworking men and women who otherwise would not be able to afford to live in Burlington.
2014 was a year of strengthening government relations
The fall municipal election saw all seven members of council re-elected.
I commend everyone who put their name forward as a candidate in 2014.
It is a labour of love to run for and serve in political office. It requires perseverance, commitment and strength of character.
I was very pleased to see all six of my colleagues return to city hall.
This city council is a hardworking team of experienced, caring and committed people.
At the end of the day, despite elbows getting up once in awhile, we all want what is best for our city.
We also made progress in 2014 with our provincial counterparts.
Our first-ever Burlington Day was hosted at Queen’s Park in April 2014.
This was an opportunity for meaningful conversation between council and staff with the leadership in the provincial legislature.
We continue to work with Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon, Halton MPP Indira Naidoo-Harris and our friends at the province on key issues.
Last year, I was also elected to the board of directors for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. This allows me to be involved in issues across the province. It also gives me an opportunity to meet more often with members of the provincial government and develop fruitful relationships.
We have enjoyed growing our relationship with Burlington MP Mike Wallace.
We look forward to strengthening our connection with Ottawa, regardless of which party forms government after the next election.
2014 was a year of investment in parks and recreation
Mountainside Recreation Centre and Centennial Pool reopened in 2014 with 12 million dollars in upgrades and renovations.
This investment is much more than bricks and mortar.
Recreational facilities build inter-connectivity and a healthy community.
Our commitment to creating safe spaces for youth to connect was reaffirmed with a new youth drop-in space at Mountainside.
This is a great example of how we build community.
Our ongoing initiative to update playground equipment continued at five parks last year. We also saw three new splash pads.
These facilities are key to keeping our youngest residents active.
City council approved funding to plow snow from the paths along Centennial Bikeway, the Beachway and the North Hydro Corridor to help residents stay active during the winter and achieve their new year’s resolutions.
We also made our parks smoke-free in April, to create improved outdoor spaces for residents of all ages.
This year will see revitalization plans for Sherwood Forest Park, a Community Trails Strategy and planning for upgraded Windows-to-the-Lake.
We will also show off our city to the Americas during the Pan Am Games, which come to the Greater Toronto Area in July. City View Park here in Burlington is a practice facility for soccer.
We are also proud to host the Pan Am Torch Relay in June.
2014 was a year for going green
Last May, the City of Burlington celebrated the Holland family gift of 37-acres of greenspace at a sign unveiling.
The newly-named Eileen and John Holland Nature Sanctuary is a part of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System.
We are committed to working with our partners to renew our agreement around the ecopark system.
We opened two new community gardens in 2014 at Amherst Park and along the Frances Road bikeway.
These new sites are in addition to the popular community garden at Central Park.
After undergoing renovations for expansion and revitalization, the Burlington Transit facility received the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – or LEED – designation in September 2014.
2014 was a year of culture
In a survey conducted for our Cultural Action Plan, 76 per cent of Burlington residents said culture is ‘essential’ or ‘highly important’ in their daily lives.
Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist, said, “Creativity has replaced raw materials or natural harbours as the crucial wellspring of economic growth. To be successful in this emerging creative age, regions must develop, attract and retain talented and creative people who generate innovations, develop technology-intensive industries and power economic growth.”
We continued to elevate the profile of arts and culture in 2014.
We launched a new online map showcasing the community’s many cultural assets, from buildings to artists.
The Burlington Performing Arts Centre had 374 bookings between the two theatres in 2014. This was an 18 per cent increase over the previous year.
More than 82,000 people attended performances and there were over 12,000 performers on its stages for a grand total of 94,000 people using the Centre.
The Burlington Performing Arts Centre is a world-class facility in our downtown core. Although it was controversial when it was approved, I believe it has enhanced the cultural fabric of our community.
The Centre is a key performance venue for a number of our community groups, such as the Burlington Teen Tour Band, the Burlington Concert Band and Symphony on the Bay.
Last year also saw strong growth at another key cultural institution in Burlington – our public libraries.
The number of people who have a Burlington Public Library card grew by almost 13,000 over the year before for a total of over 94,000.
There were more than 1.1 million customer visits last year and almost 57,000 people attended library-run or sponsored events.
Community librarians are developing relationships with individuals and many organizations across the city focused on children, teens, seniors and people with special needs.
The Museums of Burlington continued to connect and engage with our community about our rich history.
More than 25,000 guests visited and participated in general museum visits, exhibit openings and special events in 2014.
The museum looks to expand its special programming this year to feature more experiential programming like walking tours and hands-on workshops, for all ages.
The launch of the Art Gallery of Burlington’s new brand was accompanied by record turnouts in 2014 at various exhibitions.
The art gallery also began to take the light out from under the bushel on the gem they have right here at home with the country’s largest collection of contemporary Canadian ceramics.
This year, the gallery is focused on touring works from its permanent collection to other cities – and into international exchanges.
The city’s commitment to the arts continues in 2015.
We commissioned public art at Norton Park and Moutainside Recreation Centre. These will be unveiled this year.
We also launched the Burlington Mural Project, designed to tell local stories using local artists. One mural will be installed in each of Burlington’s six wards.
Public art enhances our community by providing a sense of place. Just as artwork beautifies the rooms in our homes, public art serves the same important purpose throughout our city.
Our festivals continue to draw hundreds of thousands of people from across the province, country and continent.
These events celebrate local talent, are a major driver of our economy and showcase our city’s many attractions.
Whether it is the Sound of Music Festival, Canada’s Largest Ribfest, the Children’s Festival, Lowville Winter Games, Culture Days or one of the many other exciting events, there is something for everyone.
2014 was about getting people moving
Residents have asked us to ease traffic congestion.
There is no silver bullet, but we are doing what we can.
There are significant dollars included in our capital budget and forecast that will be invested in improving traffic flows on some of our busiest roads, such as Harvester Road.
The City of Burlington is replacing its central traffic signal system.
This will be complete by the summer.
The new system will provide staff with automated performance data so their efforts can be focused on adjusting signal timings where the need is greatest.
Public engagement is ongoing for the Transportation Master Plan.
This municipal strategy co-ordinates transportation networks and services with anticipated community growth.
A final report will be ready for December 2015.
We are also working on improving our transit system through a significant investment in a transit intelligent transportation system.
This system will give riders electronic access to real time bus information.
Handi-Van riders will experience some significant improvements with real time bus arrival texts, improved booking technology and trip planning tools.
Importantly, it will provide Burlington Transit with electronic reporting on such aspects as on-time performance, boardings and ridership. This gives us hard data when determining transit improvements.
We’ve invested in getting people moving, but easing traffic congestion will also require a shift among our residents to try alternative modes of transportation.
Of trips taken during a typical weekday that start or end in Burlington, the greatest number – more than 260,000 – remain within the city. That represents almost half of all trips that start or end in our city during this period.
Data also shows that Burlington residents have not changed their travel behaviours in the last decade, with the car as the preferred mode.
I challenge our residents to walk to the corner store, ride their bike to work or take a city bus to the GO station.
If we could make one of every five trips using an alternative mode of transportation, it would result in almost 20 per cent fewer cars on our roads, therefore reducing congestion.
2014 was a year of recognition
We celebrated 29 nominees and seven award winners – our helpers – at the annual Burlington’s Best awards ceremony.
The annual Burlington Accessibility Awards saw 14 awards presented to businesses, churches, non-profit organizations and residents who are changemakers in our community.
Burlington was named the Number One mid-sized city in Canada for the second consecutive year by MoneySense magazine.
The publication ranked Burlington the fifth-best city overall in Canada, as well as the third-best place to raise children, the second-best place for new immigrants and the third-best place to retire.
2014 was about connecting with residents
We have heard from the public that they want to be able to connect with city hall in a meaningful way.
I believe informed residents and engaged residents are essential to a functional democratic system.
We created a new engagement tool last year by launching Insight Burlington, an online community panel.
This allows residents and business owners to share their ideas and join the conversation on city issues, whenever and wherever it is best for them.
As a way to improve customer service, we created online opportunities to report graffiti, streetlight outages, potholes and coyote sightings.
Last month, the city launched a new website that is more user-friendly.
We want people to connect with us. We’ve made that easier.
We will also provide many opportunities for the public to be engaged in the Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2018.
Our Strategic Plan determines where our city will be going over the next four years and in the future, how we will get there and how we will know if we were successful.
Looking to 2015, the new year is about the implementation of priorities
In co-ordination with our Official Plan review, we need to engage in dialogue on smart growth and intensification.
Intensification is an issue I hear about regularly from Burlington residents.
My goal this year is to further engage the community on this topic.
I will be speaking about intensification at every opportunity and inviting feedback from residents.
It is important to talk about the federal and provincial policies that are driving intensification, and how Halton and Burlington are not only managing, but embracing this growth.
Burlington consists of approximately 50 per cent rural land protected by the greenbelt, so the growth must happen within our urban boundaries.
Our Official Plan review is expected to be complete in early 2016.
We are looking for new opportunities for residential, office and commercial development at our mobility hubs, growth corridors and aging retail plazas.
I invite you to participate in dialogue about intensification at the first Inspire Burlington event of the term on April 28.
Climate change adaptation is another priority for 2015.
The ice storm of 2013 and flood of 2014 are further evidence our climate is changing.
We need to be prepared.
Municipal and regional staff is working on ways to mitigate flood risks from our stormwater and wastewater systems.
I will also be hosting a climate change adaptation symposium in Burlington later this year.
Economic development remains a priority, as it was during my first term as mayor.
The BEDC anticipates a number of accomplishments by the end of 2015, among which include a surplus land marketing/sale pilot, an annual economic report, the creation of a five-year development plan and a stakeholder process established with land owners and developers for the QEW corridor.
Now that we have service based budgeting in place for the first time with the city’s 2015 budget, we will continue to strive for continuous improvement.
Very clearly, in business and in government, we must do more and better with less.
As members of Halton Regional council and custodians of the public purse, your city council is also watching the region’s budget closely.
The approved 2015 regional budget sees a property tax increase of 1.6 per cent for regional services and police services.
Yesterday, the Community and Corporate Services Committee approved a city tax rate increase of 3.64 per cent.
The city’s proposed increase, combined with the Region of Halton increase and the Boards of Education, results in an overall increase of 2.14 per cent.
This is below the most recent Toronto average consumer price index figure of 2.5 per cent.
The city, in partnership with Burlington Hydro, and with the assistance of a group of community stakeholders, has developed a Community Energy Plan for Burlington.
The plan helps us identify areas where conservation and efficiency measures can be focused.
It also assesses the potential for local generation, particularly through renewable energy, and the use of smart grid technology.
We will find ways to move forward with initiatives identified in the plan this year.
In summary, 2015 is a year of promise.
How do we define Burlington?
Burlington cannot be defined in a single word, sentence or paragraph.
Because Burlington means something different to each one of you in this room, to each resident in this city.
For some of you, it is home. It is the place you taught your child to ride their bicycle. The place you take daily walks around your neighbourhood. The place you bought your dream house.
For others, it is where you opened the doors of your business. The place you are hiring local employees. The place you are networking with other driven professionals. The place you are growing your company.
To me, it is all these things and more.
I stand here today, committed to a city that people are proud to call home, their place of business, their heart and soul. I am proud to have earned your trust for a second term. I take nothing about being mayor for granted.
It is an honour and privilege to do this job each and every day. Even on some of the more challenging days, it is still an honour and privilege.
I will continue to work with council, work with staff, work with the whole community to make Burlington a place that is beyond definition.