Talk about future tax increases

A number of friends have sent me an email to let me know a letter to the Milton Canadian Champion editorial department was printed in this Friday’s paper. Thanks to everyone who noticed.

The letter is pretty much word for word what my last posting talked about and I’ve received a number of emails from people all over the town supporting my thoughts. What seems to get me the most is that there doesnt seem to be a sense of urgency on council to say “hey…this is wrong. We need to fix this now!”

There hasn’t been many voices on council talking about this. After this story was printed I had expected to read a few responses from councillors around the table with their views on the potential increase. Nothing.

Another week passes…still nothing. Why is the question? Why wouldn’t these individuals, trusted by the votes of Milton residents for a four year period NOT want to say something? Why isn’t there any outrage or a showing of concern at the impact this potential (and some would say inevitable) tax increase on people in Milton.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that things aren’t going swimmingly for our economy, and those of our neighbours to the south the United States. Gas is at all time highs and bouncing up and down on a weekly basis, putting incredible pressure on our budgets. The cost of food is increasing for many items in the store which lead to a further tightening of the belts. It just seems no one cares. Its all going to work itself out and the council will accept whatever town staff dishes out.

Some councillors in the past like Paul Schere and Colin Best (among some others) have been very vocal about what council is doing with the budgets, spending and other programs. Where are the voices now?

Is this catastrophic? Will this lead us down into the depths of dispair? Not likely. From an email I received last week, I was told I was being a bit too melodramatic with the potential impact of high municipal tax increases. Not so, because the Town is just one portion of the tax bill.

Town Council seems to forget there are 2 other levels of municipal government that have been sharpening their pencils to take more money out of the ONE taxpayer. The Region of Halton is also projecting a tax INCREASE and school boards (both public and separate) are getting ready to do the same.

We are only one taxpayer. There are numerous levels of government lining up to take what they feel they need to do the business of the “people”. Governments at all levels tax, tax and tax, but they fail to remember its just one taxpayer.

As the cost of everything continues to go up, and confidence in the economy for the short and long term begin to wane…tax increases are going to be a further kick in the shins to people in Halton, Milton and across Canada.

It seems to be an exercise in futility but everyone needs to do what they can to let Milton Town Council know that more needs to be done. Tax increases are inevitable and I have never said there shouldnt be an increase. Common sense would say that government should live within its means as every other household has to. If a family cant afford something, it has to wait. Simple as that. Priorities have to be made and maintained. That simply isnt being done here.

There are a number of areas in the last few budgets that could have been put off until later so they can re-build reserves higher and save for the future. Milton needs more fire fighters. Thats a fact not in dispute. But the Town has to look at their priorities and see if it fits. If not, we wait. Hard pills to swallow but a fact is a fact. You cant do everything right away. It simply wont work.

Did we need almost $3 million dollars spent on brand new buses when the other ones were doing just fine? Again, Im not against a public transit system. Many of the readers of my blog know that as this town grows we NEED a reliable transit system for the future that needs to be properly maintained and kept an eye on. Once its in place, its a slippery slope to more money out the window. The last couple of budgets have proven that with the expenditures on these buses. Could they have waited? Perhaps. Maybe not. Perception of this is that Council merely rubber stamped it so they could expediate the 2 day budget process in December.

There needs to be more leadership on council. Some voices to say, this isnt right and we need to look at things more closely. If it means extending the budget approval process an extra day or go into the long hours of the evening debating line by line…then so be it. Thats what people elect their representatives to do, no matter what level of government.

Is Milton doing an "Outstanding Job"?

In the May 9th edition of the Milton Canadian Champion, town CAO Mario Belvedere said the town of Milton was doing an “outstanding job” managing growth and roads over the past several years.

Town doing ‘outstanding job’: CAO

Town of Milton CAO Mario Belvedere tells council growth has been managed well overall

Melanie Hennessey, Published on May 09, 2008

While things may not be perfect when it comes to the timing of development and infrastructure in Milton, Town staff says that overall it’s doing a good job in managing growth.

This was one of the key messages staff delivered on Monday afternoon at an information workshop for council on growth management.

CAO Mario Belvedere told council he feels that generally the Town has done an outstanding job in managing growth.

He acknowledged there might be “hiccups” when it comes to things like the timing of road construction.

“But other than that we’ve done a pretty darn good job,” he said.

Town Director of Planning and Development Mel Iovio shared similar sentiments.

He said the planning, development phasing and financial agreements the Town has struck with developers have generally resulted in a controlled and logical growth pattern.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he remarked.

He noted the fast rate of growth has caused some inconvenience, but on the plus side it’s resulted in communities being completed much faster.

Town Director of Engineering Services Paul Cripps pointed out that some roads projects are being fast-tracked through the Accelerated Transportation Capital Program, such as the widening of Derry Road from Tremaine Road to Bronte Street.

The work wasn’t slated to get underway until next year, but the timeline has now been moved up so that construction will start this spring and wrap up in the fall.

“We want to continue working with the development community to accelerate as many roads projects as we can,” he said.

He went on to outline other Town and Region road works scheduled to take place from now until 2021. Within the next few years, those projects include:

2008 — construction of James Snow Parkway from Steeles Avenue to Boston Church Road

2008 — reconstruction of Thompson Road from Derry Road to Main Street

2010 — construction of a road underpass on Main Street at the CPR tracks

2010 — widening Regional Road 25 from two lanes to four between Derry and Britannia roads

Cripps explained the timing of the projects coincides with when the “capacity crunch” will come along for those roads.

The downside of this, he said, is the pressure the Town receives from residents who are pushing for roads to be up to par before the development boom.

But Cripps said there’s also an advantage. With the new roads coming on board after the majority of developers’ heavy construction traffic has come and gone, residents will “get a brand new road with a maximum life expectancy.”

Ward 3 Councillor Cindy Lunau asked staff to keep in mind the road upgrades that are also required in the rural area. “We need to reserve a certain portion of our budget each year to maintain the quality of life in the rural area.”

Cripps said staff is mindful of the needs in rural Milton.

The workshop also included presentations from each of the Town’s senior staff members on the responsibilities and roles of their departments when it comes to planning for growth. For example, the Corporate Services department handles development charges and the financial agreements made with developers, Engineering Services looks after transportation issues and Community Services plans for facilities like arenas.

Iovio detailed the numerous items on the Planning and Development department’s plate for the coming years, including plans for the Derry Green Business Park, the next phase of residential development and the Milton Education Village, which will hopefully see Wilfrid Laurier University come to Milton.

Melanie Hennessey can be reached at mhennessey@miltoncanadianchampion.com

***

While I will disagree with some people who say the towns done a horrible job managing growth, outstanding isn’t a word I’d be using. That article made the town and its council sound very arrogant. Bad choice of words. It almost ranks up there with Mayor Gord Krantz telling the Champion during an interview that Milton didn’t have a traffic congestion problem right under a picture of Thompson Road (before all the work started) backed up from Main Street to Derry Road.

I think it isn’t up to the town to decide if they are doing a great job as only time will tell that tale for certain.

This article brought up a number of responses in the Letters to the Editor. Hmmm, next time a slice of humility before speaking with the press, shall we? It’s making those of us, like the author of this blog, who know everything look bad.

***

Let us decide if Town is doing the ‘wonderful’ job CAO claims

Published on May 16, 2008

In last Friday’s Champion, the front-page headline read ‘Town doing outstanding job: CAO.’

I think it would be a good idea if town council and members of regional council took a look around Milton before they decide how “wonderful” things are.

If they really want to know how things are going, they should have a town hall meeting and invite townspeople to speak about this subject — without limiting how people can voice their opinions and views.

AGOSTINO GALIOTO, MILTON

Comment on management of growth tough to swallow

Published on May 16, 2008

As a 22-year resident and taxpayer of Milton, it pained me to read the verbal diarrhea that emanated from the lips of our illustrious Town of Milton CAO, Mario Belvedere, at a recent town council meeting.

He stated that the Town is doing an “outstanding” job and that growth has been managed well overall. Not surprisingly, the statement was supported by his minions in the planning and engineering departments, who make me ask — outstanding compared to what?

The term outstanding is used to describe things that are exceptional, terrific, wonderful, stupendous, dazzling, marvelous, excellent, great or superior, not abysmal, myopic, unresolved, unsettled or incomplete.

Attempts to downplay the glaringly-visible deficiencies that plague Milton are disappointing to say the least, as statements suggesting there might be “hiccups” when it comes to things like the timing of road construction can only lead one to believe there have been and will continue to be numerous glitches, interruptions and setbacks. In my opinion, this has been characteristic of the progress of the roadwork and other infrastructure-related projects to date in Milton.

Now one may ask, how was the City of Mississauga able to implement access roadways into and out of subdivisions — equipped with proper turn lanes, fully-functioning street lights and pedestrian crossing systems — prior to new subdivisions being completed? Might it have something to do with the fact that the City of Mississauga actually controlled the manner and pace in which growth was implemented?

This logic seems to have evaded the grasp of the current director of engineering services, whose portfolio includes both transportation and community services plans for recreational facilities such as arenas.

In terms of roadways, commuters traveling east on Derry Road are now treated to a traffic backlog stretching all the way from Trafalgar Road down to Trudeau Drive.

Sixth Line south of Britannia Road is another source of commuter frustration, as drivers are greeted with an absence of turn lanes and traffic lights. Town Engineering Services Director Paul Cripps’ reply to this is that “staff is mindful of the needs in rural Milton.” Okay, prove it.

Meanwhile, Milton District Hospital is a mess that speaks to the collective inaction by the four levels of government within our area to ensure it’s able to adequately service the health-care needs of Miltonians. It’s abundantly clear that it isn’t.

I’m thankful my children were born between 1988 and 1992 when the hospital was able to adequately manage the patient load, and the emergency room was treating emergencies.

What has the Town of Milton’s executive and administration done in conjunction with the Region of Halton, provincial and federal levels of government to ensure the provincial minister of health, premier of Ontario and federal minister of health are aware of our hospital’s needs? And what has the Town done to secure the requisite funding to resolve the hospital’s need for expansion?

C.J. MCCARROLL, MILTON

***

OUCH. Maybe the Town needs a little help getting ready the next time it decides to pat itself on the back.

Yates Drive and March Crossing

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Just the mere mention of that intersection causes many residents in the area to roll their eyes.

Why? We have seen many near misses of vehicles driving down Yates from Thompson Road with cars coming out of March Crossing. This weekend was no different.

Lets go back in time to this past summer around the dinner hour. Local residents were brought out of their homes with the sounds of screeching tires, loud thumps and a big bang. What had happened was a car traveling north on Yates Drive towards Bennett Blvd. at what witnesses describe as “over the speed limit”, narrowly missing a vehicle coming out on March Crossing into the intersection. This car swerved to miss that car, lost control and jumped the curb on the opposite side of the road and smash into a house. Luckily there was no one hurt, the car sustained some damage and the bay window of the home was damaged.

For those of us who live in the area know, kids are walking up and down the sidewalk heading to their friends homes or to the local parks and thank God no one was there was this happened.

Now, we go back to this past Saturday and the almost exact situation happened again. A car traveling up Yates Drive from Thompson Road heading towards Bennett Blvd. driving up the street, narrowly misses a car coming out from March Crossing, loses control and jumps the curb on the opposite side and hits the same house in almost the identical spot.

Enough is enough. Im not one person who favours putting stop signs at every intersection or reducing speed when there is no justification. Something has to change before any other home or God forbid, someone is injured or killed.

The speed limit on Yates Drive is 50km/hr. During last falls election campaign, I spoke with many people about community safety and what we as citizens can do to make our streets safer. Many of you favoured reducing the speed limit on streets. Is that enough?

Would a 40km/hr speed limit saved this home owner from yet another insurance claim and time away from their lives to repair the damage to their home that someone else caused? Maybe.

If the speed limit was reduced it might be cause for the driver to make sure they slow down. Who really knows.

Would a stop sign have done the trick? Again, who knows. If drivers know there is a stop sign approaching at that intersection, would they reduce their speed before they come to March Crossing?

Possibly. Only if people open their eyes and realize our residential and town roads are not speedways.

It’s frustrating to live in an area such as this with such amazing neighbours and people living in the subdivision to have to deal with this. The only thing we have left is to turn to the town of Milton and see what can be done.

For years now, residents have complained about speeding on our streets. To the town’s credit they have done some studies about excess speed on Yates Drive and have concluded it doesnt warrant a stop sign at this particular intersection.

My message, that I plan on delivering with the help of the local residents, is simply this.

Reduce the speed to 40km/h and / or put a 4 way stop at this intersection. By doing nothing, is simply condoning this behaviour and endorsing what has already happened.

The safety of the people in the area, their homes and our children are more important than worrying about if people will be inconvenienced by an additional stop sign.

Whats more important to you?

Is the Green Cart program enough

 

The Region of Halton recently announced that it was going forward with a Green Cart Program to help reduce the amount of waste that heads to our landfill site. In case people are unaware of where that landfill site is, take a trip down 25 (Bronte Road) south of Derry and you will soon see it.

There was quite the discussion during the last municipal election on what should be done with the landfill, which is quickly approaching capacity. With the hundreds and hundreds of new homes being built in the area there will be a further demand on that landfill and its up to us as residents to do our part.

The Region of Halton currently has the Blue Box program in place. You are to put glass, plastics etc in one box and in the other we place the acceptable paper products, boxes, etc. As of April 2008 it was announced that residents will be able to put all products into one box instead of separating it, given the improvement in the separation technology available.

During that campaign a debate raged on about the EFW (Energy From Waste) proposal that was put before Regional Council and the pros and cons involved. In essence, an incinerator would be built at the landfill and the waste would then be burned using clean technology to produce energy that would be used in the region of Halton and beyond. Coupled with this proposal there was the much maligned Pristine Power Plant issue that seemed to dominate the last half of the campaign.

Recently Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr along with council announced that it was putting the EFW option aside permanently and focusing only on the existing programs and the Green Cart.

Does it go far enough?

With our landfill approaching capacity quickly (some analysts have said that within 25 years Halton will be required to have another landfill or another option in place for our garbage) will simply placing household food scraps and other materials in our Green Box do the job? With the landfill approaching capacity by 2023 according to Halton Region analysis, we need to take sufficient action now. The addition of the Green Cart program will add 7 years to the life of the landfill where the EFW facility would solve our problems for close to 50 years from now.

The EFW program, according to the proposal and the experts would have added at least another 100 years to the life of the Halton landfill. Does the Green Cart program go far enough?

At first glance it would seem that unless I’m mistaken and someone can hopefully provide me with more information, that it would have little affect on the amount of garbage at the landfill. The Region of Halton, and residents in general, need to come up with a longer range plan to solve the landfill issue.

Of course costs will be a major factor in making this decision. Who pays for it, how will we pay for it, etc. But the main question remains, what will it cost if nothing gets done? What if we wait until the landfill is near capacity and decisions have to be made then? The cost to taxpayers will pale in comparison and who knows the effect on our environment.

The amount of available land is decreasing with every new resident that we welcome to the area. What other options are there available to increase the life of our landfill?

It seems that the easier political issue would be to scrap the EFW and go with the easier to sell Green Cart Program. Tough decision are going to have to be made NOW and not 25 years from now when our landfill is overflowing and the residents will be screaming for answers.

Lets look at all the options … now, before its too late. Food scraps and other items just wont cut it.

Every Vote DOES Count

As many of you are aware, there was a provincial election recently. The campaign seemed to go on forever since Premier Dalton McQuinty closed down Queens Park early this summer and thus the rubber hit the road.

During that campaign there was a referendum on our voting system that we, as voters, had to figure out and make a decision on. The future of the province was up for grabs. Did we think that the Liberals did a good enough job to carry on for four more years or did they deserve to get the boot?

Despite what side of that arguement you sat on, one thing we should all be able to agree upon is this…the voter turnout was dissappointing.

Just over half of the electorate came out to vote. This statistic has been continually debated after each election and a common theme has emerged. My vote doesn’t count.

Now when I hear that, it makes me shake my head. A perfect example can be given from this past provincial election.

Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh has been representing our riding of Halton for 12 years. He, in my and many peoples opinions, has done a very good job representing us in fights to secure more funding for Milton’s hospital and other services our growing community needs.

To put a long story short, Ted was returned to Queens Park on October 10th with a difference of only 164 votes when everything was counted. Going from having the highest plurality of votes by a winning candidate in the last elections to one of, if not THE closest margin of victory this time. Regardless of what you thought about faith based education funding and what kind of impact that had on Ted’s results, it just goes to show that everyone who did vote here in Halton….those votes counted.

Another example from the previous federal election can be found with our current Minister of Health, Tony Clement. He won his riding by only 28 votes. On election night and before the recount, he had only won by 21 votes. Again, in that riding as well as others, those votes counted.

Want more? Lets go back in time shall we? Almost one year ago in fact.

Last year around this time we were in the midst of our municipal election campaign. I was spending almost each and every waking moment hitting the doors and talking to as many people as possible. My blog was being updated on a daily basis with comments and observations that I got from the voters in my ward.

Every issue that came up, I did my best to put out there exactly what my stand on the issue was and what can be done to fix that problem. From Pristine Power to road safety to green growth and to accountibility of the elected officials…everything was up for discussion.

In Milton, each ward can elect 2 town councillors to represent them. In our current system its the first two candidates with the highest votes that win. In past elections in Ward One, the difference between the first two candidates and the third were hundreds of votes. This time around in 2006, the difference betweeen an elected seat and the third place was only 92 votes.

Less than 100 votes separated myself from current Councilor Brian Penman. Not a large margin…and that’s democracy for you.

So when I hear from people that my vote doesnt count, I bring them to these examples and say, YES your vote DOES count.

Instead of coming up with different ways to count our votes (ie MMP et all) we should be taking a hard look at ourselves and our priorities when it comes to the ballot box.

Why didnt you vote?  Oh I didnt have time.  The last provincial election had several days of advanced polls so that people who would find it hard to go vote on election day, can come out and have their voice heard.  I believe the advanced polls were open 5 days and open for almost 10 hours on election day.  There are laws in place to allow everyone a chance to vote.  Many people dont take advantage of these options and its saddening to say the least.

In the last municipal election less than 30% of people voted.  In the following by election in Ward 2, even less voted … approx 20%.  Again in this situation, advance polls were available, extended voting hours and many opportunities given, but yet people didnt show up.  I dont think that by changing the system from its current incarnation to MMP or another system will help.

The problem is people dont want to vote.  Again, many feel that their vote doesnt count.  Hopefully after reading this, they might change their opinion.  We need to find out why people arent voting and work at it from that angle…not changing the system so that we end up losing local representation in some ridings by having some political party people sitting in a seat and speaking out on our behalf.

Lets have that discussion soon.  A federal election is looming in the next few months quite possibly and given the current state of affairs and the minority government in place, our vote counts even more.