Finalist

The results are in for Canada’s Best Local Blog…and your’s truly came in 5th. Not bad for a first time around in the blogging world.

*CUE TERMINATOR QUOTE “I’LL BE BACK”

Thanks to everyone who voted for my Milton blog and thanks to everyone who took some time to visit and read some of my rantings.

Congratulations to the other participants and the winners as well.

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.

Where will ward one go

Is the town making the right decision by looking at changing the ward boundries in Milton?

By the sounds of this letter to the Champion last week, they might be jumping the gun. Milton resident Robert Harris states that the Town of Milton should wait until the Region of Halton completes its “Sustainable Halton” plan before making changes to how the town is divided up. Here’s the letter…

Doing review of town’s ward boundaries now is premature

Published on May 20, 2008

Hats off to Councillor Colin Best, who stated the obvious at a recent town council meeting about waiting for the Sustainable Halton plan as the template to follow before realigning ward boundaries in Milton.

He has shown that he can envision town growth and at the same time save taxpayers money — a sum of $40,000.

The optics around this ward boundary review recommended by council don’t look good at this time. Some would look at it as an attempt by some councillors to possibly ensure another term in office by surgically removing urban growth within their wards.

It could be initially viewed as an effect to ensure representation for rural Milton, but the consultant’s report will probably recommend a reduction in councillors in these sparsely-populated wards, favouring representation for urban areas.

Rural Milton stands to come up shorter in representation as a result of this poorly-timed initiative.

Best’s view to wait until the 2014 election to realign ward boundaries is prudent and falls in line with regional council’s decision.

The Region has stated that there’s to be no change in the number of councillors representing Milton until the 2014 election.

I say wait, Milton council, and save the taxpayers some money. This will prevent the possible hassle of a future Ontario Municipal Board hearing over proposed ward boundaries that will require changes again after another four years of growth.

ROBERT HARRIS, GOWLANDS CRESCENT

In case you missed it, the Town of Milton recently commissioned a study to review the ward boundaries for the next municipal election in 2010. Currently, the town has 4 wards with two councillors serving for each ward. For much of the new area south of Derry, we live in whats called ward one.

Before the “big pipe” was built and the throngs of new homes were constructed here, ward one was mainly a rural ward much like ward 3. Seeing ow the majority of the growth has happened here, theres a population spike in our ward and what looks like an unfair balance in the way we are represented on council.

Councillor Brian Penman at the April 28th meeting of council stated that it was difficult to answer the calls and emails from the growing number of residents in ward one. It is this logic which brings us to the changing of the boundaries in Milton.

Yes it does need to be done. Right now ward one has the largest population of all the wards and continues to grow with every new family that takes possession of their new homes. The population will continue to grow over the next couple of years and if I plan on running again in 2010 for town council, it will essentially be double the size of 2006 election. (I need the exercise anyways)

Milton, we have a problem. The Region of Halton has yet to make formal its “Sustainable Halton” initiative which will make clearer what new developments are going to be approved and when. While it might seem that Milton has reached its peak in development and population, there is still lots of land to build homes and businesses in the coming years. The Town of Milton has just entered into talks for the Wilfred Laurier University education park, which would bring thousands of new residents to town to continue their studies.

The land surrounding the hospital is to be developed for commercial and residential use, not to mention HOPEFULLY the province gets off its duff, and makes changes to ensure the expansion of Milton’s hospital (thats another rant) and many more subdivisions to come.

Regional Councillor Colin Best made mention of this very fact at that meeting and urged council to hold off until the Region has finalized its plans.

With all this new development to come, it could change the population of the now Ward one area by upwards of 40,000. Then at that time, changes would have to be made again.

So whats the hurry then? Why doesn’t it make sense to Milton council to hold off on the ward changes and wait for the Region in 2014 and then make the much needed adjustments to the wards? Good questions.

This doesn’t even touch the cost of the program yet. The Town staff has budgeted $40,000 to pay for the study to be done. Dr. Robert Williams, who is a political science professor is also doing a similar study for the city of Kitchener and is expected to make his ideas known soon. I do have a problem with the cost of this study and where the money was to be coming from.

The Town of Milton gets a per centage of the revenues from the Mohawk Racetrack just north in Milton. Its a great deal that was signed awhile back to ensure the racetrack gives back to the town. These revenues are to go to programs like the Milton Community Fund that helps organizations and events in town with raising money to help better our community. Proceeds from the racetrack revenues are NOT to go to operating expenses but towards programs like this and possibly capital programs to help the town grow.

It would be like you turn to your spouse and ask them to go to the corner store to buy a lottery ticket so you can afford to buy milk and bread for your family. Its just wrong.

The money to commission this report was going to come from that fund…which is wrong. Town staff does the odd thing right but this idea, whoever it was, is just plain stupid. Before the motion was passed by council, they made an amendment to have the cost of the study come from the Capital Works reserve fund.

So, given the fact that once the Region finalizes the SH plan, we as a town will have to do this all over again. Lets save $40,000 from our reserve funds and wait. The councillors can tough it out for another few years to give the residents the representation they need and once completed, we can get it right.

It doesnt seem that council is thinking that way. So, $40,000 is tossed away on a study that can wait and those funds can go to something else the town needs. The Town of Milton seems to like spending money.

Don’t get me started on how the Town of Milton is spending its away into financial problems…again, another post for another day. Seeing how time is limited with the new addition to the family, I have to pace myself in my rants to avoid bursts in blood pressure.

The topic was also brought up casually during the discussions of the April 28th meeting that they might want to look at making the Milton town council a full time position instead of what it currently is, a part time job.

While nothing was brought forward formally regarding the change in job description, the seed has now been planted to talk about it.

Community Road Watch

With the new school term beginning and the almost in synch complaints about peoples “bad driving” running rampant throughout the town this article by Halton Region Chair Gary Carr is quite timely.

Many people I spoke with during the last municipal campaign talked very passionately about road safety. In fact it was one of the core parts of my campaign. Unlike some other candidates I ran on issues that were important to Miltonians and had a plan of action for each. For every resident I talked to, I always brought up this organization as the ones to contact and find out more information. Road safety is very important…even more now that we have our kids walking through the streets to the bus stops and along the sidewalks to school.

We have all experienced it. The car speeding down the street at an obviously high rate of speed with what we all assume to be reckless abandon while a number of students are trying to cross the street to get to the school bus. I live on Yates Drive at March Crossing and I seen my share of speeders. Many of them not realizing that they are driving at excessive speeds or if they do notice, they don’t seem to care.

Many people plead from their porches and from the sidewalks to those who feel it necessary to exceed the speed limit on our residential streets and endanger the lives and safety of all of us, but most importantly our children. Those pleas go unheard.

The police cant be at every street corner in every part of town, although at times we would like nothing better than to see those who break the law get punished. The Community Road Watch program is set up for just this reason.

It really shouldn’t have to come to this but here’s what you can do. Thanks to Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr for including this in his recent guest column in the Oakville Beaver.

Participating in Road Watch
Gary Carr, Guest Columnist

Published on Sep 08, 2007

As the Chair of Halton Region, I have the pleasure to sit on the Board of the Halton Region Police Service (HRPS).

As a member of the police service board, I have the opportunity to hear about the community programs HRPS is involved in with the community, as well as their ideas for new projects that would benefit our community.

One very exciting project currently being run in Halton Region is the Community Road Watch program.

This is a community-operated program that gives residents the opportunity to report aggressive and unsafe drivers through a Citizen Report Form to police.

Here’s how the citizen report is processed:

The first time a citizen report is received, an information letter is sent by the police to the registered owner of the vehicle explaining that their vehicle was observed being operated in an unsafe manner at a specific time and location, and asks them to remember to drive safely on Halton roadways.

If the vehicle owner was not driving their vehicle, it is their responsibility to speak with the person who was.

The second time a citizen report is received on the same registered owner, a repeat letter is sent from the police with the potential for personal contact from a police officer to address the problem.

A third report against an owner will result in a third letter and a personal visit from a police officer.

If you observe a dangerous act of aggressive driving on the roads in Halton Region, please consider taking the time to submit a Citizen Report Form.

You can fill out the form online, or place a completed form in one of the secure drop boxes that are located throughout the community at participating police stations, businesses and libraries.

Copies of the form can be faxed to the Halton Region Police Service at 905-845-0381.

The information you provide in the reports is held in strict confidence by Halton Regional Police and you will remain unidentified.

Please fill out the forms as completely as possible to provide the police with the most information possible.

All completed forms are picked up on a regular basis and verified by the police for accuracy. I encourage you to participate in this program and help to keep Halton streets safe from dangerous and aggressive driving.

To fill out a Citizen Report Form, or for more information about the Community Road Watch program, please contact the Halton Regional Police Service at 905-825-4777 — South Halton; 905-878-5511 – North Halton, or visit the website at www.hrps.on.ca.