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.

Never ending story

SLOW DOWNIt’s another long weekend in Milton. Schools are all out and kids are running around their homes as we speak trying to find something to keep them busy. I know Anthony is ready to do something … and fast. That’s why I love the summer. He loves it too, like driving his bike to the park and playing basketball and soccer with his friends too. As a parent of a very energetic 7 year old boy, I worry about his safety, like other parents do, even more around this time of year.

It was just only a few short weeks ago when young lives were extinguished over a weekend because of speeding, careless driving and other road issues. Lets hope and pray that this Canada Day weekend wont have the same tragic results for other families.

I was taking a few moments to go to one of my favourite sites www.hawthornevillager.com to look at some of the posts in its highly successful forum. In case you haven’t visited it, hundreds of people who live in Milton post there daily, comments about the town, and other general items. One of the pastimes on the forum is to raise issues like speeding in our neighbourhoods.

We all see it happen on a regular basis and some just don’t know what to do about it. I live off Yates Drive east of Thompson road and I experience the speeders almost daily. I know there are also a number of different intersections and streets in town that suffer from the same problem.

I’ve written here many times about the intersection of Yates Drive and March Crossing being the location of 3 collisions in less than a year and how many of the residents in the area asking for either a 4 way stop or something that will encourage people to slow down. Those requests have been answered by letters from the town staff saying traffic counts are too low and stop signs aren’t speed controls and the list goes on.

Reading one of the topics on the Hawthorne Villager recently, proves to me the problems haven’t been addressed or solved in the two years since this new council took office. I have talked with many people in our area and other areas of town and they have all complained about the inaction of our council representatives. The town seems to be more interested in telling us that they are doing an “outstanding job” than actually DOING an outstanding job.

Whats being done about this isn’t working. The more we seem to “ask” others to be more considerate, the more its being ignored. I mean, other peoples lives are more important and if they deem themselves to be above others, they are going to continue.

To the folks who fly up Yates (both sides) rushing from dropping their kids off to school feel that it will save them time to get where THEY are going, they’ll continue to drive at speeds topping 70km/h (yes unofficial spot checks prove this). Its all about the “ME” instead of the “US” that it should be.

And from personal experience talking to a lot of people during the election a couple of years ago, these same people I see driving down the streets at excessive speeds, a LOT of them told me road safety was one of their important issues. They know who they are…I wont name names.

The town refuses to consider lowering the speed limits in residential areas because it will frustrate drivers and make them speed more (HUH? Ive never got that logic) The town refuses to consider stop signs in high traffic intersections because unnecessary stop signs frustrate drivers and will lead to more abuse.

Lower the speed limits, raise the fines. Hit people in the pocketbook because it seems logic and reason doesnt work with many of the offenders. Ive noticed on Yates a slight improvement in the speed levels…there are always people who will ignore the rules and do what they want.

If you get tagged for a $200 fine for speeding on a residential street,will you think twice before flooring it to save a few seconds at a light? I know I would.

I would hope that logic and reason wins in these cases, as we all live in these homes, and we all either have kids or know someone who has kids and we want them to be safe…but in the same breath, they fly down streets at excessive speeds putting people at risk.

Last election I mentioned that town council has lost its focus on certain issues like growth, taxation and community safety. Its sad to say that nothing seems to have changed. We can email the councillors as much as we want…I know of several people on our street and others who have sent Brian and Rick an email or phone call only to have silence be their only answer.

What frustrates drivers is the actions of a few impacting everyone else. I don’t know about you but id rather piss off someone who’s driving 80 down my street if it helps those who obey the laws be less frustrated.

Happy Canada Day everyone! Safe travels!Canada Flag

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.

Yates Drive and March Crossing

mike-cluett-005.jpg

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?