Changes Coming To Milton’s Election Sign Bylaw?

Here is a link to a story by Rachael Williams from the Milton Canadian Champion about the ever present sign mess that has happened over the last few election campaigns.

http://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/5951106-signs-of-election-time-in-milton/

Election signs have been a part of democracy for as long as I can remember. As a child I remembered my father waiting to hear from all the candidates before he decided to choose which sign would be placed on our lawn for the duration of the campaign.

As the article states, there seems to be a movement to ban them from public roadways and only being able to be placed on private property.

While the site of endless signs adorn our roadways and lawns, I feel that trying to ban them is a knee jerk reaction that will end up putting a muzzle on democracy.

As someone who has had many signs with his name on them for the last 3 municipal election campaigns, I can tell you they do serve a purpose. They are there to communicate to the public who is running in their area and for what position.

Election signs increase the name recognition of those running and for someone like me who previously has held no public office, they go a long way.

Sadly over the last few campaigns in Milton (provincial, municipal and now federal) the sign teams for the candidates have taken liberty on where they place them.

We can go back to the municipal campaign of 2014 in Milton where we had over 60 candidates vying for many positions. Signs were placed along the roadways, intersections and side streets like it was going out of style. During that campaign, myself and other candidates were asked why do we need so many of them.

Derry Road was a great example of over doing the signs. A majority of the 60 candidates were running in wards 1,6,7 & 8 and driving or walking along Derry was a challenge with literally hundreds of signs. It was a mess to say the least. It didn’t get better as the campaign wore on.

It got so bad that Councillor Zeeshan Hamid and I actually removed many of our signs along that and other routes because it was getting way too cluttered. The signs defeated the purpose of name recognition and it turned into sign wars.

Some candidates signs were targeted, removed, slashed or simply destroyed which added to an even further mess. Many candidates took liberty with the rules and began to place them on the “town portion” of people’s lawns without the home owners consent.

If you were a home owner with a corner lot, signs were placed strategically so that there was a presumption of support from the home owner, leaving them with the question “Can I take these down?”

I along with many councillors have received phone calls and emails to inquire as to what can be done seeing how signs are a municipal responsibility it is up to us to make changes to that bylaw.

For me, an outright ban isn’t the answer and it seems that’s the direction were headed. Recently Halton Region passed a bylaw banning election signs on regional roads like Derry, Steeles, and James Snow Parkway. Mind you, the previous council passed this bylaw one meeting before the new council was sworn in. At that point the outgoing regional council unanimously approved it.

If this bylaw had waited one more meeting, as I was a newly elected member of Halton Regional council, it wouldn’t have been unanimous.

Do we need a better sign bylaw for election signs? I think so. An outright ban? Nope.

Here are some of my ideas for a new sign bylaw:

* minimum distance between signs be 500 m at the least – What benefit is there to seeing a candidates name 20 times as you drive along Bronte St along every light pole.

* sign friendly zones – We have some intersections where there is enough room to have space for signs where each candidate is limited to one sign in these zones.

* stronger penalties for violations for candidates – Sadly the onus is on our town staff to collect the signs that violate the bylaw. These are resources we shouldn’t have to use if the candidates teams simply read and understood the rules. Will there be some errors? Quite likely. But we are running into situations where signs get removed, candidates teams are informed as to why and then a day later, the sign returns in the same spot. Penalties for this need to be increased.

* clarification of the “town portion” of the roadway – People in residential areas shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced by having signs placed on their property without their consent because the sign is on the town portion.

* signs placed in the area you’re running in – The last municipal election is a perfect example of this. Many of the candidates had signs in wards they weren’t running in. We had candidates running in wards 2,3,4 & 5 and who had signs in ward 1 & 6. I had numerous calls from people asking why I was running against Clr Colin Best because his opponent had signs in my area. This leads to confusion for voters and inevitably can lead to them not bothering to vote. Your signs should go in the area you are running in and nowhere else.

These are just some of the recommendations I would bring forward in an updated bylaw for election signs.

As a past & future candidate I ask of my colleagues to do their best to help stop this mess that’s happening. It’s your name on those signs and now people are getting upset. Don’t let them be upset at you.

Don’t just leave the signs to the sign team and forget about them and just to let you know, I have never had someone come to me and say “I voted for you because you had the most signs out there”

If we ban them, we’re also making it difficult for future candidates to run for election and in turn giving incumbents more power to keep their positions. We should always be doing what we can to help democracy when we can. And this is coming from someone who would benefit from a sign ban.

Campaigns need to step up. If you can put them up, you can keep them fixed and then take them down. Don’t expect town staff to collect them for you or expect a hefty bill.

We all love our town and we want to keep it clean. Walk the talk and make sure signs are placed legally and with some common sense in mind.

Let’s hope we remember this as we inevitably will enter into yet another discussion of banning signs. Let’s work together to make some common sense rules that will benefit everyone and keep democracy alive.

Milton Taxes – Value For Dollars Spent?

Earlier this month Racheal Williams from the Milton Canadian Champion approached members of council and the public a question about the property taxes we pay in Milton.  Do we get value for our tax dollar?

As you will read in the following article, there are a number of my colleagues who don’t share the same outlook when it comes to property taxes.  I don’t see taxation at different levels as others do.  I don’t look at one service and say “this will only cost $1.30 per $100,000 of the value of my home.”

Its the bottom line that matters.  The total at the bottom of your municipal tax bill should be affordable.  The total you see at the bottom of your tax bill is the regional portion, local portion and educational portion of the property taxes we pay.  Most taxpayers don’t see it that way.  Its the total amount of money that comes out of their bank account every quarter that makes the difference.

Milton has the second lowest tax rate in the GTA.

net muni levy

A lot of people “know” that but they don’t feel it.  In a recent budget call report to Milton Town Council, there were survey results that show only 20% of people perceive that the property taxes are lower than other jurisdictions.

This does shed some light as to what the Town of Milton, and quite frankly myself, needs to do to improve this.  We need to make sure the residents of Milton better understand the value for tax dollars they receive.

Here is a link to the article from Rachael Williams 

Milton mayor steadfast in keeping tax rates low

Milton Has To Wait For University Campus … again

Markham chosen by the Province of Ontario for new York Campus while Milton continues to wait….yet again.

Here is a press release from the Town of Milton today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Town of Milton forges on with plans for a Laurier campus

On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities announced that the City of Markham’s proposal for a combined York University/Seneca College campus has been accepted by the ministry’s capital expansion process. According to Minister Moridi, Markham’s is the sole proposal that will be considered at this time.

The announcement has deeply disappointed the Town of Milton and Wilfrid Laurier University. Since 2008, the two have been building a strong and determined partnership with the goal of bringing post-secondary opportunities to Canada’s fastest-growing municipality.

The Laurier Milton bid proposed a 150-acre university campus situated within a 400-acre Milton Education Village (MEV) on the southwest side of town, adjacent to the Niagara Escarpment. The MEV would be a purpose-built, fully integrated neighbourhood of multi-level education, research and commercialization, as well as complementary residential and commercial development.

“While I am thoroughly disappointed and saddened by this decision, it only strengthens our resolve to make the Milton Education Village a reality,” said Mayor Gord Krantz. “A university campus is key to building a complete community and we will continue to work closely with Laurier to bring that vision to life.”

During his announcement, Minister Moridi also mentioned that a targeted call for proposals for a postsecondary facility in Peel and Halton regions will be issued in the spring of 2016. The Town, along with Wilfrid Laurier and Halton Region will continue to move forward with conceptual plans for the MEV and will develop strategies to ensure that their bid is successful when the second call comes forward.

“Halton Region is committed to continuing to work with our community partners to help bring high-quality post-secondary education to the Town of Milton,” said Gary Carr, Halton’s Regional Chair. “The proposed Milton Education Village would fuel economic growth and foster community partnerships. We look forward to a successful outcome during the next investment by the Province in 2016.”

For additional information about the Milton Education Village, visitwww.milton.ca/en/townhall/miltoneducationvillage.asp.

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Milton Transit to review Saturday Service

Milton Council approved my notice of motion last night to have staff review Saturday transit service.

Milton TransitThe town has been operating this service for 18 months and so far have fallen short of expectations. Ridership on a number of the routes has been decreasing on a quarterly basis since last year.

For example Route #4 Thompson Clark

Saturday Revenue Passenger Trips per Revenue Service Hour – Monthly (unaudited numbers)

Q1 – 10.7

Q2 – 9.0

Q3 – 4.2

Q4 – 4.1

NOW, lets compare this to Weekly numbers for the same route.

Weekly Revenue Passenger Trips per Reveune Service Hour – Monthly (unaudited numbers)

Q1 – 22.6

Q2 – 20.4

Q3 – 14.8

Q4 – 20.9

Saturday Route # 6 Scott

Q1 – 4.9

Q2 – 7.0

Q3 – 5.3

Q4 – 5.2

Weekly Route # 6 Scott

Q1 – 10.8

Q2 – 12.0

Q3 – 12.2

Q4 – 12.1

There have been 3 routes that have slightly increased in numbers but only marginally over the last 12 months. Highest revenue passenger ride for a route in the last 3 quarters has been 9.0 while the lowest is 4.0

What these numbers show me is that this service is far under utilized by Milton residents and one of two actions need to be taken. Either cancel the service for the time being or review the routes, see if we can make them more conducive to what Milton transit riders need and make it more efficient.

Milton Transit regularly polls their customers but to be quite honest the more telling comments come from non users. And not just the ones who will never use Milton Transit, but those who could, but don’t. The ones who have to pick their kids up from child care after work and need their vehicle once they step off the GO train in the evening. The ones who could use it to get to their part-time job but the service isn’t available after a particular hour for them to come home.

This is where we need to build the service around. Do we need routes during the day running at 1/2 hr service times or would 1hr suffice for the time being?

These are the questions we need to have answers to. Last council approved a Transit Master Plan, which in my opinion, and the opinion of others, painted a rather rosy picture of transit growth and set benchmarks that even in ideal circumstances wouldn’t be met. I didn’t approve of the master plan, but it passed regardless.

This review of Saturday transit is what I personally feel is something we should be doing every year, but the results will be telling. In my opinion, if Saturday ridership numbers do not increase, council will once again be forced to look at options. We cannot simply be paying to provide a service that very few use.

Imagine if the Town of Milton provided recreational programs, staffing, time and resources that very few people utilized? It would be looked at and if it couldn’t be improved, more than likely that program would be cancelled.

It’s the same with transit. With roughly $350,000 per year (my approximation) being spent on Saturday transit and participation in that service not increasing or in some cases declining, something has to be done.

Lets look at different routes that get people to where they need to go on Saturday. Downtown Milton, shopping centres, Milton Sports Centre, the hospital, the libraries….feel free to add some more if I’ve missed any.

Will that mean a possible increase in travel time? Maybe an increase in the time between buses in some areas?

Right now our transit system is built around the GO Station. That might make sense for Monday to Friday, but Saturday it doesn’t. So let’s make some Saturday only routes, educate the public on these routes, encourage them to use the service, give it a try…

There were some suggestions made that we look at increasing the time for transfers so that they can be used within a 3 hour period instead of immediately after. Another idea is allowing 12 and under children ride for free.

Will that help a dad or mom make a choice “My kids will ride for free, so let’s try the bus.” ? We don’t know the answer to that question. We need to start asking them in order to get the answers.

Feel free to pass along this information to your friends and neighbours. I want to provide staff with enough information so that we can improve the system, make it more efficient and in turn save some taxpayers dollars.

If we continue on this path of hoping ridership goes up without making an effort, we are effectively tossing money out the window while patting ourselves on the back that we have a transit system. Lets make it the best it can be and as economical as possible. Lets build a system on successes rather than on “we hope it works out”

If you build something on a poor foundation, the whole structure will fall as you continue to build on it. Lets build a solid, efficient and cost-effective transit structure to build on as we continue to grow.