My name is Irek Kusmierczyk and I am honoured to be your voice on Windsor City Council as the Councillor for Ward 7. Welcome to my blog called Forward 7. Scroll down and you’ll find posts about issues residents have raised at the door, ideas and plans for improving Ward 7, how I voted on matters before council, and discussions about innovative best practices in other cities. I hope Forward 7 becomes a space where we can connect and a first step in making City Council more transparent, accessible, accountable and responsive to residents. I invite you to surf my site and as always I am available any time to talk in person, by phone or email.
A very good article published by Frazier Fathers on his blog Ginger Politics that talks about the opportunity costs of building a New City Hall that is growing more expensive by the day.
I voted NO both times on the New City Hall – whose costs have escalated by 25 per cent.
Opportunity costs basically means – what investments are we not making as a result of committing more and more dollars to the New City Hall.
I have pasted Frazier’s blog post below – and here is the link to his Ginger Politics website which you can access by CLICKING HERE
I can appreciate the tough job that City Councillor’s have, stewards of taxpayers dollars they have to make tough decision about how to spend the dollars collected from citizens. This was why I was surprised to read today that work had already begun for the new City Hall. Council narrowly voted 6-5 (Mayor casting the tie breaking vote) and although a call for tender is still needed, it seems that another major decision has reached a forgone conclusion.
Faced with that realization I decided to see what may have been given up on in order to build a $43.3 million City Hall.
- According to the CBC reports to grind and repave one block in Windsor it costs approximately $600,000 = 144.3 blocks repaved
- Windsor Water World at full operation levels costed approximately $418,068 annually = 103.5 years of operation
- Almost build a new central library and innovation hub at a cost of $50 million or build many small libraries across the city at that cost of the new Optimist Library at a cost of $2,463,000 = 17.5 libraries
- According to the 2011 Census there were 87,830 residential households in Windsor = a one time tax rebate of $492.99
- Just over 1/5 of the total municipal costs for the new Windsor Regional Hospital being paid for without a levy on taxpayers.
- A one time 20% increase to all department budgets
- City Buses run between $600,000 and $900,000 for their life cycle per bus (depending on the type – see pg 21 of linked report, costs divided by 100 to get a per bus cost) = 48.8 buses fully funded for their life cycle
- Almost meet the low end cost estimate for a Street Car running from University of Windsor to Via Rail Station = $50,000,000
That being said, something will need to be done with the existing City Hall. Repair costs were estimated between $20 million to $35 million which is $8.3 million under the current projected budget. If I were to recalculate many of the above alternatives we get- 13.8 blocks of streets repaved; 3.38 new libraries; $94.50 tax rebate; a 3.8% budget increase to city departments; 9.2 buses fully funded or keep Waterworld open for almost 20 years.
Given the broader needs in our city, any number of these other would in my opinion have a greater positive impact on the day to day lives of Windsorites than a new City Hall.
Another great article from Anne Jarvis of the Windsor Star talks about the benefits that a world class science and innovation centre would provide the City of Windsor.
Here is an excerpt:
Think of what we could do if key players — the city, school boards, university, college, industry and community groups like Hackforge — joined Science City and committed to a centre for science, technology and innovation. No one is expecting to build a new science centre. The city’s capital budget is largely already spent until 2020. But one of the planned projects is a new main library, and some councillors are talking about the new library including a centre for science and technology, an innovation hub.
“That has tremendous potential,” says Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk.
Why science and technology? Because Windsor, says Kusmierczyk, is a city that builds things, and technology is exploding in advanced manufacturing. Because we live on the Great Lakes, where a growing cluster of clean water technology companies are addressing the global water shortage. Because we already have leading scientists in fields like invasive species at the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research here. Because we’re grappling with the issue of toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie.
The majority of new jobs require skills in the so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math. But Kusmierczyk goes further, including the arts. He read University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman’s passionately argued essay in The Globe and Mail last week on the value of humanities and social sciences.
“A centre that awakens in our young people a love of inquiry and innovation,” Kusmierczyk called it.
Locate it downtown, he said, to continue revitalizing the core and to give kids from vulnerable neighbourhoods the opportunity to continue learning after school, on weekends and in the summer.
For the whole article CLICK HERE
And the same week Maclean’s Magazine published an excellent article highlighting libraries as engines of innovation and economic development.
In order to read the whole article CLICK HERE
The simple fact is – Windsor must keep pace with cities like Toronto, Kitchener, Halifax and even our own Detroit in putting in place the kind of infrastructure that will diversify our economy, boost innovation and support homegrown entrepreneurship.
This is an important piece of the puzzle for a City wanting to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy.
An innovation hub that combines a maker space and tech-infused library is a potent tool in the hands of Windsorites – especially considering our 100 years of manufacturing know-how. We know how to build things.
And of course, education is the foundation of economic development – hence we must do what we can to bring more resources and partners to the table when it comes to preparing our young people for success in today’s economy.
Let’s start here.
Anne Jarvis wrote a great piece in the Windsor Star titled New Dynamic at Windsor City Council. For the full article CLICK HERE
Here is an excerpt:
“There’s more debate,” said Kusmierczyk. “Councillors feel they can ask tougher questions. I’ve seen administrators’ reports challenged more. Councillors push each other as well. You’re expected to come to council with more research, look for more best practices from other jurisdictions.”
And they are less hesitant to vote against big projects. Five councillors voted against proceeding with the environmental assessment for the Riverside Drive underpass. Fivealso voted against more money for the new city hall.
They’re more likely to introduce new ideas, even risque ideas, like paying for parking at all city facilities to raise revenue for public transit. All of which, in turn, is more likely to engage the public.
How could this be bad?
We expect council to get things done but that shouldn’t preclude accommodating new ideas and different perspectives that fully reflect the community.
And what of the so-called “left-leaning big spenders?” They voted against an additional $4.4 million for the new city hall and against the $3-million underpass. They’re also the ones questioning how the heck the city ended up spending $2.2 million more — more than double the estimated cost — to operate the aquatic centre. Sounds more parsimonious than profligate.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Pedestrian Lighting on Ottawa||Yes||9-0||Deferral|
|2 – Tax reduction applications||Yes||9-0||Consent|
|3 – Riverfront brick program||Yes||9-0||Consent|
|4 – Relief from property taxation||Yes||9-0||Consent|
|Report No. 293 – Traffic Calming Policy||Yes||9-0||Regular|
|Communications No. 12 – WUC Financials||Yes||9-0||Communications|
Communication No. 12 – Water Utilities Canada 2rd Quarter Financials: I asked a simple question, why the 2nd Quarter Financials for WUC reported a huge $3 million increase in administrative costs and also a significant decrease in revenue. I asked Administration to find out and report back.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Pedestrian lighting on Ottawa Street||Yes||10-0||Deferral|
|2- Local improvement work on Roselawn||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|3 – Local improvement work on Lloyd George||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|4 – Local improvement work on Clemenceau||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5 – Sidewalk café permit on Erie Street||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6 -185 Ouellette Avenue encroachment||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|7 – 20 Year Strategic Vision – proposed projects||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|8 – Source water protection||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|9 – Councillor Elliott’s Motion – CUPE garbage pick up||No||5-6||Regular Business|
|Report No. 313 – 2072 Riverside Drive||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|Report No. 316 – repeal heritage designation||No||0-10||Delegation|
|Report No. 315 – Tru Land Development||Yes||5-6||Delegation|
Item No. 9 – Councillor Elliott’s Motion to Reinstate CUPE garbage pick- up: I voted against Councillor Elliott’s motion to reinstate CUPE garbage pickup.
I support the private delivery of garbage pickup. I support our current contract with private company Green-for-Life (GFL). I do not support a return to garbage pick by CUPE.
Item No. 7 – 20 Year Strategic Vision: I asked for three goals to be included in our 20 year plan:
- Under the heading Jobs & Economic Diversification – I included an explicit goal of increased support for homegrown entrepreneurs and innovators through the establishment of a vibrant Technology Business Incubator and establishment of a Maker Space in partnership with other community stakeholders
- Under the heading Improving City’s Image – I included the goal of maximizing transparency & accountability, for example, by publishing voting records of all City Councillors on the internet
- Under the heading of Keeping and Retaining Valued Citizens – I included the establishment of a city-wide Mental Health and Addiction Strategy.
I believe that broader goals such as downtown revitalization are dependent on economic diversification and simultaneously addressing the challenge of mental health and addiction.
Report No. 315 – Truland Development near Woodlawn including Parkwood extension: We heard from a number of residents on Parkwood Avenue who protested plans to have Parkwood Avenue opened up as part of the plan to build a new subdivision with over 100 housing units. Their concerns about traffic are valid and must be addressed.
However – the moment that the Fire Chief Bruce Montone stated clearly and emphatically that the Windsor Fire Services (WFS) requires open and unobstructed access to the new subdivision through an open Parkwood Avenue – I believe it became my duty to as a City Councillor to listen to his professional advice, support his call and vote in favour of opening up Parkwood Avenue. At stake was nothing less than the safety of residents in that neighbourhood – which should have been the overriding concern of Council.
An article appeared in the Windsor Star this week stating that some members of City Council – myself included – supported bringing back garbage collection by CUPE.
Plain and simple the article is wrong. I never voted to bring back CUPE garbage collection and that has never been my position.
Mr. Vander Doelen published an irresponsible and inaccurate article in the Windsor Star that presents the opposite of my position and the opposite of how I voted to the residents of Ward 7 – and that’s what matters to me.
Last weekend I called Mayor Dilkens to tell him that I was concerned with Councillor Elliott’s proposed motion to bring back CUPE garbage collection and I told the Mayor in no uncertain terms that I would not be supporting Councillor Elliott’s motion to bring back CUPE garbage collection.
During this Tuesday’s Council Meeting I followed through and voted to not even allow the debate to move forward in Council Chambers. Councillor Elliott’s motion was soundly and rightly defeated.
And yet – Mr. Vander Doelen names me as a Councillor who “voted to sell out taxpayers by giving the reins of control back to CUPE“.
As you may know, I am the only City Councillor to publish their voting record online – and I do this because I believe both elected officials and those reporting and commenting on the news have a responsibility to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
The initial debate on Bulk Item Pick Up was brought to Council a month ago on August 4th – and on my blog I write about how I voted. You can read it here: http://irek.ca/ireks-votes-august-4-2015/
In short, the issue on August 4th was NOT about bringing back CUPE. The issue was whether we wanted to add Bulk Item Pick Up to the regular pick up that is being conducted by a private company called Green For Life (GFL).
At no point did any City Councillor propose that CUPE conduct Bulk Item Pick Up.
What I supported was asking the private company GFL to provide us with a quote on how much extra it would cost to add Bulk Item Pick Up to the current contract when it is up for renegotiation in 2017 with the private company GFL.
Only Mr. Vander Doelen can explain why he took my position and published the exact opposite.
What concerns me is not public criticism of the positions I take – be it my position to cancel the $2.5 million downtown tunnel underpass or my position to vote against the New City Hall and its $9 million increase in costs. That is always fair game.
But what makes this case so unfortunate, is that my position was erroneously communicated to Ward 7 residents – which is ultimately what matters to me.
The bottom line is that I remain determined to serve our Ward 7 residents with maximum transparency, accountability and integrity.
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – Cancellation of October 19 meeting for election||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|2 – Petition to close Prairie Court||Yes||Delegation|
|3 – Pitt Street light improvements||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|4 – Extension for parking enforcement||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|5 – Transfer of funds to Smoke & Dye testing||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6 – Canada Post community mailboxes||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|7 – Treatment of backwash water||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|8 – Walkerville Block Party||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|9- Increase penalty for private property parking||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|10- Corporate payroll process update||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|11 – Windsor Public Library Facilities Plan||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|12 – New City Hall Expansion||NO||6-5||Delegation|
|No. 21 – Cancel Riverfront Tunnel Underpass||Yes||5-6||Communication|
|No. 22 – Review premature deterioration of roads||Yes||10-0||Communication|
Communication No. 21: Riverfront Pedestrian Underpass
I put forward a motion at City Council to immediately cancel plans to build a pedestrian tunnel underpass under Riverside Drive thereby immediately saving $70,000 on an unnecessary Environmental Assessment report and eliminating a $2.75 million placeholder for the whole project.
The motion was presented in two parts:
(a) that City Council deny funding for the Environmental Assessment AND rescind the $2.75 million placeholder in the capital budget for the Riverside Underpass
(b) that the Parks Department report back on priority capital projects in the amount of $2.75 million
Over the last few weeks, I received a number of calls and emails from local residents concerned that the playground equipment in their neighbourhoods were removed and not replaced, or that the tennis and basketball courts in Forest Glade were in rough shape, and that the water fountains near Lakeview Marina were not working.
These aren’t just little things. These are the things that contribute to our Quality of Life in our neighbourhoods. And these are the things that – I am hearing more and more – are being neglected in favour of spending on big ticket purchases.
A tunnel underpass is a luxury that we don’t need and that takes away from our parks, our libraries as well as our roads and infrastructure. Tonight we had the choice to return to priorities.
Item No. 12: New City Hall
Administration proposed an additional $4 million for the New City Hall project – adding up to a whopping 25 per cent increase over-and-above the original $34 million budget without counting the cost of parking and landscaping.
I voted no for the same reasons I voted no a month earlier – we are paying much more money for less building. In addition – I take issue with a process wherein every few months the costs of the City Hall are ratcheted up. Taxpayers deserve to know at the very beginning of a project – when the initial decision is made – the project’s true cost. We have a lot of work to do to improve our costing forecast.
Communications Item 22: Premature Deterioration of Roads
In March 2015, I asked administration to report back to City Council on the cost and benefit of a third-party review of the City’s standard specifications for road construction – because there were a number of new roads like Banwell that were in bad condition.
The report Administration presented this evening concludes that the City should (a) maintain the current inspection process (b) maintain the current approval process (c) maintain the current length of warranty and maintenance periods (d) and reject a third party inspection of our City Specifications.
Consequently, I had a few questions to the City Engineer:
Q1: Have we solved the problem of premature deterioration of our roads?
Q2: Would there be any benefit of expanding road warranty from one year to two year?
Q3. Could we do a test pilot on one RFP – to see whether there would be a cost increase?
Q2: What is our annual roads budget – construction and maintenance?
I put forward two motions:
- That the City Engineer invite Dr. Simon Hesp to review our City Specifications related to asphalt construction and schedule a presentation to City Council. Dr. Hesp is a Professor of Asphalt Science and Engineering at Queen’s University with over 25 years experience in the field and who works with numerous municipalities across Ontario to tighten their specifications and improve their roads
- That Administration initiates a small pilot project wherein the City includes a two-year warranty specification on road construction in a small sample of forthcoming construction RFPs to determine what would be the increase in cost – if any.
Getting to the bottom of our deteriorating roads like Banwell is a top priority – while taking steps to tighten our specifications, maintenance and inspection protocols are the critical next steps.
Item No. 6: Canada Post
Lack of communication between the City of Windsor and Canada Post was the fundamental reason behind the mistake of erecting Community Mailboxes on Riverside Drive, which put residents and Canada Post employees at risk.
A letter from Canada Post dated October 21, 2014 provided the location of all 14 Community Mailbox locations to be installed in the East End – including an invitation to review and share concerns. In the 10 months since receiving that letter, Administration did not communicate any concerns to Canada Post about any of the community mailboxes. A simple phone call to Canada Post to halt installation along Riverside Drive in order to provide time for a review would have been a prudent measure.
I followed up that point with questions regarding the many valid concerns raised by the Windsor Accessibility Advisory Council regarding:
- Snow Removal
- Pavers and steep approaches
I also raised concerns regarding increased risk and liability to the City as well as the potential increase in costs of supplemental:
- snow removal
- curb cuts
- construction of lay-bys
I would like to start off by acknowledging Mayor Drew Dilkens for starting the process of a 20 Year Strategic Vision, and for engaging City Councillors through an Open Door policy that was established from Day One of the new term. The Mayor encourages Councillors to drop by his office any time to discuss ideas and concerns both at the Ward and City level. I can attest on a number of occasions spending several hours through the evening talking potholes, libraries and economic development with the Mayor.
In the spirit of open dialogue fostered by the Mayor’s Office – I recently shared my position on the Windsor Public Library (WPL) with the good folks at AM800, in which I stated that I prioritize investing in the WPL over investing in international sporting events such as FINA that last only a week. Here’s the quote:
“That money (FINA) I believe, should go to things like the Windsor Public Library which are important assets to our neighbourhoods and our city. It’s not about reaching deeper into the taxpayers pockets. It’s not. It’s about prioritizing and I’d rather invest in our libraries then invest in a week long sporting event.”
The comment was not meant as a criticism of FINA, but more about being up front about my priorities moving forward: in short, spending taxpayer money on international sporting events that have fleeting economic impact are near the bottom of my list of priorities.
Where I do see a need for investment are community centres that strengthen our neighbourhoods – centres such as the various branches of the Windsor Public Library. I made that comment based on the fact that Windsor spends 20 per cent less (per person) on our library than the provincial average – including 20 per cent less than London and almost 50 per cent less than Guelph.
I see libraries as critical to our city’s revival as a catalyst for economic development, social equality, innovation and quality of life. Libraries are meeting places for seniors to socialize, for youth learning to read and operate the newest technology, young mothers learning parent skills, for job seekers sending resumes, for new Canadians integrating into our community. And that just scratches the surface of the role libraries play in our city. They are also catalysts for partnerships between community stakeholders like the University of Windsor, St. Clair College, United Way, New Canadians Centre, industry and countless others.
Yet, in the last 10 years – the operating budget of the WPL has increased by $7000. That’s $700 per year out of a total $7.8 million budget.
Even with the injection of $8 million into brick-and-mortar enhancements at Optimist Community Centre, Sandwich and Budimir coupled with closure of some deteriorating branches in order to bring the bloated number of buildings in line with provincial averages and save maintenance costs – the reality is that the operating budget is 20 per cent less than the provincial average.
That is the reality you can’t ignore. It’s not political posturing to say it. It’s a fact – and it should be a critical part of the conversation around a 20 Year Strategic Vision.
Here’s an example closer to home: Forest Glade Library was built to serve East Windsor in 1988, but it simply does not meet the needs of a growing Ward 7 – especially considering the rapid pace of development around Banwell Road – nor has it kept up with the change in technology. To bring the branch in Forest Glade up to speed requires both capital and operating investments.
Yes, the WPL could operate under the same tight fiscal parameters over the next 10 years, but the WPL would not fulfill its potential.
Having said all that – I wanted to couch my thinking on the WPL in the framework of a broader 20 Year Vision. It is by no means comprehensive, but it does sketch out an outline to start.
So here goes.
I would like to reiterate my commitment to fiscal discipline, which includes the goals of debt reduction and levy restraint balanced with smart investments in infrastructure and services. It is also about finding efficiency – for example – bringing our various economic development agencies and economic development partners under one roof e.g. realize savings by merging WEEDC with TWEPI is a start. There’s no point in both organizations paying separate rent and overhead.
Job Creation and Diversification
Building upon our strengths means supporting homegrown entrepreneurs, leveraging local economic development organizations, utilizing instruments such as the CIP to attract investment, and providing platforms that spur innovation. I support:
- Establishing a technology and business incubator. The innovation centre at Bayview Yards in Ottawa provides a model. Windsor is a city that knows how to build things – a true Maker City with an enormous store of manufacturing and tech talent with start-up potential. Let’s build on that strength!
- Maintaining regional economic collaboration (WEEDC) while establishing an in-house economic development office that focuses exclusively on the City – similar to the model in Kitchener and Waterloo.
- The Windsor Public Library (WPL) can be a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development by providing residents with access to technology. Establishing a dynamic Central Library Branch in the downtown core should be a priority. The growing gap between per capita funding for the WPL and peer municipalities should be narrowed.
The state of Banwell Road from Little River Road to Tecumseh Road is deplorable and unacceptable to East End taxpayers as an important arterial gateway to our community. With significant home construction in the area, and as the landing pad for many Ontario transplants moving to our City, the state of a main arterial like Banwell Road is quite frankly an embarrassment to the City and a bad first impression for newcomers.
It goes without saying, the same problem exists across the City. Fixing this problem will require a long term commitment and prioritization.
I support continued investments in Public Transit and the expansion of services in areas such as Ward 7, which are under-serviced. The following improvement would boost service in a neighbourhood experiencing rapid population growth:
- Working with Town of Tecumseh to establish an East-West Recreation/Retail Corridor Route along McHugh-McNorton that would connect Tecumseh Mall + WFCU + St. Joseph’s High School + Tecumseh Arena.
Parks, Bike Trails and Quality of Life
Ward 7 is characterized as a Greenway – with an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities that together provide a defining feature of our East End community. These community assets should be enhanced through the following:
- Complete Area Five – East End of the Vista Riverside Project along with Phase II that would establish bike paths connecting Downtown through Ganatchio to the East End
- Maintain current level of playground equipment
- Expand benches, picnic areas, washrooms and lights for evening access where appropriate
- Provide outdoor exercise equipment at Sandpoint Beach
- Make necessary investments above the minimal required to make Lakeview Park Marina and Sandpoint Beach exceptional public parks
Hire an Auditor General. Full stop.
I also applaud the recent ITS Management Plan which aims to maximize opportunities for the City of Windsor to share Open Data with residents.
On the topic of open data, publishing the voting records of City Councillors should be standard-operating-procedure – as well as establishing easily accessible archived voting records
A major magnet for the attraction and retention of residents and investments is the quality of our schools. Simple fact: great schools attract people. Where possible – the City of Windsor should collaborate with our School Boards to leverage resources and partnerships with the goal of making Windsor schools the best in Ontario. An example could include – the City partnering with School Boards, University and College to establish a downtown Innovation Hub that would include a new High School, a Central Public Library and Maker Space infused with latest technology such as 3D printers and digital lab, and a Community Centre. Students could simply cross the campus to continue their education – evenings, weekends and summers – at the Central Library, Maker Space and Community Centre with some programming provided through partnerships like the University and College. Now THAT would be an engine of economic development and innovation!
These are just the outlines of a Twenty Year Vision that I support – and undoubtedly there are elements that have been left unsaid. But a picture should come into focus of a City built on smart investments based on the five pillars of:
- Fiscal Prudence
- Economic Development
- Quality of Life
|ITEM # and DESCRIPTION_||IREK VOTED||COUNCIL VOTED||TYPE OF ITEM|
|1 – AMO’s Policing Modernization Report||Yes||10-0||Presentation|
|2 – 2015 Request from WUC for WRAP||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|3 – Bulk Collection – Keep Status Quo||No||6-5||Delegation|
|4 – Site Plan Forest Glade Park||Yes||10-0||Regular|
|5 – Combined Heat and Power||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|6 – Utility cut restoration||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|7 – Lou Romano and Little River upgrades||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|8 – Hawkins Drain||Yes||10-0||Consent|
|9 – Fairbairn Cemetery||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|10 – Conversion of street lights to LED||Yes||10-0||Delegation|
|Report No. 312 – AP Plasman CIP||Yes||10-0||Consent|
ITEM No. 3 – Bulk Item Waste Collection: The motion on the floor at City Council on Tuesday was to maintain the Status Quo, which means that the City of Windsor would continue a 30-year policy of not conducting street-side large item waste collection including mattresses, appliances, sofas and chairs etc.
I voted against the Status Quo – which is a “do nothing” motion which ignores two significant facts:
- Quality of Life matters very much to residents of Windsor, and illegal dumping of garbage is a real issue that diminishes the quality of life of all Windsor residents – not just those who are forced to live next to dirty yards and dirty alleys – and also tarnishes our city’s image.
- We need to come up with a plan to address one of the lowest waste diversion rates in Ontario. Windsor diverts only 38 per cent of our waste from the landfill. We can and we should do better than that. The provincial target is 60 per cent and many other Ontario cities are well above the 50 per cent mark.
By the way, here is a sampling of 16 Ontario cities that have bulk item pick up from residents’ front door:
- Toronto is
- Niagara Falls
- Richmond Hill
- Durham Region
Windsor is in a minority of Ontario municipalities without bulk item collection.
Here are my thoughts.
Out of the recommendations put forward by Administration, the most appealing recommendation was Option “D” – which would have asked Administration to include bulk collection in the next Request-for-Proposal (RFP) for Waste Collection Service Contract which is up for renewal on November 30, 2017.
Not only would that provide us with the most competitive pricing – communication with cities such as Newmarket indicates there would be no additional charges to the City for bulk collection save for increased tonnage – but it would also provide us with two years time to seriously study the issue, get more information and consult with some very important community partners.
Yes, consult with partners such as Habitat-for-Humanity, Salvation Army, and Goodwill which depend on their own bulk item pickup programs as a revenue generator in order for these critical non-profits to have the funding to stay in business.
Although I voted against the status quo, I have serious concerns about a city-run bulk item pick up exactly because I fear it would compete with and seriously undermine the social enterprise business-models for non-profit organizations such as Habitat-for-Humanity. Before the Council Meeting, I called the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, and he shared with me those same concerns.
Furthermore, a city-wide bulk item pick up program would not only add costs, but it would also make it more challenging for our city to improve on a woeful 38 per cent waste diversion rate because it would provide a disincentive for residents to reuse, recycle and resell their bulk items through Kijiji and organizations such as Habitat-for-Humanity. A city-run program would send too many reusable items directly to the dump.
I believe the issue of illegal dumping is real and undermines our quality of life and our city’s image.
I believe we have a duty to consult and work with community partners to solve this issue in a way that does not hurt important community organizations carrying out vital community programs such as Habitat-for-Humanity.
I believe we can and should do better than a 38 per cent diversion rate – and hence we should avoid programs that move us farther away from that goal.
But I don’t necessarily agree that a city-run city-wide curb-side large item pick-up is the solution – and it might actually present some challenges.
In conclusion, I believe in a pragmatic middle ground, one that moves the ball forward on making bulk item collection more practical and convenient for residents while also helping build up important organization such as Habitat-for-Humanity and their existing bulk item collection programs which they depend on to keep the lights on in their operations.
Something in between the status quo and a full-on city-run bulk item collection program is the path forward.
That is why after the motion was passed, I asked a Council Question directing Administration to report back on the feasibility and cost of partnering with Habitat-for-Humanity, Goodwill, and Salvation Army on a Big Bin Pilot Program in Ward 7 modeled after the successful City of Edmonton program.
Each summer the City of Edmonton partners with Goodwill of Alberta to organize a dozen Big Bin drop off locations in different locations across the city on separate weekends. Many take place in community centre parking lots etc. In 2014, over 11,400 Edmonton residents took advantage of Big Bin weekends to dispose 1,825 tonnes of large waste – much of it recycled and resold by Goodwill who is on location with their pickups.
The point is, rather than residents having to lug their bulk items to one central collection depot far from home, we bring a temporary depot to residents to make disposal easier. Our partner organizations would collect and either resell the items or transport the unusable items (dirty mattresses) to the landfill. We help them. They help us.
On these weekends, the City and its media partners can carry out a marketing campaign to promote the program, promote waste diversion and actually build community by encouraging residents to be neighbourly – for example, inviting residents to help seniors on their street dispose of unwanted bulk items by offering the use of a pick-up truck.
It is a middle ground solution. It moves the ball forward, builds community, and it is also less costly than a city-run and city-wide street-side bulk item collection program.
ITEM NO. 9 – Fairbairn Cemetery: For thirty years, Ted Ure, George Fairbairn, Thomas Weir and Robert Lajoie looked after and maintained the Fairbairn Cemetery that is almost 100 years old. It was not their legal nor professional responsibility, but they did so out of a feeling of loyalty to their families, friend and neighbours who have found their eternal rest in that little wedge of land on Baseline Road. This great love and sense of duty is a beautiful story with a powerful lesson for an increasingly disposable society.
I admit I was moved by this story of commitment. We owe these gentlemen a big Thank You.
The Windsor Star published an Op-Ed written by Yvonne and myself on the remarkable heritage of Windsor as a place of innovation and entrepreneurship, with many local businesses developing products and services that authentically put Windsor on the global stage.
As the auto capitol of Canada, it is widely recognized that the City of Windsor knows how to build things. But we should also recognize and spread the word that we know how to innovate and invent things.
We are not just an auto town, we are an auto and ideas town.
We are a true Maker City.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
To lift a line from a recent Chrysler commercial, we are born makers and inventors.
One hundred years of Windsor-based innovation tells us that building partnerships and platforms that support our homegrown entrepreneurs is a good investment.
That is a vision we can all rally around.
If you want to read the entire article, CLICK HERE