The phrase ‘Open for Business’, and why politicians should stop saying it if they don’t believe it

I’ve been following the anti-Uber backlash in Toronto for a while now, and with a bit of interest. As any resident in St. Catharines who ventures into downtown on a Friday or Saturday night will know, it can be tough to find a cab. We’ve finally convinced the Police Services Board to try a pilot project to allow cabs from other jurisdictions into downtown during those busy periods, and although I’m hopeful it will take some of the strain off at 2am, other options need to be available for people.

It’s with that in mind that I find this article so confusing. Why are Canadian community leaders – the same people who boast about having ‘Open for Business’ approaches – trying to shut down one of the most innovative businesses in existence right now? Uber takes advantage of emerging technology (not even really emerging, actually – smartphones have been around for a while now) to connect people to the ride they need. Why is this so frightening?

I understand the entrenched forces that like the status quo. Taxi companies, if they are lucky enough to be established with licenses, have a monopoly. You want a ride, there is a limited number of companies you can call. You don’t like it, lump it. But that’s exactly why a company like Uber should be allowed to operate; residents want choice, and are willing to accept the “risks” (quotes used because, as the article points out, those risks are either unproven or overblown) to have that choice. Isn’t it about time we allowed residents that ability?

I understand why the taxi companies are arguing their point in the way they are – you have to protect your turf. In this case, and in many others, however, I don’t understand why politicians aren’t standing up for what’s better for the community.

#StCath Council rundown for 141117

As I had stated previously, it was the final lame duck session for Council last night. Although the rules prohibited us from doing a great deal, a few items of interest for residents did occur: the Rogers Hometown Hockey Festival on December 13th and 14th was declared an event of municipal significance, allowing a liquor license to be obtained for a planned beer garden; stop controls were installed at a number of places throughout the city, including on Tuscany Ct. and Chicory Cres. in St. Patrick’s Ward; and the annual downtown holiday parking promotion was approved, allowing residents the opportunity to park for free for 2 hours in either City parking garage, between Dec 1 and Jan 2 from 9am to 5pm. A number of reports were also received for information, related to accessible parking and accessibility during the municipal election, among other things.

More significantly, this was Council’s final meeting during this term of Council. This, of course, meant saying goodbye to some very good people; I will miss Peter Secord, Jeff Burch, Len Stack, Dawn Dodge, Laura Ip and Brian McMullan and their contributions to our community a great deal, as I’m sure many of us will. Regardless of personal differences on certain issues that some of us will hold, all of them gave back to their community, and I am forever grateful that there are those in the community that will do so. An excellent article giving a rundown of the goodbyes is here.

On a personal note – thank-you to the residents of St. Catharines and St. Patrick’s Ward for the opportunity that I have had over the last four years, and thank-you for the chance to spend the next four years serving you again. I look forward to the challenges ahead, and welcome the opportunities that present themselves with our Mayor-Elect Walter Sendzik, as well as Councillors-Elect Dave Heywood, Sal Sorrento, Sandie Bellows, Carlos Garcia and Mike Britton.

To a stronger community, and a stronger St. Catharines!

Tonight’s #StCath Council meeting – 141117

Final lame duck session of St. Catharines City Council is up tonight – not a busy night, and because of lame duck status there’s a limit on what we can do, but here’s the rundown for interested Council watchers:

A report on Accessible Parking in the downtown;

A request for a bylaw exemption for work on QEW at the Seventh St exit;

A report detailing new stop signs at various locations – including Chicory Cres. and Tuscany Ct. in St. Patrick’s Ward;

And a report outlining the Accessibility measures taken during the recent Municipal election.

For any interested Council watchers, the Inaugural Council meeting for the 2014-2018 term will be on December 1st. As of right now, the location is to be determined.

#StCath Council – what’s on tap for Nov 17, 2014, AND info on the Vansickle Rd. N. development

City Council is coming up a week tonight – Council is lame duck right now, which means there won’t be any major spending decisions, but we do still have some business to do, including:

A report on Accessible Parking in the downtown;

A request for a bylaw exemption for work on QEW at the Seventh St exit;

A report detailing new stop signs at various locations )including Chicory Cres. and Tuscany Ct. in St. Patrick’s Ward;

And a report outlining the Accessibility measures taken during the recent Municipal election.

For any interested Council watchers, the Inaugural Council meeting for the 2014-2018 term will be on December 1st. As of right now, the location is to be determined.

Also – a note to any residents in the Huntington Ln./Vansickle Rd. N. area – the public meeting related to the proposed Condo development on Vansickle has been delayed so that City staff and the Developer can sit down and re-examine the current proposal. If you have any questions/concerns/comments, please direct them to me at msiscoe@stcatharines.ca.

#StCath Council rundown – Monday, November 3rd, 2014

An uneventful night at Council, but with a very significant development.

Council successfully passed the new 2015 Community Improvement Plan through Council this evening, with a unanimous 11-0 vote. Several changes were made from the 2011 plan, including opening the program up to the entire City, creating Community Improvement Priority Areas where the old CIP areas existed, and adding the GM lands on Ontario St. as an additional area.

While CIP policy can seem dry, it’s an opportunity for the City to entice and enhance investment opportunities in the St. Catharines. A good deal of the redevelopment of downtown that has occurred thus far has been a result of CIP spending, and the new look taking place to St. Paul St is proof positive of the good things the program can do. The changes we approved will help to ensure the program is sustainable in the long run, and also help build on the successes we’ve had so far.

Council also received a presentation from St. Catharines Transit about the new Transit app that can be downloaded to use when accessing the transit system. You can get more info about the app, which is available on Apple and Adroid platforms, here: http://www.thetransitapp.com/.