To all of #StCath and #Niagara, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

CAM00689From my family to yours, I sincerely wish everyone in our community has a wonderful Christmas and Holiday season. No matter what you’re celebrating, no matter where your life has you at this time – I hope the holiday season and new year bring you some respite from the day-to-day stresses of life.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope everyone who reads this has some opportunity to spend time with loved ones and friends. And if you have the opportunity, find a few moments to help those less fortunate – even if you’re not having a great day, giving will always make your heart grow.

Merry Christmas!

#StCath Council rundown – 141215

So . . . the first St. Catharines City Council meeting (not including the Inaugural) is in the books, and for the last meeting before Christmas, it was an eventful one.

The biggest decisions made on Monday night had to do with certain committee positions, as well as the Deputy Mayor. Congratulations to Deputy Mayor Bill Phillips, who was unanimously selected for 2015. Having served with Bill for the last 4 years, I think he’ll do a good job over the coming year representing the City and Council.

The biggest committee selection was the Ad-hoc Budget Committee for 2015, which will be composed of myself, the Deputy Mayor, Coun. Matt Harris, Coun. Mike Britton and Coun. Dave Haywood. The committee will have the largest task of the year – deciding on a budget that helps the community move forward and progress, while being respectful of taxpayers and of the increasing burden faced by many families in our community. I look forward to the challenge, and and I’m also looking forward to getting started as soon as possible; that’s started with a review of last year’s budget, as well as the previous year’s budgets, and also the Municipal Program Measurement Program reports for the last 6 years.

From a personal standpoint, I also was very lucky to be added to 4 other committees;

  • St Catharines Transit: Having served for 4 years as a Transit Commissioner, I was excited to be named back to the Commission for 2014-2018. We have made some significant progress in transit over the past four years, from the introduction of new Automated Vehicle Locators so that residents can see where their bus is in real-time to the improvements in weekend service, but there is plenty still to do. Regional transit and the on-going efforts to obtain permanent, daily commuter GO Rail will both occupy my time, and I look forward to the challenge.
  • Committee Review Task Force: Tasked with looking at how we structure committees, with an eye to making the process more efficient and ensuring that the residents who take time to serve the community are heard properly, and their ideas and views are acted on appropriately.
  • Downtown Association: Having served on the the Association for the previous term, I know how important the next four years is for downtown. We need to take advantage of the public sector investment that has happened and turn it into new private sector investment.
  • Lincoln County Humane Society: As anyone who has talked to me over the last 4 years knows, I have a keen interest in how the LCHS does its business in the city. While I don’t have a vote on the Board of Directors, I will have the chance to ask questions, and push for the change that many of us have wanted for a long time. I am sincerely looking forward to the challenge.

Outside of Council appointments, the agenda was relatively light; a motion endorsing the previous Council’s opinion and direction on Port Dalhousie was passed, Council helped the brownfield developer at 583 Welland Ave continue to move the project forward, and several of the new Councillors were able to advance positions they had campaigned on. All in all, it was a very productive night.

I sincerely hope that the next 4 years are as smooth as last night. The new Mayor did very well, the new Councillors picked up how Council works very quickly, and Council was able to keep moving forward, building on the momentum of the last two terms of Council. The future continues to look bright in St. Catharines.

Fantastic news for #StCath, and St. Patrick’s Ward – the GM redevelopment begins

I sincerely hope that everyone has seen this news, but if not, go here and read it now.

As anyone who has driven down Ontario St. knows, the city has needed a major facelift at the corner of Carlton and Ontario for a while now. The GM property, while an important and significant part of our community’s past, has been closed for a long time, and the lands beneath the buildings have fallen into an unproductive state. One of my platform planks was to specifically target the GM lands for redevelopment.

So to see that the Bayshore Group has plans for over $200 million in development planned can only be called outstanding. To read of plans for “a mix of retirement residences, apartment lofts, commercial business, a technical trade school and more” speaks to all of the hopes that we as a Council, and a community, have held. To hear that the Bayshore Group is relocating to St. Catharines is even more encouraging, speaking to the investments that we as a City have made in the last ten years.

I look forward to meeting with the developers and City Staff to make sure we expedite this process and get moving on the redevelopment. Kudos to all involved in making this a reality.

A telling of the story of #StCath’s Louis Shickluna

An excellent column from the Standard on the life and times of Louis Shickluna, one of St. Catharines’ more prominent early citizens. Articles like this are always problematic for me – they prompt me to spend a couple of hours on the Internet finding more info and researching Wikipedia, etc when I should probably be doing more productive things.

The write up is here.

Rogers Hometown Hockey coming to #StCath

For those who haven’t heard, Hometown Hockey is coming to St. Catharines next weekend, bringing the Saturday and Sunday hockey action across North America to downtown. There is a great write up in today’s Standard here, and additional information on how and where to be a part of the action is here on the City’s website.

Another reason to be excited about the new direction our city is headed in!

#StCath Council agenda for December 15th – early (and preliminary) edition

St Catharines council resumes its meeting schedule with the first business meeting of Council a week from Monday. A lot of the standard stuff, along with some important items related to how Council works on the agenda.

First and foremost, Council will be debating changes to the make up of the advisory committees at City Hall; more specifically, striking a task force to potentially reduce the number of committees and streamline how they operate. There have been many complaints from committee members over the last term that their voices were not being listened to – I am hopeful that this task force’s recommendations will help to fix that. In addition, we’ll also be selecting the Deputy Mayor and the Ad-hoc Budget committee, as well as the City representative(s) to the LCHS, the Niagara District Airport Commission, the Niagara Wine Festival BOD, the Downtown Association, the Folk Arts Council, St. Catharines Hydro, the Library Board, the Transit Commission, the Port Dalhousie BIA and the Niagara Symphony Orchestra. Representatives to Regional committees will also be chosen – specifically, the Transportation Steering Committee, the Culture Committee and Greater Niagara Circle Route Committee. That report is here.

Also on the agenda will be the appointment of a Disaster Relief Committee that will help fundraise under the auspices of the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program, which was set up for those residents in the West end affected by this summer’s floods. That report is here.

Council will also receive a report on the continued property standards concerns in Port Dalhousie. That report is here.

Other items on tap(reports can be found through the full agenda here):

An Incentive Grant report regarding 583 Welland Ave;

Corporate Insurance for 2015;

A streetlight maintenance contract renewal;

The passing of the final version of the Open Air Fires and BBQ By-law;

The 2015 schedule of meetings for Council (listed here);

The sidewalk snow removal program for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities;

Parking prohibitions on Albany Dr, Glenholme Dr and Rainbow Dr;

Removal of parking prohibitions on Royale Rd;

The tender of a water main replacement on Hiscott St;

The implementation of school zone policy (lowered speed limits, primarily) at 6 locations (listed here);

A pedestrian signal request on Vine St at Hill Park Ln;

The cheque register (where we spend money);

The cancellation, reduction and refund of property taxes;

The monthly investment report;

And finally, the correspondence that we receive. Most interesting amongst those items is a Public Meeting Notice – the 2nd Public Information Centre regarding the new Downtown Streetscape Design Guidelines will be on Dec 16th from 3:30-6:30 in Committee Room 1 at City Hall.

The full agenda is here; as always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me at msiscoe@stcatharines.ca (the best way), or 905-329-8162 (the second best way).