Lisa Holmes, Mayor - Town of Morinville | www.morinville.ca

One year left – Have I done what I promised?

Yesterday, Morinville News posted an article online “Has Council Done What They Promised?” You can read a copy of it here: http://morinvillenews.com/2012/10/16/has-council-done-what-they-promised/  The article has links to the audio recording of our election speeches from the Community Forum and the video recording of our election speeches at the Chamber Forum during the last election.

As I feel that accountability is important, I decided to do my own audit of what I had said in these speeches – and what has been accomplished for each item since I was elected in October of 2010.

Community Forum

“make decisions with more community consultation” – The open house that we had in 2010 for the budget had 4 people attend (2 of those were my parents, who were just looking for a tour of the Town Hall during a visit). It was a sad result. Later on that month when attending AUMA, I heard a speech from Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi when he talked about how important it is to remove the barriers that stop people from being able to attend community open houses. Using those ideas, Council reexamined how we host our open houses for 2011. We arranged for free babysitting to be offered and a bus to be available to bring seniors from each of the lodges. We increased our participation from 4 to over 20 attending the open house. We also put all of the budget documents online and invited people to send comments in via email. Again, with this year’s budget open house time coming up, we have revisited this again and are implementing more changes to allow for additional opportunities for discussion.

“tax dollars spent carefully and wisely with respect to where the dollars come from” – I feel confident in saying that every decision that I make as a Councillor is made with the utmost respect and consideration of the contribution that taxpayers make to our community. This commitment prompted me to put forward a motion to create the Finance and Audit Committee in Fall of 2011.

“smart growth…preserve parks, open spaces and trails as a priority, not an afterthought…” – Extensions of the existing trail system have been a part of each budget that I have been involved with. Did you know that the surface of a trail costs approx $210 per linear metre (when 8′ wide). As much as we would like to be able to develop the entire trail network over the next couple of years, it has to be done in stages in order to be fiscally responsible. At the beginning of my term, we approved the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. It is a great base document that looks at the future plans for parks and open spaces in the community. Right now, we need to focus on creating a level of standards for our existing parks and trails. Some are completed – some are not. Some have amenities like benches and trash cans – some do not. Some playgrounds are full of equipment – some are very sparse. It makes no sense to develop these items independent of a large scale plan. Although reallocating the monies from the Lakes Playground Project to the Parks and Open Space Plan Project has caused further delays, it makes sure that the park that is put in place meets everyone’s needs and is consistent for our vision for the entire town.

“well managed infrastructure…revisit plans for future infrastructure” – I’m sure that the first thought that people have when they hear this is recreational facilities. And when I made the comment, that is what I was referring to as well. But during this term, one of the most important lessons that I have learned is how important it is to maintain our municipal infrastructure. When I say that term now, I mean water lines, sewer lines, storm water management, roads – and our facilities. Previous Councils have left us in a great position with our underground infrastructure. We are set until we reach a population of 25-30,000 which is decades away. But it does require constant maintenance and these are large items in our annual budgets. The manhole realignment project may not be exciting – but it is just as important to the health of our community as a recreation facility funding strategy is. That being said, we do need a plan for what the next facility needed in this community will be – and that is something that has been a big part of our 2013 budget and strategic planning sessions.

“reevaluate long term plans more frequently” – One of our first tasks as a new Council was to advise on and pass the Municipal Sustainability Plan. It took hours of meetings, consultations, revisions  and in the end we were left with a wonderful (and award-winning) plan for Morinville through 2035. Most importantly, this plan is directly sourced for our 3 year strategic plan and 1 year business plan. For a more community level – we have the annual MSP Champion award given at the Volunteer Appreciation Event each April and budget an amount each year as MSP Stimulus (for projects/initiatives that are focused on implementing the mission/vision of the MSP)

“small local businesses..being on an equal playing field when it comes to dealings with the town” – During the election there was a lot of talk about “back-room deals” that were previously made with the town in regards to development. I can’t speak to whether or not that did take place but I know that in the culture of our administration at this time these deals will not be taking place. Our processes have become more open in regards to development. Communications have improved. There are still improvements to be made but I know that we have an extremely competent Planning and Development department who are working very hard to ensure that each person is treated fairly and with respect.  I have full confidence in them.

“new economic development plan…priority in 2011” – On the surface, it looks like we have not done anything in regards to Economic Development in the past two years. We haven’t hired a staff member in this area and we haven’t developed a formalized plan. But we have been working very hard at laying the groundwork to get ourselves ready for this point. It is all a part of making more proactive decisions – getting all of our ducks in a row before we take off in a direction that may not be compatible with our long term plans. A key part of success in Economic Development is the realization that we are not an island. Our success in this area will begin at home but will be contingent on our regional partnerships being strong and productive. Our Council has been working very hard on developing a healthy and productive relationship with Sturgeon County’s Council over the past two years. We now have quarterly joint council meetings and have Economic Development as a large part of the agenda discussions at those meetings. We have also recognized that we have a huge roadblock to economic development with the restrictions placed on Highway 642. Developing the Highway 642 Functional Plan and Coeur de Morinville plan is another stepping stone in this process. For 2013 we are looking at the next steps being a more formalized direction for Economic Development. This is a great example of our new focus on smart planning.

“making people part of the process” – I believe that I would be very ineffective in my role if I didn’t constantly ask for input, ideas and critiques from residents. I don’t sit on Council representing myself, I sit there to represent all of you. I’ve made it a personal priority to be accessible in public and online for those who would like to reach me.

Chamber Forum

“revisit decaying downtown” A big first step to this process is the current Highway 642 Functional Plan and Coeur de Morinville Plan. So many times, people have asked me why we don’t do more with the beautification of our main street or with incentives to develop the vacant lands along 100 Avenue. It still isn’t realized that Alberta Transportation is the owner of Highway 642 (100 Avenue) and has placed a lot of restrictions on what can be done along it. Creating this plan is step one in a process to get our community more ownership of the area and a bigger voice in the decision making process.

“more proactive decisions” – The decision making processes of Council have been an item that we have collectively been working on. It is a part of a larger project called our Governance Initiative  where we have been reevaluating the role of Council and the efficiencies of our practices and policies. That being said, this is an area in which we are still in need of some work. Council needs to continue to look forward into the future and make decisions based on the priorities and vision identified in the MSP.

“citizens more engaged…open dialogues…help people become more engaged in the process…invest in community = stronger citizens = stronger town” – As I addressed above, citizen engagement is one of my most important issues to address. If people in town feel that the best way to communicate with them is to stand on the street holding up signs, I would do that. Each community is different and we can’t fit the cookie cutter mold of communication onto our residents. When we moved to Morinville, I invested myself into this community. I’ve made a commitment to be a voice for the residents but that only works if the dialogue is open and the communication goes both ways. I’ve personally invested time into trying out new engagement opportunities – Coffee with Council as one example – and will continue to develop new strategies throughout my term.

“photo radar not with a focus on income but as an important safety tool” – I’ve made no effort to hide the fact that I am not a big fan of our current photo radar process. I voted against renewing the contract for the current provider as I had some concerns with the process. That being said – there has been significant changes and progress on this issue in the past months. We’ve had the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee review the photo radar sites and the time spent at each one. They have held an open house to allow residents to identify safety concerns and are working on a final report that will address these to Council. Although photo radar is revenue producing, I am feeling much more comfortable that safety is being considered the primary reason behind it at this point by Council. And if you are wanting to see an upcoming idea I have for implementing a further step in making photo radar more positive – check out this video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iynzHWwJXaA (I am all about making things more fun) 🙂

“stronger advocates within the region and to the Government of Alberta…especially in regards to Cardiff interchange” – Being an advocate for our community is a part of my role that I take very seriously. I’ve used every opportunity given to me, from conferences and events, regional meetings and educational courses, to expand my network of colleagues. I’ve made it a commitment to personally develop relationships with the Councillors from Sturgeon County and other regional partners. At our provincial conference, AUMA, we get the opportunity to speak to Ministers from different departments and I’ve always brought up issues that are important and timely in our community like the Cardiff Interchange, funding for our Sturgeon Family Violence Prevention Program, funding for Regional Public Transportation, school playground funding, etc.

“more programming and services for children and families” – There has been progress in this area and I am sure there will be further developments over the next year. I have identified a gap in programming for children who are aged 5-9 and brought this up to the Community Services Director last month. Our festivals have a great family focus and the Cultural Centre has been bringing in a wide variety of adult and family friendly performances. What I would like to see is more of of a focus on intergenerational programming – seniors mixed with children, youth and preschool, mentorship programs for our adult professionals and our young adults, etc.

“I pledge to be an active, engaged and accessible member of Town Council” – The past two years have been full of both blessings and challenges. I am still so proud to be a member of Council, chosen by the community to represent their views and to advocate for their needs. I have worked hard to be as accessible as possible, providing access through my public Facebook page, Twitter account, Website and by being present at Community Events. I strive to represent Morinville in a professional and competent way at the local, regional and provincial committees that I am appointed to. To me, the definition of this job is public service and I will continue to commit myself 100% to serving the residents of Morinville as long as I have the honor of being their Council representative.

 

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