Roads and potholes are bad in Kingston. Potholes and poor roads are not only unsightly, they are dangerous, a nuisance and expensive for cars; many even find driving over potholes painful.
We are about $9 million short of what is needed just to maintain our existing road network at the optimal level. Resurfacing an existing road costs about $9000 per lane kilometer and it should last 15 to 25 years depending on use. To maximize the top surface's lifetime it should be maintained as needed with micro-surfacing and crack filling.
If we do not keep our roads well maintained to the optimal level at the optimal time we pay more later. If we do not resurface an existing road at the right time then the underbed's lifetime is shortened. A good underbed should last 50 plus years. But if we do not resurface properly then the underbed's useful life is shortened. To replace an underbed on an existing road costs about $90 000 per lane kilometer.
The city has grown its road network faster than it has grown its tax base. This means there is more work to be done with relatively less money.
The infrastructure problem is the result of a less than thoughtful past council's undue obsession with no tax increases. A later past council wisely took on a long range plan to implement proper capital financing. The City is doing something but not enough.
About 15 years ago the City wisely instituted a policy to insure that there were adequate funds available for infrastructure renewal if road expansion proceeded in moderation. According to the Municipal Performance Measurement Program (2012) operating and total costs for paved roads per lane km have been rising while the adequacy of these paved roads has been falling over comparable years (see pages 10 and 14). As Kingston has grown we have not been able to keep up with road repair because we have built more roads than needed for our current population and business needs. The policy that says "build it and they will come" has not worked well for us. I propose to slowdown new road construction and increase road repair until we are ready to grow again. In short I will advocate moving funds from the new road construction budget to the road repair budget such that we can keep our roads smooth and pothole free.
1) Limit uncommitted new road construction until we are ready to grow again. This will have the effect of limiting the expansion of our road network until we are able to pay for the existing road network without a liability transfer to future generations.
2) Move money from the new road construction budget to the road maintenance budget. The faster we catch up to the optimal level of maintenance the lower our future replacement costs will be and the faster we reach a point of true fiscal accounting for all capital assets.
A) We need to better fund infrastructure by expanding the tax base while minimizing liabilities. This is done through 1) urban intensification in appropriate places, 2) encouraging people to move here, 3) better designed development charges and impost fees and finally 4) increased non-tax revenue streams, to better pay for what we have built.
B) Establish proper true cost accounting for all current and future projects so that the mistake of unfunded future liabilities is not repeated.
Kingston's taxes have been going up because of a past council's unthoughtful commitment to no tax increases. One of the results of not raising taxes at the proper time to meet the needs of the city was deferred infrastructure spending. Deferring infrastructure maintenance has exasperated the problem by adding a surcharge that our current generation is forced to pay.
About 15 years ago the City wisely instituted a policy to insure that there were adequate funds available for infrastructure renewal if expansion proceeded in moderation. This policy stipulated that a 1% increase in taxes be set aside to compound and spread the burden over many years. We have about 10 more years at the current rate to reach sustainable taxation and end the 1% earmark.
However, after these many years people are feeling the pinch. We need to move more quickly to save up the needed money without increasing the earmarked tax rate by more than 1%.
To bring taxation to more sustainable levels while meeting the needs of today my solution is: investment in tax base expansion and non-tax revenue strategies to minimize the need for future tax rate raising.
1) Urban intensification: by developing underused or vacant lots along main thoroughfares we can expand the tax base - this puts a downward force on the need to raise the tax rate.
2) Encouraging people to move to Kingston: with more people in a tax jurisdiction that has intensified (rather than expanded geographically) we spread the tax burden over a larger number of people (when all other things stay the same) - this puts a second downward force on the need to raise the tax rate.
3) Improve and maximize development charges and impost fees to better reflect the true cost of development. Currently theses charges are based on an average uniform rate. Which means we are overcharging for (good and beneficial) intensive growth and undercharging for (fiscally unsustainable) extensive growth. My change would set up a price structure that makes market forces work in the direction that benefits the whole city while reducing the tax funded subsidy we all pay for development.
4) Develop and expand other non-tax revenue streams. We should look for and encourage new thinking in ways to expand services that increase city revenue. Four possible solutions: 1) offer snow removal services to Canada Post; 2) expand recycling to other communities so as to lower the per unit cost; 3) expand advertising on city buses and bus shelters; 4) put up solar panels on city buildings.
People do not want to go downtown because: 1) acceptable parking is too hard to find; 2) Parking garages are too ugly and scary; 3) Parking is expensive compared to suburban parking; 4) It is hard or inconvenient to get downtown.
1) Level the playing field in parking costs between the downtown and the suburbs.
2) Ensure people can get downtown easily, safely, comfortably, cheaply and conveniently through improved public transit.
3) Reduce full day commuter traffic with more park and rides and better public transit.
4) Provide amenities for multiple transport options including auto, public transit, bike and foot traffic.
5) Promote intensification of residential development above commercial.
6) Provide help and incentives to make downtown more accessible.
7) Limit new commercial growth until the downtown is full again.
8) Try to discourage or get rid of foreign chain stores that take their profit out of the community.
9) No to new foreign big box stores.
10) Programs to encourage and educate on the benefits of buying from local business and hiring local labour.
11) Clean up and brighten up the parking garages to make them attractive, safe accessible and convenient.
12) Set up a one-stop-shop website for all things Kingston including business activities and how to start a business.
Property values are, as the clichÃ© goes, based on location, location and location. If we put your property one hundred kilometers from any other amenity you will see its value drop; but if we put your property in the centre of a large city you will see your property value increase immensely. Why? Because the value,the demand for, the desirability of your property is, to the greatest degree, determined by the amenities around it.
1) Improve roads: make them smooth, clean and clear in the winter.
2) Keep and improve parks: beautiful and accessible parks provide our first contact with nature.
3) Development along main thoroughfares to increase residents' access to nearby shopping, recreation, and work opportunities.
4) Institute community serviced amenities like skating rinks in the winter.
5) Provide amenities for multiple transport options including auto, public transit, bike and foot traffic.
6) Improve sidewalks and bike lanes to improve the accessibility and the connectivity of the neighbourhood.
7) Support the expansion of your house for in-law suites to help bring multi-generational families together and or to provide extra income at later stages in the life cycle.
8) Discourage excessive residential street parking; for curbside appeal, safety, snow removal and best maintenance of the streets.
Kingston is among the most expensive cities to live in Ontario. Living expenses Such as taxes and rents, child care, food and transportation are too high.
My solution is to implement strategies to bring the cost of living as measured by the living wage down below the minimum wage. The four biggest expenses for a family in Kingston in order are shelter, child care, food and transportation.
1) changes in development charges and impost fees to favour intensive growth rather than extensive growth.
2) encourage with tax break and/or education the development of in-law suites in homes to help bring multi-generational families together and/or to supplement the income of fixed income older adults.
3) changes in the height and density bonus regime to reward intensive growth along main thoroughfares.
4) support or incentivize organizations that build and provide low income housing and/or better terms on mortgages to people.
1) support community gardens and local farmer's markets.
1) expand the express bus system; including smaller buses for feeder lines.
2) expand park and ride to reduce the need for extended trips and reduce commuter demand for downtown parking.
3) expand alternative means of transportation.
Working to Improve City Services in Our Neighbourhood by:
The City of Kingston's Winter Control Plan says that "The standards recognize the difference in traffic conditions and associated required risk management, on the various classes of roadways and sidewalks" (page 3). Later (on page 11) class 1 sidewalks are defined as "adjacent to high volume roadways with high pedestrian volumes." The trouble with this is that not all sidewalks with high pedestrian volumes are adjacent to high volume roadways. Not all of Kingston is the same in terms of the dominant form of transportation. Some people live in places dominated by cars; in the suburbs it is necessary to have a car to get to shopping and work. A greater proportion of people living and working downtown walk more than drive. Snow clearing resources should be better allocated to reflect the preferred method of travel for residents. Sidewalk snow removal should be a higher priority in walking dominated areas so as to make the city safer and more accessible after a snowfall. On heavy snow days it may be better to re-prioritize snow removal so that people can better get to work, hospital or shopping. On days during and after a heavy snowfall roads are more dangerous to drive therefore it is often better to take the bus. Roadways should be classified based on the more egalitarian principle of people's use rather than vehicle count. Therefore reprioritizing snow removal by raising the priority of sidewalk clearing and bus route clearing in appropriate areas will help make more people safer as they move around the city.
Potholes and poor roads are not only unsightly, they are dangerous, a nuisance and expensive for cars; many even find going over potholes painful. About 15 years ago the City wisely instituted a policy to insure that there were adequate funds available for infrastructure renewal if road expansion proceeded in moderation. According to the Municipal Performance Measurement Program (2012) operating and total costs for paved roads per lane km have been rising while the adequacy of these paved roads has been falling over comparable years (see pages 10 and 14). As Kingston has grown we have not been able to keep up with road repair because we have built more roads than needed for our current population and business needs. The policy that says "build it and they will come" has not worked well for us. I propose to slowdown new road construction and increase road repair until we are ready to grow again. In short I will advocate moving funds from the new road construction budget to the road repair budget such that we can keep our roads smooth and pothole free.
Too often I have seen uncollected recycling debris littering the streets. I believe that we should make collection more lenient by investing in better and expanded recycling. The total cost of garbage collection per tonne has been rising since the City started collecting data Municipal Performance Measurement Program (2012) (see page 29). The cost of Recycling has fluctuated due to the changing price of the sale of recyclables. However in the notes (page 31) we are told that there is a cost per tonne decrease independent of the sale revenue for recycled material. Economic and business logic would suggest that we invest in sectors with decreasing total costs. If more products can be recycled the city will save money per tonne of solid waste, there will be less left over mess, the earth will be better off, and the City may even recoup some of its costs.
Ridership on Kingston Transit has been going up steadily Municipal Performance Measurement Program (2012) (see page 18). However Kingston is stuck in a rigid and inefficient pulse based transit system. As Kingston has grown this model has reached its limits and is starting to break down under the stress. In order to make transit service the preferred option that people want to use we must not improve the current system rather we need to change the system. The City has wisely chosen to experiment with a smart, fast, frequent and timely transit route: the express bus service. Expanding the new express bus services is movement in the right direction. I propose to support the expansion of the express bus service from the center to the East and to the North. The express bus system needs to be expanded with more main routes and smaller feeder buses that move people to the main routes. In this way the old pulse based system can be reduced while expanding coverage and decreasing costs per rider.
Enriching Neighbourhood Amenities With:
In the same way that the re-development of Williamsville is improving the quality of life and the amenities of the residents, I propose the logical extension: start looking into improving and re-developing upper Princess St. on the other side of the old traffic circle - the part that is in Meadowbrook-Strathcona.
The value of property in any area is proportional to the number and quality of amenities located in the area. By protecting nature and improving walkability, parks, shopping and recreational opportunities we increase the amenities in our neighbourhood and thus the value of the property in the neighbourhood. By providing more options for people to move around such as transit, bike lanes and accessible shopping and recreational facilities more people will want to live here. This rise in the demand will be indicative of a better quality of life and an improvement in the value of our homes.
I would like to make our neighbourhood the most sought after neighbourhood in Kingston because it has the best mix of unspoiled nature and modern development. I want to bring easy access to the Little Cataraqui Creek, the Rideau Trail, the K&P Trail, shopping and recreational facilities all within safe walking distance.
There are several location that are ideal for off-leash dog parks. I propose to consult with neighbours about the desired locations.
Parks should have activities for children. I propose to replace existing substandard playground equipment and install new playground equipment in appropriate areas. Community parks and playgrounds provide common ground for community members to enjoy nature's beauty and meet their neighbours. These are two opportunities to build closer communities.
Winter is a time for skating. I propose the addition of winter skating rinks in select parks. When people have a chance to come together and enjoy common seasonal recreation we build our community spirit through the shared lived experience.
Meadowbrook-Strathcona is blessed with wonderful wetlands. I propose to expand the Rideau Trail and link it to the K&P trail. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise and when it is mixed in with nature and the outdoors it can become a sublime experience that more Kingston residences can experience. Among the reasons to support more trails is the spiritual and physical health benefits to the community.
Fiscal Prudence & Stretching Taxes Dollars:
Development must be of the right kind: fiscally sustainable. Fiscally sustainable means that the cost of city services to a new development must be less than the rise in tax revenue form the new development. Development must also be prudent. Prudent development means that we prioritize critically needed development ahead of less needed development; for example today our growing work force and economy need more affordable housing before luxury condos.
I will work to stretch tax dollars by putting an end to wasteful spending. The recent decision to spend money on a flawed integrity commissioner was a waste of money. Hiring an outside law firm when the City has a full time legal team is also a waste of money. Hiring an outside legal firm to defend a wrong and flawed decision at the OMB is doubly an example of a complete waste of money. Hiring expensive consultants from far away when there are plenty of local experts is also a misuse of public money. If a spending proposal does not help build our community, physically, economically, culturally or spiritually then it is a waste of money and I would not support it.
Government should be fully transparent where publicly collected money is concerned. To that end, I propose to monitor City finances by developing a low cost Internet tool to show and track all income streams and all outflows from the City's coffers. The purpose is to publicly show exactly how much the City spends and collects; from where and to what; to empower citizens with the knowledge to fact check the city's finances; to check effectiveness of City programs; to identify waste in City spending; to help develop strategies for reducing government waste and lastly to help reduce the amount of (or hopefully the need for massive) tax increases.
Revitalizing, Growing and Diversifying Kingston's Economy:
I will work to bringing good new businesses to Kingston and making them local. A local business is one that re-invests in our community; it keeps the profits here. This will enrich our community. Growing and supporting a local business helps us all. A business that takes its profits out of our community is not helping Kingston; it is impoverishing us. I propose to do everything legally possible to help and support local businesses. Some strategic ideas include infrastructure support and smart transit support.
I will work to make local Kingston businesses the preferred shopping destination instead of foreign owned chain stores. When we spend or invest money outside of Kingston we lower the amount of money circulating in Kingston. When we buy a product that is made outside of Kingston some of that money never circulates here again. But if we buy that same product (or preferably a similar product made here) from a local business then the business owner spends their income in Kingston and more economic activity is created here as opposed to somewhere else.
Revitalizing an economy means that work opportunities need to be converted into job opportunities. There is an infinite amount of work that can be done but there is sadly never enough jobs. I propose to investigate the possibility of a local currency and a local mutual credit community. Both of these have the virtue of monetizing work (turning work into an exchangeable value) such that more people will have more goods and services.
One possible way to reduce the need for yearly massive tax increases is to find the money somewhere else. Some possible sources include: 1) As I have said in the whig Standard "Possible opportunity": we should offer Canada Post snow removal services. The City needs to clear snow in the area near community mail boxes therefore the extra effort would be only a small increase in marginal costs. This small increase should be less than the total costs Canada Post spends on snow removal for these boxes. Economic logic would suggest that the two organizations should negotiated a price between Canada Post's total costs and the City's increased marginal costs. Such a deal would make everyone better off especially city residents using community mailboxes. 2) Expanding recycling to other communities so that we can all benefit from economies of scale. By lowering the unit cost per tonne of recyclables we can increase the revenue per unit of the sell-able recycled commodity. 3) Installing flat screen TVs on buses to air commercial advertising. The City needs to increase its revenue so as to limit future tax increase.
Building Our Common Wealth By:
Our environment is fragile and needs protecting from dumping and all forms of pollution. Our parks are often our closest contact with nature. Both our parks and our natural environment should be protected and/or improved for our quality of life and that of our children.
To stimulate local economic development, resiliency and sustainability; to alleviate local poverty, exploitation and alienation; to build local community, trust and self sufficiency I propose and will work to create a zero cost program of mutual credit, volunteering and sharing.
To support the proper clean up and redevelopment of brown fields and the protection of our environment with a goal of keeping our children safe from the pollutants of by gone eras.
I will propose the redevelopment of upper Princess street to make the neighbourhood more accessible and safer for pedestrians and cyclists in such a way that an inexpensive and healthy life style is more easily lived. Among the ideas that I will promote will be rezoning to permit mixed use buildings, more park facilities and improved smart, fast, frequent and timely transit.
I propose to develop low and zero cost options for people to voice their opinions and desires. I will work to make these new options useful and effective to the residents of Kingston. Among these will be an online petition template to help residents form citizen coalitions to get their issue heard and dealt with. Another is the creation of an online policy forum for residents to publicly debate the pros and the cons of issues before council. Too often politicians ignore good privately presented ideas. By airing the pros and the cons side by side we can heavily reward informed truth seekers while intellectually punishing liars and the ill-informed all the while building coalitions of concerned citizens.
Improving City Services With: