Hall Monitor: Waterfront Respite

Kingston City Council Meetings, #ygkcLast night, our city council got together for a bit of a different kind of meeting – one where the jackets came off, and the shorts and tees were the order of the day. They met as committee of the whole, meaning some of the rules were a little more lax than normal – in fact, the meeting was held in the gorgeous ballroom on the sixth floor of the Radisson Hotel. The meeting itself was an update on the strategic plan that was written and put into affect at this time last year. Like the council meeting of two weeks ago, we streamed the event and live-tweeted it. Our tweet stream is below.

The meeting itself was, mostly, a “where are we now” update from the CAO to council with regards to the items in the strategic plan. The consensus? On course. Projects that were supposed to be done in the past year (mostly) got done, projects that were supposed to be started (mostly) got started and residents (mostly) have a great idea of where we are and where we’re going – as evidenced by comments from the CAO and Mayor about how many copies of the strategic plan are handed out. The only real tension of the night came as debate happened when a motion came forward to ask staff to find additional reductions – and it was mostly over numbers. They settled on asking staff to see if they could find ways to bring the next tax increase down from 3.5% to as low as 2.5% while maintaining the integrity of the strategic plan. The report will return to the committee of the whole, likely at a future council meeting. And that was it – that was the whole meeting.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to editorialize before I get to my tweet stream – though I suppose you could just skip this paragraph if you do mind. I want to take just a moment to commend council, their facilitator through these planning sessions and most importantly the CAO and his staff for the work on the strategic plan. With the exception to the council procedural by-law, the strategic plan is easily the document I refer to most that the city has published. Not only does it let you see what is planned in this city and why, but it shows the city from both a “municipal” and “business” side and allows citizens to track progress and see what’s been missed. I sincerely hope that a re-print is being planned with updated, one-year-later data and urge my readers to look through it if you haven’t already.

Council next meets on June 5, 2012, back as council and back at city hall. We’ll be there.

  • 5:52 PM: Setting up at the Radisson for the #ygkc strategic planning session. I have wifi, but a poor camera angle. Need my tripod. :( #ygkc ^TV
  • 5:54 PM: I’m not sure how the stream audio will sound tonight – taking it from the HD cam. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:04 PM: Camera is up and live! Come, follow along with #ygkc as they provide the year-one update to the strategic plan. http://t.co/8diLs9B8 ^TV
  • 6:06 PM: Mayor calls meeting to order. Rollcall done. Away we go! #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:08 PM: Mayor suggesting they use first names. @JimNeill3 “But if you get mad it’ll be Councillor Neill”. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:09 PM: Discussion early about tax rate: Set at 3.5%, mayor says that it doesn’t always have to be. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:11 PM: Mayor says that the reason budget talks in the fall are short because they deal with the budget (like this) year round. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:13 PM: Same guest who was here last year has come back. Speaking about wanting to keep things on a broad level. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:16 PM: I know, sorry. :-/ It’s about all I’ve got in this environment without a tripod. HD camera is sitting on the back of a chair. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:18 PM: Going around the table with what each person thinks has been a good initiative taken from the strategy in past year. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:21 PM: Mayor commenting that the strategic plan itself has been well rec’d in the community. Just having the plan on paper, really. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:26 PM: Discussing how to raise the bar next: Airport, transit, customer service all being mentioned. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:28 PM: Talk from @BrianReitzel that nothing on the board matters iff we can’t sell it (and tax rate) to the city population #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:29 PM: And @DorothyAHector says that we should seek alternate income streams and be willing to try them, too. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:41 PM: Coun. Downes is talking about how the city compares to others. AA- credit with positive outlook. “This is a well run city”. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:44 PM: Coun. George suggesting making public a comparison of other cities to us with regards to services v cost. We often win. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:46 PM: A report is out today comparing municipalities, Kingston is listed thanks to staff effort – @DorothyAHector. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:55 PM: [email protected] says that tax increase of 3.5% is amongst the lowest. Also wants to see a decision made on the bridge. #ygkc ^TV
  • 6:56 PM: Coun. Scott saying that the biggest draw on his time has been from other agencies and governments. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:04 PM: Discussion about issues the city faces. Got through the recession okay, but we’re feeling it now. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:06 PM: From @MayorOfKingston: Can we not sit the two rural councillors together next time? #mayorjokes #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:10 PM: Our CAO is up now, talking about the major initiatives in the strategic plan in 2012, 2013 and 2014. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:12 PM: CAO says that there’s nothing more valuable to an organization than a strategic plan. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:15 PM: CAO commenting on the internal items in the plan. “I’m very proud of our staff”. 30% of staff will retire in the next 5 years. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:17 PM: CAO: We’re sharing more information; when people hear it from city, not neighbours, they feel like they’re part of it. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:18 PM: CAO thanks his staff (Melanie) for the help. @MayorOfKingston: “That’s because you don’t know how to use PowerPoint”. #mayorjokes #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:24 PM: CAO: How you build a city: When the community jumps in and finds ways to better the community. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:25 PM: Getting ready for a quick break. Camera will be pointing at a wall during break (awkward angle) but audio stays live. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:50 PM: We’re back in action at the #ygkc meeting. Starting with guiding principals from the CAO. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:56 PM: CAO: Most important directive staff rec’d: That council will support tax increases of up to 3.5%. #ygkc ^TV
  • 7:57 PM: That 3.5% breaks into 1% for capital, estimated 2% for inflation and 0.5% for service changes. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:01 PM: There is a mighty dense spreadsheet up on the screen right now. Discussing the costs of running a city. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:20 PM: CAO presentation on taxes done – now discussion is moving onto the recommendations. Coun. Downes praising work done so #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:24 PM: [email protected] says he gets far more calls about cutting services than budgets and tax changes. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:27 PM: Coun. Paterson talking about how the first guiding people is “People First” – need to keep that in mind as council makes decisions. #ygkc…
  • 8:30 PM: Coun. Paterson says he’d like to ask staff for a list of things the city does that DON’T fit with the strategic plan. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:34 PM: Talk from @DorothyAHector: We’re not communicating what tax payers are getting for the money they pay in taxes. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:41 PM: Coun. Glover gave notes to @MayorOfKingston that he’d like to see all non-union pay rates freeze for 2 years. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:42 PM: Coun. Osanic left notes: Wants taxes between 2.5 and 2.9%, no bus fare increases, and a park if the golf course closes. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:45 PM: [email protected] wrangling people into giving city staff direction. Less debate, less defence. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:47 PM: [email protected] adds suggestion that maybe taxes should be based on income, not property value. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:49 PM: Coun. Hutchison is in favour of a better communications plan: Putting things up on the website doesn’t work. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:51 PM: Coun. Hutchison: We don’t pay enough for the quality of work we get from our staff. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:55 PM: Coun. Scott wants to see parks & rec work slowed down. His residents want to see lower taxes.#ygkc ^TV
  • 8:56 PM: Coun. Schell: Comfortable at up to 3.5% tax, wants better communication. Impressed with parks, wants to explore revenue options. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:58 PM: [email protected]: Thrilled with annual report, well on way to better communications. Heard that 3.5% tax rate is too much. #ygkc ^TV
  • 8:59 PM: [email protected] also says that city should explore alternate ideas for revenue. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:00 PM: [email protected] comments: will support anything that provides more information for decisions. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:01 PM: [email protected] Solar panel projects will generate $5M; Suggests Belle Park could have trails and a solar field. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:03 PM: And @MayorOfKingston says he’s also open to other creative ideas to bring in money and lower tax rates. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:05 PM: And @MayorOfKingston brings up marina fees, too. Says we could be making far more money there. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:07 PM: Coun. George: In business, fee increases aren’t the best way to increase money flow. Need to look for efficiencies, too. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:09 PM: Coun. Downes:Given that the city can’t run a deficit, they are doing a good job. Council needs to stand together on that. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:13 PM: Coun. Downes says that he’s expecting Staff to bring tough decisions to council. Agrees with staying the course. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:16 PM: [email protected] wants to see a brochure with information on what money is spent on sent out with tax bills. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:25 PM: [email protected] brings up the KEDCO report and says that KEDCO needs to make sure their goals align with they city’s. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:26 PM: . @BrianReitzel also says that figures should be based on GDP. Should set that example in Kingston. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:33 PM: A motion from Coun. Paterson that staff look for ways to try to drop tax rate to 2.5% by Nov 2012. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:39 PM: Discussion back and forth with council members and the CAO about the wording and direction of the motion. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:42 PM: Motion would now bring info to a future committee of the whole instead of council. That’ll be a long night. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:43 PM: Comments from @DorothyAHector that the motion has no middle ground on % and doesn’t require commitment to the strategic plan. #ygkc ^TV
  • 9:46 PM: Friendly change that keeps the motion to the strategic plan, and removes the exact 2.5% and reads “as low as possible”. #ygkc ^TV
  • 10:04 PM: Ongoing debate about how low this number for the motion should be. CAO wants a number, council seems to want a range of numbers. #ygkc ^TV
  • 10:07 PM: Committee finally votes that the CAO staff bring back information to the committee. And now we’re into wrapup. #ygkc ^TV
  • 10:08 PM: And we’re a wrap! Have a great night! #ygkc ^TV

Thanks to reneilet for today’s original photo.

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