Budget 2018 Recommendations
Dear Mayor Watson and Members of Council;
On behalf of the Riverview Park Community Association (RPCA), I would like to thank you for this opportunity to provide our thoughts on the draft budget you are considering. As representatives of a residential community which is fairly close to downtown, the RPCA’s priorities include providing enhanced, safer infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists to promote a healthier lifestyle and reduce vehicular congestion.
With this in mind, we reiterate our call for the City to incorporate the following recommendations we believe are consistent with the City’s Official Plan goals to encourage other forms of transportation (biking, walking, public transit), over private automobile usage and to ensure that the city’s climate change plan be well resourced in order to meet the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission targets set out. Encouraging car-based transportation is unacceptable for future sustainable growth of cities and only leads to urban sprawl (which this Council is attempting to reduce) and induced traffic demand. The City’s financial constraints have already delayed much-needed repairs on existing roads, so we ask you to please consider carefully whether any new road construction is needed and as much as possible to incorporate Complete Streets concepts.
The RPCA urges you to accept the following suggestions as you deliberate on the budget:
- Use the funds presently budgeted for new roads to repair existing roadway and infrastructure and sewers, particularly in light of increased thaw-freeze cycles in the Winter that are only expected to get worse due to climate change;
- Provide sufficient funding to fully implement the City’s Pedestrian Plan, using development charges funding if possible. We are pleased to see expedited funding for the bridge to cross the Rideau Canal between Ottawa East and the Glebe and ask the City to consider setting aside funding to supplement the eventual construction of a build a Multi-use Path (MUP) bridge across the Via tracks between the Via Station and Terminal Avenue (Ottawa Trainyards) and for the Prince of Wales Rail bridge across the Ottawa River. In the short-term we would ask that funding be provided for a study on the Via-Station (Tremblay Rd) to Trainyards (Tremblay), overpass, also known as the Westerly Option in the 2017 report issued by Parsons for the City;
- Provide sufficient funding to fully implement the Ottawa Cycling Plan using development charges funding if possible ();
- Set aside sufficient funds for life-cycle repair and maintenance for new and existing infrastructure
- Provide additional funding for winter sidewalk maintenance to reduce levels of iciness and ensure that there is sufficient traction for pedestrians and that (e.g. sanding sidewalks so people are less likely to slip and fall and injure themselves or be tempted to walk on residential streets rather than sidewalks)
We oppose any motion that would restrict Councillors from adding budget initiatives by automatically requiring them to delete equivalent items in the budget, even if this might push the total tax costs above the threshold of a 2% property tax increase. Fiscal probity is important but there are concerns that absolute adherence to the 2% ceiling, will prevent essential services from being maintained or increased. As the noted jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes stated, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”
We also recommend that the City of Ottawa:
- Make an effort to pursue more aggressive GHG reduction targets rather than the current modest commitments in this area. In that vein, on October 11, 2017, our Board, like several other Community Associations, adopted a motion to join with the Federation of Citizens Associations (FCA), recommending that $1.5 million be allocated in the City’s 2018 budget for investments under the Renewable Energy Strategy (also known as “Energy Evolution”).
- Take a systematic approach to adapting to a changing climate to save money in the medium and long-term. Better planning will reduce risks. For example, planning for increased extreme weather events will minimize infrastructure failures and better protect the safety of citizens (see e.g. www.adaptationlibrary.ca);
- Commit to the climate change plan in the term of council priorities ensuring adequate funding to this important issue and set aside sufficient funds to staff a Climate Protection office like many other large Canadian municipalities have. There should be additional resources for new events to publicize environmental awareness and to encourage Ottawa residents to take action to reduce their ecological footprint during Earth Week and Bike-to Work month.
Develop additional resources and a plan for residents to use in emergency planning for severe weather events and natural disasters
The RPCA also encourages the forestry service be appropriately resourced to enforce existing bylaws meant to protect existing mature trees and ensure that sufficient resources are in place to plant more trees to replace those lost to the emerald ash borer and other invasive species. We would also ask that sufficient funding be set aside to look after the newly planted City of Ottawa trees in the future so that they do not die due to lack of care (e.g. such as the trees that will be planted along the Alta Vista Corridor Hospital Link). In many instances, mature trees are being cut down (even if developers promised to protect them) at a time when the city is spending money to plant new trees. We also believe it would benefit the City to set aside funds to create community-based activities (and hire more staff) to remove invasive species such as the dog-strangling vine and hogweed that plagues many areas of Ottawa.
We oppose the use of city funds to replace the lawn in Marion Dewar Plaza with concrete or interlocking stones, instead of replanting the grass after events on the Plaza. Not only is replacing the grass with stones a poor use of taxpayer money, it also would remove a well-used green area and diminish the atmosphere and ambience on the Plaza.
We believe that there are tools and economic and policy instruments available to allow the City to achieve its environmental goals. We encourage you and City staff to fully consider the range of options available, such as work being done by the Ecofiscal commission (http://ecofiscal.ca/ and that of the Sustainable Prosperity organization, http://www.sustainableprosperity.ca/Home+EN, based at the University of Ottawa.
Finally, we encourage the City to hire additional law enforcement officers to deal with the increased gun violence in Ottawa and to devote additional resources to divert potential gang members into productive activities and to extricate existing gang members from criminal activities. In addition, we would ask Council to restore the number of Community Policing Centres to enhance the capacity of Ottawa Police to build relationships with the citizenry and be “ears and eyes” on local neighbourhoods.
President, Riverview Park Community Association
273 Knox Crescent, Ottawa, Ontario K1G0K7