Report Card – year 2

Report_Card cover
Here is an update on last year’s report card.

One thing I’ve learned is that if you want to measure if something is done, it should be worded in a way that you can say when it is measurably completed!

So some of these “completed” items are complete in that HRM is now doing the work or has committed to do it, for example I say the promise to measure the outcomes of RP5 is ‘complete’ but we are not yet a year in, so while Council promised to measure it the municipality is still six to nine months away from producing the first report.

Fix Council:
Establish a Municipal Ombudsperson’s Office Pass a sunshine by-law Ongoing Municipal reform has been a major part of the agenda the last year, from size and composition of standing committees, to relationships with agencies, boards and commissions, to the composition and appointment of the Executive Committee. Charter review is underway with the province which may allow a different relationship between Council and the Solicitor and Clerk’s office. I feel it is unlikely that the city will get an Ombudsman during this round of changes but I will continue to bring it up.
Change charter to allow Clerk’s and Soliciters’s work for council Ongoing
Give  Community Councils have more power and control over local decisions and local spending of existing tax dollars. Revised, complete. For the second year community councils are being used during the budget process to solicit community input. The standing committee system and the budget process have adequately addressed the governance issues, and I no longer think more power needs to go to CCs.
Campaign Finance Reform Ongoing This will be addressed by the Mayor and Council this year.
Ensure a stronger more adequately staffed Council Office Complete (2013) Number of Coordinators has increased, and hiring research staff completed, as well as a new intern position shared with the Mayor’s Office.
Regular and better quality communication from Councillor Complete (2013) I am sending two mailed newsletters a year, more regular advertising, monthly email newsletters, participatory budgeting process, website, social media agenda updates daily.  Need to work harder to call people back faster!
Open government, dialog, data Complete (2013) New Administrative Order makes open data the norm. HRM accepts that there is little reason to hold data for cash.   Many new data sets already available in 2014, read more here
Grow Sustainably
Increasing investment in transit, active transportation and the downtown core Ongoing In addition to the $50 million downtown fund, the municipaliy has approved an active transporation plan that hopefully will be funded this budet year, and Halifax Transit’s “Moving Forward” plan is currently being developed for public consultation this Spring.
Provide stable and predictable funding for sports, recreation, arts, culture and parks – arts funding, rink strategy Complete Arts fundng is in place. Recreation review is underway. Rink and recreation funding strategy approved in principle Council. New reorganization of the city departments recreates Parks & Rec department.
Work harder to attract and retain immigrants to our community and ensure that there are meaningful and fulfilling jobs Complete (2013) Council voted to establish Local Immigration Partnership, funding staff positions to support immigration.  Mayor lead process to create internships at HRM and encourage private sector to do same.  Job creation will never be “complete” though!
A sensible approach to neighbourhood planning / sensible approach to development. Ongoing Centre Plan has recommenced, with residential planning is one of the first stages. Public engagement commences spring 2015, project should be done in summer 2016.
Transportation vision that does not focus on single occupancy cars. Complete The regional plan adopted by council now states that HRM’s top objective be support for “viable alternatives to the single occupant vehicle”.
Affordable Housing Strategy Ongoing HRM has joined the Affordable Housing partnership lead by United Way. Mayor is providing leadership. Affordable housing will be a component of all density bonusing in the Centre Plan but requires the Provincial Government to partner to provide supports and systems that NS municipalities cannot.
Growing HRM without sprawl Complete The regional plan contains strong development controls in rural and suburban growth that will create “complete communities” that are walkable and mixed use. In principle this is complete, though Council will have to “walk the walk” and act on and defend this plan.
HRM needs more ferry service, not less Complete (2013) Ferry service was restored, new ferry for Woodside approved, Metro Transit is conducting a five year review.
Public Safety and Crime Complete The Clairmont Report was adopted by Council and the Public Safety Office moved out of the police and into the CAOs office, among many other recommendations. This is a huge step.
Our HRM Alliance 7 points:
1. Use green belting to concentrate growth and preserve natural areas and eco-services Complete Regional Plan requires a Green Belting Priorities Plan be created. This work will start 2015.
2. Invest in the downtown core and growth centres Complete As mentioned above, downtown $50 million was put into budget for 2013/14.
3. Prioritize and increase investment in transit and active transportation Ongoing Active Transportation plan is approved, need to get increased budget this fiscal year. Halifax Transit Moving Forward plan is expected to be complete in 2016.
4. Adhere to residential growth targets Ongoing It will take time to see if proposed development charges, incentives and planning changes will accelerate urban growth and slow suburban/rural growth.
5. Evaluate development charges to ensure that the municipality is not burdened by growth Complete Council has focused on Greenfield or new suburb charges, which should be considered for adoption in 2015.
6. Protect water resources Complete Council did not increase the riperan buffer in RP5 though other measures are included RP5 to protect water resources.
7. Commit to measuring successes and deficiencies of actions identified in the Regional Municipal Planning Strategy Complete RP5 has a much stronger set of measures, and staff must provide annual updates to Council.
Spend Smarter
Create a program of fiscal restraint – slow tax increases due to assessment. Complete Tax rate decreased and per household average tax stayed level for the second year in a row.
Establish a policy whereby the average tax increases should never exceed the average increase in citizen’s income. Complete Raised during budget discussion this year and last year. Unlikely to become a firm policy, but practically in effect due to restraint so far on tax level.   Tax rate is dropping, average tax is not growing as fast as income.
Engage citizens in meaningful discussion around budget time. Complete (2013) Public consultation at Community Councils and at the end of each budget meeting, written submissions and the website buget calculator.
Ensure that “deferred maintenance” stops and ensure that we maintain our buildings, bridges and roads today Ongoing The Municipality is doing a much better job of budgeting to maintain existing assets. There is still much work to do to get to a full understanding of current assets and ensure adequate funds are available for maintenance.
Recognize that money is only saved through efficiency if the services its funds don’t suffer as a result of imposed efficacies. Ongoing This will never be complete, as a councillor I have to use this lens to assess every proposal.
Recognize that urban and suburban areas will receive different and higher service levels than the rural (County) parts of HRM, while ensuring rural HRM receives service at a high a level as any other rural part of Nova Scotia. Ongoing The regional plan solidified some of this with the Transit Service boundary and other similar service area issues. Work continues to identify service standards for rural areas.
Tax Fairness – residential tax structure that supports dense growth, commecial tax that is competative, assessment spikes eased Ongoing HRM Council has asked the Province to let HRM average commecial assessment over three years, to slow spikes in tax increases.  Council has debated and passed a new tax framework for assessing our future tax structure. Condo taxes may be addressed in the Charter review – HRM does not currently have the ability to tax condo owners differently than others residential units.
Commitments: 30
Completed year 1: 5
Completed year 2: 13
Total completed: 18
Delayed: 1