There are an unusual number of files being discussed by City Council on Monday that may be of high interest, so I’ll cut straight to those and include links to where you can find more information. Speed limits is not on the list for debate on Monday, but will be next month – see below for a few notes.
If you have feedback on any of these issues, as always, I commit to reading all emails I receive before Monday's 1pm meeting. To have all of Council read your feedback, correspondence needs to be received by the Clerk before 10am Monday.
With cases on the rise and the Delta variant making up most of those, local medical health officers are recommending new COVID safety measures. While Provincial-level measures aren’t being pursued, the City is revisiting it’s corporate safety measures. A comprehensive update from our administration (item 10.4.1) will be presented on Monday. In addition, Council will debate a motion presented by Coun. Jeffries (item 14.1) that proposes a mandatory COVID vaccine policy for City facilities and employees similar to the University of Saskatchewan’s announced policy.
I have been hearing from a number of you about mandatory vaccination as a proposal and so far, see lots of merit in a mandatory vaccine policy to help boost vaccination numbers improving our chances of getting to >85% from our current 68% rate of fully vaccinated individuals in Saskatoon. New uptake has slowed and a strategy is needed. One major hesitancy with mandatory vaccines that I have heard, and share, is with regards to Transit service. I believe that safety measures need to be ramped up on Transit right now, but that the right solution there is mandatory masking, and not vaccine mandates. As an essential service, it is critical that Transit remains available to all.
It is clear that Vaccination is a critical path out of this pandemic. If you or someone you know needs a first or second dose, check out daily available pop-up clinics in Saskatoon, or availability through pharmacies.
Waste – organics collections & utility model
Another major debate will be around solid waste programs. On Monday we will decide who will do the collections for our city-wide organics program that is scheduled to begin in 2023. Given the easy alignment and efficiencies with collection of black bins, the option to do collections ‘in house’ (ie: by city staff) makes a lot of sense to me. See item 9.5.1 for full details.
With regards to funding source, it has been proposed that we return to the originally recommended Utility model (new motion in item 14.2). Over the last few years, I’ve discussed the pros and cons of a utility model vs. property tax model with many of you. I have previously supported a waste utility model in Saskatoon for two key reasons: 1) through customizations (pay as you throw) it promotes both minimizing waste and putting it in the right place, thereby reducing both environmental impacts and long-term costs associated with replacing the city landfill. These costs are very substantial. 2) it models fairness where multi-unit residential and commercial/industrial rate payers don’t double-pay – once for a service they aren’t getting and once for a service they need to acquire elsewhere.
The decision to be made will impact how curbside collections at homes is paid for. I want to be sure that the financials are transparent. While a move from property-tax funded to utility-funded waste will reduce the pressure on property taxes, it will involve a new utility bill that will be borne by single-family dwelling owners. This cost/household will be more than what we each currently pay on our property tax bill since it won’t be subsidized by properties who have their waste collected by other haulers through other contracts. I understand that there is concern that there is an intent to ‘hide’ costs. I have no intention of doing that and the report we received this past Monday (see it here – item 8.1.5) makes the financials very clear. There is urgency to this decision, as we need to be firm on the model and have it put in place before we roll out organics collection in 2023.
Budget deliberations take place at the end of November. No final decision are made until then, but we continue to work to explore options and set an ‘indicative rate’ which is a target for the administration to meet with the budget draft in terms of limiting the property tax increase. There is a special meeting this week of the Finance committee to discuss this further (agenda here).
On Monday we received a nearly-complete table of both capital and operating budget option items that have been brought forward throughout the year to consider funding in 2022/2023. See them here (item 8.1.11). Added to that list will be the options to increase the number of property maintenance inspectors to help get us to a more proactive approach for healthier homes and healthier neighbourhoods. This has been an identified priority by Ward 2 neighbours for quite some time and I’m eager to continue making progress through budget decisions this year. More on the options/approach in item 8.1.1 from last Monday.
A few other key investments in the area of Community Safety and Wellbeing are ready for consideration. They include support for partnership tables, outreach through the Saweyihtotan project and the development of a community level Community Safety and Wellbeing strategy (7.2.1 and 7.2.2 from Planning Committee) These investments will be considered at Budget. I believe they are critical to moving forward in partnership, investing upfront in community wellbeing and opportunity.
Monday’s agenda includes new updates and opportunities about:
- The Farmers' Market building – updates and options (item 10.3.1)
- The Meewasin Valley Authority’s capital campaign and National Urban Park feasibility study (10.3.2)
- The City’s approach the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – September 30th (10.6.1)
A few items that have been discussed previously and are at Council for a final approval on Monday are:
- How to address ‘private-side only’ lead pipe replacements where the public side has already been replaced (8.1.1)
- Whether to relieve some of the property tax late-payment penalty for properties whose assessments increased well beyond the average (8.5.1)
- Which projects to fund through the Sustainability Reserve (8.1.3)
- What updates to make to elections processes and bylaws (8.5.3)
- What form a Council leave of absence policy should take (8.5.2)
As you are likely aware, the City has been researching best practices and opportunities around residential speed limits in response to many unmet requests to slow down traffic on residential roads during Neighbourhood Traffic Reviews over the years. On surface, the engagement survey results demonstrated that many are not in favour of changing the limits. However, the results from the statistically significant (representative) survey show that the majority of people (60%) are concerned about speed in their neighbourhood. This group also showed higher support – 52% - for some speed limit change on local streets – to either 30Kph (17%) or 40Kph (35%). We know that speed limits are one remaining tool to address a constant concern we hear from residents about speeding on local streets, especially from those who face higher safety vulnerability on our roads – those with young children, mobility issues, using modes other than driving, etc. Given these facts, I think that it is incumbent upon us to consider all options. Those options include changes to local streets only (not collectors or arterials – roads that are meant for carrying higher loads of traffic), change to 40 or 30, change in park/playground areas (this is a call I get lots!), and more. These issues are not easy to consider and this is a complex topic. I take the feedback we get from residents very seriously and encourage all feedback, so please be in touch. I am particularly interested in your thoughts about the inclusion/exclusion of collectors in any proposed changes (it is quite clear that arterial roads shoudl be excluded). Significant background about these roadway types, various options, safety implications, travel time implications, and more can be found here. The next discussion point for Council will be at the Transportation committee meeting in September.
Ward 2 News & Engagements
- The third engagement meeting for the West Circle Drive project will likely be in October. Stay tuned here and on my social media for updates. Residents most directly impacted will receive flyers.
- As part of the Comprehensive Zoning Bylaw Review the City is reviewing regulations around infill development for primary dwellings in Established Neighbourhoods. The review will evaluate the effect that regulations have had on infill dwellings with potential amendments to some of the regulations as a result. Learn more here.
- You may have noticed construction has begun for the new Meewasin Trail expansion that will replace the closed section of Spadina Cres W between the Gordie Howe Bridge and the Sanitorium site. Construction is slated to continue through October and more details about the project are available on Meewasin Valley Authority's site here under 'Development Projects'.
- It is clear that Vaccination is a critical path out of this pandemic. If you or someone you know needs a first or second dose, check out daily available pop-up clinics in Saskatoon, or availability through pharmacies.
- There has been some important progress made by community members and organizations engaged in addressing the Crystal Meth crisis in our community - work that initiated from the Safe Community Action Alliance. The group recently released the Reach Out SK website that provides resources to help learn about crystal meth and the crisis we're experiencing in Saskatoon from the perspective of people with lived/living experience, help people to access help available, and access resources for community members, neighbours, families and friends who care. I encourage you to take some time to learn.
- The Saskatchewan Association of Watersheds and partners are inviting us to share our perceptions about Climate Change in this survey.
City Council | Aug 30th
City Council meets virtually on Monday. Brief highlights are outlined below. Click here to find the full agenda. Council continues to meet virtually. Correspondence on Council items can be made in writing or as a request to speak (accommodated by phone). Meetings will continue to be live streamed.
Regular Business Meeting | 1:00 PM
- Private side lead replacement strategy
- Climate Commitment - Usask partnership
- Sustainability Reserve - project funding
- NTR - Downtown
- Detour policy - pedestrians & cyclists
- Traffic Safety Act - proposed amendments
- Funding for Saweyihtotan
- Community Safety & Wellbeing investments
- Building bylaw amendments
- WJL Harvey Play structure - scope change
- Property tax penalty rate
- Leave of Absence policy - Council
- Municipal election - review
- Curbside organics - collections approach
- Farmers' Market building - update/options
- Meewasin Updates - capital campaign & feasibility study
- COVID - comprehensive City update
- Property acquisition - 145 1st Ave 141 Pacivic Ave
- Land Acquisition - Fire Training facility
- National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
- Tag Days bylaw
- Waste bylaw - amendment
- Board of Police Commissioners - capital budget change - taser 7
- Coun. Jeffries - COVID-19 Mandatory Vaccine Policies
- Coun. Loewen- Curbside Organics Utility model
Public Hearing Meeting | 6:00 PM
- Concept Plan Amendment & Rezoning - Brighton
- Rezoning - Cope lane
- Right of Way Closure - College Dr - Brighton
- Procedures Bylaw - Hybrid Meetings
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