This morning, was a speaker at the Politicians Breakfast.
This is an annual event put on by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce whereby the politicians representing us at 4 levels provide some insight into what is happening and what they see affecting the Town of Lincoln.
The following is the speech I gave (note, it may not have been exactly as printed …):
SPEECH TO LINCOLN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 14 2020
ROBERT FOSTER, REGIONAL COUNCILLOR
I will start by bringing greetings on behalf of Niagara Region and our Chair, Jim Bradley.
I want to thank the Chamber, including Anna and all the executive, for putting this event on year after year. It is a real privilege to get the opportunity to speak to the business movers and shakers of Lincoln.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik’s “State of the City” address that he gave at Ridley College.
There are lots of positive things happening in that city, that is true. For those of you who know Walter, he made sure we all knew who was responsible for them.
But in the area of economic development, it isn’t just St. Catharines. We are seeing positives going on right across Niagara. Homes are being built, businesses are being attracted, and there is a general feeling that at long last, it is Niagara’s time.
So, before I take full political credit for Niagara’s growth, I want to touch base on a couple of issues that may be of interest to you.
First, we received at Niagara Region the highly anticipated Ombudsman’s report late last year. This lead to a referral by Council of the report to the police for further investigation.
Mayor Easton and I, as your Regional Council representatives, are not at liberty to discuss details around this file. Suffice it to say, however, both of us are taking an active interest in ensuring the selection of our next CAO at Niagara Region is following a process that is clear and not subject to the nonsense seen and documented previously.
Property taxes. Like the Town of Lincoln, we had a fairly significant increase in taxes for 2020. At the Region, investments are being made both in public transit and in long term care facilities. 40 net new police officers are being hired this year.
Just to let you know – no politician at the municipal level likes to increase property taxes – frankly, we pay them too. I remain a strong believer that property taxes are a regressive way of collecting funds for the important work done by the governments that most directly affect you — in many ways these taxes are unfair. However, it is the system we have and there does not seem to be an appetite at the upper levels to change it.
But that doesn’t stop us from being as efficient as possible. As for the Region and core departments, we have been and are continuing to do a thorough third- party review of operations, focused from a financial sustainability and value point of view. It is expected that a number of changes will be forthcoming throughout the upcoming year.
Discussions are underway, particularly with the CAOs of Niagara’s 13 communities, to look at ways to bring efficiencies to the way we do business. On a personal level, I am a supporter of a strategy around information technology.
Waste Management. I get more phone calls on missed or messed up pickups than any other issue. The moral to this story – As a politician, one should be very cautious of the politically expedient but not well thought out solution. In other words, make use of the best advice you can get from your professional staff. And remember, you will most times get what you pay for.
On the plus side, we have new contracts going into place for October of this year and a game plan designed to increase the lifespan of our landfill sites and increase our recovery of materials, both of which have long term benefit to our community.
On a personal level, and as promised in the last election, I regularly attend Lincoln Council, bringing items of information for the community. We have made a lot of strides in the area of road/traffic safety, including safety zones and speed reduction. We are implementing new monitoring in downtown Beamsville to help build a long term plan for safety and community development. And it is my expectation that we will be seeing red light cameras in downtown Vineland as a pilot this year.
I also will say that with this attendance, I get an opportunity to listen to the issues being dealt with by Lincoln Council.
There is a lot more I could talk about this morning, but I will close with one last item.
I am a volunteer with the upcoming Canada Summer Games that are being held here in Niagara in 2021. My involvement will be on the technology side of things, but I mention this as these games are a once in a lifetime opportunity for Niagara. The two weeks in August will showcase our Region, all our municipalities, and will leave legacy projects that are important to Lincoln.
The actual games will require many volunteers to help make this an event to remember for athletes and visitors alike. I would encourage all of you to consider how you can get involved.
The Town of Lincoln is a great place to live. We all know it.
I look forward to working with Dean, Sam, Sandra, and our Town Council to make the investments in our community that continue to make us the envy of Niagara.
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