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2010 Annual Address

Inaugural Speech December 6th, 2010

Your Worship Honourary Lord Mayor Walter Gretzky and family, the Honourable Justice Kenneth Lenz, Chief William Montour from Six Nations of the Grand River, former Mayor Robert Taylor, Acting Police Chief Jeff Kellner, Fire Chief Garth Dix, Councillors and visiting politicians, family and friends, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I would like to begin my 2010 Inaugural Address by thanking so many in our community who have demonstrated their trust in me by offering their votes to secure such a large and decisive mandate for the next four years of council. I respect the trust that you have shown and I commit to you that I will use this decisive mandate to make Brantford an exceptional living experience.

I would also like to thank my friends, family and supporters who made this election a positive and exciting experience.

To the Councillors of the 2010 – 2014 Council, welcome to those who have returned, welcome to those who are returning after some time away, and welcome to newest members of the elected officials community – you will find this to be a rewarding and exciting experience. To each member of Council, I am here to support your political initiatives and activities, my door is always open to you and I will work diligently to build a positive and proactive team on Council.

Brantford is poised to become a 21st century city. It will require creativity, community-wide team building, an open and transparent governance process, and a long-term vision for our future. It isn’t a matter of “if,” but rather “when” we will take a preeminent role as an exceptional living experience within Canada.

As a community, we will build our relationships with our citizens and neighbours; we will educate so that everyone has the information necessary to make the best decisions possible; and we will communicate everything that we are doing and why it is being done. The people have a right to know, and have an expectation that their local government will be a vehicle for positive growth and change.

Our future depends on Brantford becoming more economically diverse; we must reinvent our economy to reflect the changes in the broader global society and market-place. We need to diversify our economy, and focus on higher paying jobs that people can use to buy a house, raise a family and retire with dignity and respect.

Brantford will look to new economic sectors like green technology, the pharmaceutical industry, and, yes, information based technology. It is to our advantage to tie our post-secondary initiatives to the new economy and seek new relationships with benefits for the future. We exist in a knowledge-based, post-industrial economy and our community had the incredible foresight to invest in post-secondary education, and now have a strong and growing university/college structure that can be a cornerstone of our economic foundation. Strategic investment and partnerships with post-secondary institutions will prove us to be a 21st century city.

Brantford must eliminate existing barriers and forge new relationships with the County of Brant and Six Nations, so that we all benefit from economic growth and prosperity. Divided we are three weaker communities that speak with tepid voices, together, we are a powerful and strategic partnership, and we speak with a conviction and purpose that can neither be ignored nor silenced.

Entrepreneurism built this community and made us a once great economic powerhouse, and the nurturing of the entrepreneurial spirit is the course to a return to greatness. Creativity, innovation and a drive to succeed is what builds businesses, creates jobs and fosters community development.

Brantford has a rich history and heritage, and we can build on what we have already been blessed with while creating a dynamic culture that is unique to our community. We will continue the remarkable revitalization of our downtown as a centre of arts and culture. We will support arts for people of all ages, and we will support an active sporting life – and we will do so without lamenting the success of any one group or cultural sector.

Brantford would do well to embrace our history and heritage to make our present and future richer and more rewarding. There is an active and productive economic driver within a strong heritage sector. A Heritage Master Plan is a wonderful community building exercise, and I continue to promote the idea of a Heritage Trust where active heritage proponents can raise funds to purchase and repurpose significant built space.

Brantford has been unfortunately identified as a dangerous city in which to live. To be honest, I find this hard to understand and even harder to accept, instead of throwing up our hands and saying “oh well, someone has done us a dirty with those stories,” we will come together as a community and change both the reality and the perception of this dubious distinction. There is no doubt that we must address the very real large city problems that have invaded our community, and this will require enhanced policing as well as a community based policing structure that will mean our citizens will send a clear message that we have taken back our community and we will no longer tolerate a lawless lifestyle.

The world environment has changed and governments and societies globally have changed to meet the new challenges. Climate change and an ever increasing number of dramatic weather instances will affect every community around the world, to deny this now is deny the truth, and to doom our future. As we move to a greener economy, we must be prepared to be environmental leaders. We must embrace change and grow in the new green economy, let’s not be environmental victims and work to be environmental innovators. To succeed, Council must draw together the entire community to be involved in green decision-making, which will include focusing our attention on a healthy watershed and developing land and community growth in a responsible and sustainable manner.

The strength of a community can be defined by how open and how inclusive its political processes are. We must open up City Hall to everyone and create the systems that allow the greatest level of involvement possible. There will always be situations where in-camera meetings are required, but even how we manage those meetings will demonstrate how open we are as a government. Council can create a culture that sees information not as the power to control, but as an invitation to be involved.

Transparency is necessary as we seek open discussion with our political partners in the County of Brant and Six Nations of the Grand River; being open will allow us to work on our issues as neighbours and not as combatants.

Participatory democracy should be a centrepiece of everything that we undertake as a Council and we have the great advantage of using technology, and new mediums as new networking tools to educate, communicate and build relationships.

The proposal for Community Action Networks has definitely captured the imaginations of the citizens of our community, and it would serve Council well to embrace this concept and open up new lines of community-building within the neighbourhoods in each ward. While the funding would appear to be the most exciting aspect of the initiative, it is really the ability for citizens to have a say in the physical, economic and cultural make-up of where they have chosen to live that is the most exciting.

Participatory democracy is the hallmark of a truly 21st century city.

We must always work to make local government a tool for positive growth and change. People want to trust their local government, and it is this relationship that we must constantly encourage to develop in a constructive manner. Council should review all of its processes to ensure the most efficient and effective system possible. It is impossible for us to function as a community without the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers, and it is to our benefit to enhance the relationships between Council and its boards and committees. We will seek to engage the public, business and political entities to have a say in how our government could and should function.

Brantford’s future depends on a greater level of understanding with our financial structure, and Council must commit the resources to create an education and communication process for the community that is based on active participation. As a single tier municipality, our financial system creates unique issues and the public have the right to know how we collect taxes, and, more importantly, how taxes are spent. If we can communicate the budgeting process in simple language that is easily understood by all citizens, then we have succeeded.

As a single-tier municipality, we offer about 200 services to our citizens. We offer the day-to-day services of roads, lighting, water and sewer, and hydro for example – the things we use every day, but rarely think about. We offer services that you might only use in a crisis – policing, fire, paramedic services and even social services and affordable housing. We offer regulatory services through property standards, building inspection, and licensing. We offer services that improve the quality of life, from arts and culture initiatives, sporting facilities, and parks and open spaces.

As one of a handful of single-tier municipalities left in Ontario, we offer services from birth to death – and actually, with pre-natal programs and cemeteries, we offer services before and after that too.

Being single-tier can become a valuable asset to our community if we begin the process of engaging citizens in our decision-making.

Citizens have the right to have tax information communicated to them in simple language; citizens have the right to have input to the budgeting process; and citizens have the right to know that there is maximum value for each tax dollar collected. Taxes are a tool for community development; they are a means, and not an ends.

The last thing that I want to speak about is creating a customer service culture in every city service and venue. We will work with our staff unions and associations to initiate a process of corporate renewal based on customer service. As much as people want us to act like a business, government cannot be profit driven – or at least our profit is not the dollar, our profit is a high degree of citizen satisfaction and happiness with our community. This is our profit.

Brantford was recently recognized as the 2nd happiest city in Canada, we should choose to accept this recognition, and as a community we will tell you loud and proud that Brantford is our hometown, we choose to live in Brantford and we are proud to call Brantford our home.

Thank you and Season’s Greetings to one and all!