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2012 Annual Address

This is an exciting time for the City of Brantford, our citizens and our neighbours in Brant and Six Nations. 

Brantford is beginning a remarkable renaissance which will encompass all aspects of our community as we drive forward into the 21st Century.

We are seeing a renaissance in community development, economic development, arts and culture, spiritual foundations, governance, environmental stewardship, health and wellness and safety.  After realizing a substantive turn-around in our fortunes during the late 1990's and early 2000's, we laid the foundation for our future in the 21st century.

Brantford has experienced some sputtering in our progress, with a global economic melt-down, confrontation and disrupted relationships with Brant, and particularly Six Nations; and we have experienced decision-making that has, and will continue to cost our community tens of millions of dollars through lawsuits, and the poorly formulated political management of projects.

Your current Brantford City Council has wrestled with these major issues, and has initiated solutions after extensive consultation and public discourse.

During this last quarter of the year Council agreed that the following ten items would be the foundation for our strategic direction for the second half of this mandate.

  1. Economic Development and a local Job Strategy
  2. Boundary Adjustment
  3. Tri-Council agreements to joint lobby and cooperative projects
  4. Service review, financial planning and budgeting (multi-year)
  5. Infrastructure investment and asset management
  6. Crime Prevention
  7. Social Service issues specifically related to addiction and mental health
  8. Communication, consultation and re-branding/marketing
  9. Relationships and Partnerships with other municipalities, the province and the feds
  10. Greenwich-Mohawk (implications as well for other brownfield properties)

While each of these items shares a priority structure that allows for the shifting of emphasis and resources as events and needs allow, I want to focus on the top three priorities for the sake of this annual address.

Economic Development and a Brantford Job Strategy is the single most significant priority for the current and future councils.  It is what we need to accomplish to allow our community to flourish and grow.

Brantford must work to secure, permanent, full-time, high-paying employment that offers a range of opportunities for all the demographic groups in our community. To reach this goal we must identify the current barriers, implement strategies to eliminate those barriers.

Our single biggest barrier to a Brantford Job Strategy is the complete dearth of land available for industrial/commercial and residential development.  I have repeatedly laid out the science behind the numbers that support our dramatic need for new land to come within the boundaries of the City of Brantford.  This adjustment of boundaries must happen within a very short time frame to allow for the necessary planning, environmental assessment and servicing for land in each of the categories.

The City of Brantford has no land available to attract new businesses to come to our community, and we have been wildly successful in decreasing the number of empty buildings in the community over the last couple years which further limits our opportunities.

We can look to opportunities lost that measure in the $100's of millions of dollars, thousands of jobs, and millions of dollars in lost assessment. 

Brantford was unable to compete for the new Adidas build because we did not have the necessary land, and the private sector failed to close the deal effectively.  We were very supportive of the jobs and the company staying in our region and signing a land deal with the County, but we must recognize that this, while an enhancement, is not new economic development to our region.

And more specifically, the loss of a company of this size means a decrease in assessment, and decreased assessment means either an increase in taxes or a reduction of services...it really is just that simple.

We have attempted to move quickly to engage the Brant County Council in negotiations, and after a recent presentation it appears that we will be moving to invite the Provincial Facilitator to assist in working out a deal that will benefit both Brantford and Brant.

We will not be distracted, misdirected, nor lose sight of the importance of accomplishing boundary adjustment for our future.

Just last week Brantford, Six Nations and Brant travelled to Ottawa as part of a Brantford initiated process of developing a Tri-Council initiative of neighbours to lobby the federal government.

As neighbours we have failed in the last few years to recognize and respect the rights of  each community and the role that each plays in a symbiotic relationship.

After well-publicized and well-attended meetings, we were able to agree that the greatest benefit to our communities is to decrease the heat in our relationship, and focus our attention to the federal government which has the greatest level of responsibility and almost complete decision-making authority.

We will continue to work on a local level to address the strained relationships, and build positive and constructive initiatives that will see each of our communities benefit.
The Tri-Council lobbying was very successful, as not many federal political players had experienced two municipal councils and a native reserve working together and emphasizing economic well-being as the basis for our lobbying efforts.

This initiative will grow into a campaign that will undoubtedly yield both benefits and national attention throughout 2013.

The economic focus of our relationship within the Tri-Council structure relates to Brantford's first strategic focus of Economic Development and a Brantford Job Strategy.  No one can refute the impact that the failed relationship with our Six Nations neighbours  has had on our economic development opportunities and potential. 

If we want to move ahead, and benefit from boundary adjustment and economic growth, we must have a positive working relationship with Six Nations.  Our issues will not be solved in the courts.

This Council undertook one of the most aggressive consultation processes in our community’s history with the Intelligent Service Review and Taxpayers Bill of Rights consultation.  We had an incredible response and the information has given us a very clear understanding of the service structure within our community, as well as support for greater involvement, education and information dissemination through the Bill of Rights.

I was proud to initiate and design both the Intelligent Service Review and Taxpayers Bill of Rights, and it relates to a resolution I moved for the first foray into multi-year budgeting and setting of tax rates. 

Tonight following the Annual Address we will move acceptance of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and the required consultation process.

This is the foundation for an incredibly progressive approach to budgeting in our City, and one that will serve us well for years to come.

Also on the agenda for this evening is another initiative to approve a Community Involvement Framework that outlines one of the most thorough and comprehensive consultation processes in municipal government.

And also on the agenda is approval for the new role of an Internal Auditor to provide professional and objective review of municipal finance and corporate structure.

I want to touch on two other points from our strategic focus.  First, Crime Prevention and safety initiatives, both of which are fundamental to the overall health and well-being of our community.  Crime prevention addresses many of the underlying concerns that exist within all North American communities, but looks at the root causes and how to solve problems before they happen.

The dollars we expend on policing within the community can be more effectively allocated with a community-wide approach to crime prevention.  It actually doesn't require much action to have immediate and substantial impact.

The last item I want to address this evening is the Community-based Branding initiative that was approved by Council following successful community interactions during the Mayor's Breakfast of Champions series hosted through 2011 and 2012. 

This was a uniquely holistic approach driven by dozens of citizens and organizations throughout Brantford.

The Rebranding committee is working toward adjusting how we market our community internally and externally, through a more progressive outlook and 21st century vibe.  The committee also had a broad-based consultation process and has engaged the community in making these important decisions.

2013 will see this initiative return to Council with continued involvement from the community, and we should expect to see the outline for a completely new look for the new Brantford.

A renaissance for Brantford is the revival of intellectual, economic, cultural, spiritual and  artistic achievement and vigor.

There is renewed energy and focus on making Brantford the exceptional living experience of a 21st century city.  Champions are standing up to contribute, companies are noticing the changes and looking to relocate, and people from all over are determining that Brantford is the place that they want to live and raise their families.

A major part of our renaissance is the complete and total involvement of a multitude of citizens, organizations and companies.  The opportunities exist to get involved, and we will continue to find new ways of broadening our democratic process so that power does not just rest in the Council Chambers -- it exists in all of Brantford's citizens.

My favourite example of the power of compromise as a force within Brantford's renaissance, is the Joysey Lights at Glenhyrst.  This year we managed a difficult neighbour issue through legislation, but we took that situation and turned it into a positive for the community.

A solution was found, partners were identified, and citizens came forward to volunteer and donate.  The result is a remarkable light display that is the foundation for a Christmas Season tradition that will have an impact for generations to come. 

This is governance, community development, artistry, partnerships and relationship development, and even has some tourist attraction.

This is how we should function as a community going through a renaissance, and this is how we will function as we progress into the 21st century.

2013 will prove to be a renaissance year for Brantford.

Supporting Presentation

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