Tonight was the final Council meeting of this term of office. I offered the following remarks:
I am honoured to offer some words of appreciation and recognition at this, our final Council meeting of this term.
First, I would like to thank every member of the 2010-2014 Council.
Few of us truly know what we are getting into when we are first elected. The work load and learning curve is always more than anticipated – substantially more.
There are many tough decisions to make. There are many, many pages of reports to be read. There are phone calls and e-mails and events on evenings and weekends. There are sacrifices of family time.
So thank you very much to all members of Council for your service to your community. You have helped ensure Guelph is one of the best cities in Canada.
I want to particularly recognize the members of Council who are not returning – Gloria Kovach, Maggie Laidlaw, Lise Burcher, Ian Findlay, Todd Dennis, and Jim Furfaro.
On your desk, you will find a small gift to recognize your service to the community.
I would also like to thank all city employees – each of you have an important role to play in keeping the city running.
Your work never stands still – it is constantly evolving to stay relevant to the community you serve and to respond to ever changing times.
The complexities of working in the public sector are often overlooked and not well understood from the outside.
Perhaps when you really show us what you are made of is when you step up under pressure to respond to a risk or a crisis in our community.
We are very fortunate for your service.
The hallmarks of this term of Council have been teamwork and leadership and as a consequence, we have achieved more this term than any other on which I have served – and far too much to fully capture in a few brief remarks.
Four years ago, in my Inaugural Address of December, 2010, I spoke about a mandate to attract jobs; protect the environment; build strong neighbourhoods; and put people first at City Hall.
I challenged my Council colleagues to set a new standard for municipal governance in Ontario. I challenged us to address the financial sustainability of our city’s rapid growth. And, I urged us to be willing to step out of the old ways of doing business.
I believe that together, we have accomplished this and more.
Very early in our new term, we were required to fulfill one of our key responsibilities as a Council – the appointment of a new Chief Administrative Officer.
The openness of our process was well praised and our CAO – Ann Pappert – has continued in that spirit of openness with her accountability to Council.
Council sought leadership to begin the transformation of our local government – we envisioned a more integrated, open, agile, stream-lined and tech-savvy local municipality.
The Corporate Strategic Plan that the CAO delivered was hard fought –not surprisingly the change it signalled was resisted by some – and it lays out a path to ensure our local government remains relevant to the people it serves.
While this work may not be compelling to all citizens, it is critical to sustaining quality services and building a vibrant city.
On a more tangible note, we began this term by welcoming Canadian Solar to Guelph. Over the past four years, Guelph has continued to attract thousands of jobs and millions in investment.
The Hanlon Creek Business Park was brought to market – this required a perseverance and loyalty on behalf of several individuals that has been under-appreciated at times.
We can be very proud of the programs, partnerships and the positive brand that our entire Enterprise Team has achieved through their hard work and dedication to Guelph’s economic success.
Our successful advocacy with our neighbours for all-day, two-way GO train service from Toronto puts Guelph in the heart of Ontario’s innovation cluster – and it will bring jobs and economic growth to our city for years to come.
In my inaugural address I said that Guelph’s green reputation is a strategic advantage for us. We proved that many times over the past four years.
Energy companies are choosing Guelph as a gateway to access the emerging North American market, thanks to our internationally-recognized Community Energy Initiative.
And we continue to be a centre for innovation in water technologies.
Four years ago, I said we would deliver better environmental stewardship. How did we do?
As promised, we opened a new organic waste processing facility. This facility helped our community achieve the highest residential waste diversion rate in Ontario in 2012. We also rolled out waste carts all across the City.
We opened the Galt District Energy System in our downtown – the beginning of North America’s first city-wide district energy network.
Another district energy system is being built at the Hanlon Creek Business Park.
Our Natural Heritage Strategy has protected nearly a quarter of the city’s land from development.
We completed other major policy work – including updates to the Solid Waste Management Master Plan and the Water Supply Master Plan.
This policy work only rarely makes headlines, but it’s a crucial responsibility for a municipal government and it will ensure Guelph grows sustainably.
The third pillar I talked about in my Inaugural Address was neighbourhoods and people.
This is really the heart of what makes Guelph, Guelph.
One of our highest-profile accomplishments is Market Square, which has exceeded all expectations and contributes enormously to the life of our city.
Market Square has won all sorts of awards, but the greatest testament to its success is the frequent sound of children laughing as they skate in winter and splash in summer.
There have been many other achievements as well.
The Local Immigration Partnership is helping new Canadians settle and feel a sense of belonging in our community.
The Youth Strategy and Older Adult Strategy will make Guelph a more welcoming and accessible place for everyone.
Community gardens and new parks and trails are strengthening neighbourhoods across the city.
We introduced an affordable bus pass, born out of the incredible work of the Task Force for Poverty Elimination.
We approved the Secondary Plan for the Guelph Innovation District – a new mixed use neighbourhood that will transform the east end of our city.
And the Neighbourhood Support Coalition was launched as an autonomous community benefit organization – a testament to the growing strength of our neighbourhood groups and their important contribution to our community.
Four years ago, I said that one of our greatest challenges would be maintaining our city’s financial sustainability as our population continues to grow. I said we would need to step out of the old ways of doing business. That will continue to be the case.
However, I did not know then, how much Council and City staff would rise to these challenges.
Our record on financial sustainability includes lower debt, increased reserves, closing the gap between tax rate increases and inflation, and an upgraded AA+ credit rating.
As part of the first phase of our economic development strategy, our investments in downtown have leveraged more than $85 million in private investment so far.
As we develop under-used sites in our downtown, the increased tax revenue benefits every residential and business taxpayer in the city. It is this revenue that will fund services for our growing city, in the north, south, east, and west into the future.
The integration of our growth, economic and financial strategies is being recognized as a leading practice in the province.
We also approved the Internal Audit function this term. This function has helped ensure the right controls are in place to deliver value for every tax dollar spent.
We also incorporated Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. – one of the first municipalities in Ontario to create a holding company – and an important vehicle to implement our strategies for prosperity.
Through Guelph Wellbeing and Open Government, we began transforming our local government’s relationship with the people it serves – and making better, more effective use of the tremendous resources that exist in our community.
We broke down silos. We opened up our data. We held “camps” and “Jams” and “hackathons.” We even published Council’s Orientation Guide so that everyone could look behind the curtain at how local government works.
It takes courage to step out of the old ways of doing things. Together, Council and staff found that courage and accomplished many great “firsts” for our community.
The doors that these initiatives have permanently opened offer countless opportunities to continue to transform local government.
There are always challenges in any term of Council. We had our share.
We are not a sleepy backwater town, we are a going concern, a growing modern city, and that means there will always be ups and downs and missteps despite the best laid plans but – as the saying goes – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
As we conclude this term, I want to express my thanks and congratulations to my colleagues for your contributions to one of the most successful terms I have been part of in my 17 years on Council.
I want to thank you not only for what we achieved together, but how we achieved it.
In my Inaugural Address I said that we would meet our challenges with “intelligence, integrity, resolve and the commitment to community building that motivates us all.”
Thanks to your leadership and your teamwork, we did just that.
Congratulations on a remarkable term. It was an honour and a privilege to be part of it.
Thank you very much.