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What Did Dave Do? A Review of Dave Lane’s First Term on Council

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It has been almost four years since you elected me to Council, and I’m honoured and grateful that you chose me for this role. Now that the term is up and we’re heading into another election, it’s time for you to review my performance and, once again, decide if I’m the right person to represent you.

To help you get a sense of where I’ve put my focus to make St. John’s a great city for all of us, I’ve compiled a list of work I’ve done. I haven’t accomplished everything I’d hoped, and there is a lot of work left to do, but I believe that my track record shows that I’m prepared to keep pushing our Council in the right direction on your behalf.

Note: Be sure to read my platform for the 2017 election!

 

My Approach

If there’s one thing that sets me apart from other councillors, it’s my approach to communicating with the public. My primary focus is to ensure that citizens understand how and why Council (or at least I) make decisions.

I do this through regular blog posts, my Facebook page, my Twitter account, regular sit-ins on VOCM Nightline, media interviews, and frequent one-on-one exchanges over email and any other means of contacting me.

My approach is to be accessible, honest and clear about what’s going on in our city.

 

The Issues

I’ve worked to protect our heritage, improve our parks and trails, support our local business community, enhance our economy, protect our environment, support our artists, and, most of all, improve the way we engage with the public.

Following are some specific actions I’ve taken over the past four years to advance these issues.

 

The Economy

Coming from a business background and spending four years as chair and co-chair of our Economic Development, Tourism, and Public Engagement Standing Committee, I’ve had the interest and opportunity to address several economic-based issues that will help ensure we have jobs and opportunities, enabling people to live here and enjoy life.

Dave voted against tax increases

  • Voted against the 2016 Budget, which contained tax hikes on businesses and residents

  • Advocated for and supported the year-long program review in 2016 to reduce taxes  back to 2015 pre-budget levels and improve operational efficiencies.

  • Brokered improved sidewalk clearing / salting and snow removal downtown. This was a major issue for business owners and users of the downtown, and while things aren’t perfect, they have noticeably improved.

  • Implemented full review of business permit process to reduce red tape and improve the experience of businesses interacting with City Hall.

  • Drove creation of a City-Business Roundtable, which brings together business representatives, councillors, and City staff to improve communications and inform decision making.

  • Created an “entry / exit / relocation survey” for small businesses to help understand and improve the City’s role in business success. We will expand this to the entire city after a test period in the downtown.

  • Added support for startups and entrepreneurs in our Strategic Economic Roadmap 2021 to help us focus on this important sector.

  • Oversaw region-wide, detailed “demographics study” to get specific information about our population and their perceptions, needs, and desires so we can make informed, evidence-based decisions.

  • Played major role in engaging downtown businesses in response to proposed Water Street major infrastructure project.

    • Chaired several meetings with staff and business owners, leading to a dramatic reduction in project impact and improved communications with businesses.

 

Heritage

There have been high-profile struggles during my term, but I have been a strong advocate for protecting and celebrating our built heritage. Since I joined Council, I have driven the following progress:

Dave helped protect 17 heritage properties 

  • Protected 17 properties through heritage designation.

  • Expanded our list of heritage properties “watch list” to pursue designation or ensure Council is made aware of demolition requests so we can respond.

  • Created a new policy to require restoration of heritage properties before development permits are granted.

  • Created a new full-time Heritage and Urban Planner position at City Hall.

  • Implemented new financial incentives (grants) program to support heritage property owners in their maintenance and restoration efforts.

  • Drafted a Heritage Impact Assessment Report, which will be required by a property owner hoping to make changes to a heritage structure.

  • Called for a review and consolidation of all heritage by-laws to ensure they are clear, strong and enforceable.

  • Voted to save the historic Bryn Mawr property from demolition.

  • Launched the City’s “Upper Storey Development” program to help reduce costs and increase usage of our historic commercial buildings’ upper floors.

  • Prevented immediate demolition of Richmond Cottage in 2015 and led a two-year-long effort to save the historic property

    • Negotiated agreement with owner to try to find buyer willing to restore the property;

    • Struck a committee to engage developers and heritage advocates in shared purpose;

    • Promoted the property far-and-wide and spoke with almost a dozen potential buyers, including one who made an offer which unfortunately did not meet the requirements of the agreement

    • Once the deadline passed without a viable offer, I enabled salvage to take place, saving a portion of the property and setting the stage for a new salvage and demolition/deconstruction policy which is currently under review.

 

Environment, Parks and Open Space

Dave got Council to declare its agreement with UN right to a healthy environment

  • Orchestrated Council’s signing of David Suzuki’s Blue Dot Movement to recognize every Canadian's right to live in a healthy environment, becoming the first city in Atlantic Canada to sign on.

  • Stood as Council’s representative on Clean St. John’s, working to reduce litter and educate the public about keeping St. John’s clean and beautiful.

  • Drove efforts to incorporate “naturalized stormwater retention ponds” into City’s approach to requiring beautiful and sustainable stormwater infrastructure. Examples can be seen in the new Galway development.

  • Worked to connect our buildings management division with the BOMA Best Framework, which is a set of rigorous steps to increase buildings’ efficiency and reduce City Hall’s carbon footprint

  • Helped develop Open Space and Parks Master Plan, a comprehensive plan to guide staff in updating and maintaining our city’s incredible network of parks and trails

  • Advocated for protection of the large section of the East Coast Trail within city limits.

Dave pushed City to require sustainable water retention

 

Cycling

Cycling has been a key priority for me, and I have been able to strike a Bike Task Force which has revitalized the City's approach to cycling. We will now have a dedicated Cycling Advisory Committee and are set to embark on several projects to encourage safe cycling in St. John's. We will also update our Bike Master Plan next year based on the Task Force's work and public engagement.

Dave has made cycling a Council priority

  • Strongly advocated for safer cycling in the city

  • Set up and represented Council on the Bike St. John’s Task Force

    • Led by staff and community members, this group conducted a full review of our existing cycling infrastructure, efforts to enhanced it that have been made to-date, and conducted wide-ranging survey which received a large number of responses (almost 2,000)

    • Presented the Task Force’s full report and recommendations for improving cycling in St. John’s, which were adopted by Council

  • Preserved existing bike lanes

  • Achieved “quick wins” to be enacted in the coming months:

    • Bike Rack Design competition

    • Education Day in the Park

    • Trail upgrades to T’Railway to enable multiple uses, including cycling

    • “Car Free Day” street festival to take place in 2018

  • Achieved a new, permanent Cycling Advisory Committee, solidifying Council’s commitment to safer cycling and active transportation in St. John’s

 

Arts and Culture

Our arts and culture sectors are a huge strength for our city. They give us our unique and appealing identity, they offer employment, entertainment, and meaning to our lives. A smart city recoganizes these and other valuable aspects of the arts and invests; St. John's should be doing the same and I will continue to advocate for this, including a doubling of arts grants funding to $400,000/year.

  • Advocated for and won reversal of Budget 2016 cut to arts grants

  • Fought for and won retention of the City’s Poet Laureate role

  • Developed a “Bike Rack Design” competition which will see artists design functional and beautiful bike racks to be located around the city.

  • Supported expansion of the City’s “Music@” yearly concert series to include performances at Harbourside Park, The Plantation, Bannerman Park, and Bowring Park. All performers are paid.

  • Worked with NL Folk Festival to resolve funding issues with City Hall and ensure successful move back to Bannerman Park.

 

Engagement

A key pledge in my run for Council in 2013 was to improve the way Council engages with the public. Since joining Council I have led a Task Force that developed a new Public Engagement Framework with the City is now integrating throughout the organization. Our new engagestjohns.ca website reflects the efforts and gives the public one of many options to influence how decisions are made.

Dave has driven significant change in the way the City engages with the public

  • Chaired the Public Engagement Task Force which created the City’s new Engagement Framework

    • City staff receiving ongoing public engagement training

    • Increased focus on digital communications:

      • Continuous, helpful social media notifications

      • New smartphone apps for 311 and Curb It

      • New website www.engagestjohns.ca dedicated to robust engagement on issues such as Municipal Plan; Winter Maintenance; Yearly Budgets;

  • City has now had 25 significant engagement campaigns since I took office

  • Sit on editorial committee for City Guide, the quarterly compilation of information for all residents

  • Strengthened the relationship between Memorial University and the City to help students get more involved with civic life and feel connected to their city.

    • Host and partner on student orientation events and information packages

    • Supported the creation of “St. John’s Bound” program to help students from away get acquainted with and settle in the city

    • Partnered on the Entrepreneurship Training Program for graduate students who are now working with us on a project to connect newcomer students to our downtown.

As part of improved public engagement, Dave has pushed the City to have more citizen connection points online

 

Other City-Building Efforts

  • Worked with Food First NL (formerly Food Security Network) to start the first St. John’s Food Policy Council

    • As co-chair, I help the group with its focus to strengthen and support our local food system and improve food security

  • Proposed free wifi in the downtown to support businesses, assist tourists, and communicate with the public

  • Exploring options for Metrobus to enhance data collection, which will lead to service improvements, and easier payment methods to help make the bus more appealing to more people.

  • Advocated the purchase of electric cars and chargers for City fleet to ensure we are prepared for the growing trend

  • Working to improve parking meters by enabling payment by cell phone (“HotSpot Parking” app)

  • Encouraged staff to add sensors to vehicles to help better detect potholes

 

What’s Next?

These past four years have had their ups and downs, but I’ve loved every minute of it and, again, want to thank you for your support, input and advice. I’ve learned a lot about how City Hall works, what people want and need from Council, and what more can be done to make our city even better.

Looking ahead, I want to tackle even bigger projects and issues, such as:

  • improving Council transparency;

  • enhancing our transportation network (bussing, biking, walking, etc.);

  • enhanced responsible fiscal policy (reduced taxes and frequent financial reporting);

  • fixing our business and development permit processes;

  • developing wetland and open space protection policies to protect our natural environment and prevent further sprawl.

You can read all about it in my platform.

 

Be sure to vote!

My seat is by no means secure in this September’s election, as five incumbents and a new candidate are all vying for four at-large seats. So, if you share my vision for a thoughtful, engaged City Hall, I respectfully ask for your vote.

Your Vote is Your Voice

Regardless of who you want to vote for in this election, please make sure you will receive your mail-in ballot by checking the Voters List (click here).

Thank you for taking the time to read, and if you have any questions, comments, or ideas please get in touch by visiting my contact page or by commenting below!

p.s. are you on the Dave Lane Mailing list? Click here to sign up!

Written by Dave Lane at 09:48

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