My 2017 Platform

In 2013 I ran on several issues, and I stand by my commitments. I have learned a great deal since then, and this year, with four years' experience and after many conversations with residents, I see the following as key election issues and I have outlined how I intend to tackle them over the next four years.

I love St. John's and with your support I would like to continue working to help our city reach its potential.

Lower Taxes

The issue I hear from almost every voter I meet with is taxes. It is critical that Council ensures our residents are being taxed fairly and that those tax dollars are being spent wisely.

I voted against the 2016 budget that saw taxes goes up and some services cut. I felt this was unfair to residents and business, neither of whom were consulted properly on how to make these changes.

So when the 2017 budget was announced after a full year of review and millions in spending cuts, I supported the return to 2015 levels of residential tax and a reduction in business tax.

These cuts are not enough. The upcoming years will be challenging as our population grows and service demands increase. As your councillor, I will work to ensure we continuously review our programs and services, demand regular public reporting of our financial standing a decision making, and prioritize our spending to keep taxes low.

Actions:

  1. Continue to push for spending reductions
  2. Lobby the provincial government to fix the tax regime and enable the City to tax residents more fairly
  3. Setup an internal working group to research and apply for funding opportunities to increase revenues without increasing taxes
  4. Implement publicly-accessible quarterly fiscal reports to ensure residents know and understand how their tax dollars are being spent

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Council Transparency

In my first term, I put a heavy focus on improving the way City Hall engages with the public. But I have come to realize that we really need to improve the relationship between Council and the public.

I called for better transparency and accountability in my recent blog post, “Council Should Be More Transparent - Here's How.” I have also heard calls for participatory budgeting, which I think is a great idea to help the public be a part of our budgeting and decision-making process.

Actions:

  1. Make standing committee meetings more accessible
  2. Provide a public Q&A period at weekly Council meetings
  3. Change the format of the weekly public meeting to strengthen debate
  4. Broadcast Council meetings live online and post them on the City's website

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Community Well-Being

While the sections above are certainly important to having a functioning and prosperous city, we must also ensure that all residents are taken care of and given opportunities to "make a go of it." With growing trends of poverty, food insecurity, addictions and inadequate housing, it is essential that Council play a role in addressing these issues

The key to limiting suffering and providing a solid foundation for people lies in partnerships. We must increase our efforts to work with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the Provincial Government, Eastern Health, End Homelessness St. John's, and the many other community organizations working diligently to strengthen our communities. Below are just a few specific actions that I commit to working on with these partners.

Actions:

  1. Push for a strategy to make transit reliable, accessible and affordable
  2. Convene a community-based group to review our draft development regulations with a focus on ensuring zoning and housing rules are progressive and inclusive
  3. Direct staff to review the Provincial Poverty Reduction Strategy to identify City-specific issues to tackle
  4. Continue to implement and enhance the City's Affordable Housing Business Plan
  5. Identify and eliminate barriers to getting information and accessing City programs and services
  6. Work with our St. John's Food Policy Council to identify specific policies the City can implement to improve food security

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Development

I have been an advocate of “smart development” since before my time on Council, and have supported proposals that focus on density and infill. Going forward I see two key areas to focus on: our development regulations and our permits and inspections processes.

A draft of our new regulations was released recently and, while well written and an improvement on the existing regulations, does not reflect all of the forward-looking policies that such an important document should have for a modern city. I will push for more public oversight of this document and not accept them until they have been thoroughly reviewed by residents.

There has been work done to improve operations at City Hall with respect to development, but I am hearing far too many stories of confusion, delays, and frustration from residents and developers trying to complete renovation and construction jobs of all sizes. It is time we did a full review of our permit and inspections processes to see what is going on to make them reliable, efficient, and accountable.

Actions:

  1. Provide opportunities for public input to the new development regulations
  2. Ensure our new development regulations truly reflect the draft Municipal Plan
  3. Fix our development permits and inspections process

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Transportation

Our city has been growing and modernizing for well over a decade, and our transportation network has not kept up. While work has been done, people still find the public transit system sorely lacking in accessibility and convenience. We also have more work to do to enable safe cycling and winter sidewalk clearing.

I intend to get a seat on our Transportation Commission, which is the committee overseeing our Metrobus services. I have two goals with this committee: to bring the currently inaccessible agendas and discussion to the public, and to push for real change to routes and frequency that will enable more people to take advantage of the service.

In my next term I hope to chair the new Cycling Advisory Committee to make real progress on our Cycling Master Plan, and will continue to advocate for more and better sidewalk clearing.

Actions:

  1. Call for full transportation plan that enables multiple forms of safe and efficient transportation: walking, running, riding, bussing, cabbing, car sharing, etc.
  2. Put Transportation Commission meeting agendas and minutes online
  3. Call for a status update on recommendations presented in the 2011 Dillon Metrobus Study
  4. Implement programs to encourage ridership like University Pass, discounted organization passes, and dedicated “Park and Ride” locations
  5. Finalize review of Bike St. John’s Master Plan and implement enhanced bike infrastructure and policies
  6. Continue to increase the budget and effectiveness of winter sidewalk clearing

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Heritage

It is a bold claim to make that we are the “Oldest City in North America,” so if we say it we should act to reflect it. Too many buildings of significant heritage value have been lost in recent years, and I vow to be a stronger, more proactive voice on Council for our built heritage.

Council must provide effective policies that support and enhance heritage structures and not allow "demolition by neglect." And we must encourage adaptive reuses of older buildings by offering meaningful financial incentives and developer supports.

Actions:

  1. Create a Heritage Policy Working Group with Council representation that works toward a true “Built Heritage Plan” that identifies priorities and actions
  2. Lobby the provincial government to give the City authority to offer tax incentives for preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, and reconstruction of heritage buildings
  3. Release the draft Heritage By-Law to heritage advocacy groups and the public for review and comment
  4. Implement the Heritage Use Impact Assessment Report requirement
  5. Double individual funding amounts under the annual financial incentives programs to a total of $100,000 per year

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Business Support

While Council must ensure that our infrastructure is maintained and residents’ basic needs are met, we have an important role to play in our business community. We have regulations, policies, and taxes that, whether we like it or not, impact how a business can operate.

So with this in mind, City Hall has to become a “small business champion.” The more we understand and appreciate the efforts and challenges our business owners face, the more likely we will be to keep this group in mind when making decisions and implementing services.

Actions:

  1. Engage with local business operators to do a full review of our permits process and information accessibility to cut red tape and improve support for business
  2. Implement a dedicated business information desk and support staff position
  3. Meet with commercial property owners to ensure our vacancy tax allowance is fair and effective
  4. Lobby the provincial government to implement a “one business, one number” policy to help us provide better communications and services to all businesses in the city.

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Tourism and Culture

Tourism has proven itself to be one of our most valuable and growing sectors, and the City plays a critical role in the positive (or negative) experiences that visitors have. We need all of our Council and staff to truly appreciate the importance of visitor experience and work hard to ensure everything we do makes St. John’s more accessible, welcoming, clean, and vibrant.

Our arts and culture sectors are also integral to the vibrancy of our economy and quality of life, and it is important that Council be a strong supporter. Our financial contributions are currently far lower per capita than other cities; we can and must do better.

Actions:

  1. Partner with key organizations to develop a meaningful tourism strategy for the City
  2. Identify a list of actionable objectives to improve downtown infrastructure
  3. Facilitate connections and partnerships between local businesses and artists to develop “experience packages” for tourists and locals
  4. Double our arts grants budget from $200,000 to $400,000 per year
  5. Implement initiatives to improve our city’s signage and wayfinding

Click here to ask questions or make comments below.

Environment

Our environment is integral to so many facets of our lives, and it is incumbent on Council to ensure we are protecting and enhancing it. By protecting wetlands and waterways we can minimize flooding and encourage urban biodiversity. By encouraging density we can take control over rising budget costs and foster thriving, mixed-use neighbourhoods. And by ensuring City buildings and activities are energy efficient, we can have confidence that we are limiting our impact on climate change.

Actions:

  1. Implement a wetlands study that identifies all wetlands in our city and recommends policies to protect and preserve them
  2. Encourage dense development in our new development regulations to ensure we are maintaining natural landscapes and providing efficient services
  3. Commission a buildings efficiency review which identifies emissions- and cost-cutting actions
  4. Call for an "active transportation plan" which identifies how the City can enable and encourage more people to use their car less frequently
  5. Produce a climate change action report which identifies prioritized actions the City can take to reduce our carbon footprint and save on costs

Thank you for taking the time to review my platform. Click here if you would like to support me in my efforts to be re-elected. Please ask any questions or make comments below!

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Dave is involved in community issues and activities. He can't make it to all, but these are on his list!

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