In my previous city council election campaign, I had the privilege of speaking with thousands of residents in the new Ward 8.
After registering to run for Ward 8 in the 2018 City of Hamilton municipal election I have spent the last two months talking to as many people as possible about what their priorities are for Ward 8 and the City of Hamilton.
If elected, here are the top action priorities I’ve heard our friends and neighbours in Ward 8 say need to be addressed:
If elected to Hamilton City Council for Ward 8 in the municipal election on October 22nd, 2018, I will:
Work to Reduce the Residential Tax Burden
In 2017 the City of Hamilton relied on property taxpayers to fund 57% of the total operating budget – and the City’s reliance on residential taxes is increasing.
For me, this is by far the single biggest issue we face as a City. In the golden age of Hamilton’s manufacturing and industrial past, commercial and industrial taxes paid for a substantially larger portion of City services.
Today, the City relies on property taxes – which means that individual taxpayers are paying much higher rates than they should, and it also severely restricts the City’s ability to pay for badly need but expensive improvements – such as repairing our roads, water mains, escarpment walls and making improvements to transit and social services.
The solutions to this problem are complex, but really what it comes down to is making a concentrated effort to attract new and expanded private business and industry to our city.
Of particular importance in this election: LRT is a catalyst to develop millions of dollars in new residential and commercial development which directly benefits all taxpayers.
Cut Red Tape Barriers to Business and Jobs
Talk to anyone who has opened a small business in Hamilton and you will likely get a story about how frustrating it was to deal with the bureaucracy at City Hall.
From unnecessary delays on permits and inspections, to ridiculous interpretations of arcane by-law requirements, the City of Hamilton can be it’s own worst enemy when it comes to developing and expanding small business and adding jobs.
In most cases this isn’t necessarily a problem with our existing by-laws and regulations (although there is lots there that needs to be modernized) it is mostly a customer service problem at City Hall.
Too often, staff at City Hall tend to see business owners as adversaries. Instead of helping to get a problem solved, they end up as a barrier and throw the problem back at the business.
The City of Hamilton is a giant organization and business owners often end up in a catch 22 loop as their applications are shuffled between departments and staff who never seem to talk to each other.
Fortunately, this problem is not expensive or complicated to fix, and Hamilton’s Economic Development department has been slowly improving things for years, but it takes a long time to turn around a ship this big – more forceful and consistent support from council is badly needed.
Find Solutions to Traffic Congestion and Speeding
The single most consistent issue that I hear from residents I talk to at the door in Ward 8 are concerns about traffic congestion and speeding.
From an engineering perspective, speeding is actually a fairly simple problem to solve. Transportation engineers have long established that a driver’s speed is almost entirely based on the design of the road – speed limits, stop signs and enforcement have very little influence on how fast people actually drive.
If we truly want to address the problem of speeding, we need to accept a different roadway design. Bump-outs at intersections, narrower lanes, street trees, islands, planters, boulevards, speed humps at pedestrian crossings and protected bike lanes are all design elements of a complete street that can be designed to effectively eliminate speeding – at a relatively low cost.
Congestion is a much more complex issue. Did you know that Hamilton’s population will increase by roughly 30% in the next 20 years. This means that one out of every three homes where people will live in 2038 have not even been built yet!
If we think we have traffic congestion problems now, if we don’t plan ahead it’s nothing compared to what we’re facing in just 20 years.
Part of the solution is encouraging the province to address congestion and access issues on provincial highways – in particular what happens at the ends of the Linc and Redhill.
Locally we can make sure that our main arterial roadways are as efficient as possible – this means streamlining traffic flow with signal timing and making sure that there is sufficient capacity where it is required.
We also need to do a better job figuring out where people are going to and from and finding ways to streamline those specific routes.
However, the only real solution to congestion – the kind of serious congestion we will be facing in 20 years – is to stop building and maintaining a city that requires a car to get around.
One obvious first step is to immediately raise development fees to cover 100% of the lifecycle cost of development.
Then we need a real, organized and sustained commitment to provide transit, cycling and walking options that will encourage people to leave their cars at home – as their preferred choice, not their last choice.
Invest in Public Infrastructure Like Roads, Sidewalks and Watermains
Almost all of Hamilton’s existing public infrastructure has a grade of C and is constantly getting worse.
The City of Hamilton is also responsible for an amazing $19.5 Billion dollars in public infrastructure! If you look at the chart below, you can see that over 50% is just water and wastewater and another 35% is roads and transportation.
This is a huge amount of infrastructure to maintain – without even considering that we are constantly adding new infrastructure!
However, from an engineering perspective infrastructure construction and maintenance are relatively simple to forecast and manage.
Engineers know what was built when, how long it should last and what repairs will be required over it’s lifecycle.
From there, it is pretty straightforward to calculate the net present value of an asset – that is the amount of money required today to maintain an asset over it’s lifecycle and then replace it at some time in the future.
The problem is when municipalities refuse to budget to actually maintain their public infrastructure and instead ignore the problem for a future council to deal with.
As a structural engineer, this is an attitude I have seen at many municipal councils, and it can be very frustrating.
The fact is we can no longer afford to simply ignore our long standing infrastructure deficit – every year we wait costs our future selves more and more money.
As a City we need to determine what infrastructure investments need to be made now, what infrastructure can be effectively downsized or abandoned and what level of assistance we will need from higher levels of government.
Once a plan is in place – we need to follow through!
Focus on Safe Family Friendly Communities for All
My wife Dawn Danko and I are raising two children (and three cats if you’re counting), so it’s no surprise that safe family friendly communities are a priority for us.
The best thing about family friendly neighbourhoods is that they are not just great places to live for families – they are great places to live for everyone!
To me, a family friendly neighbourhood is somewhere where the kids can meet their friends and ride their bikes – where teens can rely on efficient public transportation and where adults and seniors can safely walk the dog at night, get a great coffee at a local cafe or go for dinner at a local restaurant.
But a family friendly neighbourhood is more than that.
I am a founding member and currently sit on the executive board of the Centremount Neighbourhood Association.
Part of the role of an effective councillor is to support and promote community groups. If elected I will continue to do that for all of the amazing community organizations throughout Ward 8.
It is also important to remember that we do have a substantial level of poverty in our Ward 8 neighbourhoods – it’s usually not as obvious as some other parts of the city, but it’s there.
As a community, we need to ensure that those who are struggling to get by as well as people from all cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic status are welcome and included.
If elected, one of my priorities will be to make sure that suitable levels of affordable housing are integrated into our neighbourhoods – we all benefit when we live together and learn from each other.
What’s Your Priority for Ward 8?
Is there anything on the list that you have questions about?
What issues would you like to see addressed by your new Ward 8 councillor?
Please leave a comment below and lets talk!
John-Paul Danko, P. Eng.
John-Paul Danko Hamilton City Council Candidate
Ward 8 – West Central Mountain
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