The following remarks were delivered to Council, staff and residents at the October 1, 2007, Council meeting, where Mayor Rob Burton also presented his inaugural Oakville Status Report.
It is a pleasure to give you the first annual Town status report for this term of Council.
In only 10 months, together we already have a lot to be proud of, because:
Your Council has used the past 10 months to lay the groundwork for a successful term. Let's define successful as delivering on our promises in the election 11 months ago and making significant and measurable progress toward our goal of creating in Oakville the most livable town in Canada.
We live in a community that already is one of the most blessed in Canada. Our Town's civic life has so many volunteers who enrich the quality of life in our community. We have active business leaders who create jobs and opportunities for our residents. We have fully engaged citizens who understand the issues facing our Town and share their valuable ideas and passionate feelings with us and with staff.
We have employees that demonstrate a level of respect, commitment, caring and concern for our community that impresses me every day. Vince Lombardi once said, "The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined efforts of each individual." This is especially true when it comes to such a diverse organization as the Corporation of the Town of Oakville.
The Town of Oakville runs more than 70 different services and programs - businesses, if you like. The Town's dedicated employees and valued services touch our lives every day. As Members of Council, we have chances every day to witness the dedication and quality of Town staff. There are too many to spotlight all who make us proud.
Let these 12 give you an idea about all the rest:
When this Council officially took office 305 days ago, we knew we would need a strategic work plan if we were to achieve our many goals. This plan was our first and highest priority. We created a unanimous vision for our work together as your Council during this term from 2006 to 2010. We want each day to count.
Our plan aims high because Oakville is a town of people who aim high. Our guiding vision for Oakville is to create the most livable town in Canada. Someone has already suggested that our vision should be higher, to be "most livable in the world." And why not? A vision should be something to inspire us, something worth working for.
As we go, we will keep applying the power of positive listening for everyone's benefit and the best results. We will be measuring our progress towards our goals. Every year we will be reporting our results to you, as tonight. This is our new way of doing public business at the Town of Oakville. We will be goal driven, performance based and results-oriented to meet the diverse needs of our community.
Public transit is critical to the ability of all to be able to get to work, to go shopping or even to visit family and friends and is a key measure of "a livable town." Recreation, cultural, seniors and youth facilities are essential parts of daily routines. A vibrant downtown keeps our Town attractive and our values up, as does a healthy natural environment. These are key factors when we measure how livable Oakville is.
As Council, we balance these priorities and keep our eye on the bottom line. We're proud Oakville has very competitive property tax rates. We are working hard to keep it that way and we also work hard to keep up with our responsibilities. In Oakville, our municipal tax rate of .72 per cent is well below the provincial average of 1.1 per cent. And we had the lowest property tax increase in the GTA this year.
Everyone on Council understands the need to keep property taxes affordable. We will seek to diversify revenue sources and manage costs by seeking productivity gains and efficiencies. But we will not impoverish our future, or our children's future, if to cut or avoid something would damage our livability and cost more later to fix the damage. We had that ugly lesson in the 1990s.
To achieve our goal of financial planning strength and stewardship of our revenues, Council and staff have been implementing a new fiscal planning framework for the Town. We will be the leader in Canada for comprehensive, results-driven, multi-year financial planning and management, for both operations and capital, with performance-based, program-based budgeting and reporting.
This approach goes beyond focusing on what is spent to also plan and measure what results are achieved. Our move to multi-year strategic and financial planning will put the Town's management systems and processes on a par with the world's leading businesses. It will provide our citizens for the first time with a complete picture of where we stand financially as we work together to achieve our goals as a Town.
Council and staff at the Town are already enjoying the benefits of a new era and new style of working together at Town Hall. Over the past 10 months, we have established new cooperative and productive working arrangements both inside and outside Town Hall. We have created new working relationships with our three Business Improvement Areas and our Chamber of Commerce.
We have a new, more energetic and focused approach to Oakville's economic development. Council and Town staff will be taking a stronger leadership role in attracting and retaining businesses and ensuring we create the right conditions for success in our community. Business roundtable forums and executive secondments will assure we get the most out of our business community.
We are getting solutions and progress through the new public advisory method of ad hoc Mayors advisory groups and roundtables. We are and will be working more closely with all community and charity organizations and volunteer groups to help achieve our goal of creating in Oakville the most livable town in Canada.
Last week, we announced a proposal for Council to set an ambitious goal to achieve a 40 per cent tree canopy for the Town's bicentennial celebration in 2057. At 29 per cent now, we know we will need everyone's help to achieve this goal, and we are very fortunate in this community to have partners who, we know, will rise to the challenge.
Our Town's relationships with the members of the development community are changing, too. A new vision for development is emerging in the Town of Oakville and this is reflected in the people-centered, sustainable development proposed for North Oakville. Speed and certainty await those who work with us to achieve our goals.
We are moving to build new relationships based on mutual respect and principled negotiation. Where possible, we are settling OMB cases that we have inherited from previous terms of Council. Costly and contentious hearings at the Ontario Municipal Board are going to become a distant memory.
To assure this much-to-be-desired brighter future, we are creating a new Oakville Official Plan. Along with our strategic plan and financial management tools, the official plan is the third leg of the stable foundation that our town needs to guide us for years to come. We welcome all our residents to participate in shaping the new planning framework for Oakville.
We will no longer have an official plan often described as the worst in Ontario. We will have an official plan ("Livable Oakville") that will be the first in Ontario to be celebrated for its dedication to sustainability and livability as well as neighbourhood values and economic strength. It will dovetail with the Region's new official plan, "Sustainable Halton."
As we near the end of our first year in action as a Council and the 150th year of our Town, Oakville is enjoying economic health that is robust and strong. We have plans that aim to create an even brighter and more livable future. And we will continue to share a belief that the Town we have is important to everyone, but the Town we will have is just as important.
If we dream a little, and focus and work together a lot, we can and will create a golden era for Oakville. This Council with our staff has accomplished no less than the creation of a strong foundation for that shared vision since the election 11 short months ago. In a few days, the North Oakville OMB case will be behind us and finished, a finish that will be far less costly than was once feared.
Our Council is fun to work with. No other mayor in the country has created and run a successful and popular television network. Probably no other mayor is a member of the Directors Guild. So far, directing and mayoring appear to be remarkably similar. In both you work with the most talented and energetic people. In film and TV, everyone has a very good idea of their importance and their value. That's true here, too.
Whether you are a director or a mayor, you need to know and value the unique talents of each member of the team if you're hoping to inspire them to deliver the best possible performance.
We have gotten to this point where we are thanks to the many skills, perspectives and backgrounds that each Member of Council brings to the Council table. Our diverse talents have enhanced our problem-solving and our vision-making and made us stronger as a team.
Just a brief highlight about each one will give you the picture:
We have a strong and inspired team on Oakville's Council.
We have a strong and organized professional team on our Town staff.
We have a large set of strong and well-informed, fully engaged and highly skilled citizens' groups.
We have a strong and visionary 4-year work plan.
We have economic and financial stability and strength.
We have strong new powers in planning and development.
We have a strong determination to use our new powers for the good of our community.
We have strong and positive relationships with the other municipalities in our regional government.
We have a strong and productive working relationship with the MPP who represents most of Oakville.
As many know, he was a Member of this Council for 18 years. No matter who wins the Provincial Election next week, we can be sure that the outstanding results MPP Kevin Flynn has delivered for Oakville have set an example to live up to.
Thank you all for your shared commitment to our community. There is no more enjoyable way to be a mayor than to lead a community that knows where it wants to go and knows how to get what it wants, and if ever a community were so blessed, it is Our Town, Oakville.