2008 State of the Town

The following remarks were delivered to Council, staff and residents at the September 29, 2008, Council meeting, where Mayor Rob Burton also presented his second annual Oakville Status Report.

Two years ago Council unanimously adopted our Four-Year Strategic Work Plan. This is the Second Annual Status Report on the work we decided we needed to do to achieve our shared vision of creating in Oakville the most livable town in Canada.

Our Mission is to enhance our natural, cultural, social and economic environments. We know our town wants continuously improving programs and services. We want programs and services to be accessible, and fiscally and environmentally sustainable.

Council's aim is a town government that is valued and celebrated for the way we satisfy the needs of our residents, our businesses and our employees. We want town staff to receive the same level of respect, commitment and caring we expect them to deliver to the community.

We chose the values of accountability, dedication, honesty, innovation, respect and, above all, teamwork to guide our work together on our Plan. Together, these make a powerful strategy for success, and it's working so well because we've become so good at working together.

We wrote our Four-Year Strategic Work Plan in a spirit of doing "home improvements" on our hometown. As with all "home improvements," we aren't starting from scratch. We're making repairs and enhancements to make the place we call our hometown more attractive and keep it in better condition.

Oakville already had a strong foundation to work with. The elements that made up that strong foundation are our natural environment, our dedicated town employees and the spirited and talented people of our community.

There's an old carpenter's saying . "measure twice, cut once." We measure twice every step of the way. We measure first by checking the strategic plan to see if our planned actions are environmentally and fiscally sustainable. We measure a second time by asking for and listening to public feedback.

First area of focus

The first area of focus this year was to be accountable in everything we do. Since taking office, we've boosted two-way communication. Surveys, roundtables, Mayor's advisory groups, ward meetings, and Council "points of presence" at town events are just a few examples of the techniques we've applied to this area. The public has been just as willing to engage in the conversation as we have been. And we say "thank you." Just look at the level of public consultation we have built up in our work on the new Official Plan, Livable Oakville. Clearly everyone cares about the future of our Town just as much as we do.

Our new Official Plan will set out how we control growth in the future. Provincial legislation gave the Town of Oakville and Halton Region until June of 2009 to decide how we will control the growth that will be coming to our area between 2021 and 2031 (and taking our population from 230,000 to 280,000).

Public input and feedback are reinforcing our understanding of the public's concerns about growth and how to control it. Together we are creating a plan that will control growth so we can maintain our stable neighbourhoods and our strong sense of community.

The public can keep up with Livable Oakville and other Council initiatives in our new town-wide newsletter, Let's Talk Oakville. This shift from six individual ward-specific newsletters highlights the way we on Council share one vision for the town and care about every part of our town.

Our commitment to community consultation was recognized by the provincial Minister of Culture. Minister Aileen Carroll praised Oakville's cultural planning process calling it "visionary and an example other communities would be wise to emulate."

Claire Lougheed, the town's Manager of Culture and Heritage Services, and our thriving arts community who have made this process a success, can all feel proud.

This Council also has consulted the public on our youth strategy, and on our master plans for economic development, tourism, transit and fire services. Big public response supported converting the Town-owned former QE Park High School into a recreation centre with community shared art and music space.

And we're expanding access to all Council meetings and key committees such as budget on our TownTV website. It's accessible at www.towntv.ca, as well as on www.oakville.ca where we post all official information for public use.

Second area of focus

The second area of focus for 2008 was to enhance the natural environment. An Urban Forest Strategic Management Plan for the period from 2008-2027 has been adopted to achieve our goal of 40 per cent tree coverage for the Town of Oakville . creating a legacy for Oakville's 200th anniversary in 2057.

The Provincial Conservation Officer, Peter Love, congratulated us for appointing the first Municipal Energy Conservation Officer in Ontario, Suzanne Austin. The Town has established greenhouse gas baseline and reduction targets. Oakville is so green, we won the Earth Hour contest.

We've also completed a town-wide flood study to identify areas that are at risk for flooding during major storms, and we've notified the home owners whose property might be in jeopardy. We've started implementation of Storm water Management Pond water testing and monitoring.

And after extensive consultation with the public, and the input of a Mayor's Advisory Group, later tonight Council will consider adopting a Private Tree Protection By-law to prevent wanton destruction of important trees, without getting in the way of homeowners and their landscaping.

And we added more than 2 kilometres to our trail systems this year. We've built new bridges to connect top-of-bank trails and create crossings of Fourteen Mile Creek and its tributaries. And early this year our 900-hectare Natural Heritage System was confirmed and ordered by the Ontario Municipal Board.

Third area of focus

The third area of focus for 2007-2008 was to continuously improve programs and services. The enthusiastic reaction we are getting from the public tells us we are on the right track. Our moves range from appointing an Integrity Officer, to dredging our harbours.

Recently, Charity Gasper wrote about the Library's new website, "I can't believe how much I use this website! With the OPL website, I actually feel my comments and ratings are going to be read and considered. Thank you so much for this upgrade - it really adds to the sense of community."

We've also taken big steps with Oakville Transit. We've added 16 buses. We're running buses more often where we can. Our Uptown Core Transit Terminal has opened for operations. Our bus fleet now has bicycle racks. We're in year two of our Five-Year Transit Master Plan implementation.
Council's goal is that Oakville residents still will have mobility through public transit as the energy cost crisis forces ever-higher the costs of operating individual automobiles.

This is the second year of the two-year phase-in of the Town's Fire Protection Master Plan. Oakville is moving to four firefighters on a truck, like all of our neighbouring cities and towns. This creates a faster fire attack team, to save move lives. It also brings Oakville in-line with provincial guidelines.
Our parks and recreation programs have also been given the green light on some exciting projects. In five parks we are adding soccer fields, ball diamonds, children's playgrounds, splash pads, parking, a leash free area and connections to the trails.

We started building Oakville's first indoor sports field building, in a partnership with the Oakville Soccer Club. Earlier this summer, we celebrated the ground-breaking for the North Park Quad Pad Arena, set to open in two years.

We extended library service to Clearview. We're glad finally to have brought a municipal presence to the area. And a second much-needed youth centre will open this year in Bronte. It will be like our successful existing youth centre on Cross Avenue.

We are working with the Accessibility Advisory Committee and making steady progress removing physical barriers from town facilities so all residents have access to Town services and programs.

Our aim is to make sure we provide programs and services that the public wants and benefits from. Our efforts run from more safe biking/walking places, to initiatives to convert harmful landfill gases into clean electricity. What we aren't big enough for alone - such as an Olympic pool - we explore with partners.

Fourth area of focus

The fourth area of focus for this year was to ensure programs and services are fiscally sustainable. Council adopted a 10-Year Capital Financial Plan for the town. This is the financial plan for catching up on Oakville's community facilities deficit. It maps how we will deliver all major capital projects.

We're also mid-way in our three-year transition to our new fiscal management and budgeting system, called PB2, which already is in wide use in governments outside Canada. We are the first in Canada to adopt it.

PB2 means Performance-Based, Program-Based. When fully activated in 2010, it will allow us to measure the productivity and efficiency of what we do. And it will allow us to make certain that the services and programs that residents want will be as cost-effective as possible.

We've also obtained federal and provincial funding for important improvements in Oakville. Two $50 million, 2,000 car parking garages are in the 10-year capital forecast of the GO system. Several hundred new GO parking spots have been added already thru land purchases and more are coming.

Later this year, Council will allocate our share of the provincial surplus, which is almost $7.5 million, to bring forward an item or items from our 10-year capital plan and make it happen sooner than we could have.

All plans are tested by unexpected events. Our test was . snow . lots of snow . record amounts of snow. We have fine-tuned our snow control operations with what we learned from last winter. We know we will have even better service this winter.

The amount of snow we endured last year created a record number of potholes on our roads. We laid on extra crews to repair them. The result? Challenges on the operational expense side. In the 2009 budget, we'll have to make careful choices for service improvements and hope for a lighter winter.

Fifth area of focus

The fifth and final area of focus for 2007-2008 was to ensure our staff receives the same level of respect, commitment and caring that we expect them to deliver to the community. The people of Oakville are telling us that's happening, too, and staff tell us it is more fulfilling than ever to work here.

Our 2007 Citizen Survey said:

  • 86 per cent say services are dependable and accurate.
  • 91 per cent say town employees are respectful.
  • And 87 per cent expressed overall satisfaction with the Town of Oakville municipal government.

Consider the recognition two of our outstanding employees brought the Town this year:

  1. Cathie Best, our Town Clerk, was honoured by the Association of Municipal Mangers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario with their Prestige Award. The award recognizes Cathie's outstanding commitment to the ideals of the association and her contributions to her municipal profession, such as her innovation of circulating public information by e-document.
  2. The International Association of Business Communicators "Merit Award" went to the Oakville 150th Souvenir Brochure, which was designed by Jeff Smalley, our Graphic Designer.

In addition to the awards our staff has received, we've also received many positive comments from residents. Here are just three:

  1. Hugh Marks wrote: "The Town looks fantastic this summer. The cleanliness, the flowers, the shrubs and trees all look vibrant and alive; the colours are beautiful. It seems impossible to believe that a few years ago my wife and I picked up more than 20 large bags of garbage along Third Line. Kudos to those who have the vision and are coordinating the effort, and thanks to the volunteers and municipal employees who are getting the job done."
  2. Mark Verdun, a new resident of Oakville, took the time to call CAO Ray Green to compliment Town staff's response to him. As a new resident, Mark had had questions about parks, fencing, by-laws and grading. He said Town staff had reinforced what he called the "enjoyability" of living in Oakville.
  3. Annmarie Donaldson was Executive Producer of the Oakville Skating Club's annual ice show. She sang the praises of arena staff Guy Hold, Doug Carey, Wayne Butt, Josh Goulart, and Mel Houston for their part in the success of the Club's ice show.

Council is proud of the level of commitment and dedication of our staff but we don't take great staff for granted. We invest in training as part of our goal to attract, develop and retain employees who will be the best and brightest. When they give their best, they leave a lasting positive impression.

It takes leadership to achieve objectives successfully and well.

Ray Green, our Town Manager and the Town's executive management team (Dave Bloomer, Jane Clohecy, Gord Lalonde and Domenic Lunardo) have provided outstanding leadership, energy and ability to work together as a team, in translating Council's goals into reality.

As we continue to work to achieve the rest of our strategic plan, there will be four new areas of focus in 2009. Enhancing the natural environment and keeping programs and services fiscally sustainable will continue to be areas of focus.

In addition to those two areas, we will also focus on enhancing:

  • the social environment
  • the cultural environment
  • the fiscal environment
  • the environmental sustainability of all our programs and services

This is a town full of people who aim high and achieve goals. There can be no doubt that Oakville will become what Oakville wants to be. Our environment will be better off . our community will be better off . and our lives will be better because of our commitment to our vision and our plan.

The reason we're aiming to make Oakville the most livable town in Canada is not just for us. It's for our children, and their children, and the generations after them who will call Oakville their hometown. Because what we plan . what we plant . what we put into place will be inherited by them.

We want the Town of Oakville we pass on to them to be more than just the most livable town in Canada. We want Oakville to be the place they're as proud to call home as we are.