After a week hiatus we are back. There was lots of activity in HRM chambers this week with both the committee of the whole and regional council. Councillor McCluskey and Councillor Craig were absent to other related obligations.
Sidewalk Taxes are changing
The big debate in the committee of the whole was regarding local improvement charges(LICs) and taxes for sidewalks. The debate was lengthy and passionate over the course of the several hours. Prior to this debate, depending on where you lived within our region how funding was collected for sidewalks varied greatly. It was combinations of LICs for construction, maintenance via urban general rate and snow clearing via another special rate. The present tax levies, as per the staff report, cited this system was failing the needs of HRM. As I watched the committee of the whole, the debate become at times bogged down on divisive points. In the end, it was an amended by Councillor Mason that was approved in both the committee of the whole and regional council sittings. The new approaching will leave LICs for rural HRM residents to construct sidewalks and maintenance funded by an urban/suburban general rate. Residents in urban areas will pay for construction and maintenance with suburban areas within 1km of a sidewalk paying the same. Some of the debate around the sidewalk issues, truly highlights how some of our municipal policy makers are very car centric. If we are to move forward with active transportation projects, sidewalks need to be part of the puzzle. Secure funding for sidewalks, mass transit and bike lanes must be a priority in this city.
No Officer Cuts in New Police Budget
Chief Blais presented a budget for HRP that if accepted by the commission would not result in any cuts to front line officers. The operating budget would increase by 5.51% to roughly $73.7 million, and include conversion of administrative police positions to civilian jobs to help with savings. The budget has not be approved yet by the Board of Police Commissioners, debate will occur on February 25. If approved, it will then go to regional council for final approval. Also a report came out, to show violent crime stats are down. It is good to hear that we will not loose front line officers. However, as a city and a a police force, how the resources are allotted need to be examined. There are distinct hot spots across the region, and cultural shifts we should be pushing for. We should build on the cooperation between police and citizens to strengthen our communities.
New Library Budget Increased by $2million
Regional council approved a request by Judith Hare, CEO of Halifax Public Libraries for a higher ceiling to fund-raise. The funds would be used to help with interior decor of the new central library. I am excited to see the new central library, and I believe it will be a great addition to our city. As our cultural capital increases, it is good to keep stock of our recreation capital and how we can make our green spaces interactive.
Till next week: stay connected and talking