Promise List 2010

Updated December 2016
During the 2010 election campaign, I stated my position on major issues relating to Ramsay and Mississippi Mills on this blog. Also, during my door-to-door campaign many people described local problems which I promised to champion.

Below is the list (in two parts) of these issues. I am not promising to deliver on these promises—I get one vote and it takes six votes to fix or change anything—but I promise to push these on Council. (Details on my campaign platform are still available—see Pre-Election in the Topics list.)

As time goes on, I will amend this list to show the status of these issues--where I succeed and fail. Where applicable, I will include relevant follow-up efforts.

Town-wide Issues

Fair and Equal: To make amalgamation work for all wards and to bridge the rural/urban split, I will always insist on the fair and equal treatment of all wards in decisions of Council.

Status: This is an ongoing effort applied to all debates on Council.

Taxes: I will encourage the new Council to limit tax increases to a rate no greater than inflation and to aim for increases that are lower than the inflation rate.

Status: The budget for 2011 came in at 3%, while the inflation rate to March 2011 was 3.3%. The 2012 budget, sadly, came in at nearly 8%. I voted against it. Starting in 2103, the Council majority agreed to raise revenues by 7% annually until 2018 to build up reserves as part of a long-term financial plan. (The actual MM tax increase is about 5% because growth brings in 2%.) The plan is sound and will be a huge benefit. See this article that explains it.

Roads: To reduce maintenance costs and improve road quality, I will urge Council to commit to hard-surfacing at least a few kilometres of gravel road each year. (Where a majority residents along a road do not want it paved, Council should listen to that majority.)

Status: There are at least 10 more rural bridges that need repairs on top of two major repairs carried out in the 2010-2014 Council term. There is no money for roads until all the old bridges are repaired or replaced.

Hydro Revenues: I will argue that it is time to share the revenues from the Mississippi Mills’ hydro generator between all three wards. I will suggest that we use the hydro revenue to pay down debt. That will reduce debt quickly and save millions in interest charges.

Status: We finally achieved an agreement in June 2012. That lasted two years. The rural share of hydro revenues grows to 25% in 2014 and 30% in 2015. The money goes into general revenues.

Septage Tax: The majority of people in Ramsay do not agree with a one-time septage tax. Neither did I.

Status: Not enough councillors elected in 2010 were against the septage tax: so, we could not stop it. During the debate on hydro revenue sharing, I pushed successfully to have hydro revenues reduce the septage tax by applied the rural share of hydro revenues.

Septage Operating Costs: Before we accept septage from other municipalities, we must determine the long-range liabilities and make sure external sources pay a full cost-recovery tipping fee. We should never charge rural residents for an operating cost shortfall. If the septage facility can't pay its way, shut it down.

Status: The septage plan is paying its way now and building a reserve.

Debt: Mississippi Mills Council must not take on additional long-term debt until it repays a significant portion of the current debt. And, we must find ways to accelerate debt repayment (without raising taxes) as a hedge against a future cash crunch.

Status: Starting in 2013, the town moved to a long-term financial plan that will see debt rise to about $18 million  by 2018 to cover expensive capital costs (for example, bridge repairs). The plan states that debt financing will end in 2018 and we will begin building reserves. In time reserves will be used instead of debt for pricey capital projects. Under the plan, which I now support, our general debt will grow to 2018 and then steadily decline.

Cultural Funding: I will support ventures that stimulate artistic diversity and economic benefits in partnership with cultural groups, businesses, and private organizations. The Town should provide a modest, predictable, annual budget that invests in organizations that have a high-level of public, business, and private support (donations, fundraising, and volunteer time).

Status: The last four budgets have provided steady funding, though not as much as some groups would like.

Council Votes: I will ask for votes of Council and its standing committees to include an automatic recorded vote on significant issues.

Status: Since any councillor can ask for a recorded vote at any time, most councillors felt that was good enough and rejected any automatic procedure.

Webcasting: I will ask that Council meetings be webcast so that people can "attend" meetings from home.

Status: The system requires hardware, including microphones in the chamber. We tried to get a grant in 2012 for that. It was denied. We tried again in 2013 and it was granted. The sound system should be in place in 2014. A webcasting technical review in 2016 showed we do not have the bandwidth yet. Upgrades to the Internet connection should make it possible soon.

Speaking Out: I will ask that we set aside a period each meeting where the voting public can have their say.

Status: The idea was defeated. See the related story.

Public Meetings: I advocate a bottom-up approach to decision making, where the Town consults with people before Council makes decisions on key issues, not after.

Status: The push for public meetings is an ongoing effort. I prefer meaningful consultations before decisions are made; but, often public meetings are just for show, especially those related to budgets. My attempts in 2015 to hold town hall meetings on the budget and to move some council meetings to Pakenham and Clayton were defeated.

Local Issues

Rural Street Lights: Many people in south Ramsay want light standards at highway 7 and Concession 5, Concession 4, and Scotch Corners Road because these intersections are dangerous at night.

Status: Lights have been erected at three Highway 7 intersections.

Dangerous Intersection: Drivers on the north side of the intersection of Concession 5 and highway 7 cannot see around the curve to the right. We need to ask the province to remove part of the bank to improve sight lines.

Status: No progress yet.

Speeding: Many people complain about speeding in the villages and built-up residential areas. Council needs to confront this problem.

Status: Speed monitors placed in Ramsay hamlets and Almonte show that very few people speed.

Sign Placement: Drivers tend to speed coming into Appleton along River Road from the south and enter a hidden curve a high speed. Villagers want the village sign and speed sign further from the edge of village to encourage people to slow down sooner. Similarly, drivers approaching Clayton on the Tatlock Road from the west side drive too fast. Villagers also want the village sign and speed sign moved further from edge of town past the new houses.

Status: Most of the problem areas are on County roads. Our roads department is working with the County to fix the worse spots. The signs were moved in Clayton.

Private Roads: People living on so-call private roads, such as Montgomery Park, pay the same tax rate as everyone else but do not get road maintenance or snowplowing. The Town should either provide full services or offer a property tax credit.

Status: No progress yet.

Snow Removal: Town crews clear sidewalk snow in Almonte and Pakenham but not Clayton. With a senior’s residence in the village, cleared sidewalks are essential.

Status: The Clayton main sidewalk is now being plowed.

Quarries: Two rock quarries lie within Ramsay ward and outside of the jurisdiction of the Town (the province controls them). In the past, the Al-Car quarry on highway 29 often ignored the Town’s by-laws regarding hours of operation and sometimes produces excessive noise and dust. I will encourage the Al-Car quarry and the pending Cavanagh quarry on Quarry Road to be good neighbours to the extent possible.

Status: The Al-Car quarry was sold to Cavanaugh and the complaints have diminished.