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Bronte Street Closure

Zeeshan Hamid Information 2 Comments

Please note that Bronte Street South between Louis St Laurent Avenue and Britannia Road will be closed from June 6th –  Dec 1st. 

The Region of Halton will be installing a watermain on Bronte Street South between Louis St Laurent Avenue and Britannia Road commencing June 6, 2016. During the months of June and July, Milton Hydro will be replacing hydro poles along this road segment.  Immediately upon the completion of the watermain, the Town will begin the road reconstruction which is expected to be base course asphalt by December 1, 2016.

Access will be maintained for all local residents on this portion of Bronte Street South and all through traffic will be detoured via Tremaine Road, Louis St Laurent Avenue, Regional Road 25 and Britannia Road.

I know this will be inconvenient for a lot of us on the west-end, but unfortunately the short-term pain is necessary for the long-term gain that comes with the project completion.

Council Composition Review

Zeeshan Hamid Information Leave a Comment

Milton’s Council consists of 11 elected officials: Mayor, 4 Regional Councillors and 8 Local Councillors. We are adding two additional regional seats, which will give us :- Mayor + 4 Regional Councillors (up from 2).

The question is: how do we add the two additional Regional Councillors?

First: read the Phase 1 report to learn about all the options.

Then, come out to the public input session:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016
7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Presentation at 7:30 p.m.)
Milton Town Hall – Milton Room
150 Mary Street, Milton, ON

You may also give feedback by calling: 905-878-7252, ext. 2109. or e-mailing the Town Clerk directly.  Please note that commenting here is useful for discussion, but it does not count as the official feedback. That should go to the Town Clerk directly.  

2015 salaries

Another year as the most frugal councillor

Zeeshan Hamid Blog Post, Information 15 Comments

Here is what your municipal politicians earned in 2015. As a policy I do not expense things I can afford to pay for myself, which is mostly why I ended up being the most frugal councillor. I hope to continue being the lowest paid-councillor each year.

2015 salaries(click to open the original size)

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Update: Rural and Urban Taxes

Zeeshan Hamid Blog Post 1 Comment

 

Here’s some background first :- http://votezee.ca/uniform-rural-urban-tax-rate/. Two months ago Milton Council voted to switch to a uniform tax-rate (until now urban residents paid an ‘urban surcharge’). One major feedback we received was that many rural residents felt they did not have the opportunity to raise their concerns. To remedy the situation, we voted to re-open the issue last night. We heard from two dozen delegates, re-debated the issue in front of 150 or so residents and re-voted.

Unfortunately the final decision was still to switch to a single tax rate. I’d still like to thank everyone for reaching out and sharing their thoughts. I hope that rural residents maintain the level of involvement and enthusiasm shown over past two months because I genuinely developed a better appreciation for the rural area because of it.

Every delegate and almost every e-mail sent to me had valid arguments. That said, “this dollar of my taxes goes towards that service I cannot use” is very valid point but impossibly tricky to satisfy as every taxpayer at every level of government pays for services they do not have access to (in return they receive subsidy for some other service). The assertion that there is a single homogeneous “rural area” is entirely inaccurate. Omagh, Moffat and Campbellville have very different level of services for same tax rate. There is absolutely no possible way to avoid that as each area generates a unique demand for services based on its demographic, population density and other factors.

We are all paying for Toronto subways through our provincial taxes. But all Ontario taxpayers also paid part of our Arts Centre, Sports Centre and library. That’s how taxes work. You subsidize services others use and they subsidize services you use. We don’t get to opt out of paying for Toronto subways because we have none, but still take provincial money for our hospital and arts centre.

The question I asked myself repeatedly was whether taxpayers were receiving value for their tax dollar. To answer that question I comparison-shopped all surrounding municipalities with rural population. I found that for exact same level of services every other municipality taxes their rural residents 30-50% more. This includes places like Hamilton and Burlington that have different tiered taxes.

Even though we disagreed on this specific issue, I hope you maintain the involvement as it is clear that the council is not meeting expectations of a number of rural residents. We will need an ongoing dialog with you to ratify that. Reach out and I’ll buy you coffee so we can discuss further.

 

 

Milton_rural_area

Uniform rural + urban tax rate

Zeeshan Hamid Blog Post, Information 5 Comments

Two months ago, the Milton Town Council decided to join a vast majority of municipalities by eliminating urban surcharge for local services. The result is a uniform tax rate in urban and rural Milton for local services. As expected, this created a lot of discussion (and anger and debate). I’ve read every single comment that was sent to me or the council on this subject. I also met a dozen+ rural residents who wanted to meet. I continue to get feedback and am doing my best to learn as much as I can.

This post is not a defense or justification of the decision. I am chairing the budget committee meeting on Feb 8th where we will hear feedback from citizens. I will keep an open mind, as I have over past few weeks, so I can understand issues raised without bias.

However, there is a set of recurring misinformation that keeps getting repeated. Each of the questions below are almost direct quotes from some of the e-mails I received :-

This will cost rural residents over million / cost industries a lot of money / cost each home thousands

No. Of the $2,549,208 that is moving onto the general levy in 2016 (pending budget), $2,245,537 will continue to be paid by urban taxpayers, and $303,670 will be billed to rural properties.

Out of that only $6,333.93 will come from all rural industries combined, $7,738 from all farmland combined and $251,720.97 from rural residential homes.

In other words, an average rural home assessed at $653,163 will see their property tax go up by $8.59 / month (or $103 / yr) in 2016.

The Council broke its rules and did something inappropriate in December

Short answer: We did not. We followed our procedural bylaw properly.

Long answer: Traditionally councillors brought verbal motions and voted on them, which is also perfectly legal. That is how the hospital tax levee was introduced. Even written motions were voted on in the same night by default. In 2015 we stopped the process of voting for councillor-driven motions on the same night by default, and instead starting requiring a vote in order to debate the issue on the same night. The intention of that vote had to be published in the agenda in writing and in advance.

In fact, this motion followed a stricter process than every other motion had up until 2015. There has been only a handful of motions that followed an even stricter process of waiting for the next meeting.

HOWEVER, in hindsight I now realize that though we followed the letter of the law, in many residents’ eyes we broke the spirit of the law. I assure you no one had the intention to rush things through, which is why even Councillor Best voted for debate on the same night. I am trying my best to remedy that now.
UPDATE: In order to fix the perception, we voted to re-open the debate, heard from a lot of citizens and re-voted in presence of ~150 rural residents.

Residents have no opportunity to address the council / there was no debate

There was a lot of debate, 1-on-1 before the meeting and during the meeting.

Residents had the same opportunity that every other agenda item has. In addition, I am doing everything I can to talk to whoever wants to talk. As a chair of the budget committee, I am making sure that residents can speak on this issue at the budget meeting (Feb 8th) to address the council. We are all also receiving a lot of e-mails and phone calls, that are all opportunity to raise concerns.

The accurate statement is that residents did not have as much time as other councillor-driven motions have had in past 12 months (staff reports receive the same notice that this motion did) before the vote. That is true. But we are listening and will hear from a lot of taxpayers on Feb 8th as well.

Milton’s move is unique

On the contrary, maintaining two tax rates at the local level was unique as very few municipalities do this. Halton Hills, Oakville, Erin, Puslinch etc. all have rural and urban population and they all use a uniform tax rate at the local level. In Halton, Burlington is the only municipality with two tax rates at the local level. However, rural residents in Burlington pay significantly more than rural residents in Milton will even after this change.

Cost of living / heating / internet is high in rural areas.

That is a fact, but not relevant to this discussion. Also a fact, but not applicable, is that rural residents have much higher income and assessment than urban residents (an average rural home is worth 53% higher than an average urban home [$653,163 vs $427,279]). Neither of these are directly relevant to this topic.

This will impact farmers

Total impact on all farmland combined is $7,738.00. Total.

Rural residents receive subpar internet and cable.

Also not relevant as these are not municipal services.

Rural residents will have to pay for water, yard waste, etc.

No. Regional services that they cannot ever receive is excluded from the regional portion of rural taxes. That is because it would be highly unfair to make people pay for services they cannot benefit from even if they wanted to. The last part is the key statement here.

Municipal services cost same

Not so. Take snow clearing. Urban part of ward 8 is a 4km2 area with 6,500 homes. A similar area north of 401 has only a handful of homes paying for services. If we force each area to pay for services that area receives then taxes for snow clearing portion north of ward 8 would go up significantly.

In fact, there are 3 times as many households in the green area (4.02 km2) than there are in the red area (321 km2).  In other words, urban ward 8 has 1,625 homes per sq. km.  Rural Milton has 7.

The rural area north of 401 that urban residents never venture into is 153 kmwith 100+ km of lane roads to maintain that are used by a very small number of rural residents.

urban vs rural

Why should rural residents pay for “urban” services like sidewalks, traffic lights, transit?

[I do not want to defend or justify anything, as I am in the listening mode. However, I do want to point out that there isn’t any sinister incentive an play, the ‘other side’ also has some valid arguments].

The difference is services one cannot get even if they wanted to vs. services that are not distributed evenly due to difference in demand and usage.

No two taxpayers receive same set of services. It is difficult to allow one set of residents to opt out of services not available in their area and not extend the same courtesy to others. This is precisely the reason why very few municipalities maintain a two-tier rate at the local level.

Consider “rural area”. Residents in Omagh have to put up with us urbanite clogging up streets in front of their homes. They also have relatively easy access to so-called ‘urban services’, in some cases better access than urban areas in the west end. In fact, we plan to re-route Britannia Road so it bypasses their homes, similar to what the Region did with Tremaine Road. This area is significantly different in needs, uses and character than Campbellville. That is yet again different from the 150+ sq. km area (that is bigger than Oakville) with very low population north of 401.

A number of urban neighbourhoods have no transit services because there is not enough usage to justify the service. Town of Milton removed the bus route from Councillor Malbeauf’s street a few years ago because our minimum usage requirements were not met. Yet he and his neighbours continue to pay for the transit system because overall it benefits the community.

“Why should I pay for something I can’t use” can quickly turn into “why should ward 8 pay for a much higher cost of maintaining and clearing rural roads north of 401 that its residents will never see”. That is an unproductive and divisive line of thinking.

That is how the system works. The reason opting out gets tricky is because each taxpayer is unique. Omagh and Moffat have very different needs and costs of services. There are rural residents who shop or entertain in town, where they benefit from parking, clear sidewalks and of course, street lights. Everyone has access to these services, even though the access is not distributed evenly and might not be available in front of someone’s home. That is precisely the reason why childless households still pay for schools.

We built the Nassagewaya Tennis Club for 200 tennis players in the rural area at a million+ cost to the property tax base. Cambpellville Park redevelopment cost $600,000+ even though the use base is tiny compared to urban parks.  It would be highly unfair to ask rural residents to pay more for community services or snow clearing on exclusively rural roads in Moffat and Rockwood (and other areas north of 401).

Ultimately every taxpayer pays for things they do not receive and every taxpayer benefits from this system in some way, but the benefit obviously differs depending on the taxpayer.

You are not listening to us

On the contrary, I have read everything that was sent to me or the council, and have met a dozen+ residents who wanted to speak. I see your arguments and openly accept that they are valid. I also see valid arguments on the other side.

I assure you that I am reading everything that comes my way and meeting every taxpayer who has expressed interest in discussing this issue. I do not have a problem admitting that the council has made decisions in the past that I consider incorrect, and I have no problem voting to correct those.  Whether this is one of those decisions or not remains to be seen.

I appreciate the time residents are taking to send their feedback and would like to let them know that it’s not falling on deaf ears (even if we end up disagreeing at the end). You also have the opportunity to have your opinion heard by the Budget Committee on Feb 8th. I look forward to hearing from you.

UPDATE: We re-opened the issue, listened to a lot of citizens who presented their case to the council and re-voted all over again.  Here is the updated post: http://votezee.ca/update-rural-and-urban-taxes/ 

Jan 2016 Updates

Zeeshan Hamid Blog Post Leave a Comment

This post contains 12 updates that I’d like to share with you. It’s best to subscribe to my e-newsletter to get these updates directly in your inbox. I don’t spam and you can unsubscribe anytime. 

  1. Syrian Families arriving in Milton
  2. Session for Newcomers, Refugees and Sponsors in Halton
  3. Town of Milton’s 2016 Budget
  4. Squash Facility in Milton
  5. Sherwood Community Centre & Library (Savoline / Main)
  6. Savoline / Landsborough all-way stop
  7. Dynamic Transit (Transit) Pilot conclusion
  8. TEDxMilton
  9. Senior of the Year Nomination
  10. Coldest Night of the Year
  11. New Accountability and Transparency Measures
  12. Snow Removal Standards

Feel free to contact me about any of these issues, or anything I can else help with. Please feel free to forward to others. 

1.Syrian Families arriving in Milton
Canadians are generous people. A large number of local residents are actively involved in privately sponsoring Syrian families escaping a brutal civil war. Three Syrian families have already arrived in Milton, with several more arriving this month. I am involved in an initiative to sponsor 15 families, 2 of whom are arriving this week. Please let me know if you can help financially or by finding affordable housing.


2.Session for Newcomers, Refugees and Sponsors in Halton
This orientation session will provide information for Newcomers, Refugees and Sponsors on the resources and services available in Halton.  It’s on Wednesday Feb 17
th from 6-8:30 pm at Employment Halton – 2441 Lakeshore Road West, Oakville (Inside Bronte Village Plaza). I am not involved with this event, for more information please e-mail hns@halton.ca directly.

3.Town of Milton 2016 Budget
As the Chair of the budget committee this year, I am looking for your thoughts. Yearly budgets are where we make sure the community is headed to the correct long-term direction. Where will you like to see more (or less) investment this year? Read the entire 444 page budget document here:
http://milton.ca/en/townhall/budgets.asp.

4.Squash Facility in Milton
Town of Milton does not have any squash facility. If you’d like to see one then join this Facebook group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/950682258300685/.  If you are not on Facebook then let me know and I’ll keep you posted with progress.

5.Sherwood Community Centre & Library (Savoline & Main)
We have kicked off the design process for the next community centre and library, located near Savoline and Main. Watch out for the public input session. For more info, check out my blog post:
http://votezee.ca/ward-8-community-centre-and-library/

6.Savoline / Landsborough all-way stop
The Committee of the Whole has approved a stop sign at Savoline and Landsborough. It will be installed shortly after the Council approval in February.


7.Dynamic Transit (Transit) Pilot conclusion
A year ago Milton Transit, along with Metrolinx, started a pilot project to test the viability of an alternative service delivery for evening GO train users.  This pilot will conclude in April, when Milton Transit will revert back to the evening drop-off service.


8.TEDxMilton
I organized two TEDxMilton events as the curator and lead organizer. Unfortunately due to several issues we have had to cancel the 2016 event. See you in 2017.


9.Senior of the Year Nomination
Do you know an outstanding senior? Please nominate him or her for our Senior of the Year award:
http://www.milton.ca/en/play/senioroftheyear.asp.

10.Coldest Night of the Year
Together with thousands of Canadians across the country, I’ll be walking in the Coldest Night of the Year, raising much-needed funds for Milton Transitional Housing. Please consider sponsoring my walk, it’s for a great cause:
https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=3193789&langPref=en-CA

11.New Accountability and Transparency Measures
In the previous term we took a number of steps to make the Council more transparent. These included, but were not limited to, the Open Data initiative as well as streaming and archiving council meetings. In order to bring even more accountability and transparency, we launched two new initiatives this year:
http://votezee.ca/two-new-transparency-accountability-measures/

12.Snow Removal Standards
There seems to be some confusion around our snow clearing policy. Town of Milton, similar to a vast majority of Canadian municipalities, does not plow residential streets down to bare pavement. After a storm our goal is to clear regional, arterial and collector roads as soon as possible to ensure safe flow of vehicular traffic. However, snow-packed residential roads do not hinder that goal. Please see this link for more information:
http://votezee.ca/residential-street-plowing/

Please feel free to share this with others you know in Milton. If there’s anything I can ever help with then please do not hesitate to reach out. 

Residential Street Plowing

Zeeshan Hamid Blog Post 10 Comments

It seems like my post outlining Town of Milton’s snow clearing standards sparked a debate on Facebook. Town of Milton does not plow residential streets down to bare pavement. After a storm our goal is to clear regional, arterial and collector roads as soon as possible to ensure safe flow of vehicular traffic. However, snow-packed residential roads do not hinder that goal.

Why not plow residential roads to bare pavement?

The main issue is that in order to achieve bare pavement, salt must be applied at the onset of snow so that a layer of salt brine is maintained between the road surface and accumulating snow (to prevent bonding). In order to provide this level of service to residential roads, significant increases in equipment and salt would be required, with increased costs and environmental impact.

Are snow packs safe?

The town as well as other Canadian road agencies are required to have a Salt Management Plan to manage salt use and minimize environmental impacts. It would be very unusual for a municipality subject to winter climate conditions, such as Milton, to consider a snow packed road surface as unacceptable for local residential roads. In fact, my research did not reveal a single municipality that considered snow packed residential road unsafe for driving.

Is Milton’s standard lower than other places?

It should be noted that there are some rare examples of municipalities that do eventually plow local residential roads (eg: City of Mississauga). However, these are exceptions and residents pay significantly higher taxes in those municipalities. In general a vast majority of Canadian municipalities follow the same standard Milton does.

What is a snow pack anyway?

On residential streets snow pack develops very quickly as vehicles travel on snow-covered roads. Snow plows are not able to scrape off snow pack as it is usually bonded to the pavement. Although bumpy at times, vehicles typically navigate snow pack quite easily, especially ones with winter tires. Under snow pack conditions, some rutting can be expected. We do take steps to improve conditions when warranted.

Are there other issues?

Other than the environmental and financial cost, other issue is that many residents actually prefer snow-pack for several reasons :-

  • lower windrow (pile of snow at the edge of the driveway)
  • snow pack slows down cars on residential road
  • Less damage to roads caused by plows

But I got stuck in the storm of 2014!

Other than ill-equipped cars (eg: ones with improper tires), all examples of residents getting stuck on residential roads are a result of significant snow drop, which will happen regardless of snow plowing standards.

My suggestion is that if you feel higher taxes are worth the price of better residential plowing then let your councillor know so they can take that input to the budget planning session. Otherwise you likely only travel 100m or so in snow packed residential streets to get to a cleaned road. It should not be a major issue.

Enjoy the winter and drive safe.

Ward 8 Community Centre and Library

Zeeshan Hamid Blog Post 27 Comments

Thank you for being patient all these years. On January 11th the Council’s Committee of the Whole will authorize staff to complete the business planning component related to the Sherwood Community Centre & Library. This will be located at Savoline and Main.

Facilities being considered are :-

  • Branch Library
  • Twin Pad Arena
  • Squatic Centre (25M  6-lane)
  • Active Living Studio
  • Multipurpose Space
  • Skateboard Park
  • Playground
  • Full basketball court

Here is a sample concept :-

sherwood

 

There is still a lot of work to be done. There will be public input sessions. I will be encouraging staff to look into a squash court or two as well at the site.

Just east of this (north of the Scott & Main intersection) we are planning a huge 100+ acre ‘passive’ park with trails.  More info on that to come later.

Check this page for more info.  Here’s the report that will be presented. As always, please let me know if you have feedback or suggestions.

Snow Removal Policy

Zeeshan Hamid Information 5 Comments

The Town of Milton maintains roads in a priority sequence. Snow clearing operations on arterial roads began after 2cm of snow has accumulated. Residential roads are plowed after 10cm of snow accumulation and after priority areas are cleared. Please refer to the following table, keeping in mind that the timelines are for after the storm  has ended

Primary / Arterial Road

Example: Derry Road
Treatment Standard: Bare
< 5 cm accumulation: 2-3 hours
5-30 cm accumulation: 2-4 hours
> 30 cm accumulation: 4-12 hours

Secondary / Collector Road

Example: Scott Blvd / Savoline Blvd
Treatment Standard: Bare
< 5 cm accumulation: 4-5 hours
5-30 cm accumulation: 4-10 hours
> 30 cm accumulation: 8-12 hours

Rural Collector & Industrial

Example: 15 Side Road
Treatment Standard: Center-Bare
< 5 cm accumulation: 5-8 hours
5-30 cm accumulation: 5-10 hours
> 30 cm accumulation: 10-16 hours

Urban & Rural Residential Through-Streets

Treatment Standard: Snow-packed sand
< 5 cm accumulation: 14-16 hours
5-30 cm accumulation: 16-20 hours
> 30 cm accumulation: 20-24 hours

Urban & Rural Residential Cul-de-sac

Treatment Standard: Snow-packed center-pilled
< 5 cm accumulation: 14-16 hours
5-30 cm accumulation: 16-20 hours
> 30 cm accumulation: 20-24 hours

Click here to see the entire PDF that shows all  urban roads and their classification.

If your street is not cleared within 24 hours after the storm has ended then please contact me and I’ll have someone come by.

You may also call the Snow Control Office directly :-

Engineering Services
Phone:905-878-7252 ext 2500
TTY:905-878-1657

Please help the Town by :-

  • Keeping your cars off the road during snow clearing
  • Obeying the 5 hour parking limit and No Parking from 2am – 6am
  • Shoveling snow onto the lawn and not the road
  • Not parking vehicles on the sidewalk

Every winter a number of complaints are received from residents who are unhappy with response times. Changing the standard is a budgetary issue and is discussed during budget time. However, all of our polling and surveys indicate that majority of residents do not wish to pay additional taxes associated with increasing snow clearing standards.

Two New Transparency & Accountability Measures

Zeeshan Hamid Information 4 Comments

In the previous term we took a number of steps to make the Council more transparent. These included, but were not limited to, the Open Data initiative as well as streaming and archiving council meetings.

In order to bring even more accountability and transparency, two new steps are underway starting Jan 1st, 2016:

Integrity Commissioner

Public will have access to an Integrity Commissioner who will be able to investigate complaints about members of Council not following the pertinent ethics rules/regime.  If he finds any contraventions, Council could reprimand or suspend pay in addition to one of an apology, reimbursement, removal from a committee or removal as Chair; or other remedial action – and all of this would be in public.

Ombudsman

The Ombudsman will be able to investigate any decision or recommendation made or act done or omitted in the course of the administration of the municipality.

Both these initiatives allow you to make sure that your councillors and staff govern themselves ethically and responsibly.