Now that the holiday season is here, it's hard to believe that we are more than a one year into our current Council term. It's been a tremendous honour to serve as your Warden for the past year and I look forward to the year ahead as we continue to advance key services and programs for our residents.
The holidays are a great time to reflect on the year that was. I thought it would be fun to recap with my spin on the 12 Days of Christmas (you can hum along in your head !!)
My top 12 from 2015, in no particular order:
1. Expanded Role in Regional Economic Development
One of the key commitments we made as a Council over the last year was our effort to create greater economic opportunities in Simcoe County and to expand the County's role in helping all of our municipalities achieve economic growth. This focus also extends to Tourism. With more than 9 million visitors to our region each year, tourism is one of our most significant economic drivers and our largest employment sector providing jobs to more than 25,000 people. We can look forward to advancing our role and regional support in both economic development and tourism.
2. Strategies to Help Those in Need
We made a commitment to generate 2,685 new affordable housing units over the next 10 years. We are focused on putting rooves over the heads of those whom are homeless. We are also committed to creating a greater footprint of Secondary Suites. Beyond our partnerships with mental health and addiction agencies to reduce homelessness we are working with the 20,000 Homes Campaign to identify the root causes of homelessness. These findings will assist us in developing strategies to reduce and prevent homelessness.
3. Communication from/with the Warden
One of my personal goals as Warden was to enhance communications amongst Council, our municipalities, stakeholders and most importantly our residents. I have also tried to make the Warden's relationships with the Provincial and Federal Government more visible. Simply put, I have tried my best to increase our communications to raise awareness about our services, programs and to promote our many successes.
4. Closer Relationships with our Municipalities
Another achievement over the last year has been the close interaction between the County and our municipalities. We've held a number of meetings with all our municipalities and with key ministries over the past year. These continued relationships are essential to services we provide to our residents.
5. Successful Simcoe County Comes Together Conference
In November, we hosted the first ever Simcoe County Comes Together Conference. I received tremendous feedback about the Conference and look forward to co-ordinating another meeting next year—covering additional collective issues and opportunities that impact all our municipalities.
6. County Budgets
As a new Council we essentially passed two budgets in the last 12 months. Our 2015 Budget, approved in January 2015. It set the stage for what has been an engaged and highly productive discussion on the floor throughout 2015. Staff have guided us through the year in a responsible manner and I was pleased with our growth as a Council and ultimately our direction to approve the 2016 Budget of $449-million.
7. FCM and AMO Appointments
Over the past 12 months we supported the appointments of regional representatives at key federal and provincial bodies. Deputy Warden Terry Dowdall was elected to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors earlier this year; County Councillor Lynn Dolin is involved with AMO's Board as the Caucus Chair, Small Urban Caucus of AMO advocating for Provincial issues, and our General Manager Trevor Wilcox was elected to AMO's Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer. These are important placements for the County and I know our representatives look forward to working on behalf of all our municipalities to advance our collective issues and concerns and build our relationships with the Provincial and Federal Governments.
8. Public Engagement
Public input is extremely important to the democratic process. I think it's safe to say that we have placed an increased importance on ensuring that our residents and stakeholders are engaged.
9. Enhanced Promotion of County Services
I think our staff do a great job of raising awareness about services, events and happenings at the County. Personally it's been a busy year of media interviews raising awareness about our many projects and successes. Social media is also important and I'm happy to report that I recently entered the Twittersphere and can be followed @WardenGerry (a crowning achievement in itself!). Terry also joined at @TerryDowdall. Follow and engage with us!
10.Tremendous Support for Charitable Causes
As Warden, I'm privileged to host a number of charitable events throughout the year that benefit causes throughout our communities. These events combined raised approximately $98,000 in 2015 with proceeds supporting initiatives such as the Georgian Village Fundraising Campaign and the United Way of Greater Simcoe County. I want to sincerely thank all our generous sponsors and participants for helping make our communities stronger.
11. Completion of Numerous County Projects
Staff have worked extremely hard this year to maintain our high level of services. Transportation worked on 12 road and bridge projects; Paramedic Services made great progress on their Community Paramedicine pilot project; Social and Community Services advanced important initiatives to reduce poverty in our communities, including our support of the 20,000 Homes Campaign; Long Term Care and Seniors Services continue to advance our Age Friendly Community program; Forestry invested in property acquisition to further position us as leaders in municipal forest management; the Museum launched a number of new exhibits, galleries and programming opportunities; Simcoe County Tourism supported huge events driving economic stimulus to our region; and our Local Immigration Partnership worked with partners on a number of training and community initiatives to help create welcoming communities. I could go on and on, but you get the point – it was a busy and impactful year at the County.
12. Increased Focus on Waste Diversion Efforts
I look forward to voting on our new diversion targets in 2016, which are proposed at 71% diversion by 2020 and 77% by 2030. To me, the best way to achieve these targets is through the expansion of our organics program. This of course supports our current evaluation of the Organics Processing and Materials Management Facilities. These projects have tremendous potential to increase waste diversion while being environmentally and economically responsible. The significance of and attention to these projects will only grow throughout 2016.
Simcoe County Warden