OCT, 2018

City Council Highlights

Here are some of the big issues that City Council and committees debated in September.

Overhauling Curbside Waste Collection

City Council has asked for more information before making some key decisions on overhauling curbside waste collection. After months of research and community engagement, the City’s administration put forward a series of recommendations that would take the costs of curbside waste management off property taxes and onto a utility bill and would also create a new city-wide universal organics collection program.

What we face as a community is the reality that our current system of funding and managing waste is failing. We face chronic funding shortfalls and we are filling up the landfill with materials that can be diverted, forcing us into a situation where we will be forced to build a new one.

This means that as a community, we have to make tough decisions about how to address this, by raising taxes or by changing the model and shifting to a waste utility model has proven more effective in other communities at diverting waste and managing costs. Neither option is without challenges.

The City administrations’ recommendations come out of a need to address three different issues:

First, the way that waste management services are currently funded in Saskatoon is unusual because condos, apartments, and businesses are forced to subsidize curbside collections as this service is paid for by property taxes. Right now, 35% of condos and apartments are not even using the services provided by the City (due to logistical issues) and so they have to contract out this service, meaning that they are essentially paying for a service twice. Put another way, they are paying for a service that they are not using and cannot access, and this is an unfair burden on these taxpayers.

Second, 58% of what goes into the black bins is organic material that could be diverted from the landfill. This material is going into the landfill where it is never recovered and it is unable to decompose properly, so instead of turning into useful compost it releases methane into the atmosphere and creates toxic chemicals that have to be managed. Creating an organics collection program will be crucial to the success of an overall waste diversion plan for the City of Saskatoon and to increasing the life of the landfill. There are consequences to the choices that the City makes in regards to waste management, and an organics program is a way of making our choices more sustainable and sensible.

Third, the landfill and waste management have been chronically underfunded for years. And with our low diversion numbers and the available space in the landfill decreasing, the need to construct a new one will be an inevitability. The landfill replacement reserve is currently in a deficit, and the cost of building a new landfill is a huge capital expense that we won’t be able to avoid if we don’t increase our diversion numbers. However, if we increase our diversion numbers we can delay and even eliminate the need for a new landfill, so we won’t be burdening future generations with this cost.

All of this speaks to the reality that the status quo is not an option. Our current system is not serving us well, we are wasting space in the landfill, we are throwing away compostable material, and the system is not fair.

One of the most important pieces that we have to consider in trying to fix these problems is the affordability of new programs or new ways of funding existing programs. This is an important factor for me and I believe that we have to address this in a significant way, especially for people on social assistance or living on pension money. There are policy decisions that Council can make to help to make these changes more affordable, and these can be considered over the coming months. However, it is also important to remember that if we do nothing at all the costs are even higher because of the need for a new landfill.

Finally, a new waste system is being planned for single-family homes to start, but there is work currently underway for apartments and condos, and engagement with businesses and institutions is beginning this fall. We need a comprehensive approach to waste diversion, but this is a huge task so we have to do it in stages.

For more information on the recommendations of the City’s administration, including information on financing, the costs of doing nothing, and the potential for illegal dumping, you can refer to the City’s FAQ document.

The Future of the City Yards

Earlier in the year, the City was approached by a developer who expressed an interest in purchasing the City Yards, a large plot of City-owned property that is north of the Saskatoon Police Service Headquarters, west of 1st Avenue, and south and east of the railway tracks. This sort of interest in such an important piece of land is something that is great to see for our community and it signals a renewed and strengthened interest in downtown development.

When this issue came to committee, I made a motion that the City’s administration look to expedite the redevelopment of this site, looking at the possibilities of a phased approach and what the financial implications of this would be.

For there to be any sale of any civic assets it would require important due diligence and we would need to ensure that there was a fair and transparent process, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t begin to move in this direction and explore the opportunities that exist. The City has already done visioning for this area with the North Downtown Master Plan, and this area has been identified as important in both the City Centre Plan and the Plan for Growth. Having developer interest in this land is a signal to me that there is a market readiness to move on this vision to turn it into a reality.

Name the North Commuter Parkway Update

A name has been chosen for the new north bridge: the Chief Mistawasis Bridge. This name was chosen after an unprecedented amount of community engagement for naming in Saskatoon.

Back in 2015, City Council unanimously committed that the City adopt and seek to implement the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that were relevant to our work, and to do so collaboratively with community groups and partners to promote reconciliation in our community. One way that the City tried to do this was to have a naming process for the new north bridge that was driven by community and that sought to address call to action #79: “Participate in a strategy to commemorate Aboriginal peoples’ history and contributions to Canada.”

By engaging with Métis and First Nations Elders, Indian residential school survivors, Sixties Scoop survivors, and the community as a whole, over 400 names were gathered that acknowledged an Indigenous person or event or a concept that embodies community. A committee with representatives from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, the Central Urban Métis Federation, the Saskatoon Tribal Council, and the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations then narrowed this list down to four names. Educational videos were made for each of these—Chief Mistawasis, Louis Riel, Wîcîhitowin, and Waniskâ—to explain their significance, and then members of the public got to provide feedback. The naming committee came with their final suggestion of Chief Mistawasis for the new bridge, with the other names being referred to the master list of names for the City of Saskatoon.

Throughout this process—and with the help and guidance of Elders and the naming committee—we did so much more than just name a bridge. It was an exercise in community building, in public education, and in continuing down the path of reconciliation. It is so fitting that this was done for a bridge, because the process itself helped to bridge and bring together our community.

I would like to thank all of those who suggested names and who provided feedback on the shortlist. A special thanks to those who were involved on the naming committee itself. This was not a simple or short process, but your work has given us so much.

Leasing the Farmers’ Market Building

City Council moved forward with issuing a Request for Proposals on the next lease of the Farmers’ Market Building to invite additional ideas and strategies for both supporting the very successful Saturday farmers market and seeing the building become more animated throughout the week.

The farmers’ market at River Landing is a point of pride for Saskatoon. It is both a tourist attraction and an opportunity for local and regional producers to get their goods to market. However, the nature of farmers’ markets makes it difficult or impossible to host six or seven days a week because it is the same people growing, baking, and making food that are selling it at market—and this is something that City Council heard from many vendors who came to speak. City Council stated a clear commitment to having a farmers’ market in this building, but we also need to make sure that this space is being effectively used throughout the week.

It was also made clear in the debate that this is not about profit for the City of Saskatoon, but it’s about improving our community and creating a stronger quality of life. I want make sure that this building can be a hub of activity on more days of the week, just like how it is currently a hub of activity on Saturdays and other market days.

The resolution that City Council adopted on this matter was:

That the Administration be directed to prepare and issue a Request For Proposal to lease the Farmers’ Market Building within River Landing, seeking a proponent to develop and manage a six-day-a-week animated public facility and farmers’ market and revising the proposed scoring matrix in order to provide specific consideration for:

  • Dedicated farmers’ market days
  • More explicit evaluation of ‘authenticity’ with respect to local produce and content

Opportunities for Recycling Glass

City Council decided to enter into a pilot project with SARCAN to give residents an additional option for recycling glass. Because of this new program, residents will be able to take recyclable glass to any of the four SARCAN depots in Saskatoon for recycling.

This pilot project does not eliminate your ability to put glass into the blue bin, but it provides an additional option for getting rid of it. The City is finding that by the time glass gets to the recycling facilities, 90% of it is broken and therefore cannot be processed and recycled. This pilot project would give citizens another option to recycle glass, but it would not take away any options that already exist.

For a full list of all of the materials that are accepted into the blue bin program, you can refer to the City’s web page on recycling.

Traffic Safety and Vision Zero

The City of Saskatoon made a variety of different decisions to move forward with traffic safety measures in our community.

Both as a councillor and as mayor, traffic safety is one of the largest issues that people raise with me, and at the Town Hall Meetings that I’ve been attending with City Councillors, traffic safety has been a constant refrain. Citizens are wanting to see safety improved in their neighbourhood and for us to do better in this area.

By the end of 2020, the Neighbourhood Traffic Review process will have been completed for all residential and industrial neighbourhoods, and there are plans to have different sectors of the community continually re-examined so that this issue is always front and centre. City Council also adopted a new Traffic Calming Policy to have consistent principles for managing concerns brought forward by citizens and neighbourhoods.

City Council’s Transportation Committee also heard a pitch for Vision Zero—a traffic philosophy based on the idea that traffic accidents are avoidable. Through this approach, engineering, education, and engagement all work together to improve traffic safety and traffic flow within a community. This philosophy is meant to be complimentary with all of the other changes to help improve safety in Saskatoon.

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