City Council Highlights
Here are some of the big issues that were in front of Council this past month.
Curbside Organics Implementation Timeline
City Council decided on an implementation plan for the new universal curbside organics collection program, with the program rolling out in 2023.While I was in favour of a faster timeline, this was the timeline that the majority of Council settled on.
The City’s administration provided different options and timelines that had different costs associated with them. There are also costs associated with inaction, such as using up $1.1-1.6M of landfill space and emitting 12 to 17 tonnes of CO2 equivalent due to organics not breaking down in the landfill properly. I believe that we need a holistic approach to understanding cost, not just by looking in the short term.
These changes to waste management in Saskatoon have a mill rate impact for two different reasons:
- the creation of an organics program, which is meant to save money in the long run by delaying/deleting the need to build a new landfill in the future, and
- fixing the chronic underfunding of waste management services and landfill operations.
Taken together, both of these parts are expected to have a 3.93% mill rate impact that will be spread over 4 years. Of this 3.93%, only 2.4% is for the organics program, and 1.53% is to fix the chronic underfunding of waste operations that has been ongoing for years. Because of this, about 39% of the mill rate impact will not actually be for new services, it is required just to properly fund existing services.
I voted in favour of a 2021 implementation that would have seen the charges for the program be levied on the first year that the program existed, this didn’t get enough votes to pass. In the end a majority of Council was able to settle on the 2023 timeline.
I would like to see the costs lowered by providing a more appropriate level of service for organics collection in the winter months and by using some of the recently announced $13.9M from the federal government to offset some of the capital costs (such as the purchase of green bins). Additionally, about 38% of the potential mill rate impacts are actually for addressing the current underfunding of waste management services and landfill operations.
Photo Speed Enforcement
City Council decided to expand the use of photo speed enforcement in Saskatoon because of its demonstrated effect in increasing safety. As it currently stands, there are 5 camera locations on Circle Drive and 5 in school zones, with 2 cameras that rotate between locations. Council approved expanding this to eight additional school zone locations, with an anticipated start later in 2019.
The introduction of photo enforcement has resulted in lowering traffic speeds on Circle Drive by over 14 km/h, and reduced the number of people speeding through school zones. The analysis done by SGI indicates and an estimated 50 fewer injuries per year, over a period of time when there are thousands of more cars on the road. A more detailed analysis can be found online, and it is clear that this is an effective way of measuring speed and of increasing safety on the road.
Now that the program has been tested and proven, just like the Red Light Camera program, I believe it is time for the Provincial Government to let communities operate these programs on our own, it is not necessary to have SGI’s involvement. Just as we operate our police service and the rest of the traffic enforcement operations, we need to work with our communities to determine what the best tool is to build community safety in which location. The way the program works now SGI is now taking money generated through this program from people speeding through our neighbourhoods and streets and using it for other Provincial Government priorities. This means the City is only getting 10% of ticket revenues (previously it was 34%).
Every dollar generated from these tickets in Saskatoon goes towards improving traffic safety. Although the City gets a lot of blame for creating ‘speed traps,’ the reality is that we are not the main beneficiaries of this program. My ultimate goal is to have no revenue from this program because there is no need to issue tickets.
Conservation at the Northeast Swale
A committee of council received an update on work being done collaboratively between the City, the U of S, Meewasin, and the Swale Watchers.
The swale is an ecologically diverse and sensitive part of our city, and some of the little remaining natural prairie in the area. As our city continues to grow and as neighbourhoods develop adjacent to the swale, the City of Saskatoon has prioritized growing in a way that respects and complements our green spaces as a way to grow more sustainably.
At the committee, I moved that the City’s administration provide more information on what would be required to ensure the best management of the swale moving forward. Back in the 1970s, there was visionary leadership in our community to form the Meewasin Valley Authority and to work for the conservation of our treasured river valley. It is now time again to show leadership to conserve the swale to get it right now and enjoy the benefits for generations to come.
ConnectYXE: Smart Cities Challenge
The City of Saskatoon recently submitted its final proposal to the federal government’s Smart Cities Challenge. Saskatoon is one of ten finalists shortlisted for two prizes of $10M.
Saskatoon’s project focuses on breaking the cycle of Indigenous youth incarceration and replacing it with a new cycle focused on building purpose, belonging, security, and identity. It does this by bringing innovative tech solutions together with community partnerships to leverage the resources we already have and to provide access to coordinated information for youth seeking it. This interactive platform will make accessing resources easier, resources such as rec programs, connecting to an Elder or mentor, or getting a safe night’s sleep.
A huge thanks to everyone involved in this and the many community partners who helped to bring this proposal to life. The sheer level of collaboration is a tremendous asset to our community and it speaks to the strength that we have in coming together to tackle important issues. Most importantly, I want to thank the core youth team that guided this project and brought a wealth of experience and expertise.
Implementing the Active Transportation Plan
City Council moved forward with implementing the City’s Active Transportation Plan, a plan that was adopted unanimously by Council back in June of 2016.
The Active Transportation Plan is a comprehensive approach to facilitate getting around our city by foot, bike, wheelchair, or walker. This includes everything from curb cuts on sidewalks to educational campaigns about the rules of the road and from creating a cycling network to passing the Complete Streets Policy. The overarching goal is to minimize congestion and future infrastructure needs by providing people with transportation options beyond just a single-occupancy vehicle.
The approval of the implementation plan was not to allocate funds, but to approve an approach and some more specific priorities. The implementation plan also speaks to:
- having AT built into initial plans, as opposed to needing to retrofit
- incorporating AT implementation into other plans to save money, such as the reconstruction of Victoria Ave to go along with water main replacements
- leverage all funding opportunities, as the capital costs of AT are a great fit for federal and provincial infrastructure dollars because of their environmental benefits
The decision surrounding the future of the downtown cycling network was not made and it will be the subject of a future vote by Council.
This implementation plan helps to chart a path towards changing our city’s growth patterns, increasing the connectedness of our community, increasing accessibility, increasing road safety, and improving our environmental sustainability.