Over the last eight years, through hard work and collaboration, our Council has brought initiatives that have been stalled for years or even decades to fruition. Not with great fanfare. Not with back slapping self-congratulation. Just doing the job expected by the people who put their faith in us.
As Your Mayor, my vision for Aurora over the next four years includes:
- Continuing my proven track record of keeping taxes and debt low
- Continuing to deliver quality services to our residents
- Continue to advocate for a new interchange at Highway 404 and St. John’s Sideroad
- Improving the Yonge Wellington intersection
- Successfully completing the Aurora Armoury project
- Developing library Square into a vibrant community space.
Traffic is a concern.
Especially Yonge and Wellington.
I understand this as I use this intersection at least two times every day.
Traffic, like water, takes the path of least resistance.
The main issue is simply volume. And the secondary issue is that the design of the intersection has not been updated.
We keep growing, so volume is not going away. Therefore, we need to be able to redirect traffic away from that intersection and we also need to redesign the intersection.
Traffic is a product of growth. Growth that is assigned by the Province. And, while one Ministry is dictating growth, another Ministry (Transportation) is taking away infrastructure needed to help manage that growth. Which is why I have requested the Province to press the pause button on the places to grow act, so we can reevaluate our service level.
We are also working on redesigning the Yonge / Wellington intersection, adding a 3rd lane in the southbound direction to accommodate buses and right turns. Redesigning to address the root cause.
It is truly unfortunate that such an important issue to our Town has become such a divisive one.
Which is why I have been advocating for Site Plan review (by professional staff) and the hiring of an independent consultant to assist in the process of defining an appropriate look and feel for infill housing.
To remove the political rhetoric.
To stop pitting neighbour against neighbour.
It is reminiscent of a similar issue last term – designating the Yonge / Wellington South East quadrant as a Historical District. It was also divisible in the neighbourhood and one that could have been avoided. There are remnants still there.
There are three areas defined as “stable neighbourhood” – Regency Acres, Aurora Heights and the Town Park area. Each are unique and the site plan process will be set up to recognize that.
Despite appearances to the contrary, probably as many people do not want any restrictions as those who do.
As Elected Officials, our obligation is to listen to all points of view, and then make a decision that is in the best interests of all of our residents.
I believe the approach we are taking will provide this.
Staff are currently working on the specifics of the site plan approval process with the Goal was to have a consultant engaged by December.
Aurora has benefited from growth both financially and culturally. Over the past few years, our community has welcomed newcomers from many diverse cultures and traditions, and together we have flourished and furthered Aurora’s legacy of inclusiveness.
Aurora is nationally recognized as one of the best places to live in Canada. We reached and maintained this status through strategic long-term planning that balanced growth with the need to maintain the small town charm that attracted families to our municipality.
Growth targets and population densities are mandated by The Government of Ontario through The Places to Grow Act, and municipalities are legally required to follow its directives. York Region’s Official Plan and The Town of Aurora’s Official Plan provide useful guidelines to help facilitate these mandates.
Managing growth that is balanced and sustainable is a challenging process, with few easy answers. As Your Mayor, I have always advocated strongly for strategic, long-term planning, and I will continue to my efforts to diligently scrutinize the merits of each development from a social and economic perspective, to ensure that community interests are considered and respected.
Over my past two terms as Your Mayor, I am proud that our sound decision-making has successfully balanced the addition of thousands of new homes, while adding four new parks, dozens of kilometres of new hiking trails and maintained 40% of Aurora’s overall green spaces. I have learned the lessons of neighbouring communities that have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars fighting new developments, and have avoided these pitfalls by always maintaining a steadfast approach that considers our community’s well-being while fulfilling our legal
obligations to the province.
While Aurora has grown tremendously, we remain 6 per cent below the province’s mandated growth target.
As we reach full build-out and approach our mandated growth target, the time is now to undertake an objective appraisal of The Places to Grow Act to ensure Aurora has the tools to manage growth responsibly and in the interests of our residents. Growth exacts a toll on our infrastructure, culture and our environment. We have reached a tipping-point in our development, where provincially-mandated growth will shortly exact an unacceptable cost on our environment, our services and the many qualities that make our community so attractive.
That is why I recently joined Mayors across the GTA to ask Premier Ford to “hit the pause button” on The Places to Grow Act. We need to halt this legislation to take stock of our growth and determine the best way for communities to go forward with their future development.
The financial health of the Town of Aurora has never been better.
Aurora has become the envy amongst the majority of Ontario Municipalities across the Province.
Aurora’s tangible capital assets and cash reserve assets total $495,400,000 (nearly 1/2 a billion dollars)
Simply stated for every $1,000 of Town Assets, Aurora Residents own $998.00 free of any debt
For every $1,000 of Town assets, Aurora Residents only owe less than $1.90 in creditor debt
Aurora’s Debt to Equity Ratio is a remarkably low 1.9% – making Aurora virtually a debt free community.
This does not happen by chance!
But rather it comes from having a strategic vision, bringing strong proven leadership skills to the table. It requires prudent fiscal management from an individual who has a successful track record of managing a multi million dollar corporations such as the Town of Aurora. Residents demand and deserve nothing less to preserve and protect their town and resident owned assets. To protect their stable and sustainable low tax rate.
Aurora resident per capita asset value is approximately $8,000.00 per resident.
Aurora resident per capita debt value is a very low of $153.00 per resident
Aurora resident net per capita debt value, removing the debt neutral LED project is $100.00 per resident
Aurora’s strong and healthy balance sheet of tangible capital assets and cash reserve assets are all contributing factors taken into account when recognizing Aurora as one of the best places to live in Canada
A result Mayor Dawe has worked tirelessly over his 2 terms as Your Mayor – Aurora’s Mayor, to transform Aurora into a more vibrant, prosperous, healthier and better Aurora for all residents.
FACTS and NUMBERS
Aurora’s current population is 62,000 (as supplied by York Region)
TOWN OF AURORA ASSETS
The Town of Aurora’s tangible capital assets total $453,400,000
The Town of Aurora’s collective reserves total 42,000,000
The Town of Aurora’s capital and reserve assets total $495,400,000
TOWN OF AURORA DEBT ( per audited projections at November 30, 2018)
SARC Athletic Centre – remainder of 20 year debenture note balance $1,800,000*
LED Street Light Conversion Project – remainder of 10 year debenture note balance $2,400,000 **
Joint Operations Centre – remainder of 15 year debenture note balance $5,300,000*
Town of Aurora total debt liabilities amount equals $9,500,000
*The remaining balances for the SARC and the JOC are now being fully funded and paid for from all future
Development Charges and not from property taxes through the tax levy.
** A valuable footnote the Town’s LED street light conversion project of $2,400,000 is this debt service is neutral.
The actual annual realized energy savings of over $300,000 serves to pay the off 10 year debenture mortgage.
Once this debt is fully paid off the annual savings of approximately $300,000 are realized by the town.
This term, under my leadership, Council has delivered not only the lowest, but the most consistent tax rates in the last 20 years.
We did this by implementing a set of budget principles that help direct staff in preparing budgets. Gone are the days where we play the “High Low” game, where staff comes in with a large increase, and then Council low-balls, we go back and forth and finally settle on a tax increase.
We did this by moving towards a multi-year budgeting model that provides a much better forecasting capability, and by setting a principle that our Tax Increase will be no more than the rate of inflation of Toronto.
By using a predefined, verifiable inflation rate (for the 12 month period of July 1 to June 30), we have set clear goals that staff work to, which has brought a great level of certainty to our budgeting process.
Aurora is blessed with a great variety of high quality services and amenities. And we continue to add.
We have added parks, including the fully accessible Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Park; trails, new facilities and new recreational fields.
We improved our snow clearing services for the 2017/2018 season by combining our Roads and Parks crews, almost doubling our capabilities, but not the cost.
And, we will continue to look for efficiencies.
The Aurora Armoury is one of our most significant historical assets.
Built in 1874, it was the longest serving Canadian Armoury until it was decommissioned in 2014, when the Town purchased it from the Canadian Government.
The Armoury has a rich history and the unique distinction of being one of two homes to the Queen’s York Ranges (the other being Fort York in Toronto.
Despite this storied past, the Armoury was run down, and when we purchased it, pretty much unusable for any purpose.
Our Council made the decision to move forward with renovations to this building, to recapture it’s former glory and to provide usable community space.
Coincident with this, Council agreed to work with the Canadian Food and Wine Institute, a division of Niagara College to set up a culinary school.
I firmly believe this is a win-win situation for our Town.
We are restoring a significant historical asset in our Town. We are creating new community space for our Town. We are fulfilling a significant goal of our Strategic Plan which is to attract a post-secondary facility.
Like I said – a win-win for our Town!
There is no doubt that the downtown area is a significant part of what Aurora is. It is historically and culturally significant and I believe that we need to do what we can to preserve that.
An important part of the preservation strategy is to promote / improve investment in this area: public & private; commercial & residential.
From the public perspective, the Town is moving forward on both the Library Square and Armoury projects which I believe will be a significant attractor, and will definitely help support businesses in that area.
From private perspective, there has been a lot of residential activity over the last 4 years, either completed or planned that will result in people living in the area. People who will patronize local businesses. Which will be a driver for more businesses.
Additionally, I have been very active in getting the Business Improvement Area association – BIA – established.
The BIA is complimentary to the Chamber (indeed, Executive Director of the Chamber has been instrumental on the BIA steering committee), and dedicated to promoting businesses in that defined area.
I believe we are turning a corner in finally moving forward in downtown revitalization.
Our goal with Library Square is to create a community hub within our historic downtown core. A “people” attractor that will be a huge economic boost to that area.
When the new Library was opened in early 2000s, and when the new Seniors’ Centre was opened in 2006, we were in the position of having two buildings that had been purpose built and not particularly adaptable for other uses.
The old Seniors’ Centre, which was originally a fire hall, ended up being rented out for commercial uses.
The old Library was rented out to some community groups in a deal that was costing the Town tens of thousands of dollars every year.
Further, an analysis of the building showed that we would need to put in over $500,000 to bring it up to standards, and we would still be stuck with a purpose built facility that was not easily convertible.
Council made the tough decision to take both of these buildings down. Which gave us the opportunity to look at this from a new perspective – no preconceived ideas of how to use what was there, but a clean slate.
After decades of discussions, well over a dozen reports, many public consultations, we are now moving forward with another project that was stalled.
And, to be perfectly clear, we are still looking at how to move forward with that area. Yes, we are looking at a new building, but no decisions have been made. We are still looking for public input on this. For others to say we are plowing ahead is simply not true.
It is a disservice to those on Council who have worked hard on this project and to our residents, who are being misled for cynical political purposes.
Having been President and CEO of a consulting firm located here, I can safely state that the primary consideration as to where I would locate is a business friendly environment.
And, that doesn’t necessarily mean low taxes (although that is okay!)
It means a consistent approach to how the Municipality deals with taxes, with regulations, with the permitting process. Just generally, how does the local government deal with the business? Do they work with you? Or put up roadblocks.
When I was elected Mayor in 2010, I was committed to ensuring that the Town of Aurora would be a business friendly place.
That does not mean giving away the shop!
It means recognizing that everyone’s time is valuable so we need to be as efficient as possible. It means implementing programs like the Business Concierge Service, which provided one stop shopping for a business looking to set up a new operation or making changes to their current one. To remove those obstacles.
And, it has worked!
In the last eight years, we have attracted over 300 new businesses; over 5,000 new jobs; we have had the highest rate of job growth in York Region; and by having close to the lowest Commercial and Industrial tax rates in York Region.
I understand and appreciate what is important – and am committed to maintaining that!
No denying it – the old ‘Howard Johnson’ hotel is an eyesore.
And, we would all like it cleaned up!
It is important to remember that this is private property. So, while we can enforce property standards, we are pretty limited in what we can actually do to affect change.
The first is to encourage the current owners to either fix it up themselves or sell it to someone who will.
Fixing it up seemed a possibility, especially when I met the owner in January of 2017. He came to my office, and told me he was going to fix it all up. Which was great!
And, then he advised me that he was going to do all the work himself, because everyone tried to steal from him. As I would guess that he was mid-80s at that time (he has since passed away) – not so great!
Now we need to look at the sell option. The town has attempted to broker a number of deals, but to no avail. Just when it seems to get close, the owners balk.
So, our last option is expropriation, which as some may know, is a forced sale! Not the most desired course of action, but sometimes necessary.
And, I believe in this case, necessary and justifiable.
Which is why I tried to work with my fellow Council members to take that action.
I was not supported, and, so here we are, over a year later, no progress.
Not because I did not do anything.
Because Council refused to act.
One of the main reasons I lobbied the Provincial Government to “press the pause button” on the Places to Grow Act is the obvious inability of the various Provincial Ministries to work together.
A prime example of this is under the Places to Grow Act, Aurora has been assigned growth targets. Minimum growth targets. Which requires a tremendous amount of infrastructure.
Such as the interchange at the 404, so that traffic can be properly handled.
Yet the Ministry of Transportation removed the interchange as a budget measure.
With no consultation.
By working with my Regional colleagues, we managed to get this back into the capital plan.
While the interchange is coming, we have experienced an unnecessary and avoidable delay with negative impact on our community.
Provincial departments simply need to work better together and much better with their municipal partners.
In 2010, I asked to be Your Mayor, to put Aurora back on course, and that is what we have done!
Challenges that require a Mayor who understands that:
Leadership is not about making reflex decisions to respond to the most vocal elements in the community
Leadership is about shaping community expectations and managing change;
Leadership is about considering the various viewpoints and then making decisions that can best meet the larger community interest.
Once again, we seem to be at a crossroads. With the reduction from 8 to 6 Councillors, and with the loss of 4 of our current sitting elected officials, Aurora will see significant change.
It is even more imperative that we understand the impact this can have and the challenges ahead of us.
I believe in an Aurora where all residents are treated with respect, where our streets are safe and where everyone has the opportunity to prosper.
If you share my vision for Aurora and support passionate, proven leadership, vote Geoff Dawe for your Mayor – Aurora’s Mayor on October 22.
Vote to keep Aurora progressive and prosperous for our present and our future!