Shaping Our Community from the Ground Up
During my years on council, I’ve heard many great ideas from citizens in our community. As I developed my own policies and vision for Mississippi Mills, I promised myself to learn more about these ideas, so that my platform reflects your thoughts about what’s most important to you and your family.
These community conversations have been great! They have underlined the passion and pride we all hold for our community and how much we all really care about where we live. I’m looking forward to continuing them to learn what you see happening in our community in the upcoming years and how you see yourself being involved. I know the list of ideas will continue to grow throughout the campaign. Here are a few I have heard:
- Throughout our community, many have expressed concerns about housing: the small number of rentals, and the availability of social housing and affordable housing. They want a community that includes everyone.
- People want to stay in their community through all stages of life but need help finding suitable housing and services.
- Residents in Pakenham told me they want to feel safe walking in the village with the busy traffic, particularly young people and seniors.
- The community in Union Hall wants to get on the map with location signage.
- Walkers in Almonte want light signals to be slightly longer so that they can cross traffic safely.
- People have asked for more recreational programming for children as well as adults and seniors.
- Many people want more access to community spaces to organize community activities, play sports or hold meetings.
Economic Development & Quality of Life
We are seeing new businesses, manufacturing and food companies fill our business park. A new generation of innovative agri-businesses is taking root in the country. We have charming main streets in both Almonte and Pakenham that attract tourists and locals alike with unique retail and hospitality offerings. The booming arts & culture community contributes a growing value to both the local economy and to the quality of life for residents. Many of the economic drivers in Mississippi Mills are also contributing factors to what makes living in our community so enjoyable. It is a great time to do business and to live in Mississippi Mills! Here are a few economic and community development projects I am eager to pursue:
- Explore ways to grow agriculture and food production in Mississippi Mills, recognizing that these sectors are major drivers for rural economic development.
- Local employment is key to a better quality of life. There is great interest in our business park; we have sold thirteen lots in the last two years! Opening phase 3 of the business park is the next step and will provide more opportunity for residents to work locally.
- Continue to encourage the contribution of arts and culture as both an economic driver and an indicator of great quality of life in our community.
- Make Mississippi Mills the place to live and do business by taking advantage of opportunities provided by Lanark County’s Economic Development Plan such as:
- Participate in the Business Retention & Expansion Program to support existing business owners.
- Develop a Marketing & Communications Plan to attract entrepreneurs, talent & new residents..
- Create a Healthcare Strategy for retention and recruitment of health service providers. Access to health care providers is essential to residents and also offers quality, local employment options.
- Improve internet and cellular access throughout rural areas.
- Support healthy communities and active living through wellness programs for all ages.
Engagement & Communication
Communication is a challenge in our community; not everyone has equal access to the internet and we have three different local papers. We need both low-tech and hi-tech approaches to making sure everyone has access to understandable and useful information about municipal activities. Here are some of the solutions I am committed to from listening to our citizens.
- Plain language. When Official Public Notices are circulated to residents, the language often makes sense to planners and lawyers but few others. Solution: require Official Notices to include a summary in plain language.
- Follow-up public consultations. When residents participate in a public consultation process or a public meeting some feel their questions are not answered. Solution: provide answers to residents’ questions in plain language with better charts in staff reports. Link charts on website with attached report to close the loop and make this information more readily available.
- Community bulletin boards. Improve circulation of municipal news by posting paper notices on community boards found in villages and popular locales (post office, grocery store).
- Improve municipal website. Make the website user-friendly, easily navigated with an up-to-date calendar.
- Post video of Council meetings. Live-streaming may not be possible just yet, but we can use interim solutions to record and post video of Council in the days following meetings to help residents stay informed.
Taking Care of (municipal) Business
Mississippi Mills town council is our most local level of government, responsible for parks, recreational services, libraries, local police, local infrastructure (roads, bridges, culverts, sidewalks), water, sewers, and town planning. Lanark County Council, our next level of government, is responsible for county roads, health services, region-wide land use, social services, and transit. The mayor and deputy mayor of Mississippi Mills are two of the 16 members of Lanark County Council.
Some of the current must-dos of a responsible government are listed below. Reviews and updates to these documents are critical to improving our community and making sure our needs are met, now and in the future.
All municipal plans are stronger with the benefit of ideas, criticisms and suggestions from our citizens. I am committed to these plans and I want to encourage more citizens to participate by making the reviews easier to access and by arranging more opportunities for civil public discussion.
- Review and update the Long Term Financial Plan. The financial plan directs how much and when our municipality spends money on roads, bridges, fire trucks and other needs from now until 2030. It is also designed to help us build reserves funds and pay off debt, allowing us to rely less and less on loans.
- Complete a Service Delivery review. This is an evaluation of all municipal services that ensures we are providing services in the most appropriate, efficient and effective way to our residents.
- Complete a Comprehensive Community Official Plan review. In consultation with residents, this plan ensures future development meets the needs and goals of our community.
The last four years have seen many changes and much growth in our community. New residents, new businesses and new ideas are exciting, but sometimes the changes can make things uncomfortable for a little while. Sometimes we forget that we’re all neighbours.
The most important part in my vision for Mississippi Mills is that we start talking and listening to each other. We don’t have to agree, but if we come together as a community of neighbours, then we can shape the future of Mississippi Mills together.
To do this, it’s important that the Mayor is accessible and visible throughout the community. On the campaign, I’ve been having lots of chats with people around kitchen tables or in coffee shops. If elected to be your Mayor, this is something I would continue to do regularly. We learn with our ears, which is why I love to listen.
But I have learned the conversations can’t just happen between the Mayor and the community. To encourage neighbours to come together, I want to develop three new programs utilizing the depth of talent, skills and knowledge in our community.
- Intergenerational Programming. Provide resources to community organizations such as Mills Community Support, Mississippi Mills Youth Centre, the High School, Clubs, Associations, and Museums to encourage activities across age groups. For example, recruit Youth Centre kids to help Seniors learn about social media.
- Collaborative Municipal Grants. Provide small grants for projects that involve two or more community groups, ideally in more than one ward. For example, Friends of Cedar Hill School house and North Lanark Agricultural Society.
- Neighbourhood Public Space Grants. Make a portion of recreation budget available to neighbourhood associations to adopt a park or other public space. The municipality would provide resources, while neighbours work together to provide time and talents to beautify a space or make it a reflection of their neighbourhood.
Mississippi Mills of the Future
If we think back twenty years ago, we had just made it through the Great Ice Storm; The Town of Almonte, The Township of Ramsay and The Township of Pakenham were tackling amalgamation and two young university students were starting a company called Google. Twenty years is a lot of time but it’s gone in the blink of an eye. What kind of community do we want to live in now and what will be our reality twenty years from now?
- By 2040 there will be 2 million Canadians over the age of 85 versus 770,000 in 2016.
- As of 2016, Canada had more millennials than baby boomers.
- Currently, 16% of Canadians were born outside Canada; by 2040 we will be even more multicultural with one in three will be born outside Canada.
With baby boomers living longer and more active lives, a shift in work/life balance among our growing millennial population, and a swell in multiculturalism there is a lot to consider for our next 20 years as a community and a nation. What will these trends mean for our community and what will be their impact? What does quality of life mean for ageing baby boomers, millennials and immigrants?
Technology will be key in many of these changes. The world grows smaller as we become more connected through new technologies. People and families will live where they can easily access the wider world and where the quality of life is meaningful and fulfilling to them. Jobs are likely to become more and more technology-based and smart home technology will be a critical component for providing care and support for seniors who choose to remain in their homes and communities as they age.
Will autonomous vehicles plant and harvest our crops? Will we purchase all our goods from Amazon? We’re coming into a time of unprecedented change. Some of today’s brightest minds believe that the next 20 years will bring more change than the previous two hundred. Hard to fathom when no one would have guessed 20 years ago that we’d all be walking around with tiny little computers in back pockets.
For our community here in Mississippi Mills, this means keeping an eye to the future when making plans. It means taking a view of not just the next four years, but beyond. It means planning and investing in infrastructure and technologies that will support us now and down the road. It means being ready to welcome and embrace societal changes in our community. To do this, we need to be open and willing to learn about, listen to and anticipate each other’s needs. We are already a diverse community and coming together as neighbours to work together is the first step towards defining who we truly are now, and in the future.
Have some ideas you’d like to share? Let’s have a coffee and chat, as neighbours!