Municipal Election 2014

My Campaign for Ward 7 Councillor (Candidate Submission)

So if you've read this far and like some or all of what you see, I hope you share this website, its link, and its contents with your friends and neighbours.

By Keith Beck
Published October 20, 2014

Thanks for reading about my campaign for Councillor - ward 7 (Central Mountain, Hamilton). I'm a 25 year resident of the City of Hamilton and a four year resident of ward 7.

I've been self-employed as a business consultant/analyst for the last ten years and I run for council because of my belief that it will take a different set of skills to keep improving our city in a time of slower economic growth than what's been the norm for local politics.

The city is still overly dependent on transfers from senior levels of government to address any issue the community brings forward. Developing alternatives to keep making progress with our own resources is the direction that is most needed today.

I've had a great time this election, meeting and speaking with many of my neighbours in the ward. I apologize if I haven't had a chance to speak to you yet, there are 40,000 registered electors in the ward. The issues raised most often by residents has been: 1. Where are the next set of decent jobs going to come from? and 2. How to keep making improvements to transit and services to low-income residents without overburdening taxpayers?

The plan I would like, with your help, to take to council is outlined below.

1. Taxes

The city still has taxes that are about 10 percent above the provincial average. The next council needs to give staff the clear direction that finding the way to get the city to the provincial average and staying there is the goal for this term of council.

All the band-aid solutions like using up excess reserves to keep taxes down have been used and the real work of finding the efficient and effective means to deliver necessary services is still to be done. There is no good reason to wait any longer.

To assist in this end, I would be asking council to approve a $1 million budget for a bonus compensation pool for staff and senior managers who make contributions in realizing this goal. That pool would be allocated 70 percent to front-line staff and supervisors who find and implement efficiencies in delivering service and 30 percent for the senior management team if the goal is met.

It is worth spending $1 million to be able to save many millions in the years to come.

2. Economic Development

The city does a decent job of marketing opportunities for businesses large and small to come to the city. Where it fails is in understanding which industries are worth making an extra effort to attract to our city.

Recently our news has been full of US Steel Canada's plan to sell off its Hamilton assets and the city made a good start to seeing that company live up to its pension obligations to our neighbours. But if the future of the property is not in steel production what is it?

It is expected that North American auto producers will start using much more aluminum in their body panels instead of steel to meet the doubling of CAFE requirements set for 2025. This represents an increase of demand for aluminum of over 5 million tons per year. A new aluminum plant at the site of the old steel plant would be a wonderful investment to pursue.

In the category of small business we do a poor job of distinguishing out of all the small businesses, the ones that have the chance of becoming the next large businesses and creating programs that attract them to our city.

In major centres across Ontario, including Hamilton, the provincial government, in partnership with Universities and cities, set up business incubators for innovative entrepreneurs to start-up their new businesses, What no community has done is recognize that enterprises that successfully get through start-up can still benefit from a supportive environment while they begin to scale up.

There is a real opportunity to get many such ventures to locate in our community, some of which will become the next large employers in our region. To pursue this opportunity I would be asking council to support directing staff to get OCE Discovery, a trade show for entrepreneurs, investors, and academics in the field to come to our city and give that segment of industry the chance to see how they could pursue their activity here.

I also would be asking council to support a $1 million budget to establish space for these businesses to move to, in cooperation with property owners, that would be offered to them at low cost in exchange for a small portion of their equity. More innovative employers in the short-term and financial gains over the long-run.

3. Transit

I support the existing council position on the B-line light rail transit (LRT). Yes to it with full provincial funding. Adding that transit system to the lower city is the best way to capture the shift in housing represented by the coming aging of the baby-boomers into development that both revitalizes older neighbourhoods of the city and results in a more equal distribution of the local tax burden on properties across the whole city.

I know the project comes with a scary price tag, but the truth is many public statements by government on capital project costs are distorted, usually to try and get more money from someone else to pay for it. The short story is there's no reason not to insist on full provincial funding for the LRT.

I also would be asking council to support the realignment of the A-line express to better serve the residents of the mountain wards. Currently, after coming up from downtown and stopping at Mohawk College, it runs mainly empty on to the Airport.

It seems to me, and many residents that I've spoken with, that it would make more sense for the express to run a loop above and below the Linc along Mohawk and Stone Church to make it easier for more riders to get to the new (and current) GO Station and the lower city, relieving some of the overcrowding on the major mountain routes.

4. Community Engagement

Ward 7 has over 40,000 electors and over 60,000 residents. We have cities this size in Ontario, and yet here it is represented by one person.

If elected, one of my first actions would be to establish a ward council to better represent each neighbourhood to the city and assist in getting the feedback necessary to ensure effective representation of the whole ward as issues arise at City Hall.

I propose this council be assisted by a web-based platform to organize and distribute information about current issues before the city, as well as monthly meetings at rotating venues in the ward.

I also want to implement participatory budgeting for the area rating funds for the ward. I had a chance to see it implemented elsewhere in the city and was initially skeptical. I thought the money was better used to pay for more of the work already planned by the city.

A number of the ideas and proposals that came forth were impressive and ones I had not even considered. It proved to me, again, that the best resource we have in making our city a better place is the knowledge and experience of the people who live there.

Giving that knowledge opportunities to come forward and have a positive impact on our community is something that is often lost in the course of day-to-day business of the city. If I get the chance to be your councillor at City Hall, I commit to never forgetting that lesson.

5. Poverty

We have talked a lot about poverty as a community over the last decade. A lot. We have realized some improvements for low-income individuals through changes in provincial policy to OW/ODSP rates and the minimum wage. We have done very little with our own means and resources to make our own contribution as a city.

The most undeveloped tool in the city's means is the ability for CityHousingHamilton, the city housing agency, to operate in the market-housing segment. With interest rates as low as they are, the city can build rental housing at a cost that is covered by the shelter subsidy of ODSP, effectively using provincial funding to build new housing for low-income households without cost to the local tax base.

Currently, all that provincial money is flowing into the hands of small real estate investors who convert existing stock into rooming houses or small apartments. It is shameful that the city has failed to see the opportunity to provide a better stock of housing to our low-income neighbours.

As councillor, I would be asking council to support directing staff to explore and implement all options to use this tool in reaching our goals as a community.

Finally:

My last note to you is to remind you what it says on the homepage of my website. My campaign does not use signs. So if you've read this far and like some or all of what you see, I hope you share this website, its link, and its contents with your friends and neighbours.

I would love the chance to do this work for you. Your vote, along with others, will give me that chance!

Keith Beck is a candidate for Ward 7 Councillor in the 2014 Municipal Election.

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