Ayesha Barmania  - 
December 17, 2020

City council votes to approve the 2021 municipal budget
Budget Week

 
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On Monday, Peterborough’s city council sat for the last meeting of 2020 and voted to approve the budget documents drafted by city staff with amendments. Peterborough Currents has been covering these deliberations for the past month and in this episode, co-publishers Ayesha Barmania and Will Pearson go over the highlights of this meeting so you can hear what happened.

Episode transcript

Ayesha 0:00 

Hey – Ayesha here, before we get into the podcast, I wanted to let you know about something that we’re trying at Peterborough Currents. As we look ahead into 2021, things are still uncertain and 2020 has been a heck of a year for Will and I to try and start a business. And the one thing that we’re realizing is that to become a sustainable operation, we need the financial support from our audience. And that’s why we’re asking folks to support our work for 2021 by becoming monthly sustainers. If you head over to peterboroughcurrents.ca/supportus you can sign up to support our work. It really means a lot to us if you’d consider contributing. And thank you!

Ayesha 0:45

Hello you’re listening to Peterborough Currents. I’m Ayesha Barmania.

This is the final episode of our Budget Week Podcast and to help me wrap up our coverage of the 2021 Budget deliberations, I’m here again with Currents’ co-publisher Will Pearson.

Will Pearson 0:55

Hello.

Ayesha 0:56

And so today, Will and in this episode, we’re going to go over some of the highlights of the City Council meeting on Monday when council voted to approve the budget documents which we’ve been going into over this series. And before we get into some of the clips we want to play, I just want to say that this was the last City Council meeting of the year, and the budget was just one item on a pretty long agenda and pretty much all of the amendments to the document had been proposed, debated and voted on during the Finance Committee meeting at the end of November, which we covered in episode 5.

But there was one thing added at this council meeting but there were also 27 citizen delegations that spoke to council about the budget. And to kick us off, Will, there was one in particular you wanted to talk about.

Will Pearson 1:36 

Yeah, so I want to bring up a delegation that was delivered by Reverend Brad Smith from St. John’s Anglican Church on Hunter Street. St. John’s runs the One Roof Community Center, which is a meal program and a drop in center for people that are marginalized or homeless in Peterborough. And funding for the One Roof Community Center was always kind of baked into the homelessness budget all along. But it only came up at this last city council meeting because throughout November, there were some negotiations going on about what the service agreement would look like in 2021. And basically what was going on in those negotiations was One Roof was trying to secure some extra municipal funding to make up for a drop in the fundraising that it’s been able to do because of the pandemic. Currently, the City funds One Roof, but with $208,000 a year and the expectation is that they’ll deliver one meal per day, One Roof has been able to fundraise and through its own resources deliver two meals a day as well as additional activities, social supports, and like a community center. And so when One Roof was trying to get more funding so that during the pandemic who could continue to offer that enhanced service, it seems like the city wasn’t interested in increasing its support. And so the recommendation was to hold it steady at $208,000. Despite the fact that there is no increased need, especially for food programs, right now, during the pandemic.

Rev. Bradley Smith 2:58 

The issue of food and security is not going away. In fact, as we’ve already seen, in the last six months, the number of community members accessing the meal program at One Roof is increasing as people’s financial resources are hit hard by the pandemic. If the city is going to issue a request for proposals for a meal program, it must do so seriously, including a credible amount of funding.

Will Pearson 3:23 

So that was Brad Smith from St. John’s One Roof had asked for $450,000. So more than double the funding of 2020. They kind of lowered their bid to $375,000 when the city balked at that, but then the city kind of held firm at $208,000.

So Reverend Smith, on Monday night, told city council that he signed the agreement, even though he didn’t feel like it was the best thing for the community. 

Rev. Bradley Smith 3:54 

When I was informed that our first and revised proposals would not be accepted and that the City would accept a new one year agreement. I felt compelled to accept the terms. With less than two months left in the current agreement, there wasn’t sufficient time to rebuild One Roof Community Centers model without the City as a partner. So this was the only way to keep the program alive. Otherwise, all of the community members who rely on us for meals would be left with nothing from the first January. 

Will Pearson 4:23

So Smith was there on Monday night to ask council to reconsider, perhaps up to $375,000 for example. But yeah, city council didn’t accept that suggestion from Reverend Smith. So the result is that there’s only going to be there’s going to continue to be just one meal a day – it’s going to be takeout it’s not gonna be a sit down meal (sit down meals aren’t possible due to the pandemic right now anyway, but presumably, hopefully sometime in 2021 they would be). 

Yeah, and there’s not going to be social activities unless the church can find more fundraising resources. It’s too bad. I think that the community center is a really important hub for some people in the community, for socializing, and for just being included in the community. So I really hope that the church is able to find those fundraising dollars to be able to continue to offer that community space to folks.

Ayesha 5:18 

Yeah, absolutely.

Will Pearson 5:19 

So the other thing that I noticed in the delegations on Monday night was that there were a lot of youth speaking. Can you tell me about what the youth were at City Hall to talk about?

Ayesha 5:28 

Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So a good chunk of the delegations at the meeting were students from local high schools, particularly grade 11 and 12 [students], from Thomas A Stewart Secondary School and Adam Scott. And some of them spoke to housing, but the majority of them spoke to climate change and wanting to see some more of an investment particularly in climate mitigation projects from Council. So I have a little montage of some of what they had to say. 

Jasmine Barnes 5:55

Imagine a world filled with empty bellies and diseases sweeping everyone on the streets; storms occurring as frequent snow falling on a cold winter’s day;, sea levels rising and rising, flooding cities, like a braking dam on a river slowly but dangerously; boiling hot days, forcing people to evacuate their homes; deadly heat waves occurring without warning, crops will be dwindling, resulting in 100 more million people to be forced into poverty; water is now something that is prized as we are, we have very little. This is where our future is heading.

You have the power to make a difference by putting the City’s money into climate change action. Please choose where your money goes wisely. As I know, nobody wants this to be our future. Thank you.

Gabriel Trozzi Stamou 6:44 

My name is Gabriel Trozzi Stamou, I’m here to speak on the need for new funding towards climate action as COVID-19 has highlighted the importance for building back better. Currently, there is no money allocated for such new climate mitigation efforts, but rather for things that seek to deal with the effects when they happen, such as flood mitigation, water management, during drought and so on, which are no doubt important, but they don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As global temperature averages are set to rise higher than the worst scenario, two degree increase, youth like myself, will be disproportionately affected by this. I am asking that the council show it is serious about reducing emissions in our city before finalizing the budget.

Juliette Arbrioux 7:30 

Your Worship and councillors, thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. My name is Juliette Arbrioux. I’m a grade 11 student from Adam Scott. And I’m here today to speak on the lack of money being spent on climate mitigation in Peterborough. I’m not talking about the millions of dollars spent on climate related action that for the better part would have happened anyway. I’m speaking on the lack of new commitments the city has yet to put in place and the mindset there is facing this crisis. Peterborough has a Climate Action Plan that involves projects that focus specifically to help combat the climate crisis. This is where we need to be investing the better part of our money. We need to make it a priority, or at least a bigger importance than a proposed arena that I’ve heard more talk about than climate action. 

Katryna Jacobs 8:18

My name is Katryna Jacobs, a grade 11 Indigenous student from Thomas A Stewar. In a city that prides itself on its efforts to incorporate indigenous culture on a regular basis. I would have expected more climate funds in the 2021 budget. Reconciliation and climate related issues are often seen as separate and under federal jurisdiction. However, this should not stop Peterborough from making advanced advancements within the community. I hope to see funding towards new climate mitigation efforts within the budget, something that is not currently represented. Thank you for your time.

Ayesha 8:55 

Those were clips from four of the nine students who spoke on Monday. That was Jasmine Barnes, Gabriel Trozzi Stamou, Juliette Arbrioux and Katryna Jacobs, from TASSS and Adam Scott Secondary. And in a few of the presentations there were specific references to Peterborough’s Climate Change Action Plan and particularly on climate mitigation projects. We did a whole episode on the Climate Change Action Plan and what’s included in there, so if you’d like to know more about that I’d recommend checking out our roundup of climate projects on our website or the podcast episode where I interview Michael Papadacos.

But all of these students who spoke to climate change essentially called on council for greater investment in projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions more quickly.

Another citizen spoke on climate change later in the evening and that was Trisha Clarkson from the Peterborough Alliance on Climate Action. That group had written a letter with four climate mitigation projects that they wanted to see in 2021 – three of which are referenced in the budget documents and those have to do with traffic signal synchronization, anti-idling bylaws, and the installation of electric vehicle charging stations for City vehicles. Here’s a bit of what she had to say.

Trisha Clarkson 10:11 

These initiatives are a great start on reducing some of the carbon fuel emissions in Peterborough. So on behalf of PACA, we thank you very much for these. However, these initiatives alone will not reduce emissions by 5% annually to meet the IPCC target of 45% by 2030. In order to reach this recommended target, the city has to transition from gas fueled and diesel fuel vehicles to electric city vehicles and e-buses in 2021. E-buses should be purchased in 2021, because it will take one year from the date of purchase to the date of delivery due to the high demand and not enough battery suppliers. So even if the city purchased two e-buses in 2021, they won’t be delivered until 2022. That’s why they need to be purchased as soon as possible.

Ayesha 10:56 

So that electric bus proposal was the fourth thing that PACA was looking for. And Clarkson spent much of her time making the case for making that purchase in 2021. But ultimately, council didn’t debate the idea and nothing new was added to the budget with regards to climate change.

Will Pearson 11:12 

But there is the alternative fuel study.

Ayesha 11:13 

Yeah, the alternative fuel study is being funded for 2021. And there’s a couple other projects, like the electric vehicle charging stations for the city fleet that are happening in 2021. So we’ll see. So there is some investment being made on that front.

Will Pearson 11:31 

Yeah, I guess what Clarkson is just getting at though is we kind of know what the alternative fuels study will say. It’ll say yes, it’s a good thing to transition to electric buses here, so people can do it. And I guess, gonna say we might as well start the investment now.

Ayesha 11:44 

Yeah, absolutely. Um, and so yeah, like I said, council didn’t debate this at all. But there was one thing that they debated and added – what was that, Will?

Will Pearson 11:53 

Yeah, so really, the big story from the city council meeting is that the budget was basically accepted by city council, in the same form that they approved it when they were sitting as the Finance Committee a few weeks earlier. There was one thing that came up in the discussions though, where a change was made. And that is regarding a capital project on Lansdowne Street, which is kind of like rebuilding Lansdowne Street between Spillsbury and Clonsilla. And this was not funded in 2021. It was something that was approved to be funded and built years ago, I think, like, maybe even five years ago. And it’s just been delayed and delayed, and it hasn’t received the funds that it needs to get done. And a couple of weeks ago, some members of the public address city council saying they really wanted to see this project get done, because that stretch of Lansdowne is quite dangerous, because cars go quite fast. And I think that by changing the built environment, we might be able to make that stretch of the street a little bit safer. And so and that was brought up again, in delegations from the public on Monday night. And so Councillor Parnell moved for a pre-commitment of money in 2022. So not this budget, but the next budget to start funding this project.

Lesley Parnell 13:02 

So it’s a project that definitely needs to be done, staff have acknowledged that it is a high priority capital project. And we need to just solidify it and give our word to these people that we will have shovels in the ground in 2022, completed at least by 2023. And so that is what I am asking for, please.

Will Pearson 13:22 

And Councillor Zippel, who is Councillor Parnell’s ward mate down in Otonabee Ward agreed, pointing out that this kind of the one of the reasons why this hasn’t been built is just the lack of funding in the budget for capital projects.

Kim Zippel 13:38 

Councillor Parnell mentioned that this has been delayed for many reasons. And one of those reasons is, as Councillor Reil has said, infrastructure funding, and we have had a challenge getting capital dollars into our budget and making that commitment and we continue to see the impacts on our community.

Will Pearson 13:59 

And so listeners to previous episodes of the Budget Week Podcast know that Councillor Zippel had already moved that the increase in the tax rate be increased by a little bit to fund more capital projects in 2021. So that’s something that Zippel is concerned about. And she did something interesting with this motion to pre-commit funds for this project, which is request a recorded vote, which means that there’s a record of who votes what, which is not always the case. And she said that the reason she did that is so that when budget week comes next year, she knows who voted in favor of this project, and so she knows what councillor she can go to, again to say presumably we need to raise taxes to build this project because pre-committing the funds, doesn’t find the money in 2022. It just commits to spending the money. And so a year from now, city council will need to find how it’s going to fund this project. So I thought that was an interesting sort of illustration of Councillor Zippel’s priority to build infrastructure and to find funding in the tax base to do that. 

Not every councillor was on board with pre-committing the money for 2022. Councillor Beamer, for example, said that as a Northcrest councillor, he was more concerned about getting Chemong Road rebuilt than than this stretch of Lansdowne

Andrew Beamer 15:20 

And so tonight I’m going to be a Northcrest Ward Councillor over the city councilor. And you know, I do have my eye on Chemong Road. Now I know northebd roads tend to be expensive and controversial. So I’m well aware Chemong Road is a big one. And there was another one we won’t mention that was also expensive. But Chemong Road does need to get done. And I’ll be honest, Councillor Parnell, Councillor Zippel, Councillor Riel and Councillor Vassiliadis, I am just concerned that this will take funds from Chemong Road, because, you know, the north end has been patiently waiting for Chemong Road and there has been some significant road work done in the southend over the past eight years, so.

Will Pearson 16:02

And that was something that Councillor Pappas agreed with saying that, considering that the Parkway is looking very unlikely that that will be built anytime soon. Councillor Pappas is also concerned about getting Chemong Road reconstruction built as a sort of North-South corridor.

Dean Pappas 16:19 

If we’re not building the Parkway, we are getting a transportation master plan come in at the end of this year, and dollars to donuts Chemong Road is our north south corridor, it’s got to get done. We all know that if you don’t vote for the parkway, you’ve got to vote for Chemong Road.

Will Pearson 16:36 

And so those two councillors as well as three other councillors voted against this plan, but it did pass six to five. And so that money is pre committed for 2022. And so that project should be able to get underway. 

But yeah, other than that there weren’t any other changes to the budget. So if you have been listening to the budget podcast, you are all caught up. That’s not to say that we covered everything that’s in the budget. It’s a big document, we kind of picked out what we thought was the most important to discuss on this podcast. If there’s anything that you’re curious to learn more about, reach out to us, we can probably help you to find the answers.

Ayesha 17:10

Mm hmm. And the budget is something that cross cuts so much of city life, and it has impacts on all sorts of different things, we’re gonna still be referencing this document in our future coverage, even though we’re kind of wrapping up our budget week series. So yeah, please reach out.

Will Pearson 17:27

This was a fun podcast to make.

Ayesha 17:29

Yeah, I learned a lot.

Will Pearson 17:31 

I feel like I have been following the budget deliberations each year for a couple of years now. I’ve never covered them as a journalist. And I feel like, man, that document is hard to parse, it’s hard to understand. And I feel like every year I get a little bit better at it. I feel like this year, I’ve learned a lot more about how the city works, how the budget works. I hope that I’ve translated some of that for our listeners. Yeah, but I think it was a good exercise in civic literacy. 

Ayesha 18:02 

Yeah, I totally agree. It’s been really nice to interview a lot of the city officials who don’t get into the spotlight very often and just learn about the work that they do, how they do it, and what’s kind of motivating them and what’s important to them with regards to this one document, and so we’re gonna keep up these relationships and keep doing this kind of civic reporting,

Will Pearson 18:24 

What are you keeping an eye on for next year, Ayesha?

Ayesha 18:26

Yeah, I’m really excited to learn more about the climate change action plan, we’ve got a report coming in 2021, about how we’re doing towards reaching the goal of reduced emissions by 2030. So I’m really looking forward to reading that. As well as – so one thing I learned in my conversation with Michael Papadacos about climate change was that the kind of spending for climate change action in 2020, was deferred back in March. And so that never actually got really resolved this year. So there’s going to be a report coming in the second quarter of next year about how that money is going to be spent. So I’m looking forward to seeing how that money gets meted out next year. 

How about you, Will?

Will Pearson 19:11 

Well, something that I think we should update listeners on is the rapid housing initiative. And that doesn’t really affect the municipal budget too much because it’s federal money. But there has been an application – or city council approved putting in an application for that project on Monaghan Rd for 10 modular housing units for people in families experiencing homelessness.

Ayesha 19:29 

Yeah, that also happened at the City Council meeting on Monday, right?

Will Pearson 19:32 

Yes. Yeah. So I’m keen to see whether that application gets approved. I think that would be a great step forward in providing affordable housing to folks. And yeah, I’m also I’m just very interested in watching how this issue of funding the infrastructure projects that the backlog of infrastructure projects that the city has gets resolved.

Ayesha 19:56 

Yeah. And I think that’s all I think we’re going to talk about in this podcast. Maybe we’ll do another budget week podcast next year looking at the 2022 budget.

Will Pearson 20:04 

The next budget will be the last one that this council.

Ayesha 20:07 

Yes. Yeah, so maybe we’ll be back again next year. But thanks so much for listening this year. Music In this episode comes courtesy of the Mayhemingways. Thanks for being with me, Will, on this journey into the budget.

Will Pearson 20:18 

Thank you as well and have a good holiday to you and all of our listeners.

Ayesha 20:22 

Thanks. See ya.

Filed under: Budget Week 2021