2020 is nearing its much anticipated completion and – after this unprecedented year – I think we are all ready for a fresh start.
I want to start by thanking you – the residents of Aurora – for coming together as a community over the last 10 months to support one another during these tough times. It has not been easy, and so many of our residents have suffered irreconcilable loss, but with the COVID-19 vaccine now being administered, there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, we are not yet ‘out of the woods’ and I urge you to please continue to follow the health guidelines and stay vigilant.
Throughout this past year, Covid19 has also been ‘top of mind’ in the decisions we have made at Council and we have continued to move things forward that will better position our community to thrive as we recover from the effects of this pandemic.
Below are some of the highlights of what we have accomplished together this past year.
Recognizing the difficult financial situation in which the pandemic has left many of our residents, through significant efforts and collaboration between staff and Council, we were able to reduce the tax levy to a rate of 1.96% which will minimize any financial burden while ensuring the approved reductions do not negatively impact or increase tax pressures in future years.
Naturally, a 0% tax increase, would be a popular decision, however, it would be fiscally irresponsible with long term ramifications on our town and its residents. We are committed to ensuring a strategic approach to our budgeting process that strikes a balance between the current and future needs of the community and the financial impact on our residents.
After years of planning, Council provided final approval to proceed with the historic Library Square project. In doing so, we will take the exciting last step in a decades long journey to translate ideas into action and realize a shared vision for the transformation of Aurora’s Downtown core. There has never been a better time to make this investment in our community!
Downtown needs our support now. Our local businesses need our support now. Our community partners need programming space now, and we are now on our way to implementing this critical element of our downtown revitalization plan and providing a much-needed boost to our local economy.
This year Council made the decision to implement the ward system for the 2022 election. As our community grows, we need to ensure the best possible governance for all Aurorans. The change to a ward-system will enhance governance and increase engagement between our community and Town Council.
Since setting up their headquarters in 1997, Magna has been part of the fabric of Aurora. As the company considered long-term options for its headquarters, we were fortunate to have a role in those discussions and worked tirelessly to solidify the already strong relationship between Magna and the Town. After careful consideration, the Magna Executive Team determined that Aurora remained the ideal location to call home.
Our community is grateful to have Magna as one our premier corporate businesses. Magna has been a significant contributor to our local community and will now continue to do so for many years to come.
The Town of Aurora became the first municipality in York Region to install a rainbow crosswalk. This crosswalk will be a permanent feature in the heart of our Town and is a symbol of Aurora’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive community where everyone is welcome and accepted.
The opening of Aurora’s hotel has been a long time coming and even a pandemic did not stop this important initiative. I was truly excited to officially open Aurora’s new hotel – Holiday Inn Express!!! This hotel is a much-needed piece of our overall economic development strategy.
Speaking of hotels, this year the old hotel on Yonge Street — which has been vacant and an eyesore for many years — finally sold! Plans have been submitted to completely overhaul the existing building – both inside and out – with a proposed 104-unit seniors housing facility delivering an attractive addition to our Yonge Street Promenade. We are all looking forward to seeing this property come back to life.
St Anne’s School
We all know St. Andrew’s College is a world-class facility that has brought international attention to the Town of Aurora. People know that their children can flourish both academically and personally here. This year also brought the exciting news of the newest addition to the St. Andrew’s family – St. Anne’s, an all-girls school to our thriving and vibrant community, and I look forward to working with SAC on growing their legacy here in Aurora. There was a great deal of work to bring this vision to a reality during this year and I am proud to have played a small part along with Headmaster Kevin McHenry, and the board in bringing this school to Aurora.
Small Urban GTHA Mayors
As we have gone through this year, the response to the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that what works for large urban centres, may not necessarily work for our local communities.
In order to foster the necessary discussion and collaboration among our local communities, I reached out to fellow small urban GTHA Mayor’s and proposed we meet regularly to discuss issues relevant to our unique context and afford us the opportunity to speak on behalf of our own municipalities. We have had several productive meetings and, as the Chair of this committee, I am looking forward to the positive impact we will have in the coming years on behalf of our communities.
Your Town of Aurora Team
Last, but definitely not least, I would like to thank the staff for their tremendous efforts over this past year. It has been an extremely challenging time with layoffs of over 280 employees, to closing our facilities, to events being cancelled. But, our dedicated Town employees found innovative ways to provide events, including Canada Day, the Haunted Forest, and even a reverse Christmas parade. They also ensured the opening of our parks and facilities were done in a way we could all enjoy while following Provincial orders and staying safe.
In closing, while it has been a truly challenging year – one that has seen all of us pull together – I am truly proud of our Town and support from our Community as we faced these unprecedented challenges. As we see that light at the end of the tunnel, I know that we will come out of this stronger. I am looking forward to the next year as we all work together to ‘get things done’ to not only recover from this past year but thrive for years to come.