It’s been 1 year – 365 days – since I had the privilege of being sworn in as the Mayor of Aurora.
It has been an exciting year.
Council has strived to get things done this first year of our term. We have made a number of decisions that will continue to move Aurora forward, in a positive way, and enable our community to continue to grow and evolve while maintaining our small Town charm!!
We have had some pretty incredible events that showcased our Town both nationally and globally … From Hometown Hockey to start off this term, to our very own Robert Thomas bringing the Stanley cup home and of course the CP woman’s open at Magna… This Town showed why we are considered a sports Town!
When we took office, one of the first things that this Council was tasked with was to make a decision on how to better protect of our stable neighbourhoods…. Council got to work right away in addressing this issue by making the decision to implement changes to our Stable Neighbourhood bylaw, that are forward looking and ensure that the infill zoning bylaws make sense for our Town. I believe the recommendations Council approved are fair and balanced. They meet the stated objective of achieving a balance between development control, and the flexibility to allow innovation and ongoing investment.
Council also moved forward with making a change to how our sport plan is delivered by bringing it in house and having the Town work with all the sporting organizations to create more opportunities for our residents. I reached out to ALL sports organizations and had the opportunity to meet with virtually all in this first year to get a first hand sense of the challenges that our organizations are having and what the Town can do to help support them… Council recognized the important role that sport plays in building community vitality. And, building on the work of the previous Council, this Council implemented important elements of the Sport Plan – including the hiring of a Sport Development Officer. The role of the Sport Development officer will be to not only develop deliverables of the Sport Plan, but to work with ALL our sports organizations to ensure that their needs and wants are being addressed and that the identified goals will be realistic, achievable and efficient. I am looking forward to our Town continuing the work of the Sport Plan and working together with all of our sport organizations to get things done.
Recently, we also saw the Armoury officially open. This extraordinary repurposing of one of our heritage buildings is an important milestone in the revitalization of our downtown core, honouring our past as we build our future. This stunning project is one that took commitment and resolve of Council members – past and present – to see this vision come to reality. Right now, we are turning the page and starting a new chapter in the history of the Town of Aurora and the Aurora Armoury. It’s a truly exciting time in aurora.
In the next few weeks we will be finalizing our second budget in this first year and – holding true to the budget principles that we set last term – have set the tax rate as inflation + 1% as the tax rate. Our town is in a very healthy financial position. However, to minimize any potential impact to our services and/or the tax levy due to the Provincial downloads we took a serious look at what is a need and what is a want and eliminated duplications wherever identified. In this way we have worked to continue to ensure a budget that provides the best services that residents expect, at the best price.
The first year also saw the approval of our new Economic Strategic Plan. Too many times plans have been developed and afterwards just put on the top shelf where they collect dust. This plan is different; this plan is about action and getting things done, and we have the right mix of professionals on the Board that are eager and willing to move things forward so that our Town can achieve long-term employment growth.
The Town has also renewed and strengthened our partnership and relationship with the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. For decades, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce has been an important resource for businesses in our community and they play a key role in economic development efforts for our Town. A continued, strong relationship with the Chamber will be key to encouraging a positive business environment and revitalizing our downtown core – as this has already happened in this this first year!!
We also saw the first lecture of York University Scholars Hub ….When I spoke with Dr. Rhonda Lenton, the President of York U, back at the beginning of this Term of Council, I indicated that I was looking for ways that Aurora could be home to some YorkU programming and asked how the Town could collaborate with the University. Dr Lenton mentioned the possibility of bringing the York University Scholars Hub series here to Aurora and, potentially, growing that working relationship to include future collaborative initiatives. So I am very excited that York University is bringing “The York University Scholars Hub” right here to Aurora at our very own Library…I believe this is a great first step that will lead to many more collaborations between YorkU and the Town of Aurora.
Council has also made a significant change that will help bring more major office development to our Town by exempting development charges for “major office development”. I believe we need to use all the tools available to us as a municipality, working with the business and development community, to ensure the Town puts the optimal conditions in place to both attract new businesses and assist current businesses to thrive. This type of forward-thinking links land use planning with financial incentives for businesses and developers, making Aurora a desirable location. These initiatives will promote economic development opportunities across the Town and solidify Aurora as a place of business and investment.
I would also like to thank staff for the work they have done over this past year. It is our dedicated Town employees who do their jobs – day in and day out – that makes Aurora a better place for all of us. They are the ones who really make this Town run. They respond to our many unpredictable needs – fires, weather-related needs from snow to flooding, trees down, street lights out, potholes, and everything in between.
Town employees also work diligently to provide, summer camps, swimming lessons, and fun for our kids. They keep our water flowing. They consider development proposals, issue building permits, strive to preserve our rich architectural history, and keep our trails and parks in shape for your stroll or family picnic.
To them I say, a very heartfelt Thank you!!
In closing, It has been a truly exciting year, and I am looking forward to the next three years and what we – Council, staff and community – can accomplish as we work together to get things done….