Mayor's Inaugural Address
Good evening everyone; I would like to begin by welcoming Chief Judge Brian Neal, Staff Sergeant Dennis O’Gorman and Corporal Erin Fraser from the Sidney North Saanich RCMP, Town Crier, Kenny Podmore, members of the public, members of the media, Town Staff and fellow Council members.
I know I speak for everyone around the Council Table when I say it is an immense honour to have been elected to serve the fine community of Sidney by the Sea. As your Mayor, I am committed to working hard over the next 4 years, with the other members of Council to ensure Sidney is the best community it can be and to operate an open, transparent and inclusive municipal government.
When I sat down and began reviewing what was accomplished during 2014, I was impressed at how much the outgoing Council achieved; how many challenges we overcame; and how many important decisions were made. Under the steady guidance and leadership of Mayor Larry Cross, we had an eventful, productive year and in the end, I am confident that we have provided the new council with a great starting point to begin their work.
2014 was a notable year in a number of ways. We maintained a fiscally responsible budget during tough economic times, developed a solid strategic plan that guided our work throughout the year, held several significant events, honoured some of our citizens and even won a few awards.
We celebrated the Sidney Fire Department’s 100th Anniversary and said farewell to retiring Fire Chief Jim Tweedhope while we welcomed Brett Mikkelsen to the role of Fire Chief. Other long-time employees that retired during the year were Rob Hall, Director of Engineering and Works and Brian Coward, Superintendent of Parks.
This was also the 30th Anniversary of our Sister City relationship with the City of Cairns Australia. We were visited by Sim Hayward, Chair of the Cairns Sister City Association and in honour of the occasion; directional signs were erected at the end of Beacon Avenue for each of Sidney’s Sister Cities – Cairns, Australia – Anacortes, Washington - and Niimi, Japan.
Access Awareness Day was re-established in Sidney. Some of you may remember that former Councillor Jeanette Hughes previously championed this event that raises awareness about disability, accessibility and inclusion – Beacon Community Services has now taken on this initiative.
We honoured Sidney resident and Veteran, Peter Goodwin Chance as he received France’s highest honour for his involvement during D-Day; and Reg Teeney was awarded the 2014 Mayor’s Community Builder Award, in recognition of the many volunteer projects he has undertaken.
The Town received several Peninsula News Review Reader’s Choice Awards including 1st place for Beacon Park Bandshell as “favourite place to hear music” and the Sidney Street Market for “favourite public outdoor event”. Of course these awards would not be possible without the dedicated Town Staff who keep our parks and waterfront in pristine condition or Laurie McDermid who runs the Market.
Sidney hosts an abundance of events and this can be attributed in large part to the efforts of the Peninsula Celebrations Society and in particular that of Ted Daly who has been parade marshal for 6 years and Sheilah Fea who has been the organization’s President also for 6 years. Both have recently announced their intentions to step down and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their hard work on behalf of our community. Your efforts have been greatly appreciated and you will be missed.
During 2014 the Town undertook approximately 40 construction and engineering projects; some of the more visible included a major upgrade to Tulista Park where new equipment was installed and funded jointly by the Town and the Sidney Lions. We maintained the Town’s 20 year Infrastructure Replacement Plans which ensures timely and cost effective replacement of the Town’s road and underground infrastructure. New street furniture was also installed that has brightened our downtown core making it that much more inviting for residents and visitors.
In response to concerns over the one-way section of Beacon Avenue, the Town undertook an extensive public consultation process. The results were overwhelmingly in favour of Beacon Avenue remaining as it is. As an initiative of the Town’s Communication Plan, a new website has been developed to replace the 13 year old site. The site represents the community with a fresh, modern look and will go live this week.
And finally, in 2014, the Mayor’s Downtown Revitalization Task Force was struck by Mayor Cross with Mark Dickinson as Chair and Brian Losie as Vice Chair. The final recommendations of the Task Force have been forwarded to the new council for their consideration.
Looking forward to 2015 and the next 4 year term, I recognize that we are truly coming into a new era. To their credit, the last Council operated through some of the most difficult economic times we have seen in a long while. This Council has the advantage of working in an improving economic climate.
Some of the key projects we have to look forward to include the completion of improvements to the Washington State Ferry terminal. This means a new office toll booth and public washrooms are currently underway – improvements that will further enhance the visitor experience to Sidney. In the New Year, we will initiate a robust public consultation process in regards to the proposed, new community safety building to be located on a portion of Sidney Elementary School lands.
We are committed to continue working with the Sidney BIA to enhance the downtown and promote Sidney as a destination. The work of this organization has already had a direct impact on the level of cooperation of local merchants and marketing of Sidney.
We will explore the redevelopment of one of Sidney’s key waterfront assets - Beacon Wharf. This will include the potential for public moorage and passenger only ferry service between Sidney and the Gulf Islands.
I would like to establish a Select Committee to review a Doctor Recruitment and Retention strategy. Everyone in Sidney deserves to have a family doctor and we need to explore ways to ensure this happens.
Many members of Council and the public have expressed that it is time for the Town to move towards the use of social media as a method of public engagement. By implementing social media into our communications planning, we encourage more participation with youth and open the door for further transparency in local government.
We will look at developing an approach to undertake a North - West Sidney local area plan. This planning process would include the light industrial lands as well as the residential neighbourhood to the immediate east of Galaran Road.
The outgoing council recommended that we consider key recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force in the Town’s upcoming budget process and incorporate them into the Town’s Action Plans. I believe the work completed by this outstanding group provides us with an excellent roadmap for our future. I also want to acknowledge that the recommendations compiled by the Task Force come directly from our residents and local business community – we would be remiss if we did not move forward on these recommendations.
On the horizon and in the near future, this Council will be tasked with reviewing significant development applications proposed for our downtown and surrounding area. This is a very positive sign and reflects that we are emerging out of the economic downturn and is an indication that developers are once again looking to Sidney as a place to invest. With all of this happening, I believe it is also time for us to explore establishing an economic development function within the Town so that we are positioned to take advantage of the opportunities coming to Sidney but also to ensure we have control of the future of our community and the direction of our economic growth. What this function looks like, needs to be fully explored.
Before I close, I must say a few words about the members of Council that I had the pleasure of working with these past 3 years. This council set a benchmark for good governance and civil behaviour and is respected throughout the region. As Mayor I intend to maintain the same level of operational excellence as we saw under Larry Cross. Councillors Kenny Podmore, Marilyn Loveless, Melissa Hailey and Mayor Larry Cross; your years of service and devotion to this community have made an indelible imprint on the face of Sidney.
Melissa, you brought a thoughtful and youthful outlook to council. Your fresh ideas and perspectives were always appreciated and encouraged the rest of us to think outside the box.
Marilyn, your years of experience and solid understanding of local government and governance was such a great asset to council. As well, your love and support for the arts has secured Sidney as a solid arts and culture community.
Kenny, your passion and love for the community has been evident in everything you have done for the Town. No matter what cause - no matter how big or small the task - we always knew we could depend on you to deliver with the utmost decorum.
And of course Larry – Mayor Cross. You have devoted 9 years to public service and for that I say thank you. You successfully brought this community through a major recession. Your genuine, inclusive style of leadership provided such a positive experience for everyone on council. I have learned a great deal working with you and wish you the very best as you move on to a new chapter in your life.
In closing, I would like to congratulate the members of the new Sidney Town Council - I look forward to working with all of you over the next 4 years. I am completely confident that the residents of Sidney have elected yet another great council who will work hard to maintain Sidney’s small-town seaside charm and enhance the quality of life we all have come to enjoy.