Platform

Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world and we are very fortunate to live here.

I have lived and worked in the heart of Niagara Falls all my life and enjoyed success as a leader, communicator and team player on the world stage and right here at home.

These are skills that Niagara needs now on City Council.

Working as a unified team, council can make the right decisions to benefit the citizens of Niagara Falls.

I constantly educate myself on the important issues and always want to hear and understand the thoughts and feelings of the people in Niagara Falls.

My goal is to achieve and maintain the best quality of life for our residents.

After studying the issues and listening to my community, friends and neighbours, these are the issues that Niagara Falls City Council needs to concern itself with in the future:

Healthy Community: Providing a healthy community for the residents of Niagara Falls to live work and play in has got to be job one for its city council. More than just vague concept successfully achieving a healthy community in practical terms would be the result of implementing the initiatives I set forward in the rest of my platform and with the guiding principals I would utilize in helping set a healthy and effective tone at council. Sadly this last term of both Niagara Falls City Council and Niagara Regional Council has been marred with discord and a lack of transparency. It’s a poison that eats away at the public trust and the moral of the whole community.

In addition when local government always keeps the guiding principal of a healthy community close at hand there is proper respect for natural spaces and the environment that we subject ourselves to. The concept of proper stewardship with an eye to what we leave for future generations is paramount, nothing could be more important.

Sensible Transit Solutions:  While there has been some progress towards rationalizing transit across the Niagara Region there is a danger that local issues in Niagara Falls that have persisted since the city’s complete overhaul be addressed.

Transit coordination across the region needs to have  not just a focus on efficiencies but on development that respects the healthy development of the community as a whole focusing on greener technologies.

Ideally we as a city and as a region should be focused on becoming a center of excellence on developing and scaling those technologies.

I believe a major initiative that could be a major game changer in public transit is being totally overlooked. Community vehicle sharing programs that are a robust and well integrated part of an over all plan makes a lot of sense to me.

Finally continuing to push for GO service to Niagara on a permanent year round basis needs to happen in a sensible and integrated way. At this time a general plan is in place but the follow through with the details is crucial.

Innovative Business Solutions:   As I’ve indicated, I believe that the city of Niagara Falls needs to be more prepared for proposals from larger companies that want to be able to move to shovel ready projects in shorter time frames than have been acceptable in the past.

I’ve also mentioned that I would like to see my city and region make an effort to be centers of excellence in business and education in relation to emerging technologies and in the skilled trades.

Transparency in Municipal and Regional Government:  As a Niagara Falls City Councillor I would make it a priority to utilize my skill and experience with governance in organizations with very large budgets, complex issues, and diverging agendas to help guide council to practical and thoughtful initiatives.

Considerate clear communication is key to maintaining respect around the table.  Sacrificing that integrity for the sake of satisfying businesses that don’t consider the well being of the work force they employ and the community they operate in should be avoided at all costs.

Recreation, Arts and Culture:  The primary job of a municipal government is to ensure the best quality of life for it’s citizens. Too often this concept take a back seat to the business of running a city and what might seem like economic efficiencies in the short and medium term.

Ensuring there is proper access to life enhancing activities from sport to music and the visual arts that foster a sense of community and pride of place needs to be a primary focus. The City of Niagara Falls has made some important first steps with it’s official culture plan but there is still much to be done in seeing their plan through and most especially in establishing the cultural hub planned for the Niagara Falls Farmer’s Market and History Museum space.

I’m proud of my volunteer position as Administrator for Niagara Arts Showcase a non profit art and culture organization that has been working closely with the city to implement these goals.


Thundering Waters:

Personally I would like to see the Thundering Waters property allowed to heal back into its former glory, before colonization, as the delicate and beautiful ecosystem that it was.

I have a plan to try to make that happen but I’ll get back to that in a minute.

First I would like to explain all of the aspects of this complicated situation that I’ve considered in understanding how we got here and how to best move forward.

Unfortunately the sad reality is that only a small portion of the property is designated as provincially significant wetland. It is zoned as commercial residential right now and in the past was even zoned industrial for quite a long time. A large part of the property was even farmed until the 70’s. All of it tragic.

Historically there’s been confusion between levels of government regarding the extent and importance of the wetlands at Thundering Waters. This has added to mess we’re in now.

One small aspect of what went wrong so spectacularly with the NPCA is the attempt to lobby the provincial government to alter its environmental guidelines to allow for bio-offsetting at a three to one ratio.

Besides bio-offsetting being a bad idea, unfortunately politically appointed NPCA board members became inappropriately involved in the day to day business of the Authority in an attempt to advocate for business development in their constituencies.

Further, the NPCA took on that course of action even when told by NPCA staff that a scheme to transplant the wetland wasn’t supported by science.

None of this changes the fact that the Chinese group bought this property in good faith and legally has every right to develop on it as it stands now as long as they abide by the provincial government’s rules regarding the provincially significant wetlands on the property.

In fact they put a lot of work into resubmitting a scaled down version of the Thundering Waters project, now called the Riverfront Community in an effort to accommodate environmental concerns.

I have other issues with this project.

One is that it may end up costing the city quite a lot more for the infrastructure necessary than initially calculated. There is also a lot of other nearby land that has been zoned residential. Including land just across the Welland River from Thundering Waters. Does that mean that we, as tax payers, might be asked to build a bridge over the river to connect the communities?

Another is that communities such as this have been shown to be under populated investment properties. While it helps the property tax base there is very little economic spin off in the larger community because no one is there.

Many have spoken about the enormous amount of much more appropriate land within the city for a project like this to happen. We as a community need to encourage the stake holders to take that idea seriously.

This is a delicate situation that includes an investment group that’s owned by a foreign government. As a community we have every right to expect our federal government to step in and help find a solution. Possibly a petition to the federal government to do so?

I suggest as a community we seek a governmental partnership between the city, the region, the province and the federal government to purchase the land to usher in it’s rebirth as delicate and unique preserved wetlands.

Let’s help the Chinese group find an even better property in our city. Marineland comes to mind; needs to repurpose, already municipally serviced and developed, right on the Niagara River.

How is that not a win, win, win?

We need to speak with one voice as a community, to demand that all levels of government get involved with the solution to this situation.


DMF:

Unfortunately, Niagara Falls has a bad reputation to gauge tourists with our pricing.  In addition to that, over the years, restaurants, hotels and attractions have been charging and additional “Destination Marketing Fee” or DMF.  This fee was not reconciled or monitored by government or any other organization or body although that’s how the Province recommends that it be dealt with and that is in fact how every other city in Ontario deals with it. The rate was anywhere from 2% to 8%.  I do not believe this was the appropriate thing to do.

As of January 1, 2019, a Transient Accommodation Tax of $2 per night per room will be charged by the City of Niagara Falls and collected by the hotel.  The City of Niagara Falls will retain a 5% administration fee and the funds will go to the Niagara Falls Hotel Association. It will go to fund the fireworks, the Festival of Lights and promotional activity of Niagara Falls Tourism. Those agencies should no longer be approaching city council to fund their activities out of our property tax and the Casino hosting monies the city collects. It is estimated that $5M will come into the city budget. This money will also go to fund things like hosting a televised New Year’s show and other promotional activity that there was no budget to support in the past.

It has been promised that hotels in exchange will no longer charge the DMF. But it has been pointed out that there is still nothing stopping them from charging a “Resort Fee”.  Many other hotels such as Deerhurst and Blue Mountain charge something similar.  Some might charge it in addition to the tax and some will not.

Here is an example.  My husband and I just signed a contract with a local hotel for a client with a group of 50 for an April conference, and in addition to the $2 per night per room tax, there is a 5.9% Promotional fee on room rates.  They have waived the promotional fee on food and beverage.

Visitors could be paying more than they were paying before with fee.  The tax will be accountable but the fee will not.  Are we further ahead?  In some respects because yes, residents’ property taxes are not being used for tourist initiatives, a tourist tax is now paying for tourist initiatives and there is accountability and transparency.

I am in support of the Tourist Accommodation Tax to support our residents.


Air B n B:

I support owner occupied vacation rental units anywhere with in Niagara Falls. It is a modern convenience that is now expected everywhere in the world. It is also an important way for some families to make an income to support them selves.

After speaking with many people within the industry, concerned individuals, attending meetings and familiarizing myself with the research that has been done, it seems self evident that owner occupied properties are quite well managed with very few issues. Those issues that do come up can easily be addressed quickly with bylaws surrounding garbage, noise and parking already in place.

I believe vacation rentals that don’t have a permanent resident caretaker could be allowed in certain designated areas and would need to be more regulated, highly monitored and be part of an accountable organization.

That being said, I do realize that the Air B & B organization has their own guidelines, ranking system for hosts and guests, standards, insurance provisions, etc.  Some of the issues that are being complained about are addressed with the regulations with the organization.

When I think about a zoned residential area, people have purchased or rented their homes for that specific use.  This is a little bit of an extreme example but here is.  What if your neighbour has a nice two car garage and is a mechanic.  They would like to make extra money by working on cars in their garage.  The traffic increases on your street, people are parking in front of your home, people are standing around waiting for vehicles, the noise level increases at all hours of the day and the smells from paint and other products increases.  Because of our zoning and by laws, the part time garage should not be allowed in a residential neighbourhood.  There are areas in the city that are specifically zoned for these purposes.  This also could be seen for the unoccupied vacation rentals.

Another issue that we will need to look at is the current Bed and Breakfast regulations.  They are highly regulated with fire inspections, city inspections and requirements to have proper safety plans in place.  If the vacation rental units have less regulations, maybe the two industries’ regulations need to come closer together.

As well, careful consideration has to be taken for not allowing the market to be saturated with this sort of use because we are moving towards a housing crisis in Niagara Falls.  Housing for residents and especially affordable housing has to be a priority.

I also find it concerning that a new trend is seeing brand new houses and other older homes being bought to be specifically used for vacation rentals and we could quickly come to a situation that will be problematic if there isn’t an effort to properly manage it.  Other cities around the country have regulations in place that the owner must live in the purchased home.

Niagara Falls is lucky to be well positioned to take advantage of this industry as an economic driver for our community.  Managed properly, it is undeniably a win/win situation.


Open Air Burning:

This is a very delicate subject.  Each person has the right to enjoy activities in their own home – that is the person sitting out in their backyard enjoying a fire while abiding by certain safety regulations and also the person in their home that is bothered by the smoke from the fire.

I would suggest something similar to the Town of Pelham.  If there are issues, I think that each of them can be addressed (some are very specific and others can be decided by the Fire Department if needed)

Town of Pelham
Recreational Open Air Burning (camp fires)

For recreational open air burns (e.g. backyard campfires), a written permit is required. To obtain a permit, set up the proposed burn pit as per the guidelines below. Contact the Fire Department at 905 892 2607 x 201 or email us with your name, phone number and address. An inspector will come by and, if the burn pit is approved, you will be asked to pay $50.

For renewals, stop by Station 1 during office hours (Monday – Friday 8:30am – 4:30pm). A renewal costs $20 per calendar year.

The burn permit will be valid from the date of issue until the end of the calendar year.

At no time is the burning allowed of household waste, construction debris, plastic, rubber or any other product which may damage the air, ground or water quality of the community.

  • Get a permit prior to any burning
  • Burn only between 4pm and 11pm
  • Your pit can be no larger than 0.6 m x 0.6 m x 0.6 m (2 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft)
  • Ensure your fire pit is 3 meters (10 ft) from combustible materials (structures, trees, etc.)
  • Your fire pit must be 4 meters (13 ft) from property boundaries
  • Ensure overhead of the fire pit is clear
  • Consider the wind direction when you light your fire
  • Consider the impact on your neighbours when you burn
  • Do not burn in winds over 20 kph
  • Do not burn during a smog alert
  • Do not burn any household waste including plastics or paper products, burn clean dry wood only
  • Do not create a noxious environment with your burning practices

Taxes:

We are fortunate to have funds coming in from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation for our 2 casinos.  Over the years, it has been stated that the OLG funds would not be used for operational purposes, which includes property taxes.  However, currently the OLG funds are subsidizing our property taxes.

What do we do if the OLG funds dry up?  With Toronto receiving a new casino, we may see a decrease in OLG funds?

Each year, the staff and City Council review the budget and there are discussions about the tax rate.  Each year, we have different expenses and situations.

I can also see having more public input on our budget.   There are items that will have to take priority but then there is a pot of money that can be spent on different items.  Right now, there are many items sitting in “Tab 10” (City Council’s wish list of worthy projects that have not made it to the budget)

I have seen a software program that portrays the reality of poverty.  You are given so much money per month and then you get to choose what to purchase or not.  What if we had a software program that had the funds available and the resident could choose which items to spend it on?  For example – repairing the local playground, adding a swimming pool at the park, funding for arts and culture, repairing the elevator at the seniors centre, etc?  This would give City Council and staff an idea of what the public wants.

I cannot say that I will vote to reduce taxes or keep the same rate but what I will say is that I will do my homework and look at all of the information and keep the residents in mind when approving a final budget.


Train Options:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this.  After attending quite a few sessions about the train issue here in Niagara Falls, here are my thoughts.

The most convenient obvious way to solve the issue would be to reroute the trains so that they were not going through Niagara Falls.  However, I am concerned about the reality of rerouting because of numerous comments that I have heard from Councillor Iannoni regarding her discussions with CN about rerouting and the comments that were made by staff at the public meetings.  It seems that the City has not had detailed conversations about the possibility and the different solutions.  It seems that the City has put a lot of time and effort into studies but has not brought those studies to CN (as of the last public meeting).  That being said, in the last 4 months, there is a new department head at CN who has taken a look at the plans and has given some positive feedback.  We really have no choice but to try to make the rerouting option work.  We need to follow up on these positive developments.

If rerouting is not a possibility, then the option is to build overpasses.  This option is very expensive ($25M to $60M each) and could take up to 5 years each to build, still would not solve all of the issues (there are 14 level crossings that would have to be addressed) and creates other challenges (would be unsightly, create dead zones where garbage and people could congregate).  Originally, when there were discussions, the costs of the overpass would be a fraction of what the costs are today.

My first option would to be reroute the trains outside of Niagara Falls.