“For the first time ever, you and the other residents of Niagara have a chance to choose our Regional Chair. Finally, you have the power to make a truly democratic choice. Let’s take this opportunity to reset the Region and focus on what matters across the Niagara Peninsula.” – from the “Blueprint” Town of Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn rolled out this July 12th as he launched his campaign to run for Niagara Regional Chair
An Introductory Message and Commentary from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted July 13th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – This July 12th, with little more than 100 days left before voters across Niagara go to the polls in the October 22nd municipal elections, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, who has taken a lot of hits over the past three and a half years for standing up to the cabal now ruling the roost on Niagara Region’s council, announced his plans to run for Niagara regional chair in the first election that gives citizens at large the opportunity to choose who holds that position.
As far as this journalist is concerned, no other regional council in my almost 40 years as a news reporter in Niagara, has come close to being as divisive, or to conducting itself with the lack of civility and decency as this regional council of 2014 to 2018 – a council chaired by former St. Catharines regional councillor Al Caslin, who just recently announced his intentions to run for the job again.
In the past three and a half years there has been example after ugly and disturbing example – all captured on video and some that will be highlighted here as October 22nd draws closer – of councillors attacking or tarring each other, and of treating individuals speaking before the council as delegations being treated in condescending and disrespectful ways.
Over the past three and a half years, I have heard a number of my fellow Niagara citizens say that they are so upset at what they’ve witnessed at regional council and committee meetings, that they can now barely stand following them via internet, on a screen at home, let alone go sit in the council chambers.
Just a couple of days ago, I had someone who attended the July 5th regional council meeting to follow the release of a lawyer’s report on questions swirling around the hiring of the Region’s CAO, and who left before the meeting was over because they said they couldn’t stand it anymore, tell me how sorry she felt for those of us in the news media who had to stay.
And she was not wrong to conclude that it is hardly ever pleasant having to tough out these meetings – or “shit shows” as some members of the public and even some members of the council have taken to calling them – until the final knock of a gavel oh, so mercifully draws them to a close.
So when this reporter walked through the doors of a Tim Horton’s in Pelham this July 12h where I was invited to attended an announcement by Pelham’s mayor, and I say people like former Niagara regional chair Debbie Zimmerman, former St. Catharines and Port Colborne mayors and regional councillors like Brian McMullan and Bob Saracino, former Niagara Centre MP Malcolm Allen and Niagara Falls City Councillor Carolyn Ioannoni – all people who I believe have served in public office with dignity, even when they had to be firm or get tough sometimes – it was, quite literally, a breath of fresh air.
I literally felt like I had walked out of the cold dark nights of those regional council meetings and in to a warm and sunny day.
There are a couple of others, along with Caslin, who have recently announced their candidacy for Niagara regional chair, and there may be one or more who enter their names by the July 27th deadline for registering as a candidate in the coming municipal elections.
But in this reporter’s view, Augustyn is the only one running for the top job who has been there for the past three and a half years, standing up to the cabal on behalf of issues that matter to a good number of people across Niagara. He has also demonstrated the decency and class, along with the strength and courage it is going to take, to do the job and to wage a campaign for it that may, thanks to others, get ugly.
In this reporter’s view, Dave Augustyn’s July 12th announcement to run for Niagara regional chair is the first day of a fight as many of us as possible across this region must get involved in, to win back a regional council that is civil and that works – north, south, east and west – for and with all of us to build healthier, more prosperous communities.
Niagara At Large will have more to say about the race for Niagara regional chair, what is at stake and why we feel it is so important to get behind the candidacy of Dave Augustyn in the days ahead.
Now here, for the record, is Dave Augustyn’s “Blueprint for a Better Region –
Dave Augustyn for Chair Blueprint for A Better Region for You Integrity • Prosperity • Compassion
12 July 2018
Leading with INTEGRITY for You
Sadly, a cloud hangs over the Niagara Region. Too often we have read negative headlines of big projects with major cost overruns or cases of personal expense abuses by Councillors. Countless reports highlighted questionable hiring practices – like the Police-chief buy-out – and showed how attacks by some Councillors went unchecked. These and other issues point to a leadership void at Regional Council, which has led to a loss of public confidence and a lack of meaningful Council progress.
As Mayor and Regional Councillor, Dave Augustyn questioned these matters and stood up for you and your interests. He stood up and fought for his community against the attacks – attacks he was subjected to just because he stood up for what was right.
Now, Mayor Dave Augustyn is running to serve as Regional Chair so that together we can lift that cloud and return our government to a position of trust and integrity. His proven experience, dedication, integrity and strong leadership will successfully advance the Niagara Peninsula for your benefit.
Together with a new Council and the community, Dave Augustyn will: Hire and employ qualified and professional staff to help manage the Region efficiently and effectively.
- End the back-room deals by standing up to special interests that have taken control of the Region and the NPCA.
- Ensure accountability at the Niagara Police Services Board and ensure that special interests are not playing politics with our police.
- Crack down on Councillor expenses, end Councillors’ lobster lunches at your expense, and stop Councillor self-promotions on the public dime.
- Finally fix the messes that led to the huge overspending on the Burgoyne Bridge and other major projects.
- Govern for you, stand up for your interests, and continue to be a leader who works with people for the benefit of the entire Niagara Peninsula.
Dave Augustyn has shown he’s a leader with integrity who stands up for what’s right.
That’s why a vote for Dave Augustyn is a vote for A Better Region for You.
Increasing PROSPERITY for You
During his 12-years of service as Mayor, Dave Augustyn worked with Council to turn Pelham into a thriving, prosperous town that is growing for the benefit of all.
Dave Augustyn and Town Council invested in quality-of-life improvements – like a new Community Centre, a dozen new parks and playgrounds, a renewed library, downtown revitalizations of Fonthill and Fenwick, and two new fire halls.
He also focused on people-centred developments that helped make the Town more walkable and bikeable and won awards for community design excellence and planning.
- Taxes Below Inflation & the Lowest Water Rates Dave kept the Region’s and the Town’s tax increases below inflation.
- Under Dave’s leadership, Pelham boasts Niagara Region’s lowest water and sewer rates.
- Dave chaired the Region’s $1 billion budget review committee last term (2011-14) and delivered fiscally responsible budgets, with increases coming in below inflation (at 5.77%). That’s 4% lower than this current Regional Council (at 6.04%).
- The Town’s total residential property tax increases are below inflation – meaning the average Pelham homeowner pays a lower level in taxes than they did 12 years ago.
- The average Pelham homeowner also pays $360 less (or 36% less) per year for water and sewer costs than those in other Niagara cities and towns.
- Creating Jobs: Roll-Out the Red Carpet & Targeted Incentives Over the past 12 years, Dave and the Town of Pelham cut red tape and rolled out the red carpet to make it easier for responsible private sector investments to help improve the community. These millions of dollars of investments have created hundreds of full- and part-time jobs.
Across Niagara, Dave has championed incentives for downtown and brownfield re-developments, which have helped clean up and improve our communities. He also encouraged hundreds of new jobs by helping to develop industrial (“Gateway”) incentives and making the motion to exempt new industrial developments – like GE and many others – from paying development fees.
These incentives helped encourage millions of dollars of private sector growth and create thousands of high-quality jobs.
Dave has shown what it takes to lead a community and to help businesses create jobs, manage growth and share prosperity. Dave has the track record of success needed to build a better Region.
As Chair, Dave Augustyn will help businesses create good jobs.
Together with a new Regional Council and the community, Dave Augustyn will:
- Focus on bringing quality jobs back with targeted industrial and business incentives.
- Roll out the red carpet for responsible development.
- Establish a “one-window approach” to make it easier for private sector investments to help improve our communities.
- Cut unnecessary red-tape and outdated regulations that stall and prevent great projects.
- Work toward common zoning across Niagara’s cities and towns.
- Protect our forests, wetlands, rivers and shorelines from harmful development and stop developers from bulldozing Niagara’s valuable farmland. Encourage greater economic viability of agriculture and the Greenbelt. Finally take full advantage of the Welland Canal and canal lands for economic development.
- Help revitalize and rejuvenate our unique downtowns for businesses, residents and visitors.
- Bring back a Niagara Sports Commission type-agency that should never have been starved of funding after the Canada Summer Games bid.
- Get the garbage picked up when it’s supposed to be picked up, and protect our world-class recycling facility from being sold for no good reason. Encourage youth entrepreneurs and focus on 21st-century jobs.
- Partner with Brock University and Niagara College to welcome out-of-town students and encourage them to settle in the Niagara Peninsula.
- Fix and maintain our crumbling roads and bridges.
- End basement backups and sewer spills into the natural environment by systematically replacing our old, leaky combined sewers with new, modern, efficient systems.
- Improve purchasing so the Regional Government “buys local” whenever and wherever it can.
- Collaborate closely with Niagara’s Provincial and Federal members and work together with the new Doug Ford Government of Ontario and the Justin Trudeau Government of Canada.
Transportation: Accelerating Regional Transit & GO Rail
Most people recognise that transit and rail connections are important for Niagara’s prosperity, access to school and jobs, and overall future success.
With Provincial funding, Dave Augustyn and Pelham Council established the Town’s own community transit service in 2015 and linked it with the Regional system.
While publicly funded, the private sector operates it.
And, thanks to increased ridership and additional Provincial funding, Pelham is currently expanding the service by adding another bus and routes. Much can happen when there’s a commitment to transit!
Yet, the Region remains stalled on inter-municipal transit and GO Rail.
Not much has changed for transit riders since Dave helped establish the Regional Transit pilot in 2010 (as co-chair of the transportation sub-committee). While it’s now legal for the Region to help fund the pilot and the various systems share the same policies, the Region missed another deadline. Regional Council was forced to approve a three-year extension (to 2021) just to keep the 8-year-old pilot alive.
This lack of focus and these delays have meant that Niagara’s share of Federal and Provincial funding – only $148 million over 10 years – pales in comparison to the billions given to other communities like Hamilton, Ottawa, and Waterloo.
Meanwhile, the Region also dropped the ball on the 2016 commitment for GO Rail connections by 2021 (to Grimsby and St. Catharines) and 2023 (to Niagara Falls). When first announced, Dave called for the Region to accelerate this schedule. Now, with a change of Provincial Government, there’s no guarantee on the timing for GO Rail to Niagara.
It’s time to stop the idle talk and lack of significant action toward an integrated transit system and GO Rail.
As Regional Chair, Dave Augustyn will help accelerate public transit and GO Rail.
Together with a new Regional Council, City & Town Councils, and the community, Dave Augustyn will:
- Fight to secure year-round GO Trains in time for the 2021 Canada Summer Games.
- Finally deliver an integrated regional transit system.
- Seriously explore next steps for connectivity – like Light Rail Transit from Port Colborne to St. Catharines – or Bus Rapid Transit.
More CARING and COMPASSIONATE for You
Prosperity and compassion go hand-in-hand. The people of Niagara are compassionate and giving and the Niagara Peninsula has always been a caring community.
As Mayor, Dave Augustyn worked with local seniors and Town Council to ensure the development of 90 new units of seniors’ affordable housing, a new 130-unit retirement home, and a new 192-bed longterm care facility. This will ensure seniors can age-in-place – in the community they love. Because of these and other efforts, the World Health Organization designated Pelham as an “Age-Friendly Community.”
Dave also led Pelham Council to donate two acres of land to Wellspring Niagara to build their new 12,000 square foot regional Cancer Support Centre. Currently under construction, that regional facility will be ready this fall.
He also routinely welcomes new medical students and resident-doctors to Niagara and secured a new medical centre with eight family physicians and allied professionals. That facility will break ground this fall.
Dave has consistently supported initiatives like these to build a caring, compassionate community across the Niagara Peninsula.
It’s time for leadership that cares about you and puts people first.
As Regional Chair, Dave Augustyn will help create a more compassionate Niagara.
Together with a new Regional Council and the community, Dave Augustyn will help create a more compassionate Niagara and focus on these initiatives:
- Improve our overall health care system by working with the Niagara Health System and the Province to:
- o Reduce ambulance back-ups at our emergency departments. o Build and renew hospital facilities – in Niagara Falls, Welland, and Grimsby.
- o Secure and build hundreds of new Long Term Care beds. o Increase supports for mental health, addictions, and housing.
Housing & Homelessness:
- Combat homelessness by encouraging more “housing that’s affordable”:
- o More social and rental housing; o Secondary units and “in-law” suites;
- o Micro-housing pilot projects;
- o The construction of traditional neighbourhoods with a greater range of housing types.
- Ensure seniors can stay in their own community by working with the private and not-for-profit developers to build new senior’s residences and long-term care homes.
- Refuse to sell Niagara Region’s 1,000 public Long Term Care beds and redevelop our outdated Homes for the Aged.
- Prioritize “age-friendly” projects to make Niagara a better place for our seniors to enjoy and contribute in the neighbourhoods they love.
Poverty & Mental Health:
- Make sure our police and paramedics have the tools to help people with mental health issues and addictions.
- Expand the Niagara Prosperity Initiative so there are more resources to help our most vulnerable citizens.
- Fight to combat and help solve the opioid crisis.
It’s up to you to choose A Better Region!
For the first time ever, you and the other residents of Niagara have a chance to choose our Regional Chair. Finally, you have the power to make a truly democratic choice. Let’s take this opportunity to reset the Region and focus on what matters across the Niagara Peninsula.
Dave Augustyn has shown he has what it takes to lead a community built on the values of integrity, prosperity and compassion. That’s the kind of leadership Niagara needs to end the embarrassment that Regional government has become. Dave has worked to help create thousands of jobs across Niagara and make the community a better place to live. Dave will work together with you and all citizens of Niagara for our combined benefit.
Only strong, experienced leadership can stand up for you and restore Niagara’s reputation, increase prosperity, encourage people-centered growth while protecting the environment, and create more care and compassion for you, your children and your grandchildren.
Vote Dave Augustyn for Chair. It’s time for integrity, prosperity, and compassion in the Niagara Peninsula. It’s finally time for A Better Region
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