My Council Speech on Impact Fees Vote
At today’s City Council meeting, the important issue of growth/impact fees was voted upon. After 5 hours of delegations and discussion, the motion to implement these fees passed with a vote of 10 to 6.
Voting in opposition were myself, Councillors Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands), Dobson (St. Charles), Browaty (North Kildonan), Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and Sharma (Old Kildonan).
Below is my written speech, and I do believe I read all sentences – but may have omitted a word or two. To read my 4 earlier articles on this topic, see Ward Priorities: Tax Dollars on my website.
Winnipeg City Council Meeting – October 26, 2016
Councillor Janice Lukes’ Speech
Firstly – I want this on the record, Madam Speaker:
- I am NOT opposed to the implementation of a fee to ensure that proper cost of growth is captured by the City of Winnipeg.
- I fully support that development should contribute its full financial share towards the cost of growth.
I am opposed to the lack of due diligence and engagement that has occurred in the creation of the by-law that is in front of us today.
Councillors, we have a real responsibility as keepers of the City. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Winnipeg. It is our job to create policy BASED on facts and data; not on ideology and not based on assumptions or the promise to have meaningful conversation AFTER the policy is created.
This morning, you heard from Mr. Shaw, a planner who is not affiliated with the development community but has DECADES of experience working in communities using growth fees. I want to commend him in coming forward to speak on this. I have spoken with multiple planners who are in complete agreement with what he is saying – but are hesitant in speaking out. Winnipeg is a small town. But they are saying the exact same thing Mr. Shaw is saying.
The process to craft Winnipeg’s by-law has not followed best practices and has not gone through any kind of due diligence process in its creation:
- As Mr. Shaw stated, the reality is that best practices related to growth fees are informed by a significant body of legislation.
- Municipalities that do not make a considered effort to follow best practices all too often find themselves on the wrong side of appeal decisions, and this has contributed to increased costs for the city taxpayers.
Councillors, I ask you:
- Do any of you believe we have done our due diligence on the development of this by-law?
- Have we followed industry best practices to develop this by-law?
Go to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) website and see what they say about the introduction of special district financing and levies:
- Canada usually requires Municipal or Provincial approval. The City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) have stated we have NOT formally in any way met with the Provincial government on what we are proposing.
- There must be a higher standard of accountability, and the goals must be well communicated to the public. Have we had even one public consultation on this? The answer is no.
- FCM uses the Winnipeg frontage levy as a municipal example of a special financing tool. Councillors, we all know by now that in order to implement the frontage levy we are bound by legislation to clearly identify what the funding is being allocated to.
We are in very uncharted waters. Winnipeg’s CAO and COO have told me we have not had any outside legal opinions on what we are proposing to do. You must then wonder why do we receive outside legal opinions on many, many other issues?
Councillors, taking money and not clearly defining what it is to be used for flings opens the legal doors and I dare say, rolls out the red carpet.
- I have spent virtually every day this last 1.5 months researching the processes other cities have undertaken to implement growth fees.
- I’ve met with dozens of planners and developers from across Canada who work in many different municipalities to hear what they have experienced and to discuss the process.
- I’ve met with lawyers who implemented growth fees across Canada, and who have worked with Centre Port Canada and the RM of Rosser through a very extensive and rigorous process to determine Centre Port’s cost of growth for Rosser.
- Every single one of them is astounded by the process we are using to create this by-law and how ill-informed we are.
CITY OF WINNIPEG PROCESS
October to December, 2015
- During last year’s deliberations for the City’s 2016 budget, Executive Policy Committee (EPC) considered the implementation of growth fees. But there were so many questions that could not be answered by the planning department and EPC determined more information was required.
- During these discussions, I and others on EPC insisted that that consultation with the industry needed to occur as part of the process in gathering more information.
- The Mayor and Councillor Orlikow met with representatives from the development industry and EVERYONE AGREED that time was required to discuss, consult and get the facts on the table in order to make an informed decision.
- $250,000 was included in the 2016 budget to prepare a Growth Study for the City of Winnipeg
- I voted for this – I had expressed my concerns during the EPC budget deliberations that we needed more data and more information to make a well informed decision, and stressed to EPC members that we should be engaging with stakeholders during the process.
Early May, 2016
- The Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued for Growth Study for the City of Winnipeg
May 16, 2016
- 9 days before the close of the RFP, an addendum was issued to include TWO consultations with stakeholders. NO consultations with STAKEHOLDERS had been included in the RFP – none.
- It’s almost unfathomable that the initial RFP request that was prepared did NOT include any consultations with stakeholders in light of all previous discussions.
- So Addendum #1 was added to include TWO consultations with Stakeholders.
- And I’d like to bring to your attention that Addendum #2 that was added and take note of the questions being asked by the proponent:
- Why the city was circumventing the usual RFP process?
- Why there was such a ‘short fuse’ on this RPF process?
- The proponent also questioned the quality of data the City had in particular to cost and revenue for various infrastructure – to which the City replied that it did not have that level of municipally dis-aggregated data.
BUT even after the addendum was added to consult, not all stakeholders were invited to the initial meeting:
- Commercial developers were NOT invited
- Industrial developers were NOT invited
- Throughout the entire process, the public was NOT invited to provide input – not one single public consultation – or a public hearing on what will be a fundamental policy change for the City of Winnipeg
- And NOT one Councillor was included or even invited to provide input into the development of the report – or to even attend either of the two stakeholder meetings held by the consultants.
And these two stakeholder meetings were held in the middle of summer – in July and August. In Winnipeg.
- Anyone who has any sense at all about public engagement knows if you DON’T want good input – you hold meetings in the middle of summer in Winnipeg. City Council doesn’t.
- And what of this new City of Winnipeg Office of Public Engagement that we all supported funding in last year’s budget also – there’s was absolutely no involvement at all of the Office of Public Engagement.
Here’s a few highlights that stood out in the process I experienced:
September 1, 2016
- A Hemson representative is flown in to present report to Council. City Councillors – elected officials – are not allowed to read the report before the presentation by the author – so – in essence, we are to sit and listen.
- Four members of City Council are not there as they are on holidays, I was one. I could not attend but I phoned in.
- City Council members were allowed TWO QUESTIONS.
- I’ve repeatedly asked for the author of the report to return and explain the report in further details but there is no movement to do so.
September 8, 2016
- I asked the City’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the Director of Public Works, and the Director of Property, Planning and Development for a meeting with the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works Committee. I was told my request would be handled by Councillor Orlikow.
October 14, 2016
- A City News Release is issued, and the by-law is released with a map.
- Councillor Orlikow states he and he alone consulted with over 40 stakeholders.
- So much for consulting with the Councillor for the South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Ward, who represents Waverley West
- So much for consulting with the Chair of the Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works Committee
- So much for consulting with the Acting Deputy Mayor
- So much for any kind of financial discussion with the CFO, Director of Public Works, and the Director of Planning, Property and Development regarding the projects in the Hemson report
- Do I feel like I’ve had any kind of meaningful discussion on any of this?
October 17, 2016
- I did briefly meet with Councillor Orlikow and express concerns about the map and process.
October 19, 2016
- At the EPC meeting last week on October 19, a revised map shows up, with only a brief explanation by planners at the meeting. I encourage you to listen to the audio recording of the EPC meeting, as the Director of Planning, Property and Development is on the record saying that there are many areas that do not make sense using this approach.
Monday, October 24, 2016
- I ask the CFO and the Director of Planning for clarification on criteria related to how the funding derived from Impact Fees will be allocated. I was told I would receive an answer. I did not hear back from the CAO, COO, Director of Planning or Director of Asset Management
- BUT what I heard last night (October 25) on a local radio station is that the City’s leadership guiding this process is now making amendments to “ for the first time in this entire debate, clearly outline which revenues are coming from what areas of the city. That information will be open and accessible to city councillors and members of the public to see what has been collected and the totals that are going to be coming from that area”. I heard it live.
- I, as a member of EPC, Acting Deputy Mayor, and Chair of Infrastructure Renewal and Public works, heard of these amendments first on a local radio station.
- I ask you Councillors – is this the new way of doing business at City Hall? Tune into CJOB and you will hear it first?
I am told repeatedly by leadership – this is the new way of doing business at City Hall. This new Council campaigned on openness and transparency. We have increased the budget by hundreds of thousands $$$ for communication staff to help with our consulting – communications and public engagement. Where are they?
- I can’t even get the CFO and the Directors of Planning and Public Works to sit down with the City’s Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works Committee to review the Hemson report.
- I can’t get the authors of the Hemson report back in town to discuss it with City Council.
So I ask all of you here on City Council:
- Can you honestly say the intent of the RFP was really to have a collaborative, consultative and transparent process to gather information?
- Do you really believe we have followed best practices in the crafting of this by-law?
- Do you really believe that the allocation of ¼ million dollars in public funds had informed us and engaged both industry and the public ?
CITY OF CALGARY PROCESS
For comparison, review the City of Calgary Report (Page 14 of the Report) for the process they undertook to inform and develop their off-site by-law levy. Calgary coordinated 76 meetings:
- Internal Working Group: 32 meetings
- External Advisory Group: 12 meetings
- Sub-committee Group: 20 meetings
- Established Area Group: 12 meetings
In addition, to reach the broader community, Calgary’s engagement process included 3 workshops. Each of the workshops included round table discussions to ensure the process was open and transparent. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions, provide input into the process and to be kept up to date on timelines.
To ensure Council, industry and the general public were informed, updates were presented at 5 Council Strategic Sessions. These sessions provided Council with an opportunity to be updated on progress and to provide input.
There were also numerous meetings with Members of Council, to answer questions and provide further information as required.
These were the highlights of the engagement and information gathering utilized by Calgary to understand growth and create their Impact Fee By-Law – or as they call it their off-site levy by-law. It took them over a year to develop their by law. YES – they were further ahead in their data accumulation – but the PROCESS to create their by law took them a year.
TODAY’S CITY COUNCIL MEETING
You’ve heard the process I’ve experienced. You’ve heard Calgary’s process. We are proposing to enact a by-law crafted in less than 60 days – which we are amending weekly?
If you vote today to implement this by- law – what you are really saying is:
- Taxpayers, citizens of Winnipeg: We have not done our due diligence or followed best practices or sought outside legal advice on this file (even though we seek outside legal advice on many files).
- We have been made aware that legal action will occur because we have not done our due diligence.
- We have not enabled a fair, equitable, well thought through and planned process to enable sustainable growth within our City in the creation of this by- law.
- We have not provided meaningful conversations for a collaborative, consultative and transparent process in the creation of this by-law.
- And we are not providing the fiduciary care that we were elected to do for the citizens and tax payers of Winnipeg.
This is exactly what you are saying if you vote to support this by law. I implore all of you – think and think carefully.
This by-law flies in the face of exactly what I believe all of us campaigned on. For sure, what I campaigned on – fairness, openness and transparency – and improving the processes on how we do business at City Hall. What we are seeing today is a ‘getter done – just getter done’ approach, exactly like what we saw in the past.
Process matters. I reflect on the additional cost to taxpayers over the years when process was NOT followed for projects – projects that are now experiencing RCMP investigations, cost overruns, human rights complaints, audits and more:
- A new firehall
- A new police station
- A new stadium
- The Plessis Road underpass
- And most recently, the purchase involved with the purchase of the Manitoba Hydro Transmission Corridor Lands
For all of these reasons, I will not be supporting this by-law or today’s amendments. Doing so would go against what I campaigned on …. fairness, openness and transparency, and improving the processes on how we do business at City Hall.