2019 State of Lincoln Address

2019 State of Lincoln Address

Thank you to the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce for hosting this annual Mayor’s Luncheon. It is truly a privilege to have this opportunity to talk about the community we all are so proud to call home.

Let me ask you a question. What would happen if we were all blunt and used straight talk when we said what was on our minds every day?

Imagine how much less wondering there would be if leaders were forthright about their beliefs and intentions?

I’ll come back to this later.

I’m going to start off today’s remarks with a quote from a very famous Olympic champion.

“If you know you can do better, then do better,” said our own hometown hero and graduate of BDSS, Tonya Verbeek.

I hope you will see today how this quote reflects the work we are doing together in Lincoln, to build a better future.

First off, I want to congratulate our newly elected council (reference anyone in the room at event). They bring great quality and character to their roles. I am very proud to work with each one of them. You have chosen well.

And under the leadership of our CAO Michael Kirkopoulos, we have an amazing team of dedicated, hard-working professionals working at town hall with a customer focus imperative.

We have invested in all of them and continue to be satisfied with their performance based on your feedback and evaluation about how their work impacts you and your work. And how their attitude impacts your quality of life.

Lastly, I’d like to thank you, our thriving and ambitious business class, who represent an important nucleus of our highly motivated community.

Collectively we are all focused on making the Town of Lincoln the envy of Niagara and a municipality that is recognized across Ontario for being progressive, and focused on growth, prosperity and a sense of pride and belonging.

Our vision is aspiring and ambitious.

We have lofty dreams. Sometimes we use the word audacious in setting a direction.

We are always striving to do better, because we believe in our community and because we are committed to managing the risk.

With every decision we make we are disciplined to stay on track with the established plan even when it has that audacious edge to it.

Look, I may be a bit biased.

But you know what…

As mayor of this municipality, I don’t look at Toronto or Ottawa, New York or Washington and think they are the centre of the universe.

They are all great cities with great people with great things going on.

But for me, and I suspect many in this room would agree, when it boils right down to it…

…The centre of the universe is really where you live.

And proudly, we live in the Town of Lincoln!
 

Vision, Mission, Values

I want to start off today to bring you all up-to-date on some important work Town Hall completed earlier this year… work that speaks to Tonya’s quote… we know we can do better and we are going to do better.

As you may know, in 2017 we committed to a collaborative visioning exercise for our town - working with council, with staff and the community.

We wanted to refresh our mandate as a council and staff, and ensure we were ready to seize on our opportunities.

Vision statements are important because they have longevity and an overarching long-term focus…

We also wanted to ensure we had something in place that would extend beyond the four-year cycles of municipal government.

And as a council, we believe it is incumbent upon us to prepare to pass the torch to future leaders of our community.

This involves setting an example for youth not by whining to them about staying home or worse by lamenting everything that is wrong so they wouldn’t even consider a reason to stay…

… but by demonstrating how their hopes and dreams can be realized.

But a vision of where you want to go only works if it includes a road map on how to get there.

So, we established a mission statement that guides the way our staff does its work, and a value statement to show how we will get this work done.

We completed our journey earlier this year, when we officially adopted our mission and values under the umbrella of our vision statement - A Place to Grow, A Place to Prosper, A Place to Belong.

This is extremely important at this juncture of our town’s history and even more vital given recent discussions around municipal governance.

Our town is on a trajectory for continued economic development, growth and opportunity.

In 2018 we topped $120 million in new building permits - the best year from a value of construction perspective that the Town has seen in its 49 years.

To put that into context, more than 640 building permits were issued… 240 more than the previous year.

2019 is also shaping up to be a banner year, and this rate of activity, with Prudhommes and other notable developments coming online, will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

We are one of the fastest growing municipalities in Niagara, and that’s a testament to each and every person in this room… you are the high-octane fuel that keeps our engine pumping.

We want to maintain that momentum in a sustainable way. If you remember one thing today, please remember this …. repeat

I’d like to go back to the themes of our vision statement and speak a little about each one.

And then, I will speak to our mission and values that were recently adopted.
 

A Place to Grow: Whether you are a child or youth, raising a family, or aging in place, we want Lincoln to be a complete community that provides opportunities in all stages of life.

As a Centre of Excellence for Agriculture, we want our farmers, greenhouse growers and wineries, to know that our town policies are designed to facilitate opportunities for growth in the sector.

And as we welcome new families to our community, we want them to feel secure and confident that Lincoln is a rewarding and safe community to live, work and raise a family.
 

A Place to Prosper: The growth that is coming to our community provides opportunities for business of all sizes and scales to succeed in both local and global markets.

As part of our vision we brought forward a renewed Economic Development Strategy to ensure we are encouraging business growth in our community.

This strategy focuses on some key themes:

  1. Promoting a ‘Open for Business’ message.
  2. Implementing a robust business retention and expansion program that works to help our existing businesses scale up.
  3. Encouraging and supporting innovation and Entrepreneurship.
  4. Attracting new investment through our recently approved Community Improvement Plan, which unlocks existing supplies of industrial and rural land and offers incentives. I would note that the Town is also undertaking a separate CIP to incentivize development in Prudhommes area.
  5. Talent and workforce development.
  6. Marketing and Tourism.

A community that is a place to prosper must also focus on job creation, promoting tourism, supporting and encouraging local markets and festivals.

We also want to invest in beautification projects that reflect the vibrancy of our community; all of our downtowns, our parks and natural spaces.
 

A Place to Belong: I think that really drives home the importance of looking at the place you live as the centre of the universe.

We are a community of many communities - whether you live in Beamsville, Jordan, Jordan Station, Campden, Vineland, Vineland Station, Rockway or Tintern.

We are one community… and we are all connected to a shared future.

We have already shared the amalgamation experience and survived.

What is my intention with this statement? The intention is to remain committed no matter what hand we are dealt.

All of us matter. If one of us fail, we all fail. That’s the way I look at my/our town.

Will investments and growth always be equal across the eight areas?

Let me assure everyone that there is a priority to our work - and it’s never a situation of one or the other but one and the other.

Every area of our community warrants our attention - because each one is an important spoke of a wheel that keeps us moving forward.

It may not have always been that way… We can do better. We will do better.

We are all proud of our history and heritage, and we want to create more opportunities to connect and unite through local events, local markets, and unique festivals that take place in all the communities that make up our Town.

As part of our master plan and building on the theme of A Place to Belong, we will continue to preserve our heritage, preserve and connect our green spaces, and improve the quality of leisure opportunities.

These are features of a community that help foster a sense of belonging.

I spent the majority of my professional career working in health care, and the philosophy in that Catholic rooted environment was to look at entire systems to improve outcomes for the centre of our focus - the patient.

This is exactly the approach I brought to my role as mayor during my first term, and I will continue on this track.

The future growth of our town is at the centre of everything we do… every decision we make.

Because like I said earlier… it is the centre of our universe. And the systems we have put in place, through our vision, mission and values exercise is foundational for our community.

This is the bricks and mortar that will continue to be stacked on one another.

There is nothing to be gained in fretting over what we can’t control or be frozen to uncertainty.

Our roots are embedded in resiliency and enterprise.

We know we can do better. We will do better.

There is always the prospect of challenges ahead. In the past, we have weathered the storms that have attempted to slow our progress.

But with a clear focus, we know that no matter what issues come before us, if we stay on track we will succeed.

As an aside, I’m sure you heard the province was so impressed with our Vision statement they announced that new Ontario Licence plates will carry our slogan - A Place to Grow...a little self-serving humor but interesting timing all the same.

Now a little bit more detail about our new mission statement.

It speaks to our commitment to excellence in our interactions with you… the business community, as well as our residents.

Think of this as a major announcement by our Town Crier drawing like minded people to our door.
 

Our Mission:  The Town of Lincoln takes pride in delivering municipal services with an efficient, effective and customer-centred approach, resulting in a livable and sustainable community

This is the guide through which we do our work.

And our values, again, reflecting the fact that we know we can do better, and we will do better.

We will be collaborative: We will work with others to get things done.

We will be attentive: We will pay attention to what our community needs.

We will be resourceful: We will effectively and skillfully find good solutions.

We will be engaging: We will incorporate diverse perspectives and experiences in what we do and how we do it.

And finally….

We will be strategic: We will drive our destiny rather than let it happen.

These are the behaviours we will undertake in all that we do to ensure we stick to our overarching vision.

Our council and staff are extremely proud of the journey that brought us to the development of this Vision, Mission and Values. This is our brand.

We hope you share that pride. We thank you for the ways you and all of Lincoln participated.
 

Personal Priorities

Based on the principle that successful communities do not happen by accident…

I want you to know the state of our town is, in a word, ‘STRONG’.

Our indicators are all tracking in the right direction. Our future is ‘BRIGHT’.

But, as mayor, it’s my job to always be looking at the challenges that may lie ahead.

I believe challenges can be turned into opportunities, especially when you are focused and determined.

I’d like to focus on some of my personal priorities during this term of office.

Lincoln has grown significantly in population and economically over the past four years.

But not everyone has benefited from our positive position.

We still have concerns - not unlike most communities - such as poverty, or lack of social and affordable housing, or realizing the full benefit of a complete health system that is locally available here in West Niagara

These are concerns that aren’t always addressed through general economic growth.

The greater Niagara Region continues to experience a higher unemployment rate than the rest of the province - Niagara was 6.6% at the end of March 2019 while the provincial rate was 5.9%.

In Lincoln, a key to creating opportunity and continued economic growth rests in the development of human capital.

This is a win-win for everyone because we can respond to local employment needs by improving skill levels through a range of education options.

We must not lose sight of an important truth: the primary restriction to growth is the ability for our businesses to hire enough qualified workers.

Some of the skills required are advanced and fortunately we live in a region that is blessed by post-secondary options.

But many unfilled jobs simply require a good work ethic and willingness to learn.

This is a big priority for me, and I believe it is critical to our continued economic prosperity.

I welcome your advice and expertise in how we can focus on the development of human capital in our community.

Are there opportunities to create capacity for learning? How do we continue to nurture a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship?

Last term, and continuing this term, we have been extremely successful in cultivating learning partnerships with post-secondary institutions like Brock University and Niagara College.

When many of us were growing up, the brain trust and motivator for higher education in Lincoln was located in Vineland at the Ag Station.

Local farmers attended the Ag program at Guelph University and now through the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, VRIC demonstrates the scope of what the future holds in plant and food science, robotics and food commercialization and horticulture.

We are aggressively pursuing more opportunities for skills development through these relationships.

One area where I believe we need to find more capacity is in the development of skilled trades. Many of you can play an active role in this high skilled and technical future as it holds the key to much greater local sustainability including individual and family prosperity.

I am committed to further developing Lincoln’s reputation as a Centre of Excellence for Agriculture, and that includes creating an enabling environment for our agriculture sector and its valuable and strategic infrastructure…

… which I believe is equally as important as clean water, sanitary sewers and storm water management for our urban areas.

We have made a huge cultural shift at the town. When someone comes forward with a great idea to increase the value chain on their farm or business, our job is to find a way to make it work to the greatest extent possible and to be an advocate as necessary with other levels of government and government agencies.

Make no mistake there is a credibility factor that must be nurtured in order to get attention when you need it. Relationships are and will continue to be very important.

I want people across the province to look at Lincoln as a municipality that encourages best practices for our agriculture sector… and welcomes further growth.

I want the next generation to see opportunity to stay and work in this sector… whether they are scientists or servers.

Other priorities for me are to continue to engage the public in a collective decision-making process, be it through public consultations or increased and more innovative communication methods.

The concerns that are promoted by future change will be less onerous if we build trust in our conversations today.

What we plan… I want to plan in partnership with the community. I believe the journey has more value when we all walk the road together.

Increased transportation and connectivity is another priority for me.

How people get around safely, effectively, efficiently and affordably is all relative to quality of life and prosperity whether they are in a car, riding a bike or walking.

I’m committed to seeking out opportunities to expand transit - and yes that means

  • continuing to advocate for a GO Train station along the corridor
  • and intra municipally with uLinc
  • and inter municipally with Regional Transit

From an environmental perspective, I am focused on the sustainable management of assets and natural heritage.

Enhancing retail presences across Lincoln, whether in Beamsville, Campden, Jordan, Vineland, or in and around the Prudhommes development is another important area of focus.
 

Regional Review

Now, as I come to the end of my speech, I want to address the Regional Review being undertaken by the Ontario government.

And this really speaks to my opening statement… about being blunt…

About saying what is on your mind…

As you may know, the government has appointed two advisors to review the governance, decision-making, and service delivery functions of 8 regional municipalities including Niagara.

I am here to tell you today…. I am not afraid of this process. In fact, I welcome it and I encourage you to do the same.

We have a great deal to offer any change that is proposed. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have survived as we have over the past 49 years.

Lincoln is a model for municipal efficiency.

We are the first municipality in Niagara to begin developing a financial sustainability plan.

It’s a plan that examines our policies on investment, on long term borrowing, on capital and operating expenditures, and of course on reserves and development charges.

I support the provincial government’s efforts to ask the regions under review to look inward, and help ensure we are working effectively and efficiently, and can continue to provide the vital services that communities depend on.

Let me say that when the focus is on the people and their democratic imperative, as opposed to the system of politicians…

… the eventual system of governance will service us effectively.

I encourage you to share your thoughts through the government’s regional review website. Comments are being collected up to May 21.

At the end of the day, this is our community, and collectively, if we can provide input into this process and take greater ownership in the future as opposed to depending on others to the extent we do now, I’m certain we will land on the best outcome.

I know the government is listening to all ideas and suggestions.
 

Conclusion

Recently, my mother celebrated her 96th birthday.

She has lived in this community her entire life. She is on her way to being the 4th centenarian in her family.

My parents worked hard to create opportunity for their 6 children.

They taught us the value and pride of hard work, and the importance of belonging to a greater community.

Lincoln has always been my home. I live on the farm my mother’s French Huguenot, Pennsylvania German and United Empire Loyalist ancestors have owned since the 1800s.

And while a lot has changed since I was a young girl picking plums, black currents, tart cherries and grapes (40 boxes = a Ton) at our family orchard on King St….

…A place where the Romagnoli families had situated themselves between the natural concessions and close to their parents Enrichetta and Camillo….

… the one thing that has remained the same is a feeling inside my heart that we live in a very special place and regardless of the outcome of any outside review, we will, as we did 49 years ago and with tremendous pride, engage our sense of community and our sense of identity to sustain ourselves by doing better in the future.

This is a community of tremendous potential.

This is a diverse community with a rich history.

This is a bountiful land that is both unique and beautiful.

Lincoln is a place where when people know they can do better, they do better.

Where we strive to be good neighbours. Where children are encouraged to achieve their very best.

That’s what makes it the best place where people can grow, prosper and belong.

In closing, I ask you again, what would happen if we were all blunt about the future?

What if we said what was on our minds everyday about how we see our collective future, our resilience and our sustainability.

If you believe… as I do, that we can do better, then let us continue to do better together.

Once again it is my pleasure to share my intentions with you.

Carpe Diem. Seize the Day

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