Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Following is the text of a letter I sent to the Daily Gleaner, which they published on March 31/10:
Re: Affordable housing: The March 20 Daily Gleaner featured a story and editorial related to affordable rental and housing needs in our city. Thank you for once again reporting on this issue, as it requires continued public awareness. The editorial ended with a challenge stating that "Everyone, including the city, should be on board."
I respectfully refer the editorial board and city residents to the City of Fredericton website (www.fredericton.ca). The main page contains a link which features the mandate and membership of our Affordable Housing Committee, and our continuing efforts to raise awareness and acceptance of this important issue. It also features reports on our well-attended and thought-provoking yearly Affordable Housing Days.
The committee's approach to the advocacy of affordable housing is often held up by provincial officials and the non-profit housing sector as a model for other municipalities.
However, the work never ends, as your editorial attests. While we and our partners continue to make inroads, hundreds in our area remain on waiting lists for this basic human right.
The dignity and sense of well-being that individuals and families realize by having a secure and affordable place to call home is often life-changing. Let's all keep that in mind the next time an affordable housing rezoning application is brought forward in our respective neighbourhoods.
City Councillor & Chair, Affordable Housing Committee
Atlantic Canada is emerging from the recession of 2009 in an improved competitive position for businesses and even the lingering effects of the recession in the U.S. haven’t prevented Atlantic Canada and Fredericton from growing their business cost advantages over New England during the last two years. That’s the conclusion of KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives 2010 study, which compares business costs in 10 countries in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. As the cost leaders in Atlantic Canada, Fredericton and Moncton have grown their relative business cost advantages, compared to both the U.S. and other cities in Atlantic Canada.
Competitive Alternatives examines business competitiveness in 112 cities in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The study measures 26 significant cost components that are most likely to vary by location, including labour, taxes, real estate, and utilities, as they apply to 17 business operations over a 10-year planning horizon, as well as a range of non-cost competitiveness factors.
The business cost results for the major cities in Atlantic Canada are as follows (reported as a percentage cost index relative to the U.S. baseline of 100.0): Moncton, 91.3; Fredericton, 91.8; Halifax, 93.3; Charlottetown and St. John’s, both 93.8. Therefore, these cities have business costs between 8.7 and 6.2 percent (respectively) below the U.S. baseline, and all offer business costs below any of the 60 U.S. cities examined. In comparison, the lowest cost cities examined in New England were Bangor, Maine (95.6) and Burlington, Vermont (97.7).
“Cities in Atlantic Canada offer businesses a variety of cost and non-cost advantages—low operating costs, competitive corporate tax rates, availability of labour, high-quality educational institutions and excellent housing affordability,” says Gregory Simpson, office managing partner, KPMG’s Halifax office.
For the entire story, visit http://www.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/2010/03/31/nb-tax-cuts-consolidate-moncton-fredericton-as-cost-leaders/
Monday, March 29, 2010
For the second straight year, the New Brunswick AAA high school boys hockey championship game ended with Fredericton High School Black Kats littering the ice in celebration.
The Black Kats beat their Fredericton arch-rival Leo Hayes Dairy Queen Lions 4-3 when Ryan Murphy whipped a wrist shot past goalie Andrew Mason 2:05 into sudden-death overtime to end Saturday afternoon's memorable final before 300 fans at the Miramichi Civic Centre.
Last year, the Kats broke the Lions' hearts on Brett Barnhill's goal with 34 seconds left in regulation. Following is a link to the story published in the Daily Gleaner Sports section on March 29/10: http://dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/sports/article/999792
Saturday, March 27, 2010
It became apparent to me that our Council, city, and me, are not getting our message out to residents.I determined this after attending a large community breakfast this morning. Many people approached me to ask "why we are doing this, or what did you base your decision on?"....about several issues. When I took the time to tell them why, they all appeared to agree and support our decisions.
It is not the media's fault. They are overworked and understaffed, and can't give us their undivided attention. And of course, they should be wary of taking our word verbatim. It is their duty to report the news, but also to challenge our decisions, and to ask others what they think of our decisions. However, throughout this, sometimes the facts just don't make it to press or to air, and Council's thought and decision making process can be suspect.
I am more than ever committed to improve my communication with constituents. How so? Via social media - this Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and email. If you are reading this post, then the Blog is starting to make an impact. You can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/mikeobrien_fton , and if you would like to receive periodic email updates, send me your coordinates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, and stay tuned
Friday, March 26, 2010
Congratulations to former City of Fredericton mayor Les Hull, as well as former UNB president Dr. John McLaughlin, local ADI engineer Don Good, and former NHLer Danny Grant … the “Grant” in the City’s new Grant-Harvey Centre, who were honoured with the 2010 Distinguished Citizens Award by the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce on March 25.
All four gentlemen, who were warmly and humorously introduced to the sold out crowd at the Crowne Plaza, humbly accepted their awards.
The City of Fredericton invites the public to review the results and recommendations of the recently completed Capital City Traffic Study.
The Open House will be held on Wednesday March 31, 2010 from 3:00 pm - 8:00 pm at Fredericton City Hall. City Staff and the ADI Limited Study Team will be available to discuss the Study and answer questions.
The Study identifies the existing and potential traffic issues and recommends a range of initiatives to improve the operation of our road system over the next 20 years. For more information please contact the Traffic Engineer, City of Fredericton,506-460-2476
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The population of New Brunswick increased during the past 12 consecutive quarters (36 months), according to the latest Statistics Canada figures. This means there has been a net increase of 5,778 people since January 2007. By comparison, New Brunswick's population declined by 4,263 people in the 12 quarters before January 2007.
The growth in the New Brunswick population resulted in part from a positive net interprovincial migration in 2009 for the first time since 1990. New Brunswick welcomed more than 1,900 immigrants last year.
Last year, the province increased the Multicultural Grants Program and invested about $1 million in settlement services. The province also provided $186,000 to organizations to encourage young New Brunswickers to live and work in the province.
City Issues RFP for Residential/Affordable Housing Development
A proposed new residential development on Limerick Road in Southwood Park features up to 107 units of two-bedroom single family rowhouses, one and two-bedroom triplexes, and apartments. Approximately 25 per cent of the units provided for this development will be targeted for affordable housing.
The Province of New Brunswick offered this property to the City at a fixed price that must be recovered. The City will in turn sell this property to a private developer at market value. It is not the intention of the City to profit from this development proposal.
The project, designed by Dr. Avi Friedman, co-founder of the Affordable Homes Program at the McGill School of Architecture in Montreal, was unveiled during a public meeting in October 2009. The meeting was attended by 70 people, mostly neighbours, but also developers, realtors, as well as representatives of non-profit organizations and public institutions.
Residents were given an opportunity to ask questions about how this property could develop in the future. Dr. Friedman, the Montreal-based architect who was commissioned to prepare the series of options for the site’s layout and building designs, spoke about the importance of aesthetic, lasting architectural designs to add identity and pride to a community’s environment, and the adaptability of the housing types to a person’s or a family’s natural stages in life.
The request for proposals for the development was issued on March 24th. It shows the three proposals proposed by Dr. Friedman and asks developers to submit their vision for the site based upon the work that has already been undertaken. City Staff will review the proposals to determine whether they are compatible with the vision for the site.
If a developer is chosen by the City to proceed, they must make the appropriate development applications to the City of Fredericton to change the Municipal Plan and zone applied to this property.During the development application phase, residents will be given the opportunity to comment to both the Planning Advisory Committee and Council about the proposal.
Here is a link to a story on this subject published by the Daily Gleaner on March 30/10: http://dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/cityregion/article/1000940
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
York Street Train Station Added to Local Historic Places Register
Fredericton City Council has officially added the former York Street Train Station to the Fredericton Local Historic Places Register. Council established the Register in 2003 to raise awareness of historic places and encourage their conservation. It is administered by the City of Fredericton Preservation Review Board
The two-storey station was constructed by the Rhodes-Curry Company of Amherst, Nova Scotia in 1923 for the Canadian Pacific Railway. It replaced the original wooden station that was built 1869. It not only ushered in a new era of passenger traffic in Fredericton but eventually became the hub of an industrial enclave, anchored by the Hartt Boot & Shoe Company, at what was then the outskirts of town.
Under the auspices of the Fredericton Railway Company, the new railway link promised to open communication between Fredericton and the world and provided year-round access to the main shipping port at Saint John.
Before the Second World War, the York Street train station served both the CPR and the CNR, and was known as Union Station. The station’s operation was reduced to freight service after passenger traffic ceased in the 1960s. The CPR withdrew its remaining operations from the building in 1990 and sold it to the New Brunswick Southern Railway, a subsidiary of J.D. Irving Ltd., in 1995. It was protected from demolition by the federal Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act.
In September 2009, Alcool NB Liquor reached an agreement with J.D. Irving Ltd. to lease the property for a new liquor store. The interior brick walls will remain intact, and the historical detail will be incorporated in the interior décor.
L-R: Tina Tapley-Jones (Asst Finance Director); Coun Mike O'Brien; Ernst & Young Representatives
Audited financial statements indicate that the City of Fredericton is in full compliance with Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) standards. The municipality ended 2009 with a slight surplus of $344,617 on its 2009 General Operating Fund of $88.7 million.
The value of all City-owned assets was $441,306,276, while the City’s net debt was calculated to be $53,145,886. Its accumulated surplus from capital assets was $388,235,170. These findings were presented by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young at a special Finance and Administration Committee meeting held on March 22, 2010.
“This is the biggest accounting change our municipality has faced in more than 100 years" said Coun. Mike O’Brien, chair of the Finance and Administration Committee. The audit confirms what we already know; that the City of Fredericton has been investing wisely and managing spending so we continue to provide quality services and move the City forward. The information in this audit will serve as a guide for long-term decision-making and provides more accountability, transparency and promotes sustainability of the city’s finances.”
Following is a link to a related article published in the Daily Gleaner on March 23/10: http://dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/cityregion/article/993217http://dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/cityregion/article/993217
Monday, March 22, 2010
The city formed this very active committee in 2006. It started as an ad-hoc group, but since the need for advocacy just continued to grow, it was granted full committee status in 2009.
I have the honor of chairing this group of dedicated, passionate people. Membership includes the Fredericton Emergency Shelter, the Chamber of Commerce, the John Howard Society, the Fredericton Home Builders, the Fredericton Real Estate Board, the Community Action Group on Homelessness, CMHC, Skigin-Elnoog (off-reserve aborignal housing), Provincial and Federal representatives, and several others.
Visit the city's Affordable Housing website to read our mandate, our accomplishments, and to dispell several myths related to affordable housing.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
To encourage cycling during this summer’s bridge construction, the normal $50 parking fee at the City of Fredericton bikepark will be waved. This secure bicycling parking facility, located next to Sutton House at 335 Queen Street, will be open from April 10 until December 10. Interested cyclists will simply have to pay a $10.00 deposit for an access card to the facility.
Spaces are available on a first come, first served basis. To find out more about the bikepark, and to get your access card, visit the front desk at the Community Services offices, 335 Queen Street between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday. You can also visit the City’s web site at www.fredericton.ca or contact the parks & trees division at 460-2294 or email@example.com.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Look out Harvest fans - it looks like a Midnight Rider is coming to town. According to his official website, blues icon Gregg Allman will perform at the 20th anniversary of the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival on Sept. 15th. The founding member of The Allman Brothers Band has listed a performance in Fredericton in his touring schedule.
Organizers of the annual music festival have developed a relationship with the legendary group, featuring headlining performances in back-to-back years by the band's current guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. There was also a show last year with Trucks' wife, blues guitarist and frequent Allman collaborator,Susan Tedeschi.
A number of early-bird tickets will go on sale May 15 at 9 a.m. through the festival's website only, which can be found at http://www.harvestjazzandblues.com/. Organizers are expected to announce the names of at least six marquee artists before those tickets go on sale.
Six projects have been selected for funding under the Fredericton community arts project.
Greg Charlton will receive $15,000 for a sculptural"Camera Obscura" structure designed for Fredericton's downtown.Pamela Nelson will receive $7,500 for the Where I Am From art project that will see youths and elders working together on a multidisciplinary art project using poetry and images.
Jonathan Collicott has been awarded $14,500 for an experimental short film entitled Heavenly Gifts: A Silent Musical. Paula Keppie will get $5,000 for Story Mantles, which will use art as a life tool with local women making life transitions from abusive situations.
Jillian Acreman has been awarded $5,000 for her film The Editor to tell the story of a retired film editor who tries to physically edit out the bad parts of his life to die with a clean slate. Joel LeBlanc will get $15,000 to create an improvisational community choir using both professional artists and amateur singers,in his project entitled Improvising Community Choir and Hockey Game.
The Fredericton Community Arts Project is a partnership of the New Brunswick Arts Board, the Department of Wellness Culture and Sport and the City of Fredericton through Canadian Heritage's Cultural Capitals of Canada program.
This one-year program sees its partners contributing money that's intended to increase the sources of revenue available to professional artists and artists' collectives in the City of Fredericton.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
The former 4.72-hectare Diamond construction property at Station Road and Barker Street (near the intersection of Union St & the Nashwaak River)is being planned for a 139-unit residential development.
Colpitts Developments plan to construct two apartment buildings with a total of 63 units, plus 52 units in nine townhouse buildings and 24 semi-detached buildings. The company is also planning 36 spaces of underground parking. Once a work site for the construction company, the property has been cleared for residential development by the provincial Environment Department.
The city's planning advisory committee approved the concept and is moving the development plan forward to city council.Since a zoning change is needed, city council has final say on the application.
Following is a link to an article on the subject, published in the Daily Gleaner on March 18/10:
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Fredericton's Matt Stairs, now a member of the San Diego Padres, will tie a major league record with his first at bat this year. He will be the first position player (meaning a non-pitcher) to play for at least 12 different teams. He is also one pinch hit home run away from tieing that major league record.
Following is the link to a recent story published by Yahoo Sports.
The Telegraph-Journal ran the following article on March 13/10. It is a fantastic testimonial to the economic development and entrepenurial spirit of the Council and people of St. Mary's. Their community is flourishing, and has also become a major contributer to the overall success of the City of Fredericton.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Fredericton has been designated a Flagship City for Earth Hour by the World Wildlife Federation, organizer of the event. The designation comes in recognition of the City of Fredericton’s past support for the global climate change awareness initiative and for its on-going commitment to the environment.
An energy-free evening of activities and unplugged entertainment will be held at the Boyce Farmers’ Market on March 27 as the city goes off the grid for 60 minutes during the third annual global climate change awareness initiative known as Earth Hour.
Businesses are asked to turn off all external lighting, including signs, and as many lights internally as safely possible. Residents are encouraged to not only turn off all non-essential lights but go a little further by turning off all electronic appliances for the hour.
A civilian, along for the ride with a Fredericton Police Force Officer during a routine patrol last summer, has been honoured for helping to save a man from bleeding to death. Trevor Smith was awarded a Certificate of Merit by Fredericton Police Chief Barry MacKnight during the March meeting of the Public Safety & Environment Committee.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
A hike in common assaults and sexual assaults in 2009 will warrant a more detailed crime analysis, says Fredericton police Chief Barry MacKnight. Sexual assault cases rose to 65 last year from a five-year high of 47 in 2008. Common assault cases increased 29 per cent to 383 incidents, up from 276 cases in 2008.
Sexual assaults are influenced by many factors that go beyond routine police enforcement, but police can work with community agencies and partners to try to support education on the topic, MacKnight said.
Break and enters dropped to 240 cases last year, the lowest number in the last 16 years.It was the third consecutive year for a decline. As well, robberies were down 32 per cent to 25 cases in 2009.
Drug charges have increased and that's a positive statistic because it shows stepped up enforcement by police, MacKnight said. Crimes against property, which make up 67 per cent of reported crimes in Fredericton, remained stable.
Total impaired driving offences increased three per cent in 2009 compared to 2008. The police force issued 11,325 traffic tickets in 2009 with the majority for speeding. There was an 81 per cent increase in the number of vehicles ticketed for not being properly registered.
There were a total of 24,459 calls for police services last year.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
City Council has awarded a $61,969 tender to Electrical & Refrigeration Services Ltd. for the supply and installation of an ammonia heat recovery system at the Lady Beaverbrook Rink.
The recovery system will extract heat from the ammonia used in the ice-making process and transfer that heat to the domestic hot water system in the rink.By pre-heating the water the City will save energy and also conserve water required to cool the ammonia.
Council Awards Contract For New City Transit Garage (March 08/10)
City Council has awarded Pomerleau Inc. a $5,404,000 contract to build Fredericton’s new Transit Operations Centre. The new Transit Operations Centre was one of the key recommendations of the Transit Master Plan, commissioned by the City in 2008, to guide the expansion of the transit system for the next 20 years. The facility will be constructed adjacent to the City’s existing transit garage at 470 St. Mary’s Street in Fredericton North. The new Centre will provide a storage and service facility for the City’s current fleet of 28 transit buses and three para-transit buses and also allow for future growth.
Pomerleau, a general contracting and construction management company based in Saint-Georges, Quebec, was the lowest bidder meeting all specifications. Construction is expected to begin this Spring with a completion date of November 2010.
Goguen White Architects Ltd., of Fredericton, was awarded a contract by the City last October to provide design architectural and engineering services for the project.
Funding for the facility is being provided through the Government of Canada’s Public Transit Capital Trust, which is administered in New Brunswick by the Provincial Government. The City of Fredericton is contributing $423,000.
Fredericton Transit has 45 employees and operates eight bus routes throughout the municipality.
Friday, March 05, 2010
(abbreviated version of article published Thursday March 04/10 in the Daily Gleaner)
The Fredericton International Airport Authority Inc. is continuing to line up its financial paperwork as it presses its funding case with federal-provincial and municipal authorities. The airport authority met with Fredericton city councillors recently, not seeking municipal cash, but the needed municipal support to round out its funding applications.
Both city council and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce have endorsed the need for runway repairs and a terminal expansion and will lobby the cause. Its top need is $10.5 million to resurface Runway 1533, its shortest runway. Within two to three years, that runway will have exhausted its lifespan.
The airport authority also wants to push out the exterior walls of the terminal building around the departure area. That's been estimated to cost $11.5 million. The departure lounge for the terminal is close to the airport's cafeteria and lounge area, so that section of the terminal gets jammed with people. The proposal would be to push out the building footprint toward the parking lot area.
The airport authority is arguing its cause armed with a study prepared by LPS Avia Consulting of Ottawa and handed to the airport board in June. The airport has been experiencing consecutive growth and higher passenger counts, especially with its late winter-early spring flights to the Caribbean. It had a record-breaking 270,435 passengers through its doors in 2008.
(abbreviated version of an article published in Daily Gleaner February 12/10)
Work has begun to design a new school for Fredericton's north side. A committee made up of District 18 staff, parents, members of the New Brunswick Education Department, and two principals has started compiling ideas for the school.
The elementary school, which will be built near Two Nations Crossing, will replace the Alexander Gibson Memorial School in Marysville and South Devon Elementary School.
The committee's first job is to determine how many students will be attending the new school, how many classrooms will be required and what kind of space will be needed for the cafeteria, gymnasium and other specialty rooms. The committee will also bring issues to the table such as whether there should be community facilities involved like daycares.
Once the initial work is completed, an architect is hired and the initial costs are established, the district will then have to wait to hear from the province about the budget for the school.
The building will be a P3 school, which is a partnership between the government, the district and a private company. The company will own the building and lease it to government. Leo Hayes High School is an example of a P3 school. The district has a 25-year lease at that facility.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Brian Williams, NBC televisions Olympic anchor and managing news editor, wrote this post at the conclusion of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. I've shortened it a bit, but what remains if proof that a polite, inclusive, welcoming and civil society such as ours "does" stand out. We collectively should be thankful for where we live - Mike
Leaving behind a thank-you note
After tonight's broadcast we're going to try to brave the blizzard and fly east to home and hearth, and to do laundry well into next week. Before we leave this thoroughly polite country, the polite thing to do is leave behind a thank-you note.
Thank you,Canada: For being such good hosts. For your unfailing courtesy. For your (mostly) beautiful weather.
For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents.For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon. For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary.
For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games -- you've made wearing your name a cool thing to do. For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display.
For not honking your horns. I didn't hear one car horn in 15 days --which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting.
For always saying nice things about the United States...when you know we're listening. For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society.
Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us.
On February 23rd I attended a seminar put on by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC). Their officals presented predictions that 2010is going to be a great year in housing starts and sales.
CMHC reported that construction of new homes and sales of existing houses are forecast to rise in 2010. and that New Brunswick could see 3,590 starts this year and 3,640 in 2011. Total housing sales in the province last year numbered 7,003 but CMHC forecasts jumps to 7,175 in 2010 and 7,350 in 2011.
Single-unit housing starts in Fredericton in 2009 totalled 169, down from 212 in 2008. This may be attested to developers feeling the impact of a downturn in the economy, and a fierce 2009 winter that halted a lot of construction.
Regardless, Fredericton had one of the strongest housing markets in Canada in 2009, thanks in part to an increase in the number of apartment units constructed. CMHC reported they were up to 267 units built in 2009from 2008's total of 147.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Regent Street Boat Wharf Being Upgraded (with excerpts from Daily Gleaner article published March 02/10)
The Regent Street Wharf, on the beautiful downtown Fredericton riverfront, is getting help to make electrical system upgrades expected to attract more boating traffic to the area. Fredericton Tory MP Keith Ashfield, the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, announced Monday that the federal government will provide $35,000 for the work.
Reid Shepherd, commodore of the Capital City Boat Club, which manages the wharf, said it's good news for the wharf. He said it's attracting an increasing number of recreational boaters from as far away as Delaware. "We're seeing more American-flagged boats than ever before," he said.
Almost 300 boats stopped at the wharf from outside the region last year, Shepherd said. But he said the operators of those crafts, which can be as long as 15 metres (50 feet), require the increased power supply.
The project will see new power receptacle towers installed on the wharf and a main underground service line connection from the transformer to the wharf. The power supply will be increased from 15amps to 30 amps.
Shepherd said the power supply may not mean much to most."To the boating community this is a big issue," he said. Ashfield said the wharf is a valuable tourism asset."This is going to enhance the area's reputation as a tourism destination," he said.
Fredericton drivers are bracing for a summer of driving headaches as the New Brunswick government plans a $77-million overhaul of the Princess Margaret Bridge. The Department of Transportation is putting the capital city's drivers on notice that one of the two main bridges to cross the St. John River will be closed from June 19 to Aug. 8, forcing 20,000 vehicles a day to be reroute.
Provincial and city officials are working with the engineering firm ADI to come up with a plan to cope with traffic problems that will result from the bridge closure. Transportation Minister Denis Landry said everyone who drives in the city needs to come up with their own solution that works for them
The Princess Margaret Bridge and the Westmorland Street Bridge are the two main spans that connect Fredericton's north and south sides.
The closure of the Princess Margaret Bridge is expected to boost the amount of traffic on the Westmorland Street Bridge, which is already a rush-hour nightmare for many Fredericton drivers, by up to 50 per cent. 50,000 vehicles a day presently use that bridge.
The New Brunswick government, which employs thousands of workers on both sides of the St. John River, is considering different options that could reduce morning traffic, such as flextime for its employees.
The $77-million project, which will involve work on the bridge piers, the deck, the trusses, and the bridge bearings as well as sandblasting and painting.