Nominates next candidate for road safety paint

Kudos for publishing that letter a few weeks back asking for some paint on the Haist Street speed bumps. They are now painted and much more visible.

If a letter to the editor results in some fresh paint on our streets, may I suggest the corner of Highway 20 and Pelham Street, right downtown?

I recently approached this intersection from the south, and noticed that the white lane markers and arrows (indicating where to go if turning or if going straight) have been almost completely worn away. Regular Fonthill drivers know where to point their cars, but out-of-town visitors might not even know there are two lanes to pick from. Repainting these markings would make that intersection safer.

Craig Hyatt
Fonthill

 

Nuclear ban letter doesn’t get enough respect

Your disparaging report on the decision of the Town of Pelham to join the ICAN Cities Appeal shortchanged readers who queried what council voted for [After summer break, lengthy agenda results in four-hour marathon, Aug.4, p.3].

Unless you believe in Abracadabra causality, a plan is needed to complete any complex set of tasks. The Cities Appeal recognizes the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear weapons (TPNW) as a helpful part of the process to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Ban treaties have already been used with desired effect, for example chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster bombs. Robert Oppenheimer promoted the idea in 1945 when he saw the horror of what he created, but politics, secrecy and financial self-interest blocked his efforts.

Six minutes of council time was well spent in adding the small voice of the Town to the mounting numbers pressing for Canada to sign the Treaty. Another bigger Ontario city is soon to announce its support.

Dave Nicholson
Fonthill

Editor’s note: The pro-forma debate took six minutes and the measure was never in doubt of passing. Say what you may about certain council members, none of them has yet come out for nuclear war. But now that it arises, apart from India and Pakistan, and possibly a rogue North Korea, the odds of a nuclear bomb ever again being used by a nation state seem remarkably slim. Absent urgent action now, what’s guaranteed to end human life on Earth is global warming. That’s an existential threat that we all need to prioritize. This, and the obstinately ill-informed anti-vaxx dimwits, who may well hasten our demise even sooner.

 

To putt, perchance to dream

In reply to John Piccolo’s column last week [“Review: Scotland, Home of Golf,” Another Round, Aug. 4, p.12], I’ll try my hand at a golf travel advisory. Here’s a great trip to the Neuk of Fife in Scotland. I can readily commend Kilconquhar Castle Estate as the base for a great golf experience. The history is outstanding and the breakfasts are wonderful.

Kilconquhar Castle is an easy drive from Edinburgh and the truly historic golf course at Musselburgh Links. It’s great to play this course with the old clubs and the feather ball. Don’t miss the Castle and the Golden Mile in Edinburgh.

Kilconquhar is also an easy drive to St. Andrews and the Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie is just a bit further. There are plenty of challenging links courses along the coast. If you go to St. Andrews on a Sunday, you can walk the course.

My favourite course of all is the ancient course at Crail. It is built in the links tradition right on the North Sea. There are some incredible views of the sea complete with a Viking ice house. Every gust of wind changes the game. It was a great challenge to play and it’s public.

Kilconquhar is ideally located to enjoy the excellent food and atmosphere in towns of Elie and Pittenweem. Pittenweem has the largest fishing fleet in Fife so the seafood is beyond compare, especially when topped off with my favourite Tennent’s Lager.

Wayne Olson
Fenwick

 

REGIONAL COUNCIL UPDATE | Diana Huson, Regional Councillor for Pelham

Incentive review falls short on affordable housing

In our most recent Committee of the Whole meeting, Regional Council was tasked with evaluating a revised suite of development programs (i.e. financial incentives) available to developers and property owners to encourage strategic investments.

Nearly 20 years old, our current suite took a “shotgun” approach across Niagara, was misaligned with council priorities, did not adequately collect data for reporting on or measuring results, and at times was short-funded. Importantly, this meant that over time these funds, often in the millions of dollars, would to be added to the tax levy to recoup our financial commitments.

Currently regional incentives are the largest discretionary item in the budget, amounting to $14 million dollars (or 3.5 percent of the tax levy) in 2021. Next year that amount is expected to increase to $17 million. It was dated, un-targeted and expensive for taxpayers, hence a review was long overdue and a responsible next step in ensuring taxpayer accountability.

With council direction, Region staff developed a new suite aligning programs with four core priorities that focused exclusively on: Affordable Housing, Employment, Brownfield Remediation, and Public Realm investment. It further aimed to address not only our current needs, but future needs as well (i.e., growth pressures), provide meaningful and measurable results, but also improve our overall process with a sustainable and clear policy that provided greater accountability for use of tax dollars.

To simplify, the proposed policy offered not only improvements to how we do business across Niagara (more efficient business processes) but ensured development programs align with strategic priorities and objectives (more effective use of tax dollars on the things that are most important).

For businesses who previously benefitted from this policy, programming was designed to ensure projects would still qualify as long as projects aligned with a prioritized pillar. As an example, an abandoned building could qualify for funding if it was being renovated or repurposed to include an aspect of affordable housing.

The affordable housing component is particularly important. Niagara will need an additional 67,000 housing units to house a population of 610,000 people by 2041. Rental prices have increased upward of 15 percent in just over the last year and housing prices have skyrocketed. Core housing need, or the number of households spending 30 percent or more of their before-tax income on housing costs, has been increasing over the last decade, and if you’re on the Niagara Regional Housing wait list, you can expect to wait up to 18 years! Additionally, the lack of affordable housing perpetuates societal inequalities because it disproportionately impacts Indigenous people, visible minorities, newcomers, youth, women, sole-support parents, people living independently, and people with a disability. It’s unsustainable and the policy changes couldn’t change fast enough because we need immediate results.

Unfortunately, what should have been a slam dunk was amended by the Mayor of Niagara Falls who, in addition to the revised suite of programs, wanted to keep the old suite of incentives (namely the SNIP program). As noted by another mayor, this program is partially being used for façade improvements, but, “the majority of the SNIP money in our CIP areas goes into improving derelict buildings, dangerous buildings, buildings that are useless, that can’t be used and turned into a productive building, particularly in the downtown area. Those moneys are used to make these functional buildings….” The amendment passed.

I have to ask: whose responsibility is it to maintain a privately owned commercial building or keep it in safe condition? Apparently, it’s yours, the taxpayer, not the owner of the building! And the argument in favour of this was, in essence, “we aren’t doing enough to support small business if we don’t throw tax money at these projects.”

The reality is that the new programming was built to accommodate these properties as long as their funding request incorporates one of the pillars. This amendment eliminated the potential savings to taxpayers, but also meant we were watering down a key policy that could significantly make headway on addressing an affordable housing crisis. I couldn’t think of a better way to help support our local businesses than to make significant progress in addressing our housing supply needs, which will also increase the capacity for discretionary income by making housing more affordable. In this way, more of our residents will have the capacity to shop local, eat at a local restaurant, make retail or other purchases. It’s good for business and its good for residents.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

The policy will come up for final approval at our next council meeting. I’m hopeful the majority will come around to see the great opportunity before them, but with parochialism rearing its head once more on an important issue, I am skeptical.

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Steady as she goes, but uptick seen in Region overall

The Province of Ontario as of August 6 had 114 citizens in hospital with Covid and 110 in ICU, with 76 being on ventilators. Last Friday saw an uptick in daily new cases with over 300 being registered. In the ongoing saga of reaching out to the unvaccinated the province is outfitting two Metrolinx buses to make them mobile vaccination clinics. The province now has 81.8 percent of the population with one dose and 72.7 percent fully vaccinated. Daily vaccination numbers remain fairly consistent with slightly over 60,000 residents being vaccinated daily. In Niagara our numbers are close to the provincial totals with 70.4 percent with one dose and 61 percent fully vaccinated. Daily new cases range from 1-5 per day. Pelham’s positivity rate is 0.7% which puts us in the green category, whereas there are other areas of the region experiencing positivity numbers in the 2.8-2.8 range, which would be in the red zone classification that was used some months ago.

Activities at the community centre continue to operate successfully with day camps and ice rentals leading the way with high numbers of participants in each venue.

Construction on Sulphur Springs Drive continues to be held up by the NPCA. The latest obstruction was the request of “the last two stipulations to be addressed before the issuance of a permit.” The ridiculous part is that the contractor addressed these exact two stipulations when they were presented with them— three weeks ago. Round and round we go. If you saw this in a TV show you would say “that’s impossible, no agency can be that inept.” The contractor has the e-mails to prove “only in Niagara.”