I’m Danny Breen and I commit to being a progressive, collaborative, consensus-building Mayor, with a positive vision for St. John’s.
As Mayor, I will work with Councillors, staff, partners, and residents in a respectful and productive manner to implement plans on a wide variety of issues that impact residents and businesses in St. John’s.
My plan for Taxation, Economic Development, One Community, Infrastructure, and Governance is outlined here.
To learn more about what a vote for me for Mayor will contribute to the quality of life in St. John’s, and how it will help to create a more efficient and effective City Hall, please review the following points.
For the 2017 budget, over $13.8 million in savings were achieved, resulting in taxes being lowered to 2015 levels.
As Mayor, I will lead Council in a process to reduce costs through continuous program review and evaluation. This will achieve cost savings while maintaining the excellent level of services residents of St. Johns have become accustomed to.
“Program Review is a continuous process where cost areas are constantly evaluated to achieve tax savings. As Mayor I will ensure this approach is continued to achieve a low tax-high service city.”
Building a Culture of Efficiency
My focus is to ensure the delivery of services in the most streamlined and cost effective manner. Increasing efficiency and measuring the effectiveness of programs will ensure that the City maintains taxes at the lowest levels possible.
As Mayor I will ensure that taxpayer money is being spent on true, meaningful taxpayer priorities. The delivery of public services – both effectively and efficiently – is necessary to keep quality of life high and taxes affordable.
“Everyone wants their tax dollars to be used to the maximum effectiveness. Building a culture of efficiency is achievable by continuing the process of examining how the City can better spend your money on your behalf, and how we can save your money on your behalf.”
Municipal Auditor General
Strengthening the financial management of the City is important to ensuring reasonable and responsible levels of taxation. It has been suggested for some time that a Municipal Auditor General is a potential way of increasing financial accountability, improving financial management and providing additional necessary transparency. A comprehensive review is required to determine the right governance structure, proper mandate, and sustainable cost to provide this additional oversight.
Engaging citizens and experts in properly researching the benefits and costs of such a role is of importance to a new Council. Using the expertise and research gathered through this process – to be started in 2017 – can improve City Council and the city itself.
“As Mayor I will propose that the new Council to undertake a timely yet comprehensive review of the costs, role and governance of a Municipal Auditor General. Citizens will be involved in the review, and Council will have an open discussion in a public meeting and vote on the matter in due course.”
Municipal-Provincial Fiscal Relationship
As host of many provincial buildings, St. John’s bears costs of being the capital. As a result, The City of St. John’s needs a new and more equitable fiscal arrangement with the province. In 2011, as Chair of the city’s Finance Committee, I put forward a plan for a new fiscal arrangement that included a rebate on road tax, HST, and payroll tax, and also requested payment of property taxes on properties owned by the province in St. John’s. To date, residents of St. John’s have received a partial refund on HST.
Additional revenue received from the Province will lessen the reliance of the city on property taxes, allowing for a reduction of the tax burden for city residents and businesses.
“The City of St. John’s takes on unique costs as the capital, and therefore needs a fiscal arrangement with its provincial partner. As Mayor, I will re-open the discussion with the Province to develop a new and fairer fiscal relationship.”
Energy costs for the City of St. John’s have risen by $3.7 million, or 46%, since 2010. Projections have indicated this will continue to rise significantly in the near future. This presents a financial challenge to the City and one that it needs to be prepared for. Energy efficiency action also allows the City to do its part in combatting environmental problems such as climate change.
Current City Council has undertaken and continues to work on several initiatives to address this issue, such as:
- Geo-thermal heating in Metrobus Depot, Bannerman Park, and Paul Reynolds Centre should be extended to other new construction;
- LED street lighting in new developments and retrofitting of Mile One Centre. A study is currently underway for retrofitting all street lighting with LED; and,
- Continue to study the potential for converting waste to energy at the Robin Hood Bay Landfill.
“As Mayor, I will strongly encourage Council to continue the initiatives currently underway to reduce energy costs and to instruct staff to consider additional options and investigate their feasibility.”
Create a St. John’s Economic Development Corporation
Focused and streamlined economic development initiatives at the city level will pay off for St. John’s in terms of tax revenues, job opportunities, and quality of life. A dedicated Economic Development Corporation created with existing resources, will bring together entrepreneurs to help achieve more in both growth and traditional sectors.
Better supporting economic development means lessening the reliance on property taxes to fund city priorities, thus keeping residential and business taxes to the minimum level possible.
“St. John’s needs to have a robust private sector, with a diversified economic base. It makes living in the city more affordable, supports jobs, and helps us sustain the city centuries into the future. We need to streamline our economic development approach to make maximum use of our strengths and resources.”
Create a Downtown Development Strategy
Addressing issues such as minimum property standards, with a focus on livability, will make downtown more attractive for all – students, young families, retail business people, urban professionals, restaurateurs and bar owners, and more.
Downtown is an economic and social driver of the city. Its symbolism is vital to St. John’s, as a centre of commerce and socialization. A revitalized downtown core contributes to the city’s confidence.
“Downtown is the centerpiece of St. John’s, but we need to engage all sectors to create a Downtown Development Strategy to make it even more viable, enjoyable, and vibrant. As Mayor, I will take leadership on this project and work with all partners to make an even greater downtown in our great city.”
Streamline and Improve City Planning and Development Process
Reducing any unpredictability and creating greater certainty in the planning and development process means better support for business and economic development opportunities and, simultaneously, a responsible input process from the community on what is being built in their city. Building on the new Municipal Plan, the City needs to engage the business community and all stakeholders in ensuring planning is focused and efficient.
A complete review of the planning process, from initial inquiry to final approval, means that process improvements in planning and development can be made at City Hall. The goal is to reduce feelings of confrontation and disengagement when developments are proposed.
“Planning and development should not be an acrimonious or divisive process. An enhanced process, developed from a comprehensive review, should be of benefit to all stakeholders, because it will result in a more predictable and transparent system.”
Community Coordination Committee
At times, challenges with service coordination can lead to real problems being experienced by citizens, particularly in their time in need. A Community Coordination Committee, led by the Mayor, will bring community leaders in the social sector together to better coordinate service delivery.
Stronger community coordination means reduced costs of delivering services while ensuring that no one falls between the cracks and does not get service they need.
“We have an excellent community and social sector strengthened by true champions in their respective area. Our goal should always be to make it stronger for residents of St. John’s. Stronger coordination means better services for people who need them.”
Complete a Northeast Avalon Recreation Inventory
Working with our regional partners, determining current assets can help ensure that residents have reasonable access to recreation facilities to support their health and wellness. This inventory will also guide the identification of future facilities that can be developed on a regional basis, which can both strengthen access and minimize costs.
Recreation facilities contribute a great deal to quality of life for many people in St. John’s and in the region, from children to seniors. A regional inventory will ensure that assets are better managed, that regional sharing and cooperation is supported, and that costs can be more fairly shared by taxpayers and users.
“The capital region already shares many services, as people access facilities in our city and other municipalities. An inventory that informs a plan will allow us to create better facilities and allow better access at a fair cost to everyone.”
Create a Mayoral-Student Working Group
Focusing on student-specific issues in the city will give a greater voice to a large group of individuals who are ready to start their careers and their families in St. John’s. This working group would support the work being undertaken by the Youth Advisory Committee to develop a Youth Engagement Strategy for the city.
Students have choices to make – stay and contribute to St. John’s, or move on and contribute to other cities. Having students build careers, grow families, and contribute to the city improves the quality of life for everyone in St. John’s for generations.
“Students are on the cusp of making major contributions to the economy and society, and City Hall needs to be better engaged these individuals before they graduate. As Mayor I will work directly with them to make the city better for them, and for all residents.”
Arts, Culture and Heritage Working Session
Support for the arts, culture and heritage communities is necessary at all levels of City Hall. A Mayor with a direct line of communication with individuals and groups in these sectors, through a biennial day-long working session, can contribute more to positive public discussion. This would further support the work being completed by the various advisory committees, and allow these committees and stakeholders to interact on issues common to each area.
Aside from contributing to the quality of life in St. John’s, the arts, culture and heritage sectors contribute to the economy. Stronger relationships between the City and these sectors can achieve even better outcomes for the sectors and residents at large.
“Art reflects our history and defines our future. As Mayor, I will take a leadership role in engaging with all the arts community to ensure it continues to highlight the vibrancy of St. John’s.”
Infrastructure – Plows, Pipes & Pavement
Create a Regional Transportation Plan
Both residents and businesses can be better served with more coordinated regional transportation. A regional approach can ensure that the capital brings more people to visit and work, more easily, while helping to address matters such as climate change through more efficient transportation.
Municipalities in the northeast Avalon cooperating with one another and better integration of different modes of transportation means reduced headaches, congestion, and costs.
“Transportation and transit significantly affect people’s quality of life. A regional plan will help create a transportation system that will help people make appointments more easily, allow employees to travel to work in a timely way, and reduce costs and carbon.”
Negotiate a new multi-year capital program with the provincial and federal governments
St. John’s is in a unique position. We provide regional and provincial services, and sometimes bear the cost of those services. To recognize the unique nature of the capital city, St. John’s should have a distinct relationship, including funding, with the provincial and federal levels of government.
St. John’s taxpayers should not be disadvantaged financially by being the regional hub, provincial capital, and premiere city on Canada’s east coast. A new multi-year capital program will help improve city infrastructure.
“The citizens of St. John’s contribute a great deal to the region and the province. A financial arrangement for capital works, with our provincial and federal partners, recognizes the taxpayers of St. John’s by providing additional support so that we can continue to be a local and provincial leader and world-class city.”
Create a new City infrastructure program to fund basic infrastructure, particularly streets
The financing of basic infrastructure can be streamlined so the needs of residents are reflected at City Hall, and so that residents can better know and understand what money is being spent on items such as roads, water systems, and waste management.
A certain level of funding will always be available to the most needed infrastructure residents rely on, while these funding levels will be clear to city leaders and citizens.
“We all want a strong base of infrastructure: roads that are in good shape, reliable water systems, enhanced garbage and recycling collection, and more. As Mayor, I will lead the development of a new, dedicated infrastructure program.
Negotiate federal funding for a secondary wastewater treatment plant
Federal regulations require a major infrastructure project needed in St. John’s – a wastewater treatment plant with a $200 million price tag. Federal funding is necessary to undertake this project in a cost-effective manner for St. John’s residents.
Another level of government mandating a project that St. John’s taxpayers have to pay for requires a Mayor to negotiate a proper funding arrangement with that level of government.
“Wastewater improvements are necessary for our growing city. However, meeting the mandate imposed by the federal government means that they have to be our funding partner too. A Council I lead will negotiate with the Government of Canada to protect St. John’s taxpayers.”
Advocate for changes to the City of St. John’s Act
At times, the City does not have the authority it should have to address issues such as littering, property issues, noise and other day-to-day matters. The provincial government has responsibility for the City of St. John’s Act; the City should have more authority within city limits.
Many of the everyday public services you count on happen at the city level. More authority and flexibility to address these issues at the city level means a quicker response from your municipal level of government.
“We are partners with the province and will continue to be. But we need to evolve that partnership so that the city can take on important matters that people want addressed. We need more flexibility and authority to better serve our residents.”
Improve city governance
Realigning Council committees and more clearly defining terms of reference and work plans for each committee ensures that everyone at City Hall understands your priorities. It also means that you can better monitor how we are doing at managing your public resources and delivering your public services in the most efficient and transparent manner.
The creation of a Planning and Priorities committee of all Councillors, with meetings open to the public, to review corporate strategic planning and provide direction to committees, means residents can have a continued, direct voice with all of Council.
“The best governed cities are the best cities. We need to continue to build citizen engagement, and be very clear about what we are trying to accomplish together, how, by whom, and with what resources. Governance covers exactly those topics. First and foremost, we need to ensure that we remain accountable to our residents and transparent in our decision making.”
Code of Conduct and Ethics
Having all City staff, starting with elected officials, work from the same Code of Conduct and Ethics means clearer expectations of the people who make a living providing services to residents and business of St. John’s. It is part of the positive, on-going evolution of City Hall.
Your elected officials and public servants, working under a clear Code of Conduct and Ethics, better understand their responsibilities to you.
“We already have dedicated elected officials and public servants, and we want to continue to improve the quality of the services they deliver. A Code of Conduct and Ethics further builds on the great work being done at City Hall.”
City Sustainability Plan
An overarching and interrelated plan for the economic, environmental and cultural sustainability of our community is necessary for St. John’s to take the next steps in becoming a modern city that embraces both its past and its future.
Addressing issues such as climate change, population growth, accountability of public bodies, and more, the St. John’s Sustainability Plan will be a positive and forward-thinking legacy from this generation to generations to come. The plan will build on a broad and inclusive vision for our future.
“We have worked hard to build this city and keep it going for hundreds of years. We need to create a smart, all-encompassing plan to leave St. John’s a home that our descendants can be proud of.”