Welcome everyone to the inaugural meeting of the 2010 Council of the town of Cobourg. This is a very special day for the incoming Council and our respective families and we very much appreciate your interest and support. Today leaves a part of Cobourg’s history behind but it is also the start of a new chapter of our history. We are fortunate to be the beneficiary of so many decisions that have given us an infrastructure and essential services that make us strong along with parks, sports venues, arts and cultural activities and an architectural heritage that make us unique. However, it doesn’t stop there, it is incumbent on us as your elected officials to strengthen what we already have and pursue what we still need.
Pursuing what we need simply means taking advantage of opportunities, after all, an opportunity is never lost if we don’t take it, someone else will. Our opportunities will be more clearly defined early in 2011 when Council and staff develop our strategic plan for the next 4 years. It is the responsibility of leadership to provide opportunity, and the responsibility of individuals to contribute and we will be asking the public to contribute suggestions prior to our strategic planning session.
Let me reference a few of the more obvious opportunities?
We are entering a period when Municipalities will be expected to be more self sufficient in the coming years making greater use of our own resources and receiving less support from the provincial and federal governments. A willingness to collaborate across municipal boundaries to create financial and operational efficiencies is essential to our collective futures.
During the campaign, my wife Marg, myself and my team knocked on thousands of doors and met many people that are relatively new to Cobourg and they all told us how much they love living here. This high quality of life in Cobourg has made us a residential destination and that same strong pull must be extended to the tourism and economic sectors. We must brand Cobourg as the “First Choice Destination” for business in eastern Ontario by serving as a catalyst for a creative economy that keeps local business here and attracting more good businesses. I said many times during the campaign, economic development is about creating jobs and an increased industrial and commercial tax base to reduce the pressure on residential taxes. I was elected on a platform of economic development and I take the responsibility of following through on this commitment very seriously.
Many members of Councils and staff throughout the County attended an orientation session recently. The consultant running the orientation session took some excerpts from strategic plans throughout the county and asked us to identify which community they belonged to. One of those excerpts was “affordable place to live with the highest quality of life”. I immediately recognized this excerpt as part of a statement I wrote at the strategic planning session for the 2006 to 2010 Council. I still believe this statement to be achievable, but in order to achieve it Council and staff must give strong support to Deputy Mayor Stan Frost in his first budget and future budgets. We are on the brink of ratcheting up the quality of life in Cobourg by several notches with our new community centre and we must ensure we are not equally ratcheting up the cost of living here. Revenue generating events in the first year must be given a high priority.
There are numerous opportunities in the greening of Cobourg, the simplest of which may be more and better cycling paths. However, there are big gains to be made in other areas such as energy efficiencies, water use reductions and more efficient use of lands for housing developments. Council recently had a presentation from a prospective builder that told us his company is the only LEEDS certified builder in Ontario. LEEDS stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and if we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint and making our world a better place for our children and grandchildren we must act on all of these as well as looking in other areas.
These are a few areas and I could go on at great length with my take on opportunities, however, I don’t want to preempt Council’s strategic planning session so stay tuned for more early in 2011 because good strategic planning will take us to the opportunities.
Moving on to our new Council I have met with all members of Council and all have expressed their eagerness to get started and are excited about their respective portfolios. This bodes well for Cobourg as I feel the new edition of Cobourg Council will be an effective team that will work together to achieve common goals. We may not always agree on how we get there, and so we shouldn’t, however, I am confident we will produce results that are best for Cobourg. As head of Council I will encourage all of Council to communicate regularly with myself and each other in order to be well informed. I will also encourage members of Council to meet and consult with staff on a regular basis as I am very proud of the quality of staff we have in Cobourg and I know their knowledge and willingness to share information is critical to our decision making. It is important to understand meetings with Council, staff and the public are not just about getting informed but also about developing relationships and expanding our circle of influence. Being a member of Council consists mostly of working with people and in order to be effective we must develop relationships that are based on trust, honesty, integrity and respect.
We must approach each decision fully understanding that the decisions we make over the next 4 years will determine how our town will look and feel for many years in the future. And make no mistake we will be faced with great opportunities, some of them brilliantly disguised as impossible situations but our ability to work together will turn them into successes.
Success by my definition is opportunity meeting preparedness and I guarantee we will be prepared.