First of all, thank you to those who have responded to our survey request. While we can always hope for more feedback, we did get about a 10% response rate - which in survey circles - is predictable and acceptable. If you do have further or additional feedback you'd like to offer, please feel free to contact me directly. We are using this information to develop a platform we will share with candidates (and you). We will also be using your answers to develop the questions for the Mayoral debate on October 3. If you have a specific question you'd like us to include for the debate or our council meet & greets, submit it here.
Our first question asked you to rank the priorities you think the next council should focus on. The total scores ranked these issues almost equally. This does tell the Chamber (as your voice of business), we can actively participate in conversations with relevant partners on everything from social issues to the Downtown and still represent your interests. I did want to see if there was any difference in the top three or four ranked priorities and this identified a slightly different perspective - in fact, the highest priority remains the Downtown. Second, third & fourth were very close and ranked social issues, property taxes & economic development in that order.
Through your comments, housing remains a critical issue from a labour market standpoint and you have made suggestions how the municipality might support the availability of more units, with caution for mixed zoning and potential decrease of MPAC values (= lower tax rates but less money for the City). The need for Council to support development, growth and initiatives through reduced red tape, increased customer service and a "buy local" approach are noted frequently. You've also expressed a feeling of disconnect between the City and the business community and how they should support each other; you'd like to see more opportunities for members of the Chamber to meet with members of Council or other City staff. That is great direction for us, as well.
Overall, there is an energy to the responses that wants to see Belleville move forward. You feel we are ready and are looking for a council that will step up, develop a vision that incorporates the potential of what we have here and embrace new ideas.
86% of you believes the city should be willing to experiment and try new things; even at the risk of failure and waste. Of course, many of you agree the roads need work, tax dollars could be better spent but only a couple thought there should be cuts to taxes and services.
That's a quick overview of your feedback regarding the City and what you're looking for in a new council. It's also good to hear you want us to remain involved and close to the City (but not attached) so we can inform you of things happening that might impact business. We will remain vigilant and work on including these issues in our weekly Chamber Chat and, when appropriate, representing your interests through deputations to Council.
Don't forget our Mingle on Thursday, September 20 at Bel-Con!