Mayor Jeff Fawcett gives his first State of the City address

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Mayor Jeff Fawcett gave his first State of the City address at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon this afternoon. Highlights from the inaugural address focused on the role of Mayor, City Council, the City of Brandon Corporation, the city at large, and the Westman region.

Brandon is Manitoba’s Second City and the regional hub for the Westman area, thus responsible for providing economic, medical, educational, and social services for our region.

Mayor Fawcett highlighted some key areas from City Council’s Strategic Plan, including the following:

Addressing Social Needs

Trauma informed social opportunities including drug addiction, poverty, and homelessness put increasing pressure on municipal services, police services, and the private sector, not to mention the impact it has on families in our community. A collaborative approach is required to identify the right solution for Brandon. From lobbying other levels of government, to seeking support from the private sector, Council is invested in dealing with the issues at hand, which may also help to resolve some of the underlying causes.

Work is underway to see the creation of a Brandon Community Social Health Partnership, which will create an umbrella structure for facilitating collaboration and coordinating housing and community wellness for the greater Brandon area. The structure brings together the not-for-profit sector, private sector, all levels of government, academic institutions, and all other key players in social services, housing, and health industry.

Goals over the next term in addressing social needs include:

  • Develop and implement a Net Zero Homelessness Plan,
  • Actively lobby for continuum of care treatment,
  • Ensure the safety of people.

Economic Growth and Development

Knowing that current and future residents want to live in a vibrant and growing city, Council looks to foster an environment that supports population and economic growth. A community’s vitality is measured by amenities including a variety of retail stores, airline service, expanded job opportunities, recreation facilities, and increasing values of real estate. While growth brings economic prosperity, Council recognizes the need to balance the desire for growth with the associated costs.

A recent example that has shown how Brandon City Council has taken initiative on ensuring our city is poised to see economic growth and development would be the approval of borrowing for the Southwest Lift Station Project.  Other key projects include the Water Treatment Facility Upgrade and the Southeast Brandon Drainage Improvements Project. There are also new serviced industrial areas being built which will allow for growth. Mayor Fawcett also announced that the City is in the process of hiring a new Economic Development Director.

Affordability

A big part of what makes a community attractive to it residents and potential residents, is its affordability. There is opportunity to be part of the community and to actively engage in it (participate in its activities, home ownership, etc.), regardless of the amount of money you earn. Part of addressing affordability is by exploring different ways in which to fund and provide services. To continue to provide expected service levels and invest in the future requires innovative approaches to how services are provided and funded to ensure residents can actively participate, regardless of income.

Key items that Brandon City Council looks to focus on related to affordability are:

  • Transit
    • Currently, Transit is used out of necessity instead of convenience. The City is looking at how to improve this key service to benefit everyone.
  • Housing
    • We need to be in a place where we can grow so that we position ourselves in a way to include affordable housing throughout the city.
  • Four-Year Budget
    • We have been able to keep taxes low over the last decade, and while Brandon City Council is very pleased with that fact, we are also aware that we need to be able to get to a place where we can continue to afford to grow. While looking at alternative revenue models, we are also looking at a four-year budget, so residents and businesses can project where tax increases will be made.

Community Well-Being

Recreation and cultural opportunities are the cornerstones for building a community where everyone is welcome to celebrate shared interests and backgrounds. Council recognizes the role they play in providing the resources to support these opportunities and in ensuring their long-term viability. They also recognize as a growing community there are challenges such as increased traffic and the impact that has on young and old alike. Exploring an approach to work with the community to resolve this challenge will bring about a better understanding, that as a community, we all play a role in ensuring the safety of each other.

Over the next term, we want to define and implement a path forward for large community recreation and culture facilities. We have been able to partner with all levels of government to get the Outdoor Sports Complex underway. When weather allows, a formal ground-breaking ceremony will take place to mark the beginning of this exciting project.

City Council recently signed a sustainability agreement for the Keystone Centre and is working on one for the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium. In the future, we are going to have open discussions on how to improve Brandon’s Community Sportsplex. Each of these facilities provide key spaces for Brandon and the entire region.

The City of Brandon has an exciting future. With so much to celebrate as a community, the opportunities for education, recreation, annual and special events, industries and organizations are endless.