Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Clarenville Candidate Forum

Over 100 residents came out to the Clarenville Chamber of Commerce sponsored Candidate Forum on Tuesday, September 17.   10 of the 11 candidates for council spoke for 7 minutes each on what her/she could contribute to the leadership of Clarenville over the next four years.

Frazer Russell has been acclaimed the Town’s new mayor, and he was also in attendance.

Forum Chair: Susan Hollett

Timer: Adrian Power
Photo/Video: Harrison Tille

Representing the Chamber:  Richard Power

The Candidates: Candidates were assigned their turn in the order by draw

 Jill Russell-Monk

David Harris

Rod Nicholl

Heber Smith

Ashling O’Mahony Avery

 Bill Bailey

Paul Tilley

Brian Smith

Graham Bursey

Add caption

 John Pickett

Candidate Jeff Bursey was unable to attend the forum
Election Day is Tuesday, September 24 – PLEASE VOTE! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Impact of Oil on Clarenville

It was a nice presentation that demonstrated the the potential impact of the next generation of oil developments on our east coast.  There was lots of information, but no audience. Very few people came to the AMEC sponsored information session held Wednesday evening at Clarenville inn to see and hear it and voice their comments.

Here are some background links

Open House Session Information 
Press Release - Article in The Packet

Here's a virtual tour of what they had to present.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Clarenville - We're Growing Thanks to the "Great Unrooted"

The official 2011 Census population for Clarenville was 6,035.    This represented an increase of 14.4% since 2006 (6,035 in 2011, up from 5,275).  That's one of the highest rates of community growth in the Province (We are the highest growth area outside of greater St. John's).
That's good right?

Well, aside for the issue of how we can better manage that growth, it certainly means that our town is becoming a place people come to live. But how can we do a better job at making it a place to call home?.  

Where is this growth coming from? 

We really need to look at the numbers a little more closely and consider where the growth is coming from and how it can be sustained.  The Province keeps a great website called Community Accounts (  This site, among other things, presents the population data for all NL towns.

If we look at the numbers for Clarenville we can see that only about 1.5% of our population growth came from "inside" Clarenville. The "Natural" population growth between 2006-2011 (The difference between births and deaths) was a relatively small 80 people - which accounts for 1.5% of the increase.   The other 13% of the growth came from people immigrating to Clarenville.  The good news: We are a magnet for people and younger families!

200620072008200920102011  TOTAL
Population increase1520201520-1080

Looking at the numbers even more closely we see that that 13% increase by immigration was made up in large part by  younger families.  In fact, in 2011 Clarenville's median age is 40.7 years - a full 3 years younger than the provincial median ( see:  HERE   )

Into the Future - Rooting the Great Unrooted

As we move into the future, these immigrants will be the people who make you Clarenville's workers, parents, and volunteers.  They will also make up the tax base to pay for the things that we collectively want in this town.  

The challenge for us here is to KEEP these new people.  Clarenville must be more than a place to live - it must become a HOME.   Considering that such a high proportion of residents are "unrooted" the task will be to help make Clarenville their home - they need to become "rooted". This also applies to our kids.  As they move off to school and work, we must work hard to make the opportunity here so, if they choose, they can once again make Clarenville their home.

 Our community's future success truly depends on this happening. 

Building a Rooted Community

Clarenville has a strong and committed base of seniors.  Like the newcomers of of today a great majority of them were the immigrants of the 70's.  They built the services and fellowship of community that made Clarenville home to them.  The Ski Resort, Trails, local Businesses, Service Clubs, the Co-op are all products of their vision to build a rooted community. Clarenville is the regional hub that it is today because of  their vision and their efforts.

This new generation's job is to replicate that success by exercising a similar vision. This generation of unrooted newcomers value (and are willing to pay for) things like curbside recycling, the Events Centre, Recreational opportunities like Running groups, Snowshoe groups, Ski groups, Book Clubs, Fitness Clubs,  Swimming pools, Progressive design and development, municipal transparency through excellent communications, family friendly play areas, splash pads, skate parks, high speed internet, and great schools - they all help "root" people. 

We can imitate the success of the past generation for our future generation by doing and having more of these things and making Clarenville a community to call home for more people.   



On September 24 you will have the opportunity to vote for candidates in the 2013 Clarenville Municipal Election. 

Between now and then you have the opportunity to take part in the discussion around forming a vision of what we want our town to be.

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, come to the Clarenville Events Centre beginning at 7pm for the Candidate's Forum. 

Please participate in the discussions and then VOTE!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Towards Making Clarenville More “Affordable”

We are in the middle of some boom times in eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.   With Hebron and Vale in full swing and on our doorsteps, the demand for housing has shot up in Clarenville and prices have risen as accordingly.   This has meant that far too many people who have limited financial means are getting squeezed and squeezed pretty hard. 

We know there is a real problem because volunteer organizations, like the REACH Board (Regional Action Committee on Housing) have been formed to help address some of the problems associated with affordable housing, and the demands on the Clarenville food bank have never been greater.  These should be natural and powerful partners with the Town in addressing the problem of affordability.

The Town officially acknowledges its role in helping to provide affordable housing in its Municipal Plan (p7). Towards this end the Town has adopted some low maintenance,but equally low effect, measures towards addressing affordable housing.   Seniors & Low Income Families have a longer period of time to pay their ever increasing town taxes, interest free and property owners making a household income of less than $20,000 a year are eligible municipal tax reduction of up to 40 per cent.  (I challenge you to find a family in this town with an income at $20,000, significantly below the poverty line, who owns their own property and who could take advantage of this tax reduction).   Although this is good in principle, the gap between optics and action is just too great to have any meaningful effect.

Clearly more “real” initiatives are required to address the issue of affordability.   

The Town has a significant role here by making our town as accessible as possible.  There are a lot of great initiatives out there already and the Town, through CARA (Clarenville Area Recreation Association) has done some great work in making it possible for every kid to play.  CARA’s summer program is second to none, the Jumpstart initiative means a lot more kids can play organized sport, and we have some great playgrounds for a town this size.  Communicating the programs and places, especially to people with limited means and to newcomers, can  be improved.  The School system is the natural partner to make this happen but broader public awareness is critical as well. 

The Town can also free up land for development of lower cost, more affordable houses within new developments.   Under existing legislation the Town can require developers to dedicate land for ‘public’ purposes within a subdivision.   The traditional thinking has been that these lots are set aside for play space, but if more community play areas are built/enhanced, this land could be used for infilling smaller homes that in turn could be set aside for lower income families.  (This concept exists in Ontario and has worked well). Acting with partner organizations (the REACH Board / Service Clubs / NL Housing / Building suppliers / Developers) these homes could be built and be sold at a price that in more within reach.   Further assistance could come from Habitat for Humanity, as they have already expressed an interest in partnering to build homes in Clarenville.  

Developers too could be incentivized to build affordable housing as part of their subdivision agreements with the Town. 
Finally, there are lots of other towns that have developed successful initiatives to make housing more affordable.  Corner Brook, for example has the workings of a potential model for Clarenville.   That city provides non-profit organization’s affordable housing tax relief (see below)....this an in idea that might just work here as well. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Systems: Clarenville needs a A 3-1-1 system Telephone/web Job Order System

It may have worked okay 20-30 years ago, but getting Town assistance by calling the Mayor or Councillors out of bed when an incident occurs during the night is no longer a suitable approach for a modern town.   As we have grown and as experience has shown, situations occur time-to- time, day and night, where citizens need to contact the town in order to address a situation.   As we witnessed many times over the past few years, if a water line breaks overnight, few people would have any idea who to call – while time is important.  The non-emergency telephone number 3-1-1 exists in larger municipalities in Canada and the United States.  

Dialing this single number would allow a resident to obtain important non-emergency services through a central, all-purpose phone number quickly and effectively.

The implementation for Clarenville could be relatively simple.   We can either contract the existing 24/7 fire call service or we can contract a call centre to take the calls.  The Call information would then be documented and routed to the contact assigned for that night/day.  

We could also set up a Clarenville311 email / website / twitter address, so people can contact the town in more ways than phone.

Such a publicly accessible system would document issues and create a clear workorder for the Public Works Department - which in turn could publicly "close" the issue when the issue was addressed or the work was done (this would add highly to accountability and build public engagement)

For the system to work effectively, the system number needs to be well communicated.  Significant effort needs to be put here. 

There's an App for that!

Here's an example of a popular piece of 311 software used in many municipalities across North America called SEECLICKFIX. It's easy to use - click to see it/download it

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

People - The most important Investment we need to make

Clarenville has seen unprecedented growth in the past 2 decades.  The existing town based systems that may have worked adequately in the 70’s and 80’s are now failing us.   Growth however is not the problem; rather it is our inability to manage that growth that is problematic.  The time has come to make the needed investments in people and policies to better deal with growth.     I feel we can and must integrate modern and proactive strategies that increase our ability to better manage a modern town. The good news is that we've already started this!  The citizen-led Strategic Plan the Council adopted in 2008 and the Municipal Plan adopted last year are roadmaps - now we just have to drive. The actions proposed in these documents are designed to ensure that growth is managed and that the natural beauty of our town – the stuff that is truly valuable – is preserved. 

People underlie the success of these plana - we need to focus more strongly on our staff to help them do their jobs better.  Here are my thoughts:

Investments in Staff:

Hire an Engineer Planner / Contract a Planner  

This Council and the previous council have acknowledged the need for a better managed approach to development.  The Town needs a planner with engineering background to guide the vast array of projects that are underway.  We have the guidelines in place but there are paper tigers without a better degree of Town supervision to ensure that the regulations are followed.  A professional planner will not be cheap, but compare that with the cost of continued chaotic type development that is now more the norm than the exception.  In the near term this problem needs to be addressed immediately by contracting a planner; however the goal needs to be to get a person on staff.

Plan for Recruiting - focus on retention

Many of the key people on the Town's staff, who have dedicated their lives to working for and building this town are within 4 years of retirement.  Each of these people posses invaluable knowledge that will be hard to capture, and each of these people will be difficult to replace.  It is imperative that the planning for this eventuality needs to take place now. 

With numerous projects on our doorstep, some current employees may be tempted to leave for more lucrative jobs.  The Town must be sensitive to this and work to ensure a work environment that workers value.

A stronger commitment to staff training

The Council needs to evaluate its goals relative to the skills of its current staff.  Where gaps exist there needs to be provisions put in place to narrow the gap.  This could include training, hiring or early retirements.  By training and appropriate hiring, we could improve the effectiveness of Council staff, develop a learning centred work environment, improve citizen service and, most importantly for staff, improve the work environment. 

 Better Municipal Enforcement

Clarenville has a host of rules on its books that, on paper at least, speak to the progressive intentions of our town.  It’s the kind of regulations that speaks loudly to younger families.   No smoking on Town properties, appropriate signage, and subdivision development regulations are just a few examples.  Unfortunately, without public education and enforcement rules ring hollow and add to public cynicism.     We need to invest more heavily in education and enforcement.  The Town has seen fit to hire a Municipal Enforcement officer but we now need to take the effort further.  That individual needs training and enforcement powers. The rest of the Town's outside staff must also be aware of their role is supporting enforcement.