Citizen report card

Suburbs

Much like students awaiting grades in school, each year we look forward to receiving a citizen report card from Compass Kitchener, a 12-member committee of volunteers that provides advice to council.

The report card, which began in 2008, provides a citizen perspective on our positive progress, as well as areas that need improvement. The committee grades the city's progress on our five priorities for making Kitchener a more innovative, caring and vibrant city. These priorities were developed through community consultation and are outlined in the city's 2015-2018 strategic plan

Compass Kitchener's evaluation is based on data collected from our staff, reports and documents on a variety of topics, and their personal observations and experiences.

This process is also a valuable opportunity to gain insights, spark dialogue and benchmark our progress toward strengthening the quality of life in our community.

View our 2017 Citizen Report Card:

Open Government: A-

We will be transparent and accountable to citizens, providing easy access to information, a great customer service experience and meaningful opportunities to participate in the democratic process.

The City of Kitchener continues to make impressive progress towards its bold goal of openness and transparency. The Open by Default Strategy has been successfully implemented with a new policy framework, the creation of new systems and procedures, as well as staff training that supports the routine disclosure of city information within privacy constraints. Ongoing success with this initiative will require vigilance and active commitment by staff and council to ensure a pervasive culture of accountability.

The city is to be commended for undertaking a community engagement review, developing a Community Engagement Policy, launching Engage Kitchener, and starting two pilot participatory budgeting projects.  We look forward to seeing the full implementation of these improvements. This valuable, organization-wide approach to gathering and incorporating citizens' perspectives and ideas will keep the city aligned with the values and aspirations of its citizens. For community engagement initiatives to be successful and sustainable, it will be important for the city to regularly convey to citizens the impact of their input.

On the redesigned website, the city provides excellent public access to extensive information including: council and committee agendas, related reports, minutes and webcasts of the meetings - all of which are important to share. New data sets are being added to the city's open data portal. While there is a broad range of information citizens are seeking, people don't always have a great deal of time to sift through extensive minutes and reports to find what they are interest in. A real benefit would arise from further refining an understanding of the information citizens are seeking and the level of detail sought, to determine where succinct summaries, dynamic info-graphics, and simple analytics would provide the most effective means of sharing information. These tools could also be useful for documenting the effectiveness of various city initiatives and investments, such as service improvements or capital expenditures, and whether they are achieving the results targeted.

Strong and Resilient Economy: B

We will work within a collaborative network of city-builders to create a dynamic and prosperous Kitchener that is rich with employment opportunities, and successful business ventures that can grow and thrive within the broader global economy.

The City of Kitchener has worked collaboratively with the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation to create a solid foundation to attract and retain a diverse range of businesses. We are encouraged by the city’s forward thinking and the priorities that have been established. The city’s economic development strategy Make It Kitchener, in conjunction with the on-going development of the downtown core, has been successful in supporting a variety of businesses, such as the Velocity science lab and the expansion of Communitech. Continued participation and strong coordination with our regional partners will continue to be essential to the long-term development of the economy.

The City of Kitchener has played an important role in supporting local companies and partners like the University of Waterloo in securing federal funding to develop an advanced manufacturing supercluster in the Toronto-Waterloo Region Corridor which will see some of Waterloo Region’s best researchers, innovators, and companies become key contributors in growing our community’s and our country’s economic future. The city’s leadership role in the development of Broadband and Fibre Optic infrastructure has been instrumental in raising awareness, creating a sense of urgency and gaining commitment to move forward on this important initiative. In addition, Kitchener’s new Digital Strategy will create a platform for technology to be used to benefit the community. 

A vibrant and dynamic Arts and Culture industry will help Kitchener create a unique identity and quality of life that will attract people to the city. The city needs to make a commitment to complete the arts and culture strategy as a priority for the future. Within this plan, the recent unsuccessful initiative to launch an Arts Incubator (or Hub) indicates a need to revisit the proposal, understand the reasons for failure and revise the plan to create a viable proposal.
  Safe and Thriving Neighbourhoods: B+

We will work with community partners to create complete, connected, safe and walkable neighbourhoods with a range of housing options. We will encourage people to come together, interact with one another and build relationships through inclusive programs, services, events and great public gathering places.

The Neighbourhood Strategy & Neighbourhood Development Office set a strong foundation for citizens to work together with the city to do great things in their neighbourhoods. We are excited about the opportunity to contribute to a strong positive identity for the places where we live and play, and we look forward to this work strengthening community spirit.

It is great to see the city completing plans for the development around the Midtown and Rockway LRT Stations. Once implemented they will help to increase transit ridership and support the development of vibrant neighbourhoods in these areas. Plans for a mixture of housing, office, retail, and other amenities integrated into a walkable neighbourhood will help get people out of their cars and connect more to their surrounding community. The opening of the ION service in 2018 will create some urgency to move forward with planning around all of the remaining stations as a top priority. 

Citizens appreciate the effort the city is making to create safer streets for all through traffic calming and a number of different measures are being implemented to achieve this goal. It would be reassuring to monitor the effectiveness of these investments so that we can see if they are achieving expected results.

Kitchener has made a lot of progress in attracting young talent to the community through amenities and events that appeal to that demographic. The city’s new age friendly action plan will help to ensure that citizens of all ages have the opportunity to live a good life in Kitchener and we look forward to seeing this plan implemented. The city is doing important work in Kitchener neighbourhoods. Going forward it will be important to maintain momentum on these plans as it is an ambitious schedule. Focus on keeping neighbourhoods engaged and help citizens see the impact of their feedback on city initiatives.

  Sustainable Environment & Infrastructure: A
We will have well planned, managed and cost-effective infrastructure systems that support long-term community needs for services, harnessing the benefits of nature through green infrastructure programs to create a healthy urban environment.

It is heartening to see the progress the city is making on a wide range of initiatives in support of sustaining our environment and infrastructure systems. The urban forest management program is a fine example of how the city is doing a good job of balancing infrastructure with the natural environment - making Kitchener function well and feel welcoming and beautiful. Particularly important is the city's focus on long-term infrastructure planning, promoting better management of expenses, enabling smart, strategic investments and positioning the city to make the best use of available Federal and Provincial funding. 

With all of the city's street lighting having now been replaced with LEDs, important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, light pollution and operational costs are being realized. The city also completed 12 energy efficiency projects and implemented measures to reduce water consumption from city operations. We applaud the environmental benefits that will be generated by the low impact development design guidelines regarding Kitchener’s stormwater utility and the city's integrated stormwater management plan.

It is very exciting to see the city's investments in sidewalk infill, bike lanes, trail maintenance improvements and trail lighting. Environmentally friendly transportation modes are now becoming viable options as primary means of transportation and citizens’ recreational pursuits. These improvements enable people to reach their destinations easily and safely and enhance their sense of community engagement. To ensure that these amenities are used to the fullest, it will be important to update signage as well as trail and cycling maps so that citizens are fully aware of the transportation options available. We encourage the city to continue with cycling infrastructure improvements and updating the Cycling Master Plan, increasing the number of neighbourhoods connected and ensuring that cycling is a viable means of transportation across the whole city.

Effective & Efficient City Services: B+

We will deliver quality public services that meet the day to day needs of the community in a reliable and affordable way, made possible through technology, innovation, employee engagement and a sound long-term financial plan.

The City of Kitchener has been progressive and is ahead of many other municipalities in the province in leveraging its private sector partnerships to accelerate the rate of innovation within the community. The decision to integrate the Civic Innovation Lab within the Communitech Hub is a unique approach that we expect will deliver positive results for citizens well into the future. It is great to see the Smart City Network move forward as part of the streetlighting improvements and continue to implement innovative technology to improve and enhance city services with new recreation management software, tax and utility e-billing and parking payment technology.  

We are encouraged to see the city’s ongoing review and analysis of service performance through Internal Audit Initiatives and Service Reviews that maximize efficient service delivery. The list of accomplishments is extensive, but most citizens are not aware of the city’s efforts. More work needs to be done to get the word out.

As the city strives to meet community expectations, city staff need to have the skills, capabilities and attitudes to meet those challenges. The Corporate Talent Strategy, Employee Culture Survey and the implementation of People Plan action items support employee development and are central to the city’s operational success now and in the future. The ongoing review of the city’s capital assets is equally important in ensuring the future health of the community. Continued commitment to strong infrastructure, such as the redevelopment of Kiwanis Park, the review of plans for the Auditorium and the planned development of the South Kitchener District Park are a few examples.

One area Compass Kitchener would like to see more progress on is the long-term financial plan for the city. This needs to be a priority going forward to ensure financial stability and establishment of priorities. This plan should provide guidelines for items such as asset management, cash flow, reserve funds and risk management.

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