Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said the City will focus on property crime in the community as part of the policing plan.
Veer addressed Red Deer Chamber of Commerce members at a luncheon on Tuesday.
“We do have real challenges. Crime and public safety is a great example of that,” she said. “Red Deer has ranked unfavorably high in a couple areas over the last few years. In our annual policing plan, which council is working on with the RCMP right now to develop for next year – we have identified property crime as an area of priority we need to get a handle on.”
Veer added the focus on organized crime in Red Deer has shown positive results, even though that has led to high profile arrests which garner national press.
“Obviously the more arrests you make, the more high profile that becomes but those in essence are good news stories because we would rather know about it and address it than bury our heads in the sand,” she said. “In the annual policing plan we have identified property crime and the need to get ahead of these prolific offenders, because that is certainly causing an identity detriment – not to mention the real life impacts on our citizens and businesses.”
Veer also addressed the Chamber by discussing the 2017 Tax Rate Bylaw, which the Chamber had previously challenged the mayor and council to bring down to 0%.
Veer explained while the City has had 0% tax rates in the mid ‘90s, this was followed by several years where taxation increased to anywhere from 8-14% in the subsequent years. Due to ongoing economic struggles the City of Red Deer and council also look to ensure they are investing in capital savings, Veer explained the final tax rate was set at 1.1% – which was below there initial estimate of more than 3%.
Veer also addressed the question of ensuring the downtown core does not lose businesses by pointing out the upcoming mixed commercial and residential Riverlands subdivision adjacent to downtown. She pointed out the new Municipal Government Act could offer help to these types of revitalizing development projects.
“When the Municipal Government Act amendments were tabled, they did identify an amendment that would allow municipalities to split mill rates,” she said. “Municipalities have asked for that as a tool in the Municipal Government Act for many years.”
Currently, according to Veer, tax rates are applied equally to all properties meaning local governments have no way to coax developers to certain properties – like the downtown core for example.
“People will often complain that there is derelict properties or sterilized lands downtown or elsewhere in the community,” she said. “As a City we have no tools to address that other then bylaw enforcement. Splitting up mill rates would allow us to create disincentives on certain types of uses or to provide incentives to certain types of development.”
Veer also pointed out much of the new development throughout the City is the result of national exposure garnered from events like the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup and the upcoming 2019 Canada Winter Games. The exposure also allowed Red Deer to lobby different levels of government for new development opportunities.
“Red Deer for a couple of reasons has garnered both provincial and national identity, but also infrastructure dollars,” she said. “We named some of those catalysts for infrastructure dollars – the Canada Games being one of them. In the past year, one of the highlights was when a federal sitting infrastructure minister visited not once but twice when we hosted a forum. That gave us the opportunity to identify the needs of not just Red Deer, but midsize cities across the country. Our hope is that will translate to infrastructure agreements and funding envelopes that will transfer to infrastructure dollars in communities of our size.”
Veer also noted the 2019 Canada Winter Games have also helped shelter Red Deer from one of the, “Deepest and most protracted recessions Alberta has had in decades.
“That money has come here and brought stability to the local economy in a time when we have needed it the most. Had that not occurred, we certainly would not have attracted other infrastructure dollars such the QEII interchange or the Red Deer Airport (runway extension). Those projects would not have happened if it wasn’t for Red Deer being the choice City.”