Mayor Peter Kelly held a question and answer session with the newly revitalized Home Owners Association of Halifax on Wednesday night.
About 30 people from the association were in attendance to ask their questions and bring up concerns with the Mayor.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity. People speak their minds, and let you know how they feel. To me, that’s key if we’re going to grow and be able to respond. We need to hear what’s on their minds. In this form you certainly get to hear that,” said the Mayor.
Residents discussed hot button issues like the new graffiti laws, suggesting more policing around vandalism or restrictions on selling spray paint and other graffiti materials, and many were interested transit options in Halifax.
The Mayor confirmed that that the high speed ferry was no longer on the agenda, but touted the existing and future success of bus transportation.
One woman raised concerns about the cost of having so many university students in Halifax.
“Most of the time we think of students in terms of bringing things to our city, but…we now see a tipping of the balance of the cost of having a large number of students and the use of alcohol in our city,” she said.
On a related point, the people were also concerned about tax regulations on student housing. Dulcie Conrad, secretary of the association, was one of the discouraged home owners that witnessed near by houses being used for profit, but being taxed in the same way, and raising assessment values on the street.
“To me, that’s a business,” she said.
Heather Craig raised problems with contracting scams, hoping to encourage higher standards for contractors and building inspectors.
“He knew what I was talking about, but he avoided it. His personnel in the city…were all climbing under desks trying to escape from what they had done,” said Craig.
Newly elected president of the association, Gerald Walsh, wanted to affirm Kelly’s commitment to health and wellness in HRM. And one resident brought forward a concern about a HRM employee stealing public property for private use.
“The issue of the individual using HRM property or assets for their personal use is something we’ll have to check out right away,” said Mayor Kelly. “You don’t want to hear that, you don’t expect to hear that and the taxpayers certainly don’t want to hear that. We have do deal with those very very seriously.”
Many also stated that they often felt unheard or ignored when they tried to bring these issues to the attention of councilors and other regulatory bodies like the Better Business Bureau.
In the end, many still seemed unsatisfied with the responses Kelly gave.
“It’s no good to just say, well the government’s doing this or doing that. The thing is we’ve got to keep nagging them,” said Conrad, who had even more concerns that she didn’t have time to raise.
Mayor Kelly said most of the issues raised were no surprise.
“They’re all valid concerns and we have to make sure that we deal with them the ones we can under our own jurisdiction and the ones that we can’t we have to work through the province as well,” he said.
Conrad hopes with a newly elected executive board, the Home Owners Association will have a greater impact.
“[homeowners] should take one day a week and come to meetings like this, because if you don’t have a democracy, what have you got?”