Thinking Out of the Box

2012-03-01

The 2005 Hampstead election produced a new council with five out of seven members, including myself, who had no previous council experience. At our first caucus meeting, the ideas flew fast and furiously around the table but as we quickly learned, there are many rules that limit what can and cannot be done in a municipality. Nevertheless, the previous and current council has continued to brainstorm and come up with fresh ideas. The administration has followed our lead and has contributed its own ideas. We have also welcomed ideas and initiatives from the community. With the resources at our disposal, Hampstead has become one of the most innovative communities on the island of Montreal, if not in Quebec.

Saving Money
In 2006, the Quebec government offered some towns an interest-free loan to reduce residents' Agglomeration taxes. Hampstead was the only town to accept it because we figured out how to turn it into a loan for much-needed infrastructure work. The estimated interest savings are over $3 million.

We were the first demerged town on the island to use the Watergate system. This diverts water from a water main break back onto the street so it does not flood basements. Each flooded basement can cost the Town up to $100,000 in legal claims.

Environmental Initiatives
While we still have much to do, we have made important inroads on the environmental front. We were the first town in Canada to ban wood burning stoves. Montreal and others followed our lead. Our IT expert, Thierry Houle, found an iPad app that allows us to conduct paperless council meetings. While other towns have done this with notebook PCs, we are the first in Canada to do it with more portable iPads. We also implemented the town's first Green Collection, contributing to our excellent waste recuperation record and the $66,000 cheque that we recently got from Quebec.

Political Action
At my first meeting with the mayors of the newly demerged suburbs, I advocated a boycott of the Agglomeration Council. In May 2006, Mayor Maria Tutino of Baie-D'Urfé and I stopped attending and by December all the mayors had joined the boycott. The result was Bill 22 which corrected several of the injustices (not all) in the Agglomeration and significant savings for Hampstead and the other suburbs.

Following the adoption by the Quebec government of legislation requiring every municipality to have a code of ethics, Hampstead was the first in Quebec to do so. I have been told by a lawyer who lectures on the subject that it is the strongest code in the province.

A Traffic Solution
After two years of trying to find a solution to the problem of morning rush hour drivers cutting through our quiet streets north of Fleet Road, Councillor Harvey Shaffer came up with the 15-minute solution. It restricts left turns from Fleet to 15 minute intervals at different intersections. All the experts had never heard of such a thing and the initial response was laughter - but it worked! Traffic cutting through our streets has been significantly reduced and spread out fairly.

The above are just a few of the innovative actions that Hampstead has taken. I thank my colleagues on council and our staff for their entrepreneurial, creative and resourceful approach to dealing with challenges. In addition, some of our actions came from or were influenced by suggestions from residents like you. If you have any comments suggestions, or questions on this topic or anything else related to Hampstead, please e-mail me at wsteinberg@hampstead.qc.ca or call me 7 days a week until midnight at my home office at 514 483-6954.


Sincerely,


Dr. Bill Steinberg
Mayor, Town of Hampstead