Jack Miller has been a member of Belleville city council since 2006. The “voice” of the Belleville Bulls, Miller joined Quinte Broadcasting in 1974 and has been sports director since there 1982. Miller is actively involved in the community as he sits on the board of directors of the United Way of Quinte as well as helping many other organizations. Miller’s priorities to improve the city include completing “Build Belleville projects, downtown revitalization, and expanding the city’s role in supporting the arts while taking a vigilant approach to city spending.
Your Voice, Your Vote – The QNetNews Municipal Election Project sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates for mayor and council. Here are Jack Miller’s unedited responses.
1. One concern we’ve heard from a number of people is about the future of jobs in Belleville, and where job growth will come from. What role do you see city council playing to help bring new jobs to Belleville? What kind of jobs do you envision in Belleville’s future? How does council help make that happen?
Response: For the last 8 years council has been “setting the table” for job growth in Belleville with the acquisition of 600 acres of land immediately east of the existing north-east industrial park. 200 acres has recently been serviced and is now available for industrial growth. Until now the city’s ability to attract new industry has been limited due to the lack of serviced “shovel ready” land. Council has also been addressing the need for expanded infrastructure to accommodate more business and residential expansion. We have also improved “qualify of life” issues such as recreation facilities.
2. We’ve also heard from a number of people who say, with regards to young people in Belleville, that there’s not enough for them to do here, and there’s not enough to keep them here after they graduate, whether that’s from high school or from Loyalist College. For the purposes of these questions, we’re defining young people as being between 12 and 24. What role does the city play in providing interesting things for young people to do? How does the city keep more of its young population here after they leave school? How do you envision the city working with Loyalist College to do just that?
Response: The best way to keep our youth here is to provide them with employment opportunities with a good future. (see above). It’s a chicken and egg scenario. Industry needs skilled people and skilled people need jobs. To that end the city has donated $500,000 to Loyalist to support the new “Skilled, trades and technology” centre. Belleville offers a good lifestyle of living along with top notch recreation, sports and entertainment facilities. I would welcome any partnership with Loyalist to enhance opportunities to help our youth stay here.
3. We also heard a lot of concern about poverty in Belleville, especially child poverty. There are two main concerns tied to the discussion of poverty in this community – food and shelter. One in three children in this community face food insecurity issues. What can council do to address that? What role does council have in providing more affordable accommodation for more people in this city? Does Belleville need a men’s shelter for those who are temporarily homeless?
Response: Council does not have a direct role in these issues. They are the responsibility of and administered by Hastings County and supported financially by area municipalities and the Provincial Government. There is little doubt about the need for a temporary shelter in Belleville however these facilities are usually provided through social services, churches or service organizations. Municipalities can offer support in various ways however are not equipped or mandated to operate such facilities.
4. Council recently passed a Transportation Master Plan. What are your thoughts on that plan? How would you characterize the existing public transit system in Belleville? What would you do to improve it? What can the city do to improve cycling infrastructure in this city?
Response: The Master Plan is a blueprint of needed transportation infrastructure for the next 20 years. Some of the needs identified are critical. Some (401 Eastern Interchange with new road network) can’t be financially supported by a city our size. Public transit in Belleville is currently going through an operational review. The system carries in excess of 930,000 riders per year. It operates well and is considered one of the more efficient systems in Ontario. We are looking at extending service to the south part of Thurlow however such a move will have property tax implications. Transit is not part of the core rate paid by property owners. Taxpayers in Ward 1 subsidize transit as they are the only people getting the service. Permanent extension into Ward 2 will require subsidy by taxpayers who will receive the service. There is already a significant cycling network in place in the city and council has recently approved an additional 2.8 million dollars to connect this network to Bridge Street West all the way to Loyalist College.
5. Sometimes it seems the future of downtown Belleville is a more popular topic of conversation than the weather is. How do you see downtown Belleville being revitalized?
Response: I am the Vice Chair of the Mayor’s Taskforce on Downtown Belleville and the council rep on the BDIA. There is a complete revitalization plan in place including significant upgrading of infrastructure which will lead to residential intensification in the downtown area. Recent tenders came in above the allotted budget. The project will be re-tendered this winter. You can find complete details on the city’s website.
6. What role does council play in supporting a vibrant arts community in Belleville?
Response: Council has not played enough of a role to support the arts in Belleville. It is part of my platform to change that.
7. Many people pointed to tourism as an important economic driver in this city. What role can the city play in both bringing more tourists to the city, and keeping them here longer?
Response: The city’s tourism initiatives are carried out by the Chamber of Commerce (contract), the Bay of Quinte Tourist Council (member) and the office of our Economic Development and Strategic Initiatives department. Belleville partners with the Quinte area as a whole to attract tourism.
Should there be a better connection between the Bay of Quinte waterfront and Belleville’s downtown?
Response: Absolutely. This is also being addressed through the downtown revitalization project and upcoming re-construction of Dundas Street west to Bay Bridge Road.
8. What are your thoughts on a casino in Belleville? Why/Why not?
Response: It’s a done deal which is now in the hands of OLG. I have no problem with it as it will provide the city with another revenue source, job opportunities, tax base and another form of entertainment.
9. Who should pay for upgrades to the Yardmen Arena? How important do you think it is that the Bulls remain in Belleville?
Response: The city owns the Yardmen Arena which is almost 40 years old. The arena floor is past it’s “due date” and has to be replaced at a cost in excess of 2 million dollars. If not replaced, the Yardmen is out of the ice business for everyone. The cost for this kind of repair should be borne by the city. However if the Yardmen is to be renovated, the Bulls as the premier beneficiaries have to be involved financially. The Bulls are the most visible asset Belleville has. In essence, they put us on the map. It’s critical that they remain part of this city.
10. We heard complaints from people in Thurlow that it’s the forgotten part of this city, especially when it comes to city services. How do you respond to those complaints?
Response: The city has spent millions of dollars extending water, waste water and sewer services into the urban parts of Thurlow. Approximately 18 million dollars from Build Belleville is earmarked to upgrade roads. Another 1.5 million dollars has been budgeted to build 2 new fire halls. Millions more have already been spent upgrading bridges in Ward 2. Most of Thurlow is rural. Rural areas don’t have the same services as urban areas do and as such pay lower taxes.