I am delighted to have this opportunity to wish Coast readers a Happy New Year, and share some of my thoughts as we enter 2013. It is a privilege to be mayor of Halifax, and I am honoured to work with this council at this time in our history. We'll be tested by big decisions in the coming months, and I believe this council will pass that test through open dialogue and honest exchange of ideas. Although it's early, I believe we've already demonstrated that capacity. The recognition of HRM By Design as the guiding document for development in
the downtown core provided developers with the confidence to proceed with their plans for investment in our downtown. More significantly, it recognized and respected the many hours of work by citizens who participated in its creation.
Before addressing specific initiatives for the 2013-14 budget, council devoted several hours to a wide-ranging discussion of priorities that reflect both the common factors and the disparate needs of our large and diverse municipality. I will work with my council colleagues and our staff to find ways to open future budget processes to more citizen involvement.
I've spoken at length about the strengths of our community, and the need to leverage those strengths.
With strengths come challenges.
Economic activity and the creation of productive and rewarding jobs are the foundation of our success. With the shipbuilding contract, we have an opportunity to establish Halifax as an international centre of excellence for shipbuilding and marine technology. Our entrepreneurs and educational institutions have the skill and expertise to create that strong, sustainable economy--- and I am determined to be a mayor who supports their efforts as marketer-in-chief.
A strong sustainable economy is inextricably linked with a healthy community, where citizens and visitors feel safe; where young people can make the best choices to achieve their potential; where we respect and protect our heritage and our environment while we embrace wise growth and where we ensure that people can move efficiently and comfortably.
I've spoken with many people over the past few months about our first steps toward a healthy community.
Public safety must be a big component of this strategy. Later this year, we'll be revisiting the Mayor's Task Force on Violence to assess its impact and update the recommendations. We'll also consult public health professionals, students, business and citizens on an alcohol policy.
In the past couple of months, I've started conversations with community organizations about measures we can take to fight social exclusion, poverty and homelessness. While housing may be a provincial responsibility, municipal policies can support the development of more affordable housing, and we can work with the provincial and federal governments to capitalize on programs and funding.
I am convinced that municipal leadership in this area is not only possible, but critical.
One intersection of economic development and healthy community is arts and culture. Artists and performers enrich our city, and reflect the best of us in their work. They are also part of the attraction for talented individuals and businesses that consider locating here.
In 2013, we'll be renewing and strengthening our relationship with our arts and culture community, to recognize their importance and demonstrate meaningful support.
As a community, let's imagine what could be done with the Cogswell Interchange. I believe this is a unique opportunity to engage citizens and have a world leading development that will transform Halifax. I see this project as an ideal vehicle to have animated, provocative and thoughtful conversations about what may be possible, followed by a process to bring the best ideas in the world to Halifax.
We are on the verge of exciting things. Let's think big and make them happen.
Mike Savage is the mayor of Halifax.
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