Mayor Keith Hobbs
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The city's social and physical infrastructure is shaping up the mayor says.
Keith Hobbs dubbed this term of council the "infrastructure council" during his final State of the City address for this term Monday night. He pointed out that tax-supported spending on infrastructure has doubled in the past four years and should close the gap by 2017.
"After that we will be addressing the backlog. The good news is we won't be falling further behind," he said.
Along with major roadwork, like the four-laning of Golf Links Road, construction valued at $210 million in 2013 shows that the city continues to build Hobbs said.
On the social side Hobbs highlighted everything from the waterfront to the drug strategy as successes. The strategy played a key role in launching a pilot program at the Balmoral Centre that added 24-hour nursing to the centre.
"It's no secret that substance use is a major issues for Thunder Bay. The enhancement of services at Balmoral Centre does not wholly address that issue, but it is a big step forward," he said.
The Shelter House's alcohol management program was also highlighted as a way to get pressure off of emergency services. Hobbs said recently he was told by Thunder Bay Police Service chief J.P. Levesque that there was a 24-hour period where no one was in a jail cell at the police station. Hobbs, a former officer himself, said in his opinion that's a record.
Those initiatives, along with expanding the 52 kilometres of waterfront to building a new youth centre to a new art gallery, are improving social infrastructure in the city he said.
"Cities need people to thrive and people need more than roads to build a life," Hobbs said. "They need opportunities, hope."
The 33 minute speech also focused on a critical affordable housing shortage. The cold weather makes it even more important to find a permanent solution. Hobbs said lobbing senior levels of government and forming partnerships with community groups needs to continue.
"We cannot, and will not, let this matter fall by the wayside," he said.
Hobbs also took the time to address the racist comments and jokes made by some in the city after a fire on the James Street swing bridge last month. While those people are in the minority, he said the issue showed there's still work to be done.
"Despite their attitudes," he said of those who made jokes. "Our city's relationship with Fort William First Nation remains strong. We must continue to foster that relationship through building partnerships and focusing on respect. Doing so will make both of our communities stronger."
On mining Hobbs said development in the region is more than just one company after Cliffs Natural Resources' decision to suspend operations in the Ring of Fire. He still sees the city becoming a regional mining centre.
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