Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Zumba Fitness With Katherine Skanes

For those of you who are interested in an exercise program there is a Zumba Fitness class in Torbay at Holy Trinity Highschool gym on Wednesday and Sunday nights.

I have heard a lot lately about people wanting to get in shape especially after the Christmas holidays and when I heard about this it caught my interest. Over the past couple of years more and more emphasis has been put on losing weight and trying to live more healthy lifestyles.

Over the past couple of years I have become a fan of the Biggest Loser television program and I am amazed and inspired by the people who participate in that show. One aspect of the show that sticks with me is that most of those people have tried and failed to lose weight in the past and they seem to find the strength and encouragement from their fellow competitors.

It seems that people would certainly benefit from the camaraderie and support from others participating in the same workout class. I am just speculating here and I am certainly no expert but it does seem that when you have someone else to lean on and socialize with makes things easier.

I don't really know much about Zumba but I am sure that Katherine can provide all the info you need to know.

Check out the facebook page Zumba Fitness with Katherine 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snowscuff 2012 Big Success

Well according to everyone I have talked to they were delighted with the show the other night and it was a big success. I guess it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that it would be good considering The Navigators are one of the best bands around and the price for the tickets was very reasonable.

That is what happens when you have a show with a band that people wan to see at a price that doesn't make them run away. I hope the Torbay Hillside Festival crowd keep that in mind this summer when they are planning the festivities.

I liked the Hillside Festival last year and I felt bad for the organizers when the weather didn't really cooperate and kind of made things difficult on Sunday. With that in mind though I think the town may have lost a pile of money on that festival considering the opening night flop that they held at the Jack Byrne Arena.

I know that organizing an event that takes place over 9 days from start to finish can't be easy. Maybe that is part of the problem, maybe it is too long and drawn out I don't know. All I do know is that I went to all the local festivals last year in our area and I saw more people from Torbay in Outer Cove and Flatrock than I saw at the Torbay events. Pretty sad if you ask me.

Hopefully this summer the residents of Torbay rally behind the events that will be held surrounding the Torbay 250 celebrations and if you don't know what is going on check out their web page Torbay250

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Torbay Tops in Regional Economic Capacity Index (RECI)

A couple of weeks ago I heard someone on the news talking about this study done at Memorial University that examines many criteria to evaluate the overall socio-economic well being of a community.

Anyway that is the essence of the report and there are many very interesting facts and figures in it relating to our town and the other communities in the province. The good news in this study as it related to the Town of Torbay is that we finished at the very top of the list of all communities in the province with a 92% index score. Hooray for Torbay!! It is also worth noting that all of the communities on the North East Avalon performed well in the report.

Basically the study looks at 8 different criteria to determine the score for a community and what is clear from looking at the details of the report is that all the communities in our region and Torbay in particular benefit from being close to the City of St. John's and it's business sector.

I am going to list the different categories here and the score, it is interesting to actually go and look in more detail so I will provide a link to the report if anyone wants to have a closer look.

Economic Structure

  • Percentage of Primary and Secondary Industries - Much above average
  • Self Employment Ratio - Moderately below average
  • Employment Insurance Ratio - Very much above average
  • Distance to Retail Centre - Very much above average
  • Three Largest Employers Share - Much above average
Looks like the two areas we could improve is self employment and I guess there is not much we can do about a higher than average amount of people on EI but I find it interesting that in our booming town so many people are unemployed.

Labor Supply - Basically the number and quality of our available workforce

  • Working age Population - Slightly above average
  • Post Secondary Education Percentage - Moderately above average

Judging from these numbers it appears that we have an abundance of people who are of the working age population and also well educated. This bodes well for our future as our town continues to grow.

Demographics - Specific demographic characteristics of our workforce

  • Total Population - Much above average
  • Age Structure - Slightly above average
  • Participation Rate - Much above average
  • High School Completion - Much above average
  • Education Level - Very much above average
  • Non University but Post Secondary - Very much above average
  • Working age Population - Much above average

I guess what we can take away from the demographics category is that Torbay has a large well educated workforce. Also the fact that many of our post secondary educated people are educated in the skilled trades which bodes well for people living in a province in need of skilled trades people.

Governance - measures how effective our elected officials are and how involved the general population is.

  • Grants Received - Much below average
  • Elected Officials Turnover - Much above average
  • Part of MCO (multi-community organization) - Very much above average
  • Volunteer Organizations - Very much above average

We score highly in most of these categories which indicates that our residents are involved in the community and our community is engaged with the rest of the region. One thing that is troubling is the below average score in Grants Received. This category is based on how successful our community has been in obtaining grants from other levels of government. It basically is a measurement of how entrepreneurial the local government is.

I guess we need to be asking why we are not getting grants from the province or feds and is our council doing enough in this area? If they are actively pursuing these types of grants then the results surely have not been there according to this study. This is also something we should be pressuring out Provincial and Federal members of parliament on. I also looked at this score for other communities around our area and they are all low in this category, it may be due to the fact that we are generally doing well economically.

Income - Where we get out money

  • Market Income - Slightly above average
  • Transfer Payment Income - Much above average

It appears that we have a stable source of income in our community and we are diverse in that much of our income actually comes from a market source which indicates a high workforce utilization.

Labor Demand

  • Distance to retail location - Very much above average
  • Self Employment Ration - Slightly above average
  • Three Largest Employers Share - Much above average
  • Percentage Primary Secondary Industries - Much above average

Our labor force seems to be a strong characteristic of our community and certainly adds to the desire for people to live in our community. The only potential problem with this is the score for Three Largest Employers Share because this leaves us with a potential instability if one of those employers had a downturn for some reason. We also have a high number of people employed in the resource extraction industry which could potentially cause problems if there was a down turn in that industry as well. With that in mind however that industry also provides our community with an awful lot of money.

Service Level

  • Distance to Post Office - Very much above average
  • Distance to High School - Very much above average
  • Distance to Hospital - Very much above average
This is pretty much self explanatory, our town is close to many services that are considered important in having a desirable place to live.

Spatial Location

  • Distance to St. John's or Corner Brook - Very much above average
  • Distance to TCH - Very much above average
  • Distance to Tourist Destination - Very much above average
I guess this is the part of the index that lets all the towns that live close to St. John's benefit from their location.  Although our town has also worked hard to promote itself as a tourist destination of our own and that seems to be paying off.

This report shows that our town is certainly in a position to benefit from a highly educated and motivated workforce. Our town continues to grow and as more and more skilled people move in it will only help our town.

One thing to remember though is that this study only looks at economic factors related to the town and not other things that we know makes our town a desirable location to live. We have a beautiful town in terms of scenery and open space that makes it an ideal place to live and raise a family.

Overall I guess we should be happy with the results of this study and take comfort in the fact that we are living in a community that provides us with the means to be able to make a decent living and take advantage of employment opportunities in the region.

This is just my interpretation of the report, for the entire RECI report you can go here to take a look at it and come to your own conclusions.

Taxes And More Taxes

I wonder how many people got a surprise when they opened their latest tax bill from the town and noticed the almost 10% increase they got slapped with?  I wasn't surprised of course and I am sure many other people who follow what is going on at council were not either.

Another thing that doesn't surprise me is how many people don't even realize that their taxes went up. I don't know if it is because they have so much money that they don't care or, and I suspect this is the case for a lot of people, their taxes are paid through their mortgage and they don't notice.

I understand the need that municipalities have for raising funds and they really only have one stable revenue source and that is through the property tax system. I do question the need though to raise taxes by ten percent when we are a town that supposedly on excellent financial footing, I believe we ran a surplus last year.

What really makes me mad however is the seemingly lack of transparency that exists within out budget process. Council stated that they needed to raise taxes to provide the services that people in the town want. If that is the case I can understand but I wonder how they determine what it is that people want? I don't remember ever being asked what I would like council to spend on or what my priorities are as a resident. Why don't we have a public budget consultation process where residents can have their say on the budget, instead of a few people getting together in private meetings and deciding what it is we want?

In a time in our country and our province, where there is a realization that spending needs to be controlled and reigned in a bit our little town is increasing spending across the board. Is that reasonable? I guess it is possible but if we are going to be spending more I would like to know what the money is going to be spent on. Are we going to be getting sidewalks on some of our roads? Are we going to be expanding water and sewer services? These are a couple of the things I hear people saying are priorities for them.

We know that the town is pursuing a large investment from the province to build a new Town Center among other things but, that investment has to be a couple of years off considering we don't even have the funds yet to proceed on that. The mayor has said many times that putting sidewalks on Torbay Road is not very straightforward considering it is a provincial road and not likely to happen soon in my opinion.

So what is the money going to get spent on? I have a feeling that much of it is going to be spent on the Torbay 250 Celebrations. That is fine with me if it is done reasonably and not foolishly, but I guess we will have to watch as the events are rolled out to see how wisely we are going to spend our money. In my opinion any expenditure that includes $200,000 to have a band such as Great Big Sea play at the ball field on Bauline Line is really stupid, a waste of money and should not be considered.