By: Councillor Rowena Santos, Ward 1-5

The school bell is about to ring. Such anticipation is matched with alarm bells ringing around speeding in school zones. Like other moms, the “Mama Bear” in me has my child’s safety top of mind every minute of the day. That natural instinct is strengthened by my experience as an activist. My urge to protest or take action into my own hands is second nature. But as an elected official, one has an entire constituency, Council team, and city to also consider.

Like my respected colleagues, it truly is a privilege to serve. But this role means looking at the bigger picture, and respecting and upholding the laws of the government. In cases where changes are required, we must work together with colleagues and city staff to cause change for the betterment of Brampton, its future and our residents. Decisions are expected to be based on research, engagement with staff, experts and balance feedback from the community as whole.

Speeding and unsafe driving was a major concern during the campaign of 2018. This is why on January 30 at Committee of Council, we discussed traffic safety and speeding on local roads. A motion was passed to have staff look at traffic calming measures, speed reductions, and photo radar in school zones. Council was requested to work with staff to identify problematic streets. The report is scheduled to return to Council this quarter.

Research supports that the most effective way to reduce speeding is through police enforcement and fines, permanent signage, signal lights, road diets, and/or photo radar. The motion requires staff to look into these options including speed bumps. That is what Council directed and this is why the appearance of unenforceable “slow down” lawn signs has come as a surprise to many of us, but there are other reasons:

  1. Many Brampton residents and especially our youth, are environmental advocates. Council unanimously passed a motion declaring a climate emergency and asked staff to look into a ban on single-use plastics – lawn signs are a form of single-use plastics;
  2. There is a large number of residents who consider lawns signs as “eyesores” and a safety hazard causing blind spots and distractions. By-law must enforce complaints issued by residents, a controversial balance that the City deals with regularly. Furthermore, the enforcement of all types of illegal lawn signs are costly and shift resources away from other priorities such as illegal second unit apartments or parking infractions;
  3. We’ve had this discussion already. Precedence exists. For example, in the same month that we passed the motion to address traffic calming and speeding, promotions and installations of the infamous “Not in our Neighbourhood” signs to avert a “pot invasion” in Brampton were deemed illegal;
  4. Who are the lawn signs for anyway? It’s an honest question. Are they mostly to make residents feel better or will speeders actually change behaviour because of them? Will they even see the signs? Wouldn’t it be more effective to work with staff and the community to find permanent solutions all year round?;
  5. We made an oath to uphold and respect the laws of the city. Council Code of Conduct Rule No. 13: “Members shall encourage public respect for the City and its by-laws. A Councillor must not denigrate a City by-law in responding to a citizen, as it undermines confidence in the City and the rule of law”;
  6. At no point in this term of Council have “slow down” signs been brought up for official discussion, including at any of the meetings of the Safety Advisory Committee (constituted by residents of Brampton and Councillors), with the most recent meeting held last week on Wednesday, August 28th

All things considered, the issue of traffic calming and speeding was made a priority since January. We all agreed to look into effectivesolutions with a report coming thisquarter. The buzz around vigilante “slow down” lawn signs, might have raised public awareness but its effectiveness is still questionable. 

Conversations around lawn signs have yet again caused a distraction, not only on our roads but also around the brand of our city. As mentioned in recent radio coverage: “If that is the biggest problem they have in Brampton, then Brampton people should give themselves another think.”

While staff have been working hard on recommendations to effectively address traffic calming and speeding, our Council Team has brought forward many more important issues worthy of attention – our health care crisis and #FairDealForBrampton being just one of them.

From one “Mama Bear” to all of the others in Brampton, I wish everyone a very safe return back to school. Let’s all do our part and make a commitment to drive safely and obey speed limits, with or without signs.

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