The APWA International Public Works Congress & Expo in Toronto began early on August 17th with a rush of attendees in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, who were registering or on their way to the early morning meetings. The Ontario Chapter’s volunteers in red hockey jerseys were located strategically to help attendees find their way to morning events and locations. The First-Timers Meeting started the day at 7 a.m., and onto the the Fleet Services Open Forum at 8:30 a.m. Nine education sessions followed on the “700” level of the Centre that included many topics such as Efficient Snow Logistics, Emergency Management Best Practices, Implementing Municipal Storm Sewer Pipe Rating Systems, and Key Principles of Effective Delegation.
As the Opening General Session began at 10:00 a.m., the stage was lit up in bright orange and yellow with acrobats who performed on a hanging circular bar. The session began with “Anita Rhodes” the comedienne, who introduced President Ed Gottko, PWLF. Gottko spoke about his year as 2013-2014 APWA President reflected on his past year as President speaking about his travel schedule, members, and chapter visits of the year. He thanked the work of the Board of Directors, and stressed that professional development and engaging young public works professionals is paramount as we think about the future. He also featured some highlights of the year, thanking the chapters where he visited, especially in the Los Angeles and Baltimore areas. After the handing off of the Presidential gavel to Larry Stevens, P.E., PWLF, there were new Board of Directors 2014-2015 introductions. President Stevens was surprised by his mother’s onstage introduction to the attendees, who paid tribute to her son through photographs of his life. In President Stevens’ General Session speech, he reminded attendees of the “Breaking Boundaries” Congress theme, reflecting on the critical issues in both the U.S. and Canada that face public infrastructure in the 21st Century, as it ages and is not replaced or maintained as needed. He highlighted key industry reports, including the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality's “Executing a Sustainable Infrastructure Vision,” in which APWA is participating to offer advice regarding a new vision and path forward for sustaining America’s public infrastructure leadership. He also referenced the CPWA involvement with the Infrastructure Reportcard of 2012, and the work of CPWA advocacy as a strong and consistent voice for infrastructure and economic growth. Stevens subsequently discussed the Board’s revised Strategic Plan that highlights three primary initiatives of equal value; Supporting and Strengthening Chapters, Advocating as the Voice of Public Works, and the Professional Development and Education of public works professionals. He stressed the role of the Donald C. Stone Center’s leadership programs and also the myriad of educational opportunities open for APWA members.
Congress Keynote Speaker, Jennifer Keesmat, Toronto’s Chief Urban Planner, spoke about the Toronto “Collaborative Innovation.” Her theme of “Creating places for people to flourish” was described and illustrated through Toronto’s approach to “Places as an assemblage of projects, in which 21st Century infrastructure sustainably moves forward into the future, to places that are fiscally responsible as well as complex." She also described Toronto (the fourth largest city in North America) as having “enhanced urbanism” with elements including advanced development applications, a vortex for transit, building a high-rise city, and large employment growth. Keesmat proposed a new model for infrastructure that established sustainable habitats, building on shared interests, and harder working infrastructure that “embraces complexity” that also adapts to changing climate and weather patterns.
The Expo Hall opened from noon to 4 p.m. with many attendees perusing the exhibits of cutting edge public works machinery, trucks, sweepers and products, as well as the Exhibitor Solutions Theater, and There’s an App for That! More education sessions followed at 3 p.m. including topics such as Asset Management, Inlet Inspection Programs, Electronic Management Tools, Ethical Yoga, Social Media and Emergency Management, the ISI Envision Roundtable , as well as Integrating Mobile Reporting and MAP-21 for Small Cities and Rural Communities in the later sessions. The Get Acquainted Party was located at the Liberty Grand location hosted by the Ontario Chapter, where old and new friends connected while enjoying the premier lakefront venue, acrobatic performers, and the outdoor courtyard and ballrooms with international food stations.