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Mayor Eddie Francis wants council to commit to freezing taxes for the next four years. ((CBC))

Mayor Eddie Francis challenged the city's politicians and bureaucrats to freeze Windsor taxes for four years in an effort to make the city a more affordable place to live and do business.

The promise was made at the inaugural gathering of city council at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts. The mayor and 10 councillors took an oath of office in front of 300 people in the Chrysler Theatre.

The mayor plans to continue in his role as "chief sales officer" for the city. Francis said everything the city does this term must meet a simple test.

"Does it help create jobs? Does it help diversify our economy? If it doesn't we have failed in our promise," said Francis in his inaugural speech to the city.

All three new councillors said they're completely behind the mayor's plan to "hold the line on taxes."

'Jobs is the most important thing that we must work towards in Windsor.' —Hilary Payne

"This is our agenda too," said Ward 5 councillor Ed Sleiman. "We really have to reduce the cost of operating the city and we are behind him."

"The mayor's absolutely right," said Ward 9 councillor Hilary Payne. "Jobs is the most important thing that we must work towards in Windsor."

"We need to make Windsor the best place to invest, the best place to attract families, and the best place to attract businesses," said Al Maghnieh, Ward 10 councillor.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Francis wants to make Windsor the most affordable city in Ontario, something he said will translate into new investment and jobs.

"We're also sending a message to people that are looking for places to retire, people looking for places to relocate. One of the key things they look for is an affordable community," said Francis.

Budget cuts

Francis said other city agencies, boards and groups such as police, the fire department, and the utilities commission will have to get creative with their budgets.

Police Chief Gary Smith admits it won't be easy to trim expenses.

"As long as we're not endangering or reducing community safety then we're going to do it and be a good corporate partner like we always have been," said Smith.

Ward 8 councillor Bill Marra says holding the line on taxes doesn't always mean reducing spending.

"The other part of the equation is increasing revenues and I think we need to look at it that way," said Marra. "We have to look at both sides of the equation to do this. So it's a monumental challenge and it's one we're all willing to look at and I don't think it's something that should scare us."

"It's not a cake walk," said the only female member of council, Jo-Anne Gignac. "But rate-payers are hurting and we are going to commit to fighting for the rate-payers."

Council will start to tackle the 2011 budget in January.