Debbie in the Kitchener Post

Photo: Bill Jackson/Metroland

Engagement, tall towers top-of-mind for Kitchener's downtown candidates

Jul 06, 2018 - by Bill Jackson

Current Ward 9 Coun. Frank Etherington said he was reluctant to make false promises. He hasn't declared his intent to run in the election this fall, however Debbie Chapman, who lost to him by just one vote in the 2010 election, said she's already looking forward to a rematch.

Raised in Kitchener, Chapman, 61, has a PhD in political science from Western University and teaches political science and global studies part time at Wilfrid Laurier University.

She's a married mother of two adult children, and formerly served as the president of the Cherry Park Neighbourhood Association.

She concurs that one of biggest issues is community engagement and citizen participation in the political process. Public consultation with bulletin boards and checking off what picture you like the best isn't community engagement, Chapman said.

"The way it's done now, it's done behind closed doors. It's not transparent, and then it's presented to us."

She said residents and developers need to sit down at the same table with decision makers and that the city needs to do a better job of reaching out to community groups across Kitchener, not just its own advisory committees.

She takes issue with statements made by some council members that the city needs to be careful how it treats developers, so as not to push them away.

"There's enough competition out there, and I don't think we have to be afraid of hurting somebody," she said, adding that there are already ample loopholes for developers to work with.

She said it's imperative that the next council ensures community space with new downtown developments, as many local groups are without places to gather and hold events.

Chapman has volunteered with numerous local organizations and committees, including the city's advisory committee for cycling and trails, an area where many gains have been made in recent years.

"But there's lots more work to be done," she said.

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