What I want for Kitchener
“I want a City that values communities and neighbourhoods, develops a human economy, strengthens families in all their forms, and pays special attention to the vulnerable members of our society. Kitchener residents deserve a City that balances social equity with economic growth. I am committed to working toward this end.”
- Debbie Chapman
I would like to see Responsible development for all proposed projects in Ward 9 and surrounding areas. By responsible, I mean that residents in established neighbourhoods must be at the table as decisions are being made, the streetscape must mirror or at least be compatible with the existing neighbourhood, and set-backs and transitions should follow strict guidelines.
I made a presentation to City Council regarding the Breithaupt Block 3 development project which you can read here.
Integrated Transportation Infrastructure:
I am a seasonal biker and walker. I also drive and occasionally take public transportation. One of my main biking routes is the Iron Horse Trail and its extensions. The City has done a great job at improving and growing the trails over the years. The most recent upgrade in Ward 9 is the stretch from Glasgow to Queen. It has been widened, repaved and, in some places, lights have been put up.
I recently had the privilege to bike with two cycling advocates from the CycleWR coalition and TriTag. I highly commend the thoughtful work they do. I support the idea of a minimum grid with protective infrastructure, a proposal they have put a lot of thought into.
Current road infrastructure has been designed for cars and now the LRT. It is not without its flaws, but in comparison bike infrastructure is more compromised.
Some of the problems I have identified in Ward 9 are as follows:
Inadequate bike lane widths
Pseudo bike lanes that come to an abrupt stop
Corroding road edges which put bikers at risk
Poorly connected biking infrastructure
As a member of the Cycling and Trails Community Advisory Committee a few years ago, I had the opportunity to share in strategizing about the trails with some very knowledgeable people. As a city councillor in Ward 9 I would work with the community advisory committee and the community advocacy groups to create the fully integrated, seamless transportation infrastructure that we need.
Let’s Put Community First – residents’ input matters, especially when dealing with safety concerns.
Meaningful Community Engagement:
As your City Councillor in Ward 9 I would like to see public consultation events become interactive consultations where residents have the opportunity to publicly air their concerns and ask questions. People will not always agree, but if we are given the opportunity to engage in dialogue with each other, amazing things get accomplished.
The revival of the Cherry Park Neighbourhood Association provides a good example of how open discussion can lead to favourable outcomes. What many once perceived as a ‘dangerous’ neighbourhood has been transformed into a walkable, friendly neighbourhood. It was at a town-hall type meeting that people got angry and loud, but after much deliberation came to understand each other and find ways to build community.
With all the downtown development we are witnessing in Kitchener, I would also like to see community representatives at the table as bylaw changes and building structures are being discussed. There are multiple stakeholders currently involved in these projects and each should have a voice at the table.
Community Engagement is about more than looking at bulletin boards.
We have an affordable housing crisis in the Region. There are over 4,100 families on a waiting list for affordable housing, not to mention the over 300 chronically homeless people. More needs to be done!
I recently heard two different developers defend against affordable units in their proposals saying that there is a need for one-bedroom and studio style apartments for the young professionals moving into the area. They had no interest in accommodating people from low-income brackets.
The city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands adopted a policy in 2017 that requires all new residential developments to contain 40% below market value units, 40% at market value and 20% luxury units.
As a City Councillor in Ward 9, I would advocate for a City of Kitchener by-law that would require all new residential developments to have 15 to 20% affordable units. The rent would be calculated as 25% of the current ODSP and OW income rates. Driving people out of the core because they can no longer afford the rent is not acceptable especially in an economy that has come to depend on precarious employment. A model of the sort being proposed here would serve to ensure a dignified life for people of all socio-economic groups. Of course, this would also mean including 2 and 3 bedroom apartments in the floor plan.
Environmental sustainability depends on federal, provincial, and municipal governments, working with businesses and individuals. The responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases and ensure that we leave a planet that will meet the needs of future generations requires collaborative action. As your city councillor I would advocate sustainability monitoring to determine the ecological footprint of the City of Kitchener and its residents. At the City level this would include careful recording of the impact infrastructure projects, transportation and new development projects have on the environment.
Let’s start with an assessment and then come up with creative ways to reduce the city’s ecological footprint. The purpose of the assessment is to link local consumption with global environmental impact while simultaneously raising awareness by getting people involved.
Effective Participatory Budgeting:
Participatory budgeting originated in Porto Alegre Brazil in 1989. It is the act of setting aside a portion of the operating budget for residents to spend. Groups as small as blocks or streets come up with projects they would like to see implemented in their neighbourhoods. It could be anything from the building of community space, building a community garden or crosswalk or cleaning up an overgrown swamp area. Each project is costed and submitted to the other larger group. The projects are vetted by the residents and the top projects are submitted to the city to implement. 10% of the operating budget could be set-aside for this.
This form of engagement would supersede the multiple grant opportunities currently available primarily to neighbourhood associations and would be available to all residents. It would also put the decision making in the hands of residents, unlike the current participatory budgeting practices of the City where the city decides which projects they will fund. For more information of how it works follow the link. https://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT/Resources/14657_Partic-Budg-Brazil-web.pdf
Making Community Space:
While on the City of Kitchener Safe and Healthy Community Advisory Committee, I was also a member of the ‘Inclusion’ subcommittee. We created focus groups and interviewed people to talk to us about the work they were doing and how the City could make their work easier. We invited people from the LGBTQ+, Indigenous, women’s, youth, senior and ethnic communities to meet with us. Over and over again we learned that groups have no place to meet or hold their events without paying a fee. The city does not charge a fee for the Neighbourhood Associations to use community centres so the same perk should be extended to all community groups that engage in community building activities. The city should acknowledge and recognize the amazing work that is being done and make sure that it continues. Time slots in the community centres and fields could be left open for organizations to use on a sign-up basis.
One developer in Ward 9 states that they are ‘considering’ creating community space in their development project. As your city councillor I would work with the developers to make this a reality.
Arts and Culture Funding:
Arts and Culture is not one thing but a complex web of actors and areas of expertise including performing artists, writers, digital composers and filmmakers. Knowing what and who to fund and support has its resulting challenges. Arts and Culture funding mostly falls under the jurisdiction of the Regional and Provincial governments, yet The Museum and various art galleries are supported by the City. The Creative Hub at 44 Gaukel St. is the most recent addition to the City’s portfolio.
As the City focuses its development agenda on attracting young entrepreneurs to join the technological corridor in South-western Ontario, we also have to consider the interests and needs of these newcomers. If it is true that many of them will require restaurant and entertainment choices that mirror the active arts and culture sector in Toronto, then we will have to make serious investments in this area to grow even more what is already a vibrant scene in Kitchener so that they will not only work here in the Region but play too.
On the one hand we need to continue to support the more established Arts programs like the Symphony, the Centre in the Square and the Conrad Centre, but on the other hand we have to ensure that emerging artists have the support they need to grow their own portfolios. The Creative Hub is one such initiative.
The many cultural festivals supported and funded by the City of Kitchener should continue.