Thanks again to everyone who followed my campaign, and supported it in some way. I truly can not express how much it all meant to me. Though it was hard at times, with many long, tiring days, this introvert (ironically) was frequently re-energized by knocking on doors and connecting with residents.
I’ve been so impressed meeting so many people in our community doing amazing things and I have learned a lot through that. My learning encompassed some really practical skills such as designing and maintaining a website, creating online videos, and feeling more comfortable speaking in public, even on television! It also involved learning how to tackle challenges, face criticism, and delve deep into problems to identify possible solutions.
I loved accumulating many stories from my adventures on the campaign trail. Some of those stories involved the other ward 9 candidates as I had a chance to connect with them over the last several months. I especially appreciated Phil’s sense of humour as he often had me laughing throughout the campaign (see middle photo below when Phil noted that even my flyers are taller than him). Several fun stories came from all of this being a new experience and not necessarily knowing protocol, like when I completely forgot to give a speech at my own campaign party! There are too many stories to share here of course, but I already enjoy looking back over them.
And when I reflect back to the beginning of this journey, my only hopes were that I would learn more about my community and I would run a positive, creative campaign that I could be proud of at the end. I feel like I succeeded on both counts. I honestly believe that politics can be a force for good in our community and I hope I modeled that throughout the past 6 months. I’m proud that my campaign seemed to attract so many people who were positive about their neighbourhood and city and enthusiastic about building it up rather than fighting against it.
Of course, none of that could have been achieved without support from family, friends, neighbours, and residents. There are too many people to list here but I hope to reach out to you in person over the next while. I am particularly grateful for the group of female candidates running in the region who connected online and in person and were a huge support to one another and to me. It is just another example of the positivity that can happen through politics. And a huge congratulations to all those who ran. The time and effort you put into this process is to be commended.
My last paragraph, though, is saved for my number one supporter throughout my campaign (and life!), my spouse Todd. He was quick to support me when I tossed out this wild idea of running for council, and his support only grew through the campaign. He spent day after day (after day!) helping me with the campaign, placing lawn signs, editing my website, recording videos, and knocking on thousands of doors in rain, snow, and heat. Without a doubt, I could not have run the campaign I did without him.
So now a bit of a rest and a few quiet evenings at home. But I already have some thoughts on how to support and build upon the great things happening in our neighbourhoods, ward, and city. Thanks again for your support and I look forward to continue building community together!
I’ve noticed more press coverage lately about development in Downtown Kitchener. There have been Record news stories, a blog by current councillor Frank Etherington, and a column by Luisa D’Amato.
This coverage is sometimes limited or incomplete in my view, focusing only on the pace of development or on heritage preservation. The issue is also much broader than any one particular development or proposal. Rather, the discussion needs to focus on how Kitchener grows and develops thoughtfully.
One way the city demonstrates priorities and its commitment to issues is by establishing committees on those topics: arts and culture, safe and healthy communities, heritage, and environment. The creation of these citizen committees indicates the city’s desire to hear about these issues and act to address them.
As councillor I would propose a citizens housing committee to actively seek out partnerships and innovative solutions to some of our challenges around housing supply and affordability.
Kitchener needs a more proactive approach to housing and development. Currently a development is proposed and we only hear from those who oppose it. It’s reactive and the strongest voices may not be representative of the feelings of the broader community. We need a more diverse group of people involved in these discussions and much earlier in the process. I believe a citizens housing committee could offer exactly that. Such a committee must include a variety of perspectives and backgrounds such as those just entering the housing market, renters, those in multi-residential buildings, and newcomers.
I believe all ward 9 candidates are concerned about housing. However, be cautious of any who promise both affordable housing and intensification, while at the same time actively oppose multiple development proposals.
I am working toward a city that is more inclusive, engaged, and supported. I believe a citizens housing committee would address all three goals. It would be an inclusive committee that intentionally seeks out various perspectives and backgrounds. It would engage citizens to create innovative solutions in providing more diverse housing options. And it would be supported by the city which would provide tools, resources, and staff.
I’m glad to see people are talking about housing and development. Now we need to take the necessary steps to create more and varied housing, beginning with the creation of a citizens housing committee to ensure we develop a city with housing for all.
On October 3rd, THEMUSEUM hosted Cultural Exchange 7.0, an opportunity for candidates to share their vision for arts and culture in our city. Here is my presentation:
My partner and I moved to our current home partly to be closer to many arts and culture events. We had been traveling to the core for things like the Multicultural Festival, the Kitchener Market, and the KW Symphony. Once we moved downtown, we were exposed to many more arts and cultural experiences such as Kultrun, the Art Gallery, Night\Shift, and events at the Registry Theatre. Then of course CAFKA made my June walks in and around downtown all the more interesting with installments such as ‘Head Man’, ‘Arena’, and ‘Recognize Everyone’.
My learning about our creative industry continues in many ways. I sit on the Downtown Action and Advisory Committee and hear regular updates from the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. We’re able to offer input and feedback on initiatives such as murals in the Downtown and public art at ION stations.
Just as we need a range of housing types, Kitchener needs a range of art venues. Kitchener is blessed with large-scale facilities like the Centre in the Square and Conrad Centre, but also mid-size venues like the Registry Theatre. Kitchener also boasts small hidden artistic gems, like the Backyard Theatre on Homewood Avenue. Kathleen and John write, direct and act in original plays with local talent all right in their backyard theatre.
We also have Globe Studios which I only recently discovered. I was so inspired by their work that I wrote an article for The Community Edition this past June. It gave me the opportunity to connect with local artists and learn more about potential partnerships and growth opportunities.
And that’s key, I think: listening to our local artists and partnering with them on projects, regularly and proactively. Anyone who attended Night\Shift feels its loss now. We need to look at what artists are doing right now and foster it so we don’t lose similar local initiatives. We need to have conversations about the resources required to ensure the viability of these creative endeavours, whether that’s space, financial, or people support.
We also need to establish connections across sectors. There is great potential for partnerships between artists and the local tech sector. And we’re starting to see these relationships develop, like Communitech offering affordable gallery space to local artists to exhibit and sell their work. The city must foster such partnerships and seek similar opportunities. Let’s look at options for new building developments to create work space for artists at a rent they can afford. Let’s discuss with our creative sector how best to use the space at 44 Gaukel. And let’s use our public spaces, such as community centres, to highlight our local artistic community.
Intensifying across the city helps to keep rents and housing costs lower allowing artists to better find housing that is affordable. We need to encourage housing developments rather than regularly opposing them. Increasing the housing supply helps avoid rising rents that adversely affect the arts community. We need to ensure our city has affordable spaces, in which to work and live, by building up, with ranges of affordability. Groups like Marit Collective are exploring how accessible and affordable space can be offered to community members. The next council needs to support its homegrown artistic talent by utilizing the city’s available resources.
I appreciate the unique contributions our artists offer the wider community which strengthen our sense of identity and belonging as communal stories are created and shared. But we can’t take these for granted. We must continuously engage and seek input from the creative sector to ensure such contributions are developed, fostered, and celebrated. My goal as councillor would be to expand the reach of the creative sector so more residents can experience the joy of engaging deeply with the arts.
My work as program coordinator for the Downtown Neighbourhood Alliance has provided the opportunity to support many creative and fun classes offered to the community, including monthly youth board game nights (led by youth), free parent and child cooking classes, and drop-in sports such as basketball and dodge-ball. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed helping residents bring enjoyable programming to the Downtown Community Centre.
I have seen the benefits of free access to community space at the Downtown Community Centre as part of the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association as well. Whether we need space for our monthly meetings, hosting events, or offering classes, we are able to book this space at no cost to our association. Given that neighbourhood associations are volunteer based and tend to run on a limited budget, free community space is a huge benefit for our neighbourhood.
However, it is only affiliated community associations that currently have access to this free space. Individuals and groups can of course book space in the city’s community centres for a rental fee. However, this cost can be a barrier. I know of 2 groups that have identified this need and are creating solutions: Marit Collective and the Social Development Centre.
Marit Collective is a social organization that brings people together to engage in important and thoughtful conversations. They “create space for respectful discussion … to foster more empathy and awareness of each other.” Their hard work this summer to prepare their recently-acquired space culminates in their grand opening on October 2nd. Marit Collective is exploring ways for individuals and groups in the community to utilize this space in an affordable and accessible way.
Likewise, the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region is a “learning organization that supports all voices in the creation of community-wide solutions ensuring that lived experience is the basis for collective action.” They have been connecting with groups and individuals in the community to discuss ways to bring together small non-profit organizations in an affordable and accessible way, referring to it as the Civic Hub.
I have had the opportunity to connect with both of these organizations and I’m encouraged by their work. Though they have different approaches, they have both identified a pressing need in our community for shared space to use for events, meetings, or collaborative projects. As councillor, I’d support these creative solutions as well as actively seek additional ways to provide affordable community space.