Well, it's been way longer than I planned for getting back to this writing thing. But given a little more 'available' time right now with social distancing and isolation, it seems like a good time to get back to it. So here's a few thoughts on the most recent Kitchener Council meeting.
If you follow me on social media, especially Twitter, you’ll know that I often 'live-tweet' city council meetings. I do my best to remain somewhat objective and try to just tweet what’s being said, without adding much of my own commentary. However, as my spouse will attest, that doesn’t mean I don’t actually have feelings about what’s happening at those meetings. I most definitely do, often some fairly strong ones at that! So, I thought I could use my blog to share some of my thoughts on council meetings occasionally.
Let’s get started with the March 23rd meeting which was done electronically, for the first time ever. In fact, the mayor mentioned that in order to proceed with an electronic meeting, rather than a regular in-person meeting, a provincial state of emergency needed to be declared. That of course happened last week which set things in motion for Monday’s meeting. Kudos to all those who got everything set and running because, other than the usual online meeting issues like people being on mute or speaking over one another occasionally, everything ran very smoothly.
Much of the meeting was spent discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and how the city should respond. The meeting started off with a prepared statement from the mayor stressing each of our roles in this to fight off this virus (go home and stay home!), and also thanking all of the frontline workers spending tireless, stressful days and nights dealing with this crisis.
Council then heard from CAO Dan Chapman about steps the city has already taken to address the current challenges. We then heard from Cory Bluhm about the economic realities the city is facing and he offered a quick overview of the proposed Economic Recovery Response that council would need to vote on later that evening. Discussion followed with support for the recovery package, with some questions and comments about additional options such as: turning community centres into hospital overflow or space for people experiencing homelessness and offering relief for renters. The recovery package passed unanimously.
The discussion then moved to a number of tenders and there was some discussion around whether this was the time to be doing certain work, such as putting a new roof on a fire hall. The tenders were all passed with just Councillor Gazzola voting against a couple of them.
And finally, the discussion moved on to Community and Infrastructure Services reports. #8 in that list was the Vision Zero strategy. Whether the city should develop a Vision Zero strategy was discussed in a lot of detail two weeks previously at Committee. During that discussion, it was suggested that perhaps the city should develop its own Transportation Safety Strategy instead of adopting a Vision Zero plan. Councillor Davey was a strong supporter of this “Transportation Safety Strategy’, with Councillors Chapman and Gazzola also voting in favour of that motion. However, it did not pass at Committee. And when the full motion of moving forward with a Vision Zero strategy (at Committee), all councillors voted in favour of it except for Councillor Davey.
Therefore, I was a bit surprised that when it went to council on the 23rd, not only did Councillor Davey vote against the Vision Zero strategy, but so did Councillor Chapman. I know Councillor Chapman has advocated for some active transportation initiatives in the past so I found it surprising that she did not support the Vision Zero plan. Fortunately, the other 9 folks at the table did vote in favour of it, so it easily passed. I for one am very excited about seeing more active transportation initiatives and infrastructure be put in place, and I think support of the Vision Zero strategy will definitely assist in that process.
Thanks again to all of the staff who made that meeting happen, as it did run so smoothly…and I suspect we may see a few more meetings in this format in the next while.