The issue of low voter turnout is often raised during election campaigns. This is very common during federal elections where voter turnout has hovered around 60% for over a decade.
However, there is much less attention paid to low voter turnout in municipal elections, which hovers around only 25%! Too few citizens exercise their right to vote in elections that affect many aspects of citizens’ daily lives. Though local issues can seem mundane compared to national and international issues, they affect our homes and neighbourhoods and shape our regular routines in many ways. So it’s important that more citizens voice their choice for the representatives who will make critical local decisions over the next four years.
What can be done to get more people to the polls on October 22? It’s certainly a complicated issue with no simple solution. However, we can start by getting informed about where and when to vote. I’ve posted much of this general information on my website under “Voting”.
You can also find out your specific voting information. Go to voterlookup.ca and enter some basic information to ensure you are registered for this fall’s election. Doing this soon means you will receive a voter card in the mail with your exact election day voting location. Simply being informed about how to vote encourages people to cast their ballot.
Citizen engagement is a key part of my election platform. I hope engagement continues between elections, but getting out and having your say on election day is a key step. And there’s reason to be optimistic we can improve voter turnout: the rate increased significantly in both the last federal election and the recent provincial election. Let’s work to see that trend continue in this fall’s municipal election.
Find out about voting, make a plan to do so, and encourage friends, family and neighbours to get out and vote this fall.
It’s always a delight to discover something new in your neighbourhood, something up until now you didn’t know existed. Recently I experienced exactly that while walking along King Street East to the market on Saturday morning. I happened to look to my right to discover a little walkway I had never seen before. The rectangular stepping stones invited me further into the space to explore. The area includes trees, plants, flowers, and large rocks that look perfect for sitting on.
Even though this area sits next to busy King St and beside a city parking lot, it felt like a small oasis in the busyness of the downtown core. Renowned urban activist Jane Jacobs encouraged readers to, “please look closely at real cities. While you are looking, you might as well also listen, linger and think about what you see.” Creating and maintaining spaces such as these promote a welcoming environment that encourages people to wander, explore, and better know their neighbourhoods and city.
What’s your favourite hidden walkway or path in your neighbourhood?
Engage Kitchener is a website where citizens can provide feedback to the City of Kitchener on a wide variety of issues and topics. Past survey topics included the urban tree strategy, budget priorities, and customer service improvements. The city is looking to hear from more residents about current municipal issues. I am working toward a city that is more inclusive, engaged, and supported so I appreciate Kitchener’s ongoing efforts to increase its level of engagement.
Seeking to engage with residents throughout my campaign, I have attempted to open up many lines of communication. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on my website. You can email, call or text as well. You can always chat with me in person at the many events and meetings I attend. And soon I’ll be at your doorstep as I begin canvassing!
You can also sign up for my newsletter. Each newsletter includes a more in-depth look at a current local issue. Past newsletters have focused on why I am running, Kitchener’s neighbourhood strategy, and development in our city. My newsletter also announces upcoming local events and highlights some of the events and meetings I have recently attended.
I believe it is essential for citizens to engage with their local political candidates and elected officials. It is also important for residents to understand municipal issues that impact them. On that note, I hope you will sign up for my newsletter and engage with me online and in person.
Planned upgrades to Sandhills Park in ward 9 currently involve a process new to the City of Kitchener: participatory budgeting. This process invites resident involvement in decision making by first allocating municipal funds to a particular project, then letting residents decide the shape of the final outcome.
The city sought input from residents through three different public meetings as well as online surveys and voting. Priorities for the park were identified through this process. Those involved in the Sandhills Park improvements chose a natural playground, perennial gardens, as well as a community event space.
It is exciting to see Kitchener willing to utilize innovative processes such as participatory budgeting. I believe participatory budgeting helps create the type of city I want to see, one that is inclusive, engaged, and supported. By offering a variety of ways for citizen involvement in this budget allocation process, the city hears and includes a wider variety of voices and opinions. Engaged neighbours provide input, feedback, and vote on next steps. The city supports residents by funding the new park improvements.
I applaud the city’s participatory budgeting pilot. Continued feedback from residents about the process will help guide its effective use and possible expansion into a wider range of future projects.
Urbanist Jane Jacobs stated, “The point of cities is multiplicity of choice.” An inclusive, engaged and supported city provides a variety of transportation choices. Whether you cycle, use transit, walk, or drive, good urban design must include quality options for all. Recent and upcoming events in ward 9 highlight multiple modes of transportation.
Cruising on King displayed a vast array of classic cars this past Friday. People connected with each other around shared stories and memories of their favourite classic cars on parade.
The focus shifts from four wheels to two on July 27th when the Kitchener Twilight Grand Prix comes to Victoria Park. Gather with friends and neighbours to watch these exciting bike races through the Park and downtown streets!
As well, ION will operate later this year, so Grand River Transit is updating its routes and systems. They are offering several engagement opportunities this summer, entitled “New Directions.” These workshops will highlight: LRT and bus route connections; ION station features; safety and accessibility; and fare payment.
Additionally, several other events are coming up right in our ward in walking distance such as the Non-Violence Day in Victoria Park and the Schneider Creek Porch Party.
Summer in Kitchener clearly means festivals and fun. There is always plenty happening in and around ward 9. How you choose to get to each of these events may vary but an inclusive, engaged, and supported city allows all citizens, in all seasons, the ability to move around freely and safely.
One of the unexpected highlights of running in the municipal election is meeting so many passionate people in the ward who are working to make this city awesome. I was aware of numerous wonderful events and activities happening in the area prior to running, but am now learning of so many other great things happening. One of those things making #ward9awesome is Globe Studios. Home to many local artists, it's located in the old Bonnie Stuart factory right in our ward. I recently wrote about Globe Studios for the Community Edition, and the article was just published today; you can read my article here.
There are many creative and unique things happening in our own neighbourhoods that can feel like hidden gems. For me, one of those hidden gems is Globe Studios. I hope to share in the future more hidden gems I discover on the campaign trail.
What are some hidden gems you've discovered in your neighbourhood?
Kitchener is growing and evolving as we prepare for the arrival of the Ion, focus more on walkable communities, and make room for new development in and around our downtown.
With these changes, many residents have questions about the development process, such as "How does the approval process work?"; "What is the role of zoning amendments?"; and "How can I find out what changes are expected in my neighbourhood?" In an attempt to respond to some of those questions, the City of Kitchener has created a Citizen's Guide to Neighbourhood Development. It's intended to "explain what regulations are in place, what city processes and permits are required, how developments are approved and when the public has an opportunity to get involved."
Find out more on the city's web page. While there, you can scroll to the bottom and 'subscribe to this page' to receive future page updates.
As the city updates development policies and guidelines such as the Comprehensive Review of the Zoning By-law (CRoZBy) and the Urban Guidelines Manual, this is a welcomed tool to assist residents in navigating these processes. As Councillor, I would support residents through such neighbourhood development tools, and work to engage citizens in more inclusive and accessible processes.
The City of Kitchener wants to hear from you so they are offering a series of workshops. These drop-in sessions are happening this week and next at a variety of community centres and are open to all Kitchener residents. They want your input on topics such as:
Workshop 1: June 19th 4:30-6:30pm at Chandler Mowat Community Centre
Workshop 2: June 20th 5-7pm at Stanley Park Community Centre
Workshop 3: June 26th 5-7pm at Victoria Hills Community Centre
Workshop 4: June 28th 5-7pm at Downtown Community Centre
It’s election day across Ontario today. Perhaps you have had a chance to vote already today or in the advance polls. If not, hopefully you have a plan to do so before polls close at 9pm this evening. However, numbers suggest that many of us won’t exercise our right to vote. Voter turnout in the 2014 provincial election saw a slight increase in turnout with 52% of us voting. However, the previous 5 elections saw a smaller and smaller voter turnout with only 48% of residents voting in 2011. And the turnout for municipal elections is consistently much lower.
I understand that some of us feel discouraged by the state of politics today. Perhaps you don’t feel like your values and interests are represented by those running. However, let that motivate you to become more engaged in politics, not less! I encourage you to look at each party’s platform and choose the candidate who most aligns with your values. After election day, stay involved. Connect with your elected officials and share your interests and concerns. The only way political systems are going to improve is by each of us speaking up and taking action. Please vote today.
What better way to spend a sunny May evening than connecting with friends and neighbours over music, art, and food. This is exactly what happened Saturday at the Hohner Ave Porch Party, also known as HAPP.
I believe that an engaged city builds on strong neighbourhoods and connected neighbours involved in resident-led initiatives. HAPP is an excellent example of that and similar events are popping up throughout the city.
You can experience this fun and lively atmosphere by attending the upcoming Schneider Creek Porch Party on July 28th from 3-8 pm. Find out more here.