Questions from Stratford 2018 Conestoga Career Centre

1. Over the last five years, how have you contributed to the City of Stratford (volunteering, boards, etc.)?

I have chosen to participate in my community in various ways. Where there is a march or a gathering of something I would like to support I donate and attend.  For example our local women's march or Woman of Year.  On a volunteer basis,  I support women, whether alone or with a partner, during pregnancy and delivery as a Doula and Child Birth Educator (or for cookies). I volunteered with the Local Community Food Centre as it began its Community Access Market. Loving Spoonful is another programme I love however, it is on my teaching days. I have also offered my Doula and Child Birth Education services to new Canadians with the Multicultural Centre.  I have volunteered my professional skills to Not-for-Profits - for example, creating a video for the United Way. 

2. What do you believe your unique contribution will be to council (strengths)?

The unique contribution or strength I bring to the council table would be a divergent voice and community experience. I feel it is time to bring new voices and perspectives to council.  My life and professional experiences are quite different from those around the table. I speak from a new unique position which informs how I approach people and issues and make decisions. I am able to work through the quagmire, ask challenging questions, listen to understand and have the ability to make object, well informed decisions.  I am passionate about public service and have made that a part of my life for thirty years.  

3. What would you like to see achieved over the next four years (be specific)?

I would like to:

1. Re-Building Public Trust.  I want to see clear gains in this area. Right now Stratford is fractured and people have told me they are suspicious of the decisions coming out of city hall.  The Tom Patterson Theatre and Market Square are often quoted as situations where citizens did not feel heard.  To start, I feel we need to get information out to the public early in the decision making process.  Ensure the public not only feels engaged, but is actually engaged. Have monthly, bimonthly or quarterly public sessions.  Councillors would host these on a rotational basis.  I would monitor how we behave, make decisions, spend and track money, who sits on what board that may have a conflict or how relationships may impact decision making around in council chambers. I want to make sure council is truly being transparent, information isn't hidden, or worded in way people can't understand. We have a communications person. Right now that position is reactionary, it should be proactive.   

2. Affordable Living. Affordable housing is one part of affordable living.  I want to see our planning, development and decision making look at the sum of all parts as we move Stratford forward.  For example, if we build affordable housing, does our transit and transportation support an affordable way for people to move through our community.  If we build a new soccer pitch, should it be in the centre of the city so it is more accessible for all and increases its use? 50 per cent of Perth and Huron County residents are earning below a living wage.  How do we make Stratford more affordable to them? If families do not have a car are we able to provide them with safe, alternatives to get to where they want to be. What about food security?  A single mom on Ontario Works gets $640.  At what point does she have to choose between nutritious meals or ?  I would like to see us be creative, be willing to try new things in order to support our vulnerable citizens. Would the city donate land for urban gardening? Come up with alternative supportive living through perhaps tax incentives?  We must come up with ways to support each other.

3. Improving Community.  The Cooper Site is a significant issue for our community.  It has stood empty for decades.  The city is in a legal holding pattern which some estimates have shown to be costing us $3000.00 a day.  That comes from legal and consulting fees for the city and doubling that because we will most likely have to payout the same sum. If that sum is correct, and it certainly looks so, what could we be spending that money on.  Also right now, we are receiving no tax benefits from a plot of land that represents pretty much 25 per cent of our downtown. Also, I want to see real action on our cycling plan and establish a clear multi use path system that supports wellness but also affordable living.  I want our seniors back in the core.  I want our youth to feel engaged and I feel a strong way to do that would be through a Youth Council. I want our debt and debt servicing to be reasonable and I want a commitment to keeping taxes low.  Wet/dry recycling is something I would like to see within the next four years.

4. What committees do you see yourself sitting on and what experience qualifies you for those committees?

I would like to sit on the Stratford Police Services Board.  I feel my experiences with police, police services and a historical understanding of police services, provides me with a strong foundation to sit on the board.  I also feel it is time to add a diverse voice and experiences to policing decisions in our community.

Energy and the Environment interests me. Life experiences, research and an interest in this area would be what draws me to it.  As well as Active Transportation.  Being familiar with and interested in Stratford developing in this area would be what I bring to the table.

Sub Committees would be Community Services and Social Services. Personal interest and experience, professional experiences and interaction with stakeholders over the years, and general interest are what draw me to those committees.  I feel I bring representation from marginalised groups and vulnerable populations.  

5. What means of transportation are you using in the city, and/or in and out of town and what improvements do you recommend?

I primarily rely on my car. For the past two years I have not done much cycling or walking, however, I have in the past.  Improvements I would like to see include ensuring the city follows through on its cycle plan. It is a solid plan brought forward by stakeholders, active users of the system. Busing is something I am passionate about. I was so pleased to see the bus stop at the Local remain.  That should not have been an issue in the first place.  We need to look holistically at how we support our community. For many, transit is critical. I would like to see our transit be more responsive to ridership.  Perhaps look at smaller units for times when ridership is historically low.  A transit app would support a more efficient system. We also need to ensure our transit system is safe for everyone to use; free of bullying and behaviours that impact vulnerable individuals.  As our population ages, we need to look at distances from stop to stop and amenities our citizens wish to access. Sidewalks, pathways and other transportation need to be looked at - perhaps make them wider for electric chairs for example.  Out of town I use a mix of my car, car pooling, train or bus.  Because of where we are geographically located, convincing other means of transportation to include Stratford is challenging.  

6. Describe what you believe the Cooper Site should look like in 10 years?

 This is a tough one.  I am tempted to say give the property back to Lawrence Ryan. That property has been in limbo.  No developer is going to touch that land while the issue remains in limbo. Right now the city is not getting any tax benefits from the land. Some information shows that land is valued at about one million dollars per acre. That's about $20 million dollars. If the city had not expropriated it, development would have started. Instead we are stuck in a holding pattern and there are implications which indicate, outside of University use, nothing else will be able to be built. Depends on your interpretation of the expropriation language.  The only ones making any money off what is happening now would be the lawyers from Bay Street.  However, in ten years, I would like to see a multi use property which includes affordable living units.  I would like to see affordable amenities that serve citizens and tourists alike. I would like to see a hub of sorts which supports open air markets, community arts, senior's activities, youth activities and green space.  I would like to see the development take advantage of whatever environmental technologies are able to be used.  The site should be sustainable on to itself and be as green as possible.  

7. What are your objectives with respect to housing and how do you expect to accomplish them?

I would like to see our affordable housing waiting list be as short as possible. That means creating a community where upward mobility is possible. As individuals and families are able, they move out of affordable housing, perhaps buying their own home and continuing to move forward.  To have that happen, our community must take a holistic approach to improving and building community.  Incentive for builders to build more units.  A creative look at what to build, for example co-housing. And, affordable housing needs to be just that - a single bedroom at $900 or $1200 dollars is not affordable to someone receiving $640 from Ontario Works.  Even with subsidy, it is challenging to move forward.  We should also be looking at where we build.  Where are people working, shopping, buying groceries? Are they walking, driving, busing? Should we be paying attention to the missing middle class who aren't moving to Stratford to fill manufacturing jobs because Stratford is too expensive.     

8. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

1. Have a forensics look at our books.  We can't move forward until we have a closer look at what has been going on. 

2 & 3 would come after however, I do feel we need to keep our debt and how we service that reasonable. We need to have the ability to respond to something major.  I also feel our taxes are high when compared to municipalities of a similar size. 

9. How will the new provincial legislation with respect to conflict of interest on municipal councils, coming into effect January 2019, hinder your effectiveness on council?

I do not see an impact on my effectiveness on council. Codes of conduct, rules about ethics and obligations have great value in building integrity, holding council accountable and allowing for more transparency. As I have watched conflicts declared, there has not, to date, been an area where I would have a stake or a vested interest in, nor would any family members or friends. I am concerned about what I perceive as possible conflicts of interest when decision makers have numbered companies which may be seen to gain from decisions or individuals who hold positions which may be impacted, or have friends or family members serving on boards where they may possibly benefit. 

10. How will you encourage youth engagement, retention, re-attraction and skills development?

This is a huge area and I will try my best. First, I feel, with a community our size, having a youth council would be of great value. We would need to ensure all segments of our youth community are represented. In speaking to young people, they feel there are groups of youth in Stratford; those who have access to activities and services that allow them to develop strong friendships, those who have decent relationships in their lives and have enough supports that they are ok and youth on the fringe who feel marginalised and under serviced. Within that first group there are abstainers who do not go out much and stay clear of the party scene.  The other side of that first group will drink and party and carry on as part of what happens, rite of passage as they say.  Basketball nets, green spaces and community centres are great, but when evening hits, they will go out with their friends and party.  Same for the second group.  The group with no support is the group that we are leaving behind. That is, until we  look at supporting the whole village.  Help the parents, educate the family, support the children, offer programmes that show we care.  All of that goes hand in hand. From 13-19 years there is not much to do in Stratford.  Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth, acid and many more drugs are readily available.  Youth know where to find them. We need to stop saying "no way, not my child."  We need youth focused mental health programmes as well.  

Retention/Re-attraction - I am not sure. There are so many variables. Out-migration of our youth ages 19-29 happens for many reasons; education, employment, adventure, romance (the internet!). There are youth who leave and come back because they went to a larger community and did not like it. There are youth who leave because Stratford just does not offer the life they want.  They want the big city, more options, more amenities, more people like them, more experiences. They will not come back. There are youth who come back as adults to raise their families and start the cycle over again.  There are youth who would come back if Stratford was affordable.  The latter we can work toward becoming more of a viable option by addressing affordable living issues. Underscore what our strengths are - safety, open spaces, a sense of community, a sense of place.  

Skills development - I think we are seeing a shift in what youth wish to do.  They do not want to go in to the skills trades.  That is a marketing piece that the city could support but cannot tackle on its own. Money talks and letting youth know what kind of lifestyle they would be able to lead may be a motivating factor. Many of the trades pay quite well, especially as demand outweighs supply.  Technology is changing rapidly and youth are heading to communities which offer those careers. Stratford, at this time, cannot compete with that. We essentially saw that with the Stratford Institute. How do we tackle that? Diversify? Tourism and manufacturing are our key employer pools. Improving community, marketing, making ourselves more attractive to industries that are headed in the digital direction. The internet supports home offices - how do we get more of that here?  Supporting that missing middle class. Making Stratford a safe, attractive, affordable choice to consider.  Taking an honest hard look at ourselves, figuring out what our goals are and then moving toward achieving those.