Tragic deaths far more important than politics

According to health statistics, more than 100 people will die across Ontario during the next few weeks while our uncaring provincial government stalls and plays politics on a decision to permit or reject proposed supervised injection sites.

One eye always on the upcoming Oct. 22 municipal election, regional councillors voted this week to defer public consultations on the subject until the provincial Tory government makes up its mind. Statistics indicate that, during the delay, at least seven Waterloo Region residents will die because of opioid overdoses.

Locally, the insipid motion to freeze action on four possible local sites until at least early fall was moved by outgoing regional chairman Ken Seiling and unanimously supported by regional councillors who made some token bleating about the delay and resulting fatalities.

In Kitchener, the two proposed local sites are in Coun. Sarah Marsh’s ward at 115 Water St. N. and behind city hall at 150 Duke St. W. A new potential site in my downtown ward at 33 Kent Ave was announced but then withdrawn because of a “mis-communication” (read screw-up) between the property owner and regional staff.

In Cambridge, despite council’s bylaw buffoonery, sites are proposed in Galt at 149 Ainslie St. N. and 150 Main St.

As previously stated, I would support any of the sites as a proven way to help address the increasing and deadly problem.

Meanwhile, I don’t criticize regional councillors for swallowing the fact that our reactionary, shallow Premier Doug Ford sees “buck-a-beer” far more important than the injection sites he’s “dead set” against.

However, I believe council members should continue and conclude an essential public consultation process in hopes Ford’s advisors and cabinet members might exhibit a tiny grain of empathy and compassion toward those experiencing such tragic opioid-addiction consequences.

Locally, I hope the troublesome issue gets further debate and attention on voter doorsteps and at future all-candidate meetings for regional-council representatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Drug injection sites, Neighbourhoods, Vibrant Downtown | Leave a comment

Lip service for neighbourhoods, heritage and the homeless

In the Oct. 22 municipal election, residents should judge their local politicians by their actions and votes, not their empty words.

Never was that so true in Kitchener where those seeking re-election to council continue to exhibit shallow “love-my-hood” hypocrisy when it comes to preservation of older  neighbourhoods and protection of heritage properties.

The same cynical  lip service applies to truly caring about provision of low-cost shelter, particularly for young people surviving in an unacceptable and increasing number of drug-infested tent camps across Kitchener and the Region.

Allow this lame-duck councillor to give a few examples of what I’m quacking about:

While a clique of five developer-chummy councillors will insist they care about older neighbourhoods and heritage, there are two Kitchener proposals slithering down the development pipe as we approach a municipal election where voters will hopefully influence the highly-questionable balance of power.

Both troublesome proposals will have a negative impact on neighbourhood heritage plans in Victoria Park and the Civic Centre and I predict both issues are at high risk of being  approved by council.

One development will result in relocation of the 0vercrowded Oneroof agency which, since 2007, has provided decent shelter for 12 to 25-year-olds at 242 Queen Street South — the type of homeless young people often found trying to cope with a multiplicity of complex issues in those squalid tent communities.

The two dubious development proposals chomping at heritage areas will surface at Kitchener’s Heritage Committee at 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 in the council chamber at city hall on their way to full council meeting in September.

The Victoria Park proposal between Courtland and Joseph by Vive Development Corp proposes to flatten the youth shelter as well as historical homes at 242-262 Queen to build an 8-storey apartment building.

The  Civic Centre plan by Facet Design Studio would bulldoze houses at 50, 52 and 56  Weber as well as 107 Young streets to make way for a 6-storey residential project.

Those who truly love their older neighbourhoods should get involved in these dubious developments and hold the mayor as well as other incumbent councillors more accountable for protecting our heritage properties and established communities.

I will be voting against or trying to defer both heritage-busting proposals until the new council is in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Heritage, Homelessness, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Queen Street renewal, Vibrant Downtown, Victoria Park, Ward News | Leave a comment

Fare thee well Ward 9 residents

Quoting from my distant musical folky days, ’“Goodbye is too good a word…so I’ll just say fare thee well.”

That Bob Dylan lyric comes from the song “Don’t Think Twice,” something I’ve done many times in recent weeks.

With mixed feelings,  I have decided not to run for a third term as Kitchener’s Ward 9 councillor in the October 22 municipal election.

But it’s not because this tired, grumpy old geezer can no longer run. I can still boot an occasional soccer ball with my cool-dude grandson, Avery, or pound the doorsteps with other hopeful election candidates.

I’m leaving because I believe two council terms, adding up to eight years, are enough to learn and get a few issues accomplished. I’m convinced, as difficult as it is to give up the position, anything beyond two terms risks becoming a merely an ego trip in elections made easier by incumbency.

As a former journalist-columnist working as a councillor has been an eye-opening learning experience, allowing me the chance to experience the other side of local issues.

It taught me how vital it is to vote, because your individual ballot makes a difference. I learned this when my darling wife, Sue, dubbed me “the one-vote wonder” when I won my first election by a single vote. I reminded her she had been my campaign manager.

It also showed me how important it is to see more female and young candidates seeking council seats. We need more diversity on council.

I offer heart-felt thanks to all voters who supported me during past years and the scores  of people who stop me on the streets, in Victoria Park, at the Kitchener Market, grocery stores, airports and even the occasional Cuban resort to smile, say hello or give me an an earful on important local issues.

I also offer my deepest gratitude to Elizabeth Leacock, the very patient support person in the mayor’s office, who has generously assisted me, and tolerated my appalling high-tech’ ignorance for all those years

Now, as the council carnival is almost over, there is one other, sobering thing I learned — not to get too big for my britches.

I will always remember the time when, feeling a tad self-important, I returned to earth abruptly after bumping into three women in Victoria Park as I hurried to another city-hall meeting.

“Hi there,” one woman hollered loudly before waving, pointing and turning to her friends. “That’s Fred. I vote for him. He’s my Member of Parliament.”

Posted in Giving thanks, Ward News, Where's Frank | 3 Comments

Be prepared when municipal candidates come calling

Four questions I would suggest you ask Kitchener and regional council candidates at public meetings or if they come tapping on your door leading up to the Oct. 22 election:

1. Why has there been a shortage of neighbourhood public meetings by Kitchener and regional councillors as they start to shortlist potential sites for what I consider to be commendable and necessary supervised safe-injection sites for drug addicts, one currently located in Ward 10 on Water Street North near St. John’s Kitchen.

2. Why have regional councillors delayed the important issue until late summer while an estimated seven local residents die every month from opioid overdoses?

3. As an incumbent Kitchener councillor, how did you vote on the controversial issue of making the city responsible for clearing all snow from sidewalks at a cost of $170,000-$770,000 for pilot-project experiments that could lead up to a questionable annual cost of at least $4 million for taxpayers. 

4. Again, as an incumbent, while Kitchener boosts “Love My Hood” programs and pledges to safeguard its established residential communities, how did you vote on the recent Breithaupt office tower and parking garage development in the Mount Hope area? A development that residents and this councillor are convinced will erode the Midtown community, have some homeowners staring straight at high garage walls and set a negative precedent for other older neighbourhoods on or near Light Rail Transit.

Pin the questions on your fridge and don’t forget to vote.

 

Posted in Breithaupt3, Drug injection sites, Light Rail Transit, Neighbourhoods, RIENS, Transparency, Vibrant Downtown, Ward News | Leave a comment

Snail-pace approach toward regional opioid-overdose issue

Alarming increases in opioid-related deaths continue as regional council this week crawled toward a solution.

Part of that solution would be a rapid decision on two supervised drug injection sites — one in downtown Kitchener and another in Cambridge’s drug-troubled core. As usual, because the city apparently has no opioid or other social issues, Waterloo is currently not being considered for such a site.

Ever since Kitchener councillors commendably  approved such a politically unpopular drug-injection site, the Region has been dithering about approval for supervised facilities complete with wrap-around social services.

Part of the delay involves a renewed search for alternate sites and a hastily created, electioneering bylaw in Cambridge to ban such a facility in the city’s core which is being ravaged by ongoing drug problems.

Another delay involves seeking clarity from our Trump-light Tory Premier Doug Ford who, predictably,  is on record as saying he’s “dead set” against provincial support for any injection sites.

In Kitchener, one potential site has been identified in a Water Street North house between Duke and Victoria near St. John’s Kitchen. The second possible site is in an office building on the north side of King Street East close to Eby Street.

Meanwhile the opioid tragedy grows:

° More than 110 people died in Waterloo Region because of opioid-related overdoses in 2016 and 2017.

° Locally, we have about 4,000 people a day injecting drugs often laced with deadly fentanyl.

° In Canada, 4,000 people died from opioid overdoses last year — about 11 a day.

° In our Region there was a more than 300 per cent increase in opioid-related calls to paramedics between 2015 and 2017 along with a 70 per cent jump in opioid-related visits to hospitals.

All of which means we need urgent, overdue action from regional councillors and staff instead of continued hand-wringing and wordy waffling.

 

Posted in Amalgamation, Drug injection sites, Homelessness, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Transparency, Vibrant Downtown | Leave a comment

Two drug-injection sites for Kitchener but none for Waterloo

Regional officials have recommended two possible drug-injection sites in  downtown Kitchener.

A regional report urges that two similar sites be considered in downtown Cambridge but, as usual, opioid-free Waterloo has no need of such a facility.

Eventually, regional officials want to see one safe-injection site in Kitchener and another in Cambridge.

Regional councillors will vote on the safe-injection report next Tuesday.

The report outlines how the sites could help control the soaring number of opioid-overdose deaths that, in 2018 jumped to 85, up from 38 in 2016.

After reviewing about 30 local sites, regional staff confirmed Kitchener’s facilities could be at 115 Water St. N. between Victoria and Duke streets. The site, a 2-storey house owned by The Working Centre, is in Kitchener Coun. Sarah Marsh’s Ward 10 near St. John’s Kitchen.

The second, still unconfirmed facility, is in my Ward 9 on King St.E. on the way to Kitchener Market.

The Cambridge sites would be at 150 Main St. and 149 Ainslie St.N.

I believe safe-injection sites are overdue in our Region but, at the same time, recognize they upset numerous residents and businesses.

In my ward, I also appreciate the fact east-end Cedar-Hill communities have spent decades struggling against the proliferation of drug, alcohol and other social-service agencies locating in or near their neighbourhood.

For that reason, once today’s report is accepted by regional council, additional consultations will take place with residents and businesses located near the suggested sites.

One question I asked at a special meeting held today was if the whole question of all such sites across Ontario could be influenced by the fact our Trump-Light Premier Doug Ford is on record as trashing such facilities.

The answer was that, hopefully, federal money would come through and Ford would surround himself with “smart people” who might change his mind on the safe-injection site issue.

Which reminded me of very similar but empty suggestion made recently during and after an equally scary presidential election.

 

 

 

Posted in Drug injection sites, Neighbourhoods, Transparency | 1 Comment

New sign of development interest in Cherry Park

It looks like the Ward 9 development tsunami mentioned in an earlier blog is now blowing into the Cherry Park area of Ward 9.

This week I learned from nearby residents and business contacts that a new partnership of local and national developers scheduled to build the massive Sixo Midtown project opposite the Light Rail Transit hub on King Street West is negotiating to buy  the K-W Badminton Club property at Park and Agnes Streets.

The property, formerly the old Granite Club,  is at the rear of Victoria and Bramm Streets where condo’ towers are already being built.

In coming months, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sixo, which already owns property on the fringe of Cherry Park that will house at least a thousand  new residents in condos and apartment towers between the CN tracks and Wellington Street, buy other properties near the Badminton Club.

The potential Badminton Club purchase forms part of the spinoff impacts of a $1.5-billion LRT-related development expected in Kitchener during the next three years.

And, as I have said before, while I see that boom as potentially healthy intensification for Kitchener’s inner city, I’m  worried about the protection and preservation of established neighbourhoods like Cherry Park and the negative impact of development on already-exhausted recreational facilities in nearby Victoria Park.

Posted in Cherry Park, Light Rail Transit, Neighbourhoods, Ward News | Leave a comment

Deferred Breithaupt proposal ignores city’s own neighbourhood policy

° Late last night, with a gallery full of residents and inner-city neighbourhood-association representatives, Kitchener councillors agreed to defer a decision on the Breithaupt proposal in a 7-3 vote.

The move gives residents, planners and the developer until June 25 to make the proposal more compatible with the surrounding neighbourhood.

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Deferred Breithaupt proposal ignores city’s own neighbourhood policy

° Late last night, with a gallery full of residents and inner-city neighbourhood-association representatives, Kitchener councillors agreed to defer a decision on the Breithaupt proposal in a 7-3 vote. The move gives residents, planners and the developer until June 25 to make the proposal more compatible with the surrounding neighbourhood.

What could be more cynical  than Kitchener councillors encouraging residents to collaborate in neighbourhood planning and then ignoring their suggestions.

In addition, what could be more distasteful than have the same councillors turn their backs on their “Love My ‘hood” policy carefully crafted by the city in order to boost resident engagement in creating quality neighbourhoods.

Until the deferral, most Kitchener councillors were in the midst of doing both by trying to ram through the third phase of the architecturally spectacular Breithaupt block development adjacent to the Light Rail Transit hub near King and Victoria.

The phase includes a 12-storey office tower and five-storey, above-ground parking garage. It is surrounded on three sides by an older, established residential neighbourhood on Breithaupt and Wellington streets as well as part of Moore Avenue.

Neighbourhood residents had collaborated with city planners in forming the Central PARTS plan which suggested the 60-metre-high Breithaupt office building go no higher than 14 metres and low-rise development should be built next to Wellington homes.

At Monday’s council meeting, with the support of numerous well-informed delegates, I succeeded at winning a deferral on the issue that failed at an earlier planning committee. Couns. Scott Davey, Paul Singh and Bil Ioannidis continued to vote against any deferral.

The neighbourhood would normally have been represented by downtown Coun. Sarah Marsh, but, because of Ontario’s vague  Conflict of Interest legislation, she acted on legal advice to not participate in the one of her ward’s most important issues because she lives within 120 metres of the site.

Among other things, residents remain unhappy their suggestions are being ignored. They want a lower office tower and don’t want to be staring at the parking structure. They are also unhappy some homes will be deprived of sunlight because of the development by Perimeter Development Corp.

Residents of this and other established communities should recognize that the troubling Breithaupt issue is not over yet and further support will be needed.

I hope they pack our council chamber for the June 25 council meeting where the plan will be reconsidered.

Then, with the October municipal election in mind, remember how the mayor and each councillor votes on such a precedent-setting issue.

 

 

 

Posted in Jobs, Light Rail Transit, Neighbourhoods, Transparency, Vibrant Downtown | 2 Comments

Kitchener councillors approve drug-injection site

Kitchener councillors voted unanimously Monday to work closely with regional government and establish a supervised injection site at a fixed location somewhere in the downtown.

In doing so, councillors recommended the Region — responsible for local health and social services — take a leadership role, operate the facility and staff the site where wrap-around social services would be provided for some of the estimated 4,000 people who inject drugs in the Region.

On Tuesday, regional councillors agreed to push ahead with plans for three SIS sites in Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo. They agreed to consider an SIS report by next month and deferred a motion from Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig to exclude SIS locations in Galt, Preston and Hespeler.

Part of Kitchener council’s recommendation urged the Region to work with the city and neighbourhood  groups before an SIS site is selected and review the facility after two years. Kitchener also asked the Region to conduct a public education program about SIS services and set up similar drug-injection services in Waterloo and Cambridge.

Considering the fact that 109 people died in Waterloo Region in 2016 and 2017 due to suspected opioid overdoses, I support what would be an expensive SIS facility even though there’s a chance it might be located in my downtown Ward 9 in order to be easily accessible to Kitchener addicts.

In fact, residents living in neighbourhoods in the two wards that make up  the inner city of Kitchener would be wise to get engaged and participate in a the ongoing,  controversial  SIS debate that will resurface at next Monday’s April 16 evening council session.

In last night’s debate I argued that without immediate action on a worsening opioid crisis Kitchener councillors and residents could easily be among those who experience overdose deaths of teenage children, relatives or friends.

I said I wanted to be part of a solution where there has been a 303-per-cent increase in the number of opioid-related overdose calls to local paramedic services between 2015-2017 along with a 70-per-cent hike in opioid-related emergency visits to hospitals.

I noted that Cambridge also has a high number of opioid emergency calls and said I don’t want Kitchener to mimic our neighbouring city’s response to the crisis — a reaction that involves closing council eyes tight and hoping the deadly epidemic will go away.

I reminded SIS opponents the ongoing problem of discarded needles and drug-related litter could be improved by  an SIS site and, with or without drug-treatment centres, we already have deeply troubled people shooting up alone and risking death in our public washrooms, community centres and parks.

 

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