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.

Posted in 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.

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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Planning bonuses benefit developers, not taxpayers

Local taxpayers should read it and weep.

They have paid about $1 billion for a bungled, much delayed light rail system that I’m glad to see has generated at least $1.2-billion construction activity in downtown Kitchener.

But the same taxpayers are now, through local councils, shelling out excessive development “bonuses” to the same developers who are already making large profits on high-priced condominium units selling vigorously along that LRT route.

At the same time, not a single unit of affordable housing is included in the hundreds of  condo buildings being approved mostly in my downtown ward by councillors and planners.

That reflects a grossly inequitable payback for taxpayers and was the reason I voted at planning committee, Monday, against a project by Momentum developments that wraps around the beautiful heritage Huck Glove building at Victoria and Bramm streets.

And while I congratulate Momentum for saving the Huck building, I think those bonuses are out of whack.

In this case, they will incorporate a zone change that permits an intensified 25-storey building that will have 300 units. They also include an outdoor park area that will be replaced with a partly-indoor “public amenity area” and parking spaces that will be reduced from 411 to 233.

I voted against the project to protest the fact Momentum has or will soon build more than 1,000 high-rise condos on Victoria and at Charles-Gaukel that include no affordable shelter despite the fact Waterloo Region has 3,000 names — about 10,000 adults, children and seniors —on a waiting list for low-cost housing.

After two Kitchener councillors — planning chairman Paul Singh and downtown representative, Sarah Marsh — declared conflicts of interest and didn’t vote on the issue, the remaining councillors and Mayor Berry Vrbanovic approved the development. Singh’s conflict is because his father owns property adjacent to Momentum sites on Victoria while Marsh’s conflict involves purchase of a Momentum condo.’

Buried somewhere under the blanket of bonuses we are shovelling out to developers is a responsibility that those companies make certain affordable housing forms part of their projects. Meanwhile, local politicians should, but are not, doing their utmost to make certain that responsibility is met.

When the issue returns to council on March 19, I hope councillors remember that, no matter what your income, housing is supposed to be a basic human right for all Canadians.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Greener City, Heritage, Homelessness, Journalism, Light Rail Transit, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Transit, Vibrant Downtown, Ward News | 3 Comments

Neighbours learn about development of Schneider’s site

To date it’s a no-name, urban hamlet planned in central Kitchener that could take at least 10 years to develop.

About 100 residents who live near Kitchener’s 27.6-acre Schneider’s-Maple Leaf site showed up last night to ask questions about the development by Auburn Developments of London that will eventually include at least 2,000 housing units. The information meeting — first of several planned by the developer and the city — was held at Cameron Heights Collegiate.

Auburn is known locally as the developer of the Arrow Lofts on Benton Street, Kitchener and Barrel Yards in Waterloo.

The Schneider site, which has stood empty for three years, will include everything from town homes to 18-storey condo and rental towers. It is located between Courtland, Borden, Palmer and the rail tracks near Mill. It is on the Light Rail Transit route and adjacent to two LRT stations.

Residents learned that initial site activity will include drilling, soil testing and demolition. It will also involve renovation of the existing office building, warehouse and garage near Courtland-Borden for possible high-tech’ offices, restaurant and brew-pub purposes.

Other proposals:

  • Consideration of affordable housing mixed with stacked townhouses and medium to high-rise buildings;
  • Extension of Kent and Palmer streets into the site plus several new, east-west roads;
  • A green park corridor connecting with neighbourhood creeks and trails;
  • A transit study and pre-development inspection of existing, nearby homes/businesses that could be affected by demolitions;
  • Dust and noise controls as demolitions progress.

Meanwhile, Auburn has activated a Schneider website at http://www.schneiderredevelopment.com and announced that neighbourhood issues about site activity should go to site manager Connor Wilks at 519.434.1808.

On a lighter note, nearby residents have been asked to suggest names for the development and its new streets but I would predict several suggested at last night’s meeting are unlikely to be considered.

My favourites?

“Wiener Way” traversing “Hot-dog hamlet.”

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Greener City, Light Rail Transit, Low-Cost Housing, Neighbourhoods, Schneider's site, Transit | Leave a comment