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City Council Columns - February 2024



Hi Ward 1, hope you’re well! I’d like to begin by welcoming our newest Councillor, Stephanie Stretch, to our Kitchener-Council team. As you’re likely aware, former Councillor Aislinn Clancy was successful in her bid to become the Kitchener-Centre representative for the Province of Ontario (best of luck MPP Clancy!) but that success also left a void in Ward 10, which happens to share a long border with Ward 1. City Council had a few options to fill the Ward 10 vacancy once Councillor Clancy had won the Provincial seat: 1. a by-election, 2. the runner-up from the Ward 10 election, or 3. appointment-- either outright, or by application. Option 3 was always a non-starter for me. It felt painfully undemocratic for Council to simply pick who they liked. I’d typically have issues with Option 2 as well, i.e. the appointment of the runner-up, largely because oftentimes a runner-up has a starkly different platform and political-ideology than the winner. (e.g. the winner is on the one end of the political spectrum while the second-place finisher is on the opposite.) This was not, at all, the case in Ward 10. Both the winner and runner-up had remarkably similar issues-of-focus in my opinion, and compounding the case, was the fact that they finished within a few percent of each other, while other Ward 10 candidates were far behind. Once the seat was vacated, it only made logical sense that Stephanie Stretch assumed the role. If we haven’t honoured the letter of democracy... we have certainly honoured the spirit.
February is Black History Month. The Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region has some great events planned to celebrate with. Visit ccawr.ca. We’ll have a new festival this summer. We’re thrilled to work with the Caribana Arts group to create the Kitchener Caribana Street Festival August 23 and 24. It will be an amazing celebration. More details to come. On Jan. 22, Council unanimously passed the zone change application for the new WCDSB grade 7-12 school at 20 Woolner Trail opening in 2026. I thank staff at the WCDSB, Region of Waterloo and our City of Kitchener team. We worked together to resolve many safety issues. See the updates at WCDSB 20 Woolner Trail at daveschnider.com. Council also unanimously passed a motion I brought forward directing staff to identify surplus or underutilized city land, including surface parking lots, that could be considered for the development of regular and affordable and supportive housing. Staff will bring that land inventory to Council in the second quarter of this year. I know I’m not alone in feeling the loss of Wendi Campbell who was the Executive Director of the Foodbank of Waterloo Region. Through her work, she made many lives better and brighter. She was a wonderful wife and mother. My condolences to Craig, Maddie and Ben and Wendi’s family, co-workers, and friends. If you need help with an issue, contact me directly or use our 24-hour Contact Centre, 519-741-2345 or info@kitchener.ca. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @DaveSchniderKW or friend me on Facebook. Visit daveschnider.com for lots of Ward 2 and city info.
Waste disposal is one of the biggest concerns among area residents, and justifiably so. I have seen garbage along our trails, sidewalks, bushes, and roadsides. We can all work together to make our neighbourhoods better. Whether sharing knowledge of the recycling and garbage day schedule with anyone new to Ward 4 or organizing a clean-up day with neighbours and friends – every activity, large or small, helps to make our community clear of litter. Visit regionofwaterloo.ca/waste for all your answers about garbage disposal and collection schedules. Most recently, Kitchener city staff just made it easier to find all the garbage can locations across the city. Download the new online map to find a garbage container near you when its needed: https://bit.ly/3OcGcZ1. There is no need to drop trash anywhere except in the garbage can. In an ode to a former Mayor, Dom Cardillo, I quote, “Let’s keep Kitchener clean as a kitchen!” I had the pleasure of visiting Groh Public School late last year to kick off an initiative between Activa and grade 7 students acting as city planners and developers to create their ideal community. This initiative provided a valuable education experience and fostered a sense of responsibility and connection to their surroundings. I look forward to seeing their presentation to City Council on Monday, February 12th. Addressing traffic, speed and pedestrian safety concerns is crucial for the community’s overall well-being. In the coming months, I will meet with staff to identify more areas needing traffic calming measures in Ward 4 this spring.
Happy February Ward 5! Join me in welcoming our new City Councillor, Stephanie Stretch. She will be representing Ward 10 and I am looking forward to working closely with her on all City matters as it relates to you. Kitchener City Hall has also a new addition – a dynamic new service centre, which gives customers daily access to all City services and information, right at the front doors of city hall. This is the largest physical renovation to city hall since it opened more than 30 years ago. It holds the City’s 24-7 Corporate Contact Centre, accessible service counter, language interpretation services and staff subject matter experts available daily to help our customers. I’m thrilled to share that Kitchener is the first city in Canada to achieve Pet-Friendly Certification from Better Cities for Pets Program. More people than ever view pets as members of the family, and Kitchener is creating a vibrant community where pets can thrive, enjoying pet-friendly businesses, events and parks. Kitchener has multiple programs and policies to support a pet friendly community, including local food banks or animal welfare organizations that distribute pet food to families in need; green spaces for people and pets to get healthy exercise and play; local organizations like Dog Friendly KW and the Humane Society creating opportunities for pet owners to engage with their community. To learn more, visit bettercitiesforpets.com. Feel free to reach out to me anytime if you have questions or concerns about your neighbourhood. I’m looking forward to connecting with you.
I’m excited to share that we are more than halfway through the design process to upgrade Country Hills Park and add stormwater facilities. For details on the process, Q&A’s, to subscribe for updates, and track where the project is at, please visit engagewr.ca/kitchener and look for “Your Countryside Park, Your Watershed.” I want to thank the many residents who provided input through the surveys and open house that were available in February, and November December last year. These helped to guide the design, upgrades, and stormwater measures, so the park will better serve the surrounding neighbourhoods. From your feedback, some common themes were identified and are now being considered as the initial design proposal is created. Those themes were: Community Value - enjoyment of the park’s greenspace and use as a gathering space; Safety and Accessibility - concerns about accessibility due to flooding on trails and uneven paths; Community Garden - concern that changes would impact the garden; and Why Stormwater Management was required in the park. The project is going to have its first Public Information Center in April to get your feedback on the proposed design, and a second one in October to present the final design, with construction scheduled for completion next year. I continue to advocate for connected neighbourhoods, trail improvements, and park updates in Ward 6. Please join me at the Country Hills Community Centre on March 20 between 7-8pm to share your ideas, concerns or questions on this or other city and ward related items. You can also reach me by email at paul.singh@kitchener.ca.
Hi Ward 7! It’s February, and coyote mating season is starting. You may see them around the neighbourhood again, so I would like to share this information with you: Our city staff are aware of coyotes living in this area and throughout Kitchener. We are told that coyote sightings are normal and should not be misconstrued with something dangerous. The coyote is considered a natural inhabitant of the City of Kitchener and has adapted well to urban life. The city recognizes that coyotes play an important ecological role in urban areas by eating other animals and controlling pest populations. Generally, coyotes can live near people without causing problems but there are some important tips you can follow to reduce issues. Always keep your cat(s) indoors and dog(s) on a leash. The dog off a leash is a trigger to the coyote and major cause of most coyote incidents that have occurred historically. Coyotes will not approach or chase dogs that are leashed and close to their owners. Never run when you see a coyote, it brings out their “chase” instinct. Instead, stand still, wave your arms and make loud noises to scare them away. For more tips and information, visit: kitchener.ca/coyotesandwildlife. That said, in specific cases where an animal is behaving oddly like frequenting yards, approaching people, behaving aggressively, or feeding on human food scraps, residents are encouraged to report these to our Corporate Contact Centre at 519-741-2345 and staff will inspect these concerns to determine if any further intervention is required.
Happy February Ward 8! The days are getting longer and after a sun-less January, hope is in the air! Council has been busy in the last month especially in terms of reviewing long term Planning strategies that include Growing Together and Inclusionary Zoning proposals. Growing Together looks to manage intensification in seven major transit station areas enabling and encouraging responsible growth in the core. Details here: kitchener.ca/strategic-plans-and-projects/growing-together Inclusionary Zoning would include: units must be rentals, would be available to affordable and low income households (earning $43,00 to $65,000), must be rented to eligible tenants for 25 years, as well there would be ongoing reviews and adjustments every 2 years or less. Learn more here: engagewr.ca/inclusionary-zoning. Both of these items were deferred by Council until the March 18th Council meeting. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or are interested in learning more. For our Forest Hill residents: have ideas for programs and services at Forest Heights Community Centre? Apply to be a part of the Forest Heights Community Centre Advisory Committee to help us understand and meet the diverse needs for the community! Apply by February 24th: kitchener.ca/FHCCAC Feel free to contact me anytime: margaret.johnston@kitchener.ca or 519-741-2796.
In England recently, I had the chance to wander through pedestrianized, heritage protected areas of several cities—it was magical. Of particular note were Coventry, Liverpool and Oxford. As a member of the Heritage Kitchener advisory committee, I found it distressing to hear a developer suggest we should abolish heritage conservation districts (HCDs) to allow for more development. They were objecting to the inclusionary zoning report requiring new developments have up to five percent affordable housing by 2031. Most of the city is not in an HCD and very few houses are heritage designated. While I agree we need to de-colonize heritage, I would hate to see HCDs paved over and replaced with cement, glass, and metal. As highlighted by a member of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, the “Growing Together” plan to rezone three areas within the Victoria Park HCD is problematic. It proposes allowing eight-storey buildings among the existing one-storey heritage homes. But given that heritage district policies take precedence over the new proposed zoning, why adopt it here at all? There is plenty of land within the major transit station areas that can be developed to meet our targets without destroying the little bit of heritage stock we have remaining. In my opinion, the percentage of inclusionary zoning detailed in the staff report doesn’t go nearly far enough, but at least it tries to get some ‘moderately’ (not deeply affordable) priced housing stock at a time when the number of people on the affordable housing wait list and homeless people in the city continues to rise.
Hello Ward 10! I am happy to be your newly appointed Ward 10 Councillor. Thank you so much for the encouraging notes and messages of congratulations. I am very honoured to be serving you. I am eager to work collaboratively to fulfill Kitchener’s vision for “building a city for everyone where, together, we take care of the world around us – and each other.” I want to take this opportunity to highlight CoK’s new Service Centre -- located at the front doors of Kitchener City Hall. The City is expanding service by having both on-site and on-demand experts ready to meet with you in person at a central, accessible location. In-person service is supported by a 24-7 contact line for questions and/or reporting issues. Over-the-phone service can be accessed by dialing 519-741-2345 or 1-866-969-9994. The City of Kitchener is proud to offer financial support to youth who are living on a low income to help qualify for a summer job with the City. Financial supports can be used to help acquire qualifications for positions such as: lifeguard, swim instructor, camp leader and youth drop-in coordinator. Applications can be submitted online, and are available at all community centres and pools upon request. The deadline to apply is April 30th. You are invited to reach me directly at 519-741-2786, stephanie.stretch@kitchener.ca or by following me on social media: @stretch_ward10. I am also available to meet in-person and will soon set up community meetings to get caught up on all issues and projects that affect our community. Thank you Kitchener!
 February is Black Heritage Month, a time dedicated to honouring the legacy of Black Canadians and communities and celebrating their continuing contributions.
​Black Heritage acknowledges the resilience and bravery of those who came before us while also acknowledging the ongoing barriers to equity and inclusion that are still present within Kitchener.
​ This year, the City of Kitchener is focusing on the theme of Black mental health and wellness, including how racism affects the mental health of Black Canadians. Throughout Black Heritage Month, community partners will be organizing events throughout Waterloo Region, including community favourite, Bring on the Sunshine, happening at Kitchener City Hall on February 18.
​ In early February, the City of Kitchener will be hosting a ‘Lunch and Learn’ for staff, focusing on Black mental health, coping mechanisms, community resources and how the City can support staff.
​In addition, on February 29, members of Council will be joining more than 50 Black youth from schools across Kitchener to celebrate achievements of young Black leaders in the city and to have a panel discussion on Black representation as it relates to success and wellbeing. Although it is important to acknowledge the month of February as Black Heritage Month, our commitment to taking action must continue all year long – both against anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination. One way residents can do this is by supporting Kitchener’s small business community, including businesses owned by Black and racialized residents.
​ As an organization, the City continues to take steps to support Black, Indigenous and other racialized members of our community. Since 2022, the City’s RISE Fund has awarded $250,000 in grants to Black, Indigenous and other racialized community-led programs, projects and events. You can read about the grant recipients on our website. Kitchener City Council is committed to providing continued support for changes now underway within our organization.
​We have only begun the challenging work to disrupt systemic biases to ensure that Black and other racialized citizens in Kitchener have equitable access to the systems, supports and opportunities they need to grow, succeed, and thrive in our community. Please join me, and all of Kitchener City Council, in honouring, celebrating, and engaging with the perseverance, strength and rich heritage of African, Caribbean and Black members of our community.      
Greetings Ward 3! I would like to start off by welcoming our Ward 10 City Councilor, Stephanie Stretch. I look forward to the next three years working together in advancing the needs of Kitchener and its residents. We say hello to Stephanie as we say goodbye to Aislinn Clancy who was recently elected as MPP to the Kitchener Centre riding. Enjoy your new role, I have no doubt you’ll continue to work hard for the Residents of Kitchener. The work is complete at Vanier Park. The new playground, additional and improved seating among other improvements will surely serve the neighborhood for years to come. Did you know that Ward 3 is home to the Kitchener Model Train Club. For more information KitchenerModelTrainClub@gmail.com As a strong supporter of Recreation and Leisure programs and the role they play in the development of our youth and introductions to new activities for adults of all age ranges, I want to give a shout out to our incredible Community Centers. The diverse, inclusive, and engaging programs that are offered are nothing short of awesome. Baking groups and drop-ins to food pantries and inter-generational programming, they continue to go above and beyond serving our community and some of the most vulnerable. Thank you for making a real difference. Come out to enjoy the WinterLink event on Family Day, February 19, from 1-3pm at the Kingsdale Community Centre. I hope to see you there! Some of the recent discussions at Council have included looking at city owned lands and their potential to support development of affordable housing; a trial for open alcohol at some city parks across the city; and approving more home building that is so dearly needed. My next meet and greet drop-in at the Kingsdale Community Centre is scheduled for Wednesday, March 13 from 6:30-8:30pm, 2024. Bring your questions, ideas, and concerns. To connect with me, email Jason.deneault@kitchener.ca or call 519-741-2790.
Councillor Stephanie Stretch Ward 10