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City Council Columns - August 2019


Climate emergency: A little over a month ago Kitchener Council unanimously supported the idea that we’re in a state of ‘climate emergency.’ To some, it might seem a little silly, especially if they understand the term ‘emergency’ to mean an immediate, or near-term doom. This isn’t the case, of course, but a quick googling of the word ‘emergency’ yields the following definition: ‘a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.’ In this sense, the declaration is 100% warranted. It’s true that the ‘dangerous situation’ may very well be a ways off, but it most certainly requires immediate action if we hope to stave off the dire effects of climate change. Do I think this declaration will make much difference? Probably not. For starters, we’re a municipality of a quarter-million people on a planet of 7.5 billion. We could drop our emissions to zero and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference if the rest of the world keeps going down the same path. But that isn’t a reason not to act either. I’m confident that we will do our part, even if I’m not so confident the rest of the world will. Remember that the nation to our immediate south opted out of the Paris Accord on climate change. There are many that will keep their head in the sand even as the water rises around them. To that end, it’s also our responsibility to prepare, and we are. One example is planning to improve dikes along lower-lying communities near the Grand River that are at risk of climate-related flooding. While hoping for the best in the world response to climate change, we also must prepare for the worst. Please don’t hesitate to contact me anytime with any questions or concerns.
Live at Lunch DTK Concert Series continues to the end of August. Each Friday from noon until 1pm enjoy local musical talent in Carl Zehr Square at City Hall, 200 King St W. Grab an artisanal ice cream from the pop-up shop Four All, and take a look at some fair trade and handcrafted items in A Million Elephants while you’re there too.
Kidspark returns to Victoria Park on August 18 with fun activities, entertainment, music, arts and crafts. It’s a free event from the City of Kitchener and Kitchener Public Library. The LINK Picnic festival is also in Victoria Park on August 24 and 25. Celebrate African and Caribbean Cultures with food, art, music and activities.
A Survivor Garden is being created in Victoria Park. It will be a place of reflection for those who have survived cancer and endured other personal hardships and adversity. It’s a project that will be donated by Gateman-Milloy and Scott Barker. Share your thoughts on what features would make this an inclusive place until September 1 at engagewr.ca/kitchener.
Registration for fall programs at our Ward 2 community centres starts on August 20. Visit Stanley Park Community Centre at 505 Franklin St. N. and Centreville Chicopee Community Centre at 141 Morgan Ave. for a Program Guide. You can register online at Kitchener.ca/activenet or call 519-741-2907.
I love hearing from you. Please contact me if I can assist you in any way. I’ll respond to your ideas and concerns.
Our Contact Line is staffed 24/7 at 519-741-2345. Call to report an issue or get answers to questions about any city department at a time that suits you.
Speed Limit Pilot A Council Committee has approved the implementation of a project with the goal of lowering residential speed limits. A default speed of 40 km/h will be tested for roads in the pilot area – Wards 2, 4 and 5. School zone speeds will be reduced to 30 km/h.
Council will consider the recommendation on August 26th. If approved the pilot project will run for a year commencing in September 2019. The cost of the pilot is estimated at $36,000 primarily for sign changes and installation. To change the entire city would cost approximately $450,000. I welcome comments from residents of Ward 3 concerning this pilot. I appreciate your input.
Siebert-Courtland Ave Right Turn Many have asked about the inability to turn right on a red light. Line-ups on Siebert Ave are long-lasting. I have been advised by staff that this requirement has been put in place due to the extraordinary high rates of past accidents affecting cyclists. Apparently this corner has experienced one of the highest rates of incidents of this type in the region. I will continue to monitor this situation with staff to see if anything can be done to reduce the prolonged waits at this corner.
Residents of Boniface Avenue! A recent water main broke resulting in a surge of water which migrated to the sanitary sewers causing internal sewer back-ups in about 24 homes. Residents were faced with considerable extra work and enduring numerous inconveniences. Residents have worked hard to restore their homes. I want to extend my personal thanks and the thanks of the entire City to the residents who came together as a result of this incident. I appreciate everyone’s efforts and hope that the neighbourhood has been made whole again similar to what was in place before the incident.
Hello Everyone
I hope you are enjoying this beautiful summer season. Things are starting to take shape in areas of Ward 4. I recently took a tour of our community centre, and it was inspiring to see how everything is coming together.
I look forward to the opening celebration sometime in September. Keep a lookout on social media and the sign in front of the community centre for more details. Zehrs Plaza is also taking shape with more stores coming soon. With all the construction going on, I would like to remind everyone to slow down, be patient and watch for children, cyclists and walkers.
I want to congratulate the Doon South Community group on the success of their 3rd Annual Meet and Mingle event. I believe upwards of 800 attended this event, which speaks volumes to the connectivity of this community. If you didn’t get the chance to catch a free concert in Pioneer Park this summer, the last one takes place on Sunday, August 18. Congratulations to the group of neighbours on Green Valley Drive for organizing this 8-week series. A lot of hard work went into this event.
August 1 marked the start of Ontario Parks 30X30 Challenge encouraging Ontarians to spend 30 minutes outside for 30 days during August. I am sure that most of you are already doing this. We have so many great trails in Kitchener. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take a walk along a trail near your home and see where it leads. I believe the one thing that sets Ward 4 apart is the beauty and nature trails we all have just minutes from our front doors.
Summer is slowly winding down and there is a lot of great fall programming headed Ward 5’s way starting in September. The Williamsburg Community Association and the Huron Community Association are offering new and exciting programs and activities for all ages. You can always check out Active Net online to register online and try something new! Also, the 13th Annual Williamsburg Community Festival is Sunday, September 8, 2019, rain or shine! It’s a great way to kick off fall and enjoy family-friendly entertainment all day.
There have been exciting new developments happening at RBJ Schlegel Park. In late June, the playground design was finalized! Thank you to all who joined in on the conversation on Engage Kitchener and shared your thoughts, feedback and opinions to choose the best playground design! Summer construction has been busy at the park site as the City has also been working to complete site lighting and fence installations, the construction of the playground base, curbs and splash pad concrete, and beginning to seed natural turf multi-use and cricket fields.
I am beyond thrilled to see this exciting project take shape and am even more eager to see the completed project soon so that the park can bring leisure and recreational facilities and services that are much needed for the southwest Kitchener community and Ward 5. I hope to see many residents come out to celebrate the opening of the park this October!
Hello Word 6 Residents,
I hope you all have been enjoying this beautiful summer.
The Region of Waterloo is currently working on the detailed design of suggested improvements to Ottawa Street from Fischer-Hallman Road to Alpine Road. The Region’s project management team responsible for the improvements have outlined key areas to address the following issues:
The existing asphalt pavement is nearing the end of its service life;
There aren’t any designated cycling facilities between Williamsburg and Strasburg Rd;
There aren’t any pedestrian and/or cyclist crossings of Ottawa Street, other than at signalized intersections;
Grand River Transit’s (GRT) 205 iXpress route and strong activity at bus stops necessitates upgrades to stop areas and measures to improve service quality;
Intersections at Williamsburg Rd, Howe Dr, Mowat Blvd, Howland Dr and Elmsdale Dr don’t meet the left turn demands from Ottawa St to those adjoining roads;
The intersection of Ottawa St and Westmount Rd experiences severe congestion during peak traffic times for through and turning traffic.
Although this is the Region of Waterloo’s roadway and project, I have participated in a number of their meetings with Regional staff to help provide area perspective and advocacy on behalf of Ward 6 residents. I have stressed the need for thoughtful improvement to the Strasburg and Ottawa Intersection with the need to plan for anticipated future traffic congestion due to new development.
This work is still in the planning phase. If you would like to learn more, please visit www.regionofwaterloo and type in “Ottawa Street Improvements” in the search bar. You will see the improvements for Fisher Hallman to Alpine in the list to choose from.
Bike lanes are becoming an increasingly common infrastructure priority as cities need to meet the demand for alternative methods of transportation. However, even with bike lanes available, the city identified that many people don’t feel safe cycling on the road, and up to 70% of cyclists are still riding on the sidewalk to avoid traffic.
As more residents turn to cycling as a greener way to commute, or even just to get some exercise, the City of Kitchener has been working to create safer, protected bike lanes and more comfortable spaces for cyclists. I hope many of you have noticed the construction that has started on Queen’s Boulevard for a separated bike lane pilot. Queen’s Boulevard was selected as part of the pilot due to its key cycling connections to downtown from the West end of Kitchener. The work will include removing existing pavement markings, painting new markings, installing flexible posts and rubber curbs to create a safer and wider buffer between vehicle traffic and the bike lanes.
I’m excited to see this initiative come to Ward 7 and know that the impacts of protected bike lanes will not only improve the safety of cyclists, but all pedestrians. This pilot will act to calm traffic and provide a safe buffer for those who are also using the sidewalk. The construction is expected to be completed this September and the results of the pilot will be reported to city council in fall 2020. For questions or comments on this pilot, or on any other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime using the above information.
Resident-led traffic initiatives
With school about to start back up in September, the safety of neighbourhood roads is top of mind for many of us. There are many things you can do to increase traffic safety through resident-led traffic calming projects.
The Love My Hood program is always accepting applications to support a neighbourhood project for traffic calming. Ideas that you can adapt for your neighbourhood include: painted crosswalks, intersection murals, planter boxes in the boulevard or neighbourhood lawn signs. Applying for a Love My Hood grant to support a traffic calming initiative is a great way to bring awareness to traffic safety issues in your neighbourhood. Not only will it help to reduce vehicle speeds, it will also enhance the overall look and feel of your street, add some beauty to your neighbourhood and bring residents together to work on something fun and useful for your neighbourhood! For further information on this program visit: www.lovemyhood.ca and click on ‘cool ideas’ for traffic calming.
The Belmont Village Bestival is back for its third anniversary on Saturday, September 14th. Each year it just keeps getting better! Excellent music, arts, food, shopping and children’s activities are part of the mix at this amazing 100% free street festival. This is an excellent opportunity to enjoy local music and arts and to get to know the wonderful local businesses in Belmont Village! See you there!
Enjoy the rest of summer and please connect with me; I am always happy to hear from you. My coordinates are on the banner.
After spending the day researching the concept ‘global citizenship’ for a book chapter I am writing in my other life, I thought I could tie the idea of citizenship to this month’s article by talking about our constitutional right to vote as citizens of this country. We are after all in an election year.
Voting is a right that many in Canada prefer not to exercise. So how can we claim that we live in a democracy when in Kitchener only 25 to 29% of the population vote in municipal elections? In Ontario, voter turnout in 2018 reached 58%, up from 48% in 2011, yet down from the 66% in 1977. At the federal level voter turnout in 2015 was just over 68%, which is down from the 75% range in the 1980s.
While democracy goes beyond the act of voting, within the liberal democratic system voting, we say, is what gives us a voice. But does it? Some would argue that our current electoral system called first-past-the-post does not provide a true representation of the population’s wishes. Could it be that voter turnout would increase if we instead adopted a proportional representation model? Would enhanced political engagement increase democracy? Would participatory budgeting increase democracy? What changes would you like to see in the way we do politics that would enhance democracy and your participation at the municipal level?
I don’t consider ‘global citizenship’ to be a real thing, but citizenship is. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms details those rights. I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this important topic. I can be contacted at Debbie.Chapman@kitchener.ca
This month, Council will discuss the possibility of piloting a reduction in speed limits on neighbourhood roads. We would reduce the speed limit to 40km/hour in a specific area to test it out, and based on the results of the pilot, we would look to implement that reduction on neighbourhood streets across the city. Arterial roads are not included in the study. I have heard from many of you that it is vital that we ensure all our streets are safe for all users, and research studies have shown that lowering the speed of traffic is an effective tool. In my opinion, it will only be as effective if it changes driving habits.
Later in the fall, Council will look to finalize the residential component of the zoning bylaw. Two key areas we will look to address are: 1. transitions between high-rise buildings and low rise residential buildings and 2. regulations for additional residential units (e.g. basement apartments and coach houses). To receive updates on this important topic, go to www.kitchener.ca/crozby and subscribe to the webpage. Please feel free to contact me to share your thoughts about speed limit reductions and residential zoning, or any other matter.
We have had another great summer of downtown events. I hope everyone enjoyed the Kitchener Blues Festival last weekend. Great summer events continue this month with the 31st Annual Kidspark children’s festival happening on Sunday August 18 from 11am-5pm in Victoria Park. Be sure to bring the family and enjoy some free summer games, live entertainment and arts and crafts! The DTK Summer Series also continues through August. For the full 2019 event calendar, visit: downtownkitchener.ca/summer.
Will return in September.