Civil candidates

The Journal discusses student issues with City Council candidates

Image by: Anisa Rawhani

With 41 candidates for City Council across Kingston’s 12 districts, the race, which ends with the Oct. 27 election, is looking crowded.

The first all-candidates meeting took place on Sept. 30, presented by the Sydenham District Association. Three of the four official candidates for Sydenham District — Adam Koven, TK Pritchard and Peter Stroud — debated, followed by the six mayoral candidates.

The fourth Sydenham candidate, Bonnie Ferguson, didn’t attend the debate.

Koven, Pritchard and Stroud agreed on most of the debate topics that came up, diverging when asked about campaign funds.

Stroud, who said he would only accept campaign donations from individuals rather than from businesses, asked Koven if he had accepted donations from development or real estate companies.

Koven said he took a check from a family member made out in a company’s name, but that it wouldn’t influence him if he’s elected. He added that councillor candidates can’t disregard businesses, since many business owners live in Kingston.

The Sydenham District race is one without an incumbent, and follows an attempt by City Council last year to dissolve the district and redraw electoral boundaries. By-Law 2013-83 would also have stopped including students in Kingston population counts.

The bylaw was struck down by the Ontario Municipal Board, allowing students to continue to have the right to vote in Kingston. Voters can do so in person, over the phone or online.

The Journal spoke with the Council candidates for King’s Town, Portsmouth, Sydenham and Williamsville Districts — which encompass the main areas where students live — about student issues.

King’s Town District

Lindsey Foster

Lindsey Foster said she wants to get the message out to students that voting and taking action in municipal politics is an important part of living in Kingston.

As a first-time candidate for City Council, Foster found her inspiration last year when attempting to maneuver through the ice and snow on unclear sidewalks and roads became an unacceptable winter routine.

Foster has been a resident of Kingston since she moved here 21 years ago, working in the news and broadcasting industry. She believes that her past experience at Corus Entertainment as News Director of CKWS-TV, and jobs at the former Country-96 and GTO-960 radio stations, provide her with the skills necessary to reach out to the citizens of the King’s Town community.

She said the most important issues in City Council concerning post-secondary students are the sub-standard conditions of student housing, snow removal and garbage and recycling pick up. She added that all of these issues are due to inefficient government services.

“The problem is not about more money, or more people — it’s about managing them more efficiently,” she said in regards to city-provided services.

Foster said she’s concerned about the retention of students graduating at post-secondary institutions in Kingston. She said she believes that economic development, as well as development of existing business, is important in retaining skilled students graduating from schools in Kingston.

She added that she wants to see more discussion on fellowship and internship programs to try to keep skilled workers in Kingston and develop the city’s economy.

Foster has been going door-to-door speaking to residents in the King’s Town district, promoting her campaign and encouraging residents to go out and vote. According to Foster, King’s Town had a voter turnout of 28 per cent in 2010, something she said needs to improve.

The student vote is important, she said, not only for her campaign but so that the students that make up a large part of the Kingston community can be represented by the government of their choice.

“On all my flyers I’ve put voting information — with the online voting it should be easy for students to vote,” Foster said.

Rob Hutchison

Rob Hutchison is looking to be re-elected for a third term as the King’s Town Councillor.

Hutchison said he feels as though, despite eight years of work on Council, there are still projects in the city that he wants to complete and improve.

During his years on Council, he’s focused on many student issues including an express bus service, park revitalization, green bin recycling and stricter property standards. He said he also believes there should be more improvement of the waterfront, which is something he said students would take notice of.

Hutchinson said one of the ways he has been in contact with students, aside from door to door canvassing, has been his communications with the AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner.

He added that during the past two terms the AMS has worked with the city on the issue of property standards for students and garbage removal information.

“I’ve always encouraged students to consider themselves full citizens [of Kingston] and to vote,” Hutchison said.

Hutchison’s campaign also focuses on citywide issues like the casino proposal and urban sprawl. The Oct. 27 ballot will include a referendum on the casino proposal, asking if voters are in favor of a casino in Kingston. This would smooth the path for moving the 1000 Islands Casino from nearby Gananoque to downtown Kingston.

“The costs outweigh the benefits,” Hutchison said.

With regards to urban sprawl and development, Hutchison wants to make sure that the residents of downtown Kingston aren’t paying for the low-density developments outside of the area.

Hutchinson said he’s not anti-development but would rather focus on how we build the city and the form of development.

Ryan Low

Ryan Low’s decision to run for City Council stems from his involvement in student politics at Queen’s.

Low graduated from Queen’s University in 2011 with a degree in chemical engineering, and decided to remain in Kingston post-graduation.

He’s campaigning on a platform that focuses on infrastructure investment in Kingston, including the extension of Wellington St. to John Counter Blvd. to reduce high-speed traffic securing funding from federal and provincial governments for the third crossing.

“I’ve always been interested in politics. I was in student politics when I was at Queen’s in the Engineering Society, and now that I’ve put my roots down and I’m not moving anywhere, it’s something I want to get back into,” he said.

“I didn’t want to be an idle bystander just complaining about things, I wanted to take an active approach to be able to be part of a solution. I thought there were initiatives that needed to be addressed.”

Low also wants to improve the quality of life for post-secondary students in Kingston through initiatives like keeping property taxes as low as possible.

“One of the issues that students don’t always directly see the impact of is property tax, and property tax increases. Most students don’t own their own property while they’re in Kingston, but they do pay for the property tax indirectly through their rent,” he said.

“When property taxes keep going up by two to 2.5 per cent every year even if inflation is not that high, then that’s going to be a direct impact back to students who are already tight on money.”

He said he also wants to address housing standards thanks to student feedback.

“I believe it starts with the landlord making a better investment in the properties so that the students are actually happy with the rentals they have,” he said.

Low said the attempt to realign the districts last year and not count student votes was a major factor that influenced his decision to run. “There’s been a lot of issues that I thought weren’t handled well by the current council. Trying to realign the districts without counting students seemed to be a gross miscalculation by Council,” he said.

“There’s no difference between anybody else who rents and a post-secondary student who rents in this city, and the fact that the City Council tried to make a distinction there is very undemocratic.”

Sean Murphy

Looking to make an impact on the city and district that he grew up in, Sean Murphy is basing his campaign on his ability to listen and learn from the citizens he hopes to represent.

Murphy, who attended St. Lawrence College and currently works at an IT company in Kingston, said he feels an obligation to take an interest and get involved in city politics.

As a part-time student at Queen’s University, Murphy said he wants to inspire students and citizens to take an interest in municipal politics, regardless of past experience.

He said he may not be the most experienced candidate in the running, but he believes his dedication and availability will allow him to really listen to the concerns of the citizens.

“I should be asking you what the issues are,” Murphy said in response to a question of what he believes the main issues are for post-secondary students in his district.

Although Murphy has based his campaign on his approachability, he said he has yet to reach out to students on and around campus. He added that his campaign platform is not as detailed as the other candidates, but he still believes that, win or lose, it is important for all residents of Kingston to take an interest in the city that they live in.

He said he thinks Kingston’s environment revolves around the post-secondary students that flood in during the school terms and leave Kingston quiet during the summer.

Jordan West

Jordan West believes he’s the candidate in his home district of King’s Town that best represents the district’s post-secondary students.

With eight years of managerial experience, the last five as the owner and operator of The Spot Nightclub, West believes his leadership skills and experience with the post-secondary students of Kingston make him the best candidate to address student issues.

Since last year’s attempt to take away students’ rights to vote, West encourages students to “make an example of what Council tried to do and have [your] voices heard”.

West has been canvassing door-to-door, informing students about their right to vote and even said he plans to have a bus on the day of the vote in The Spot’s parking lot, to transport students to the polls.

One of the issues West’s campaign is focused on is student housing, which he believes needs to improve. He said basements and “dwellings” are not proper living situations for students, adding that students need to demand proper living situations like homes with windows and proper ceiling height.

West said he’s more concerned with “student health over landlord profit”.

He added he plans to implements an online service to help the relationship between students and landlords so that students are more comfortable bringing up issues with their property.

West mentioned ideas of developing the city’s entertainment and visual art galleries to build a culture that keeps citizens interested in their city and its heritage.

He added that he’s looking to represent the youth in a district that suffers from one of the worst voter turnouts among Kingston’s roughly 36 per cent voter turnout overall.

“I believe that I can represent the youth in Kingston more appropriately than the old boys’ club we have now,” he said.

“We want to make sure that their experience while they’re in Kingston is top-notch.”

Portsmouth District

Maureen Good

Maureen Good is running for Council as a way to give back to the community.

Good has been a resident of Kingston her whole life and is a St. Lawrence College alumna.

“Now that I’m retired I would like to give back,” she said.

Her focus on Council would be on economic development, including tackling youth unemployment and supporting the arts community in Kingston to maintain the richness of culture that the city has to offer.

Some of Good’s goals for representing Portsmouth District are creating economic growth and ensuring public dialogue in regards to property development.

“I want to see a municipal government that realizes that it is time to start driving economic development. I think we have to change our whole framework and mindset and we have to drive it … The heart of my platform is driving economic development,” she said.

“The first step I would take is that I want Council to force an examination of all current economic development programs we have in Kingston. We have to determine whether or not they’re working, and if they’re not working we have to have the courage to say that and redirect. We have never had performance indicators for our economic development department — and I think that’s what we have to do.”

Good said an important issue that needs to be addressed among students is their career plans after graduating.

“I think sometimes when you get into school it’s all so busy, and I think students end up graduating and it’s just a black hole out there, because they haven’t had the instruction or opportunity to actually figure out how they can present what they have to offer to the job market,” she said.

Part of her campaign strategy for reaching out to students is getting them on the voters’ list.

“I’m just trying to drive home the point that even if they’re not on the voters’ list, it’s very important to vote. I’m trying to convince them that Kingston really needs them, we really need them to stay and give Kingston a chance because without young people, we have no economic viability at all,” she said.

“I’m asking them to question what Kingston needs to do to hold their interest.”

Liz Schell

Liz Schell has been the Portsmouth representative since 2010, and has decided to run for the position once again.

A resident of Kingston since 1960, Schell said she has been an active member in the community for decades, speaking up against various developments that she felt would negatively affect Kingston.

“Over the years I have been involved in a few community events, such as speeders on Mowat Avenue, when someone wanted to build a huge high-rise on the waterfront, so I got involved back in the 70s … by going to public meetings and speaking up,” she said.

Schell’s first taste of campaigning was when she joined Helen Cooper’s successful mayoral campaign in the 1980s. Cooper became Kingston’s first female mayor in 1988.

Schell is running on a platform focused on community development, including pushing for the Fairway Hills Parkette project and economic development and creating unity between the student population and permanent residents.

“There’s a huge increase in the number of people buying homes and housing students in them — which is perfectly legal and that’s the way of the world — but it creates problems for people that thought that their home would be beside a family.

“We’ve got to continue all this working together, to make everybody comfortable,” she said.

Schell also proposed designating certain areas for students alone.

“I think we need housing for students … We really have to address it,” she said.

“I don’t think students like [overpopulation] anymore than the neighbours, being crowded into a house,” she said. She added she feels it’s important for students to be involved in the election, and for their votes to be counted in light of last year’s attempt to stop counting students in Kingston’s population data.

“There were three councillors who spoke at the OMB hearing in favour of counting students. I was horrified, actually,” she said.

“You have to count them. In a city that has nearly 30,000 students in the heart of the city … this is a big chunk of our economy, of course you have to count them.”

Alexander Young

Alexander W. Young said he wants to address the issue of the small job market in Kingston if elected to City Council.

Young, who owns Elegant Thunder DJ Service, graduated from St. Lawrence College in 2011.

“I’ve just found that there’s not a lot of opportunity in the city of Kingston. That was an impetus for me to run — I needed an opportunity for myself, and I wanted to create opportunity for others,” he said.

“If post-secondary students want to stay in Kingston specifically, there has to be more opportunities than food service jobs and retail jobs. There’s just a serious lack of new business and innovative enterprises in Kingston.”

He said he wants to figure out how to attract entrepreneurs to Kingston or help recent graduates engage in entrepreneurship.

“So one of my main focuses is to increase funding to Kingston Economic Development Corporation, or come up with other ideas that will bring new business to Kingston and attract entrepreneurs, or even encourage post-secondary graduates from St. Lawrence College or Queen’s University to be entrepreneurial themselves.”

Young also emphasized the importance of students staying in Kingston once they graduate, something that could help the economy.

“It’s a priority for me to create opportunity. Everybody needs this,” he said.

“We need to broaden our tax base or else it’s a dying city, with thousands of students graduating every year from these post-secondary institutions and a lot of them not staying in the city — not because they don’t love it, but they have to leave just to have a livelihood.

Sydenham District

Bonnie Ferguson

Bonnie Ferguson, who was the first registered candidate for the 2014 Kingston municipal elections, told the Journal in January she was inspired by God to live with the homeless.

Ferguson spent several months in 2009 living in her car to experience homelessness firsthand. She said religious inspiration brought about the change.

“I was called to do that by God,” she said.

Ferguson said she has been thinking about running for City Council since 2010, but felt she wasn’t ready until now. Her involvement in charity and social issues led her to her decision, she added.

“I’m passionate about our city. We live in an awesome city and I’ve been involved in the community for a long, long time,” she said.

She added she has no specific policy ideas that will appeal to students, but she will support anything her constituents feel strongly about.

“I’m like a voice for them before council. Whatever they’re interested in, I’m interested in,” she said.

Although Ferguson lives in King’s Town District, she said she felt that Sydenham District was the right place for her.

“When I think of that district, it has the hospital, it has Queen’s, I’m excited to work with you guys,” she said.

Ferguson is the author of the book The Streets of Kingston. The book was published by City Wide Ministries, a Christian charity organization that she founded. She said she’s currently the only member.

Examples of its work, she said, include feeding the homeless and handing out socks.

In one instance, she said, she helped rescue a homeless man who had stopped in the middle of traffic.

“Me and a police officer took him and got him back into the side of the road,” she said. “City Wide Ministries is really just doing good works and looking after city issues.”

Her experiences with students, she said, include one occasion when she sat in on a radio show at CFRC with radio host Rick Jackson.

Adam Koven

Adam Koven, who was born and raised in Kingston, said he wants to work towards retaining Queen’s students in the city.

“I have 20,000 students, graduate, post-graduate, who have all agreed they want to live in Kingston, whether it’s for four years or two, but they are here,” he said.

“They have agreed that this is a good place to learn, and I hope they’ve seen it’s a good place to live. What are we doing municipally — and we’re probably one of the municipal governments that don’t do very much by comparison — to retain educated [students]?”

Koven met with Rector Mike Young, Municipal Affairs Commissioner Ariel Gonzalez and SGPS President Kevin Wiener to consult with them on student issues, something he has pledged to maintain should he be elected.

“A lot of residents will say we’ve got a problem. And Queen’s will say we have a problem, but here’s a solution … In black and white, Ariel presents me with, ‘here’s what we suggest’, and some of the suggestions were, ‘we might not be right, so here’s two options’.”

Koven said that during his meeting with Young, Gonzalez and Wiener, they brought up the issue of snowplowing and sidewalk clearing, a problem during the 2013-14 winter. Koven said he wants to reclassify the area around Queen’s as level one priority for road clearing.

“There was a Queen’s professor that had to run on the street years ago who was hit by a car because the sidewalks weren’t clear,” he said.

“I don’t want to wait for tragedy.”

He had a booth at the Sidewalk Sale this year and pledged during his interview with the Journal to go every year if he’s elected.

“That was what I was hearing at the street sale — ‘we don’t feel that we’re part of the community, we don’t feel that we’re appreciated’, and that comes from day one.”

At the Sidewalk Sale, he said, he stopped students walking past to remind them that they almost lost the ability to vote in Kingston municipal elections.

“Don’t let them, whoever it was, say that you weren’t going to count. I’d hate to see two, three, four per cent voter turnout from the Queen’s population. I don’t want them to ever say, ‘well, we were right’.”

TK Pritchard

TK Pritchard’s work on the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal during his 2013-14 tenure as AMS vice president of University Affairs ignited his interest in municipal issues.

“I’ve always been involved in advocacy, so this was a way to bring those two passions together. It really opened my eyes to different issues that we had within the district, within the city, and ways that they could better be represented,” he said.

Pritchard said snow and ice clearing were an issue for students, as well as the one-bag garbage policy implemented in September 2012, talent retention and working to improve town-gown relations.

“The city did implement the one garbage bag policy within the last couple years, and it definitely disproportionately affected students, because you’re more likely to have a higher number of individuals in one dwelling than you are for a non-student residence,” he said.

He suggested changing the one-bag policy to be more flexible.

“We could be looking at reversing it and doing more recycling education. We could also look at keeping the one bag policy but looking at changing it for certain times of year — so holidays, around move-in, move-out times, when it’s very difficult to meet that one bag restriction,” he said.

Pritchard also said the Queen’s noise bylaw exemption is at the forefront of student issues, since the exemption will expire in June 2015.

“It’s very important that as soon as the election happens, if I’m elected, that we’re proactively holding town halls and discussions and getting feedback from everybody, including non-student residents who live near the field, from athletes, from students, from the University and from everyone who’s kind of involved so that we’re not kind of not down to wire with this decision and scrambling to make the sides come to an agreement, that we’re working right out of the gates to find a solution that’s going to work,” he said.

He said last year’s attempt by City Council to dissolve Sydenham District, redraw electoral boundaries and stop including students in city population counts made it clear that Sydenham needs a councillor who represents and works for all residents in the district.

“It really made it clear that there are a lot of people who don’t feel that students are residents and who don’t understand that students pay rent so they do pay taxes,” he said.

“Students participate in the community, they add a lot to the community, and have the same rights to access their councillor, have the same rights to bring issues forward to City Hall, and deserve to have their voices heard.

Peter Stroud

After being urged several times to run for the Sydenham District seat, Peter Stroud decided to run after the OMB appeal was decided in 2013.

“For me, it was a matter of principle. It was a fight that had to be fought. What City Council did was just plain wrong. I just advocated for standing up and taking it to the OMB because it was essentially a smokescreen,” he said.

“So I have a strong sense of fair play in everything that I do — it’s why I became an activist.”

Stroud, who graduated from Queen’s in 1991, said the OMB appeal highlighted how well students and permanent residents can work together.

“It got me thinking that that should be a permanent partnership, not just with the AMS, but students and permanent residents should always be close, because the Sydenham District, as a region, gets picked on by the rest of city,” he said.

Stroud said the one-bag limit on garbage was unfair to students and suggested that, rather than give every household one untagged bag per week, each house should receive 52 tags at the beginning of the school year.

This way, he said, students will have enough to get through the entire school year, since many don’t stay in Kingston for a full twelve months.

Stroud has three children, the oldest of whom is in grade one. He became involved in activism after his son was born seven years ago.

“If he follows the path that I took, I want him to find that as a student at Queen’s … he will find more acceptance from the community around him than I did when I was a frosh. If that happens then I’ll feel like I made a difference,” he said.

“If I could just leave people with an idea of the passage of time — that if we don’t work for positive change, this will happen again. City Council will try to take away Sydenham District’s councillor again, and the students and the residents at that time will have to fight it again.

Williamsville District

Jim Neill

Jim Neill has been a councillor for 10 years and has represented Williamsville since 2010.

Neill, a Queen’s graduate, said he decided to run again because he’s “really enjoying it” and there’s a lot happening in Williamsville in terms of development and infrastructure.

“The whole community is going through a real rejuvenation, and I support that and would love to be on Council to help kind of usher that to its completion,” he said.

Neill said he’s been asking students during his door-to-door campaigning if they remember last year’s attempt to redraw Sydenham District — a decision that would have excluded students from being counted in the city population.

“I totally supported the AMS challenge on that and supported the neighbourhood association. And I was a key witness at the OMB appeal that helped to overturn that decision,” he said.

Those who supported the decision not to count students in the population — “with the exception of, arguably, the mayor” — did not represent an area with a high concentration of students, he added.

“[I]t was an attempt, almost in Southern American red state fashion, to gerrymander so that they would have an extra vote on council,” he said.

He said he was one of few that voted against the development of 663 Princess St., where there was a fire in Dec. 2013, before construction began.

“I voted against it because I had concern with the total lot coverage and the density and the fact that it was a five-story wood structure,” he said.

Neill said the last couple of AMS executives have done a good job communicating with the city.

He added that the University administration “should take a lesson from AMS.”

“When [the AMS] come to the City for frosh week or for Homecoming and say, ‘we’d like these noise exemptions and this is how we’re going to mitigate any issues around that’, it passes unanimously because they’ve done that communication.”

Ed Smith

Ed Smith is running for Williamsville City Councillor after a four year hiatus, having previously served from 2003-2010.

While on Council, Smith said he was seen as a “friend of the University” by the administration and student government.

“Even since I’ve been off Council, I get calls from the vice principals at Queen’s,” he said.

“For instance, when the mayor inappropriately used social media during the last Homecoming a year ago, I was called by vice principals to ask my advice on how they could handle it and minimize the damage that he had caused.”

Smith said he sees the importance of the university to the community, economically and socially, and that students are an important element in the community. Students support many charities, offer tutoring services and “provide vitality to the community,” he said.

Issues of housing, walkable and bikeable streets, noise bylaws, sidewalk clearing during the winter and recycling are important for post-secondary students, he said. He added that sidewalk snow removal was not done well this past winter.

He said he would look at the AMS asking City Council to consider a single-stream recycling program, where all recyclables are put in a single bin and sorted after delivery to a recycling plant, as an option.

Although he wasn’t on Council during the Sydenham District boundary dispute, Smith said he “supported the students and the Sydenham District Association that contested to the OMB,” both financially and actively.

To reach out to students, Smith said he’s knocking on student doors and handing out brochures or postcards that showcase his activity in the student community.

“But, mainly I’m walking up onto students’ doors and being invited in in some cases and spending, you know, five, 10 minutes talking to students and encouraging them to get out and vote and put a sympathetic councillor, that’s sympathetic to university issues, back on Council.”


Municipal, Politics

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