Kingston city council wants the next four years to be built off a collaboration of community members.
On Feb. 19, the public had the opportunity to engage with Kingston City Council in a 90-minute open house meeting pertaining to the city’s strategic priorities for the 2019-22 term.
The broad four-year strategic plan acts as the framework for the City of Kingston’s planning processes throughout council’s term, outlining priorities and guiding development.
“It’s an important step for us to decide not only what [issues] are priorities, but also what [issues] are not priorities. That’s an important decision, and getting as much input from the public in advance of those discussions is also very important,” said Mayor Paterson in a phone call with The Journal.
The public meeting, attended by more than 100 people, was unanimously approved in a motion during a City Council meeting on Jan. 8.
City council arranged the meeting to make the strategic planning process a more inclusive, community-based initiative, as opposed to the traditional staff-led approach. Attendees were able to share ideas and concerns with members of council, who will use information gained from the public consultation to draft a strategic plan that reflects the priorities of the community.
Council specifically wanted to know what the public perceives to be the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Reflecting on the event, Paterson believes the open house was “very effective.”
“We had a very large turnout, lots of great discussions, and lots of great input from the people that were there. We’ve never done anything like that before, and I think it worked very well,” Paterson said. “This might even be something we consider doing more often in advance of major discussions.”
Some major priorities for Kingston in the coming years are housing, climate change, deep-water docks for cruise ships, infrastructure, the mitigation of increases in taxation, and a campus for St. Lawrence College in the tourism sector.
According to Paterson, there’s significant overlap in the priorities of Queen’s students and members of the Kingston community.
“We’ve had, and are having, discussions with Queen’s and the student body, to make sure their ideas and perspectives are included. The housing piece and continued investment in the waterfront, transit, and other key services will be very relevant to students,” Paterson said. “This open house was just one piece in a larger strategy to hear from as many stakeholders as possible in the community.”
While the AMS wasn’t present for the open house, Søren Christianson, Commissioner of Municipal Affairs for the AMS, said the “AMS is consistently consulted on matters relating to issues that affect students,” in an email to The Journal.
“The largest priority is student accommodation, which I feel is being addressed by the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing,” Christianson said. “We will continue to advocate for students to City Council, City Staff, and other organizations in the greater Kingston Community. These efforts will not cease to exist as long [as] the AMS is in operation.”
The official strategic planning process is scheduled for March 26 to 28, at which time city council will draft a short document outlining their priorities for their four-year term. The final strategic planning document will be made available to the public by mid April.
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