Meet your mayoral candidates

Kingston Mayoral Candidates

Rick Downes

After being involved in municipal politics for 15 years—nine years as a city councillor and six as a school board trustee—Rick Downes was faced with a difficult decision: would he retire from political life or aim higher and run for mayor?

“I thought quite seriously about it, and I guess … the responsible thing would be to let the people decide that in elections,” the 48-year-old said.

When Downes was in grade eight, his father lost his job. Downes’ father turned to his local MP and MPP, who helped him get a job with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

Shortly after, Downes volunteered for the politicians’ election campaigns. That, he said, was the beginning of his interest in politics.

In the nine years he spent as city councillor for King’s Town, Downes said he was proud of the role he played in making Kingston smoke-free and in attracting more family physicians to the city. In recent years, however, he hasn’t been impressed with the direction of municipal politics in Kingston.

“I think there has been a corporate view of what Kingston is from [Rosen’s] camp and I think that [he has] lost all sight of what it is to live in a city that has neighbourhoods and communities in it,” he said.

Instead of focusing on the Large Venue Entertainment Centre, Downes said he would have worked on establishing community rinks and refurbishing the Memorial Centre.

“I tend to have a more humanistic model of what a city should be,” he said. “I think that we have to start to look at our citizens of Kingston as whole citizens, and not just as economic units who are walking around buying things.”

Downes’ plan for an emphasis on community, rather than commerce, is reflected in his position on the arts in Kingston.

“There are two ways of looking at the arts: you can look at it from a business model, which I think is what the incumbent mayor is doing, or you can look at it from a community perspective,” he said.

“I think the incumbent mayor sees the arts as something you buy a ticket to, but I see it in a different way; I see it as something that should be celebrated by everyone.”

Downes’ platform also focuses on creating more public space within Kingston.

“I’d like to take one per cent of the roads’ budget to make cycling more safe and more practical,” he said.

When it comes to economic development, he said, one needs to build a community atmosphere and a family environment—for young kids especially—that encourages the employees of companies that want to locate in Kingston.

Downes said such an environment would encourage people with talent, such as recent Queen’s graduates, to stay in Kingston.

Downes said he would encourage education about property standards and by-laws for students.

“There has to be an education process w ere students are aware of the basic standards for human living in buildings, especially in the student Ghetto,” he said, adding that he wants to move away from calling the student living area around the University a ghetto.

“We need to shift the view of the word ‘ghetto’ and try to integrate Queen’s students as citizens of Kingston,” he said.

“That’s how I look at Queen’s students: as people who are here as citizens, and with citizenship comes the right of citizenship … but with that also come responsibilities.”

Downes said it’s important to recognize separations between other groups within the city, as well as Kingston’s town-gown divide.

“There are a number of groups that tend to be isolated from the rest of the city,” he said. “Poorer people who live in the north end … tend to feel isolated economically. People who live in Pittsburgh township, which is across the Cataraqui River over by the military base, tend to be isolated geographically.”

Downes said he thinks the mayor plays a large part in reducing these feelings of isolation.

“I think the mayor has a role to kind of break those down and get people in the city to recognize that one citizen is equal to the other and we’re all in this city together and we need to get along,” he said.

“We need to co-operate and we need to be respectful of each other, all of those pretty basic, simple things that sometimes we take for granted.”

--Lisa Jemison
Assitant News Editor

Kevin George

Kevin George has always been a leader.

“Years ago, my grandmother said I behaved like the pied piper,” the mayoral candidate said. “I always used to be the leader.” George, a seventh-generation Kingstonian, said he’s running for mayor because he’s trying to do what he thinks is appropriate for the city.

“I’m a little dissatisfied with the direction we’ve taken,” he said. ‘We have to look at how creative
we can be ... without assuming we have to go to tax dollars.”

The municipal government should serve all Kingstonians, he said.

“I want to make sure we’re providing for residents ... and everyone has the opportunity to participate. We shouldn’t be in the position to deny anyone of that.”

George said the encouragement residents gave him to run for mayor also helped convince him to run.

“I’ve been trying to prove to people I have leadership qualities,” he said.

If elected, George said he plans to spend the first four months talking to agencies around Kingston, including the AMS and poverty agencies.

“I want to sit down with agencies to identify strengths and weaknesses of the community, work closer with people and close that communication gap that exists,” he said.

“It’s important we get together in the same room and identify goals to reduce the amount of duplication.”

George also said he wants to look at the arts community and address the fairness of funding distribution, which he finds is lacking in the arts sector.

As part of that goal, George will hold public forums on a regular basis.

“I want to communicate to the city exactly what’s going on.”

George said there has been a lack of communication between the council and the public in some cases, namely the decision to build the Large Venue Entertainment Centre.

“The decision may be very different if we had information today telling us that there was no
federal grant available,” he said.

George, 50, said he also plans to meet with the media at least once a month to make sure the facts are out, rather than letting the “rumour mill run rampant.”

As for town-gown relations, George said that a lack of information is one of the reasons for the divide.

“There’s a lack of acknowledgement for what students do for the city of Kingston,” he said. “I find the local media tend to speak only to issues when controversial issues raises its head.”

George added that he wants to educate the city on the great benefits that students bring to Kingston.
“It’s all boiling down to communicating,” he said.

“If there’s a breakdown in communication, there’s a breakdown in understanding.”

George said he also wants to create more jobs in the city, especially to research and develop alternative energy sources.

“There are great education facilities in the city. We need to look closer at what we need to bring to the city to accommodate those that are graduating,” he said. “Jobs are critical to quality of life.”

Along with creating jobs in specific areas of the city, George said he hopes to fix up roads and bring back large item pick-up during the spring in the student Ghetto.

“I want to continue to meet with student advisory groups ... and see what we can do,” he said.

“We have to listen and act together and find a solution together. If you work as a team, you can achieve goals.”

George said he has noticed many similarities among the residents’ concerns while speaking to people during this election campaign.

“We’re finally coming to the realization that we are one city,” he said.

Because of this realization, George said, it should be easier for council to deal with linked issues, adding that the number one issue from residents is to control municipal spending.

Residents should be able to offer viewpoints on issues that are dealt with on council, George said, adding that part of being a mayor means getting out, meeting with members of public and having a willingness to listen.

“I pride myself on being a people person.”

--Florence Li
Assitant News Editor

Harvey Rosen

Harvey Rosen said where he is today, running for re-election as mayor, is due in part to where he’s from: a long line of born-and-bred Kingstonians.

“I’m from Kingston, my father was born here, I was born here, my kids were born here,” he said. “That plays a large part in where I am.”

Rosen, 57, said he remembers growing up in a small, quiet Kingston.

“I asked my father why Kingston wasn’t larger than it was, and he said, ‘Because the town fathers wanted to keep Kingston small and quiet,” Rosen recalled.

Rosen said Kingston’s founders were reluctant to encourage municipal growth when Kingston was no longer Canada’s capital.

“The founding fathers expected Kingston to be a very large community; it was the first capital of the United Provinces of Canada at that time,” he said.

“In 1844, when that ended, I don’t think Kingston recovered from that entirely for many, many years. I think that was the beginning of the ‘let’s keep it small’ vision.”

Rosen said he has the benefit of working with people in the right place at the right time to help Kingston grow. Rosen first got into politics during the 1994 municipal election, and subsequently served on a board that helped transition a newly amalgamated city of Kingston.

Rosen, who worked previously as a lawyer, sat out the 2000 municipal election, but by 2003 he had closed down his law office and wanted to devote his time to running for mayor.

“I haven’t been to the gym since,” he said, joking. “It’s not a healthy lifestyle, but I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”

Rosen said he enjoys municipal politics because it’s close-up and allows politicians to see their constituents on a daily basis.

“I think you really make the most difference to your own community at the local level,” he said.

“Although my father would have said I’m crazy to be running for mayor, I think he would have been proud … his favourite expression was, ‘My word is my bond [from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice].’
“I hope the electors in the city can understand that’s what I try to do, as well.”

Rosen said he’d like the role of mayor to have more leverage than it has now.

“We have what’s called a ‘weak mayor’ model,” he said. “The mayor has no means at his disposal to advance his particular program … The mayor only has one vote.”

In the current system, Rosen said it’s the mayor’s role to lead council as best he or she can with the limited resources available, and persuade council members to follow his or her vision. Rosen said he thinks this council has made a great deal of progress over the last three years.

“I think I’ve brought some decorum to council that was lacking,” he said. “That was one of my election promises in 2003. I think that’s been delivered.”

Rosen said town-gown relations have also improved.

“There seems to be a significant, almost a sea change in the attitudes of students to municipal politics,” he said.

“I think the Aberdeen situation has brought the city and the University closer … We’ve developed much better communication than we ever had in the past. I think the students have come to recognize that they can play a very important role in the politics of this community.”

Rosen said he thinks the Ghetto is the most pressing concern for Queen’s students, and that he wants to develop a student village improvement area in the Ghetto.

The city would impose a levy on rental housing and use the money to improve the area through initiatives such as brighterstreet lighting and a large item garbage pickup.

Rosen said he thinks students feel a part of the Kingston community, and that the city tries to make them feel welcome.

“I know that during the Aberdeen Street party, I went down, there were other city councillors
that came down,” he said.

“I meet regularly with the principal of the University. We have a standing lunch appointment to discuss University-municipal relations.
“The business community certainly recognizes the contribution students make … I think we’ve done a fair bit to integrate students into the fabric of the municipality.”

--Anna Mehler Paperny
News Editor

How to register to vote

Students can register to vote at
their polling station when voting,
or at the election office at City
Hall at 216 Ontario St., open
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to
4:30 p.m. On Nov. 13 it’s open
10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Registering voters may be asked
for photo ID and/or proof of
address. Student cards are
acceptable ID, and any ID with a
Kingston address or mail (phone
or utilities bill, for example)
addressed to the student at
his/her Kingston address count as
proof of address.

Students residing in another
municipality are free to vote
in both that city’s municipal
elections and Kingston’s.

If you don’t know your ward or
need a lift to your polling station,
visit the booth outside the
JDUC on Monday. Volunteers
will determine your ward and
drive you to and from the polling
station free of charge.

District boundaries

Sydenham: Bounded on the north by Johnson and William Streets, on the east by the midpoint of Kingston Harbour, on the south by Lake Ontario and on the west by Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard.

Williamsville: Bounded on the north by Concession Street and Bath Road, on the east by Division Street, on the south by Johnson Street and on the West by Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard.

King’s Town: Bounded on the north by Railway Street, on the east by the Great Cataraqui River, on the south by the LaSalle Causeway and Ontario Street, and on the west by William and Division Streets.

Portsmouth: Bounded on the north by Bath Road, on the east by Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard, on the south by Lake Ontario and on the west by Little Cataraqui Creek.

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