Mayoral hopeful Rob Matheson criticizes Safety Initiative

Election contender calls for nixing tickets with court summons 

Mayoral candidate Rob Matheson.
Credit: 
Supplied by Matheson Campaign

In an interview with The Journal, Mayoral candidate Rob Matheson said the University District Safety Initiative (UDSI), was a “sledgehammer” in place of a “fly swatter.” 

Under the Initiative, partying students, visitors and residents ticketed in the University District during Frosh Week, Homecoming, and St. Patrick’s Day will be required to appear in court and be subjected to Non-Academic Misconduct. 

They’ll be unable to pay their fines online or by mail. 

Mayor Bryan Paterson said the new model doesn’t target students. He added it was a step toward increased safety in the University District, referring to an incident last St. Patrick’s Day when over 40 people stood on a roof and caused it to collapse.

“Although the Initiative is not targeted to students, we are calling it that because this is where we have seen most of the activity,” Paterson said at an AMS Assembly on Sep. 20. “My concern is that it was only a matter of time before somebody was seriously injured or killed, and we have to react to that.”

He said the AMS was consulted during its creation, but AMS President Miguel Martinez told The Journal in June they were only informed of the pilot project. 

Matheson hopes to pursue a collaborative approach to address University District street parties.

“We’ve got to start working cooperatively together with students to make them feel welcome here,” he said. “I don’t think [the UDSI] is a good approach, targeting [the student] demographic specifically with a bylaw.”

In his proposal, “Improving Student-Community Relationships through Collaboration,” Matheson promises to “suspend and thoroughly evaluate” the Initiative following the current year, examining its “effectiveness, potential shortcomings, and potential alternatives.” 

Matheson’s proposal also states, “this process must include a consultation process with the Alma Mater Society of Queen’s University, as they have been excluded from virtually all formal discussion of the Initiative to this point.”

Matheson told The Journal he hopes “to improve the relationship between town-gown relations, not exacerbate it.”

He proposes to avoid scheduling court hearings during exam periods in favour of preventing disorderly conduct before it occurs. The statement also calls for clear geographical definitions of the 

University District and its infringements, rather than leaving it to the discretion of Kingston Police. 

“We’ve got some impetus here in the policy to pursue a partnership in terms of working on safe solutions that allow kids to have a good time,” Matheson said. “I was a kid once. I liked to party and have a few beers once in awhile.” 

According to Matheson, cannabis could be an alternative to drinking culture and “promotes peace, not war.”

 “I’m a firm believer that the cannabis legalization is a good thing,” he said. “There’s a professor of psychology in B.C. that came out recently stating the legalization of cannabis is a potential proactive way of getting the binge-drinking phenomenon under control.”

He then called Queen’s decision to prohibit cannabis a “human rights issue” and asked, “why are we promoting alcohol over a potential resolution to the binge-drinking?”

Matheson said he would rely somewhat on the criminal justice system for crimes involving  vandalism, public intoxication, and destruction of property during street parties, while still suspending the new ticketing program following the 2018-19 year.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with a bylaw that specifically targets students as a demographic,” he said.

 

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