Archive for October, 2013
The days are shorter and the nights are cooler which means the Skeleton Park Hallowe’en Parade is fast approaching! This fabulously spooky event takes place in McBurney Park on Thursday, October 31st. All witches, werewolves, ghosts and goblins are invited to gather in the park at 4:45 p.m. for a 5 p.m start. Feel free to bring noisemakers and instruments to join in the festivities. This year we are delighted to have the marvellous Spencer Evans to be our fearless parade leader. As usual, there will be photo ops … so bring your camera, costume(s) and spooky singing voice!
By: Catherine Wright, Municipal Affairs Commissioner 2013-2014
The purpose of re-branding the near-campus areas largely inhabited by student tenants as the “University District” is to eliminate the common vernacular of “student ghetto,” for two reasons:
- “Ghetto” is an inappropriate term due to its historical significance (please see appendix A)
- To create language that is inclusive of all community members (not just students).
The surrounding areas of Queen’s University’s main campus are referred to by many people as the “Student Ghetto,” largely due to poor maintenance of tenant-occupied properties.
The University District re-branding campaign has been an ongoing initiative of the AMS. The Municipal Affairs Commission has been working on eliminating the term “student ghetto” for years, trying such terms as “student village.” We have decided to implement “University District,” as a way of including community members who are not students, but residing or working in the near-campus area.
We believe that this is a great opportunity to come together as a community, to make a symbolic impact on the great neighbourhoods we live and work in. The Municipal Affairs Commission has a responsibility to all the major stakeholders in the University District, not just students. We want to establish common ground with all involved stakeholders to ensure a shared vision. By establishing this identity for the community, we will both beautify our neighbourhoods, and improve relations between the city, the near-campus community, the AMS, the University, students, and landlords.
The AMS believes that an initiative intended to fundamentally change the culture of the University District must consist of more than simply renaming this area. In 2011, the Municipal Affairs Commission created the Student Maintenance And Resource Team. This service was created to address poorly maintained properties in the University District, and aimed to discontinue use of “Ghetto” as being the common description of student living conditions. SMART reflects the AMS belief that any initiative intended to fundamentally change the culture of the University District must consist of more than a simple renaming or rebranding of that housing area. By providing low-cost clean-up and beautification services to students living in the University District, SMART directly addresses the chronic issues presented by the “broken window theory”, wherein if students see a poorly kept or run-down property, they themselves will treat their property poorly (David Sinkinson, Municipal Affairs Commissioner 2011-2012).
The AMS wants to re-brand our community with visible signage, which would indicate to students and Kingstonians that they’ve entered a distinct location of the city which incorporates students, community members and the university. It would instill a sense of belonging amongst these groups in the area. Amongst other routes the AMS is taking to ensure the re-branding is successful, signage in the area is crucial to helping change the common vernacular. Signage would indicate to students and residents that this is the University District, and as such, should be treated with greater respect. The proposed boundaries for signage are Barrie, Collingwood, King, and Johnson.
The two ideas for signage currently are:
- Install one or a few large signs in a central and/or frequently travelled area, welcoming people to the University District. The AMS had one of these signs created in 2011.
- Install new street signs in the core area with a small “University District” logo and name on a side or as an attachment
Source: KDA Toronto Street Sign System Presentation http://www.toronto.ca/transportation/street_name_signs/pdf/street_sign_presentation.pdf
The support of the university will be imperative to the success of this initiative. We are asking the administration to officially endorse this language change and new identity for the area, in line with the Campus Master Plan.
Some challenges that may be encountered:
- City Council: This idea has been run by many city councillors in one-on-one discussions with the MAC, and almost all have been very supportive. Though, we recognize that taking this to Council could be a timely obstacle to overcome.
- Cost: The AMS is ready to make an investment in this initiative, but updated estimates from Mechanical Advertising will need to be attained, as well as detailed estimates for installation.
In 2011 when a previous MAC Commissioner has began this initiative, Chris Sleeth, Traffic Supervisor, had given some direction as to what would be required:
He’d advised that the district councillor (Bill Glover) will need to give initial approval on the request. It may then have to go to Council to be approved and a contract or agreement drawn up, stating that the City is not responsible replacing these exact blades, but would rather only replace them with the City’s green and white signs.
Now, the AMS is pursuing a route of greater consultation with the community, and will likely then take it to the Near Campus Neighbourhoods Advisory Committee for approval of implementation. We are again working closely with city staff on this initiative.
The outcomes of having signs identifying this community are:
- Beautifying the area and contributing to the end of the aforementioned “broken window theory” being applicable
- Fostering a greater sense of belonging and pride amongst residents in the area
- Phasing out use of the term, “Student Ghetto,” important because of the inappropriate use of “ghetto,” and also to be more inclusive of the wider community
Appendix A: The Word Ghetto
- The word ghetto was initially used in the 16th century to describe the area in Venice where Jews were forced to live. The area was walled in and gated. Jews were allowed to leave the area after sunrise and had to return before dark – from sunset to morning, the ghetto was locked down.
- This was not the first existence of a Jewish ghetto – as early as 1179, the Catholic Church declared that Christians should not live with Jews. The forced segregation of Jews had long existed.
- This example was followed throughout Europe. For example, in 1555 the Catholic Church confided Jewish residents of Rome to a ghetto with only one entrance and one exit. Ghettos were not expanded to accommodate growing populations, which lead to overcrowding and slum conditions.
- Ghettos were abolished in Europe throughout the 19th century. However, Jews still resided in the areas where the ghettos once were.
- Ghettos were reinstated in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied territories. These ghettos were of even poorer conditions than the medieval Jewish ghettos. For example, in some towns 12-30 people were packed into a single room. Living conditions were horrible – Jews were starved (in Warsaw, they were rationed the caloric intake equivalent to that of a chocolate bar) and as there was little water for sanitation, disease spread rampantly.
- In 1942, all surviving Jews were gathered from the ghettos and brought to the gas chambers of the concentration camps.
- Modern use
- The modern use of the word typically refers to impoverished areas where members of a minority group live because of social, legal or economic pressures.
- A ghetto is defined as: “an involuntarily spatially concentrated area used by the dominant society to separate and to limit a particular population group, externally defined as racial or ethnic, and held to be, and treated as, inferior”. Some particular characteristics of a ghetto are: “deteriorating housing, crime, depopulation and social isolation”.
The word ghetto is used to define an area with extremely poor housing and living conditions where a racial or ethnic minority are forced to live in due to institutional racism within states and society.
The University District is not a ghetto because its housing conditions are nowhere near as extreme as a ghetto and, as students, we are not an ethnic or racial minority who are forced to live in the area by government decree and/or historical practices which have left us impoverished.
On Thursday Oct. 17 2013, City of Kingston staff and a landscape designer from the MBTW Group held a public meeting to discuss potential future plans for Friendship Park (Carlisle and Chestnut Streets), where two city buildings have recently been demolished. The city plans to replace the tennis courts in this park (and some other parks, including Riverview Park at Rideau and North Streets) in 2014.
The decision on where to place the tennis court must be made this winter in order for work to begin next spring. The timeline for the improvements to the landscaping, play equipment and seating areas are much longer-term, for economic reasons (possibly 3 to 4 years).
In these drawings -which we were told are conceptual, and not exactly to scale- the tennis courts are multi-use, having basketball keys and hoops. The reddish trees are new plantings while the large green trees are established ones (although there are many Manitoba maples, which could be thinned).
At the meeting, Plan A was overwhelmingly the favourite. Interestingly, two people who attended and liked Plan A on paper, actually preferred Plan B -or a variation of it- when on the site the following day. Some modifications of either plan are possible, although there are many restrictions (property lines, storm drains etc.) limiting potential changes.
The city wants feedback from those who live near and/or use the park before November 4. Comments/ preferences/ questions can be directed to Kristine Hebert at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Jamie Swift
See the paid-off local bottom feeders…..Passing themselves off as leaders — Bruce Cockburn, “They Call It Democracy”
Gerrymandering means rearranging electoral boundaries so that your team is guaranteed victory in subsequent elections. This time-honored electoral sleaze tactic came to Kingston earlier this year. Seven local politicians are seeking to redraw our electoral boundaries.
Last April City Council voted by a 7-6 margin — against the electoral redistribution option recommended by their own staff — not to count students as residents for voting purposes (Queen’s alone has over 18,000 students). This will gut city centre representation and eliminate the downtown Sydenham District. Suburban districts would gain power, city centre neighborhoods would lose.
And that, of course, is the whole point.
(Mayor Mark Gerretson has attempted to confuse things, using the canard that students are not being banned from voting. This is not the issue. According to the tortured thinking behind the gerrymander, students no longer officially exist…..though they will still be able to vote.)
In response to the blatant gerrymander, a group called Citizens for Effective Representation (CER) has moved to challenge the Kingston by-law before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
Taking a case to the OMB is expensive, with the CER estimating that the fight for local democracy will cost $50,000. CER is backed by the Alma Mater Society at Queen’s and the Society of Graduate and Professional Students. The Sydenham District Association is also, obviously, a key player.
The CER is seeking support from Kingston residents worried that local democracy is slipping away. If you want to make a donation, visit http://ygkeffectiverepresentation.com
If you want to get even more irked about the gerrymandering scam, think about this. Although the City of Kingston has at least three lawyers on staff, it has decided that you and I should pay for pricey outside counsel to defend its wrongheaded decision.
“The new boundaries are an insult to the university and college students who live in Kingston, who are being told that while they can’t legally be denied a vote, they can be ignored as part of the fabric of the city,” says Sergio Sismondo of the McBurney Park Neighborhood Association.
The politically fraught OMB appeal will unfold Oct. 21 at City Hall.
Why is this happening? Shouldn’t our elected representatives be looking at urban sprawl, poverty, active transportation and the dozens of other issues that really matter?
Think back four years. In 2009 a handful of developer-friendly elements calling themselves One Kingston tried to get Council to consider abolishing districts altogether. The proposal for elections at large was thoroughly trashed by an outpouring of citizen protest. Save Democracy in Kingston organized a petition to preserve accountability and encourage district diversity. Some 4000 citizens signed. Many were worried that the cost of campaigning across the city would be prohibitive, thus adding to the power of well-heeled interests. (see below)
Fast forward to the following year and the 2010 city election that saw Council tilt to the political right.
Although One Kingston development booster Ed Smith was defeated by union activist Jim Neill, Vicki Schmolka lost to Bryan Paterson.
(Paterson is a let-the-market-decide economist who was one of only two councillors who voted against having city staff study even the possibility of a Living Wage policy for Kingston. The other was Dorothy Hector. Both Paterson and Hector voted not to count students in redrawing our electoral boundaries.)
The 2010 vote also saw Steve Garrison, Kingston’s most articulate politician, withdraw from politics. He was replaced by Sandy Berg, another of the Magnificent Seven backing the gerrymander.
Two years later veteran Whig-Standard journalist Paul Schliesmann wrote a piece headlined “City Hall’s ‘Development Party’.” He reported that the six Councillors plus Gerretsen “have a track record of voting as a bloc.”
This plays out along predictable political lines.
Social justice? Last year Rick Downes, representing the traditionally disadvantaged North End, pushed for $100,000 for dental care for poor people. Berg, Paterson and Hector spoke against the idea and were joined by Kevin George, Gerretsen and Jeff Scott in defeating the motion. With one politician missing, the 6-6 vote meant saying No to people with rotting teeth.
Developers? In late 2011 Gerretsen managed to come up with a $100,000 (see teeth, above) “Mayor’s Task Force on Development. “ It would be chaired by Councillor and real estate surveyor Kevin George with the able assistance of Bryan Paterson (see “free markets,” above).
Gerretsen’s line was that Kingston is too slow in approving private sector proposals and that “members of the general public have a general sense that Kingston is not willing to embrace business opportunities.” It remains unclear which members of the public the Mayor had been talking to. But enquiring minds want to know.
The Gerretsen proposal for a Task Force on Development (known among its critics as the Task Force For Developers) went to a vote at Council. The result? 7-6 in favour (see above.)
This is the same split that was reflected in the gerrymandering vote.
In 2012 one of the Council’s current minority group put the cat among the pigeons when he did the unthinkable. Bill Glover wrote a piece in the Whig in which he cited property development firms and dollar amounts, concluding that an “ad hoc coalition” of local politicians have received big bucks from developers.
“Election finance reports reveal that developers and development-related businesses play an active role in our election financing, and yet those connections are never discussed,” wrote Glover, a retired naval historian.
“Developer contributions paid for 50.9% of Councillor Kevin George’s campaign spending. He is the chair of both the Planning Committee and of the mayor’s task force for developers. Similar contributions accounted for 38.9% of Councillor Sandy Berg’s campaign spending, and 38.7% of Councillor Bryan Paterson’s, who is vice-chair of the developers’ task force. All five councillors who accepted developer contributions are members of the Planning Committee.”
Voting to deprive poor people of dental care may not seem that important in the realm of municipal politics. But decisions around planning and land use can make a big difference for property developers and their profit margins.
Having the powerful Planning Committee stacked with sympathetic pols represents a Great Leap Forward for these interests, especially compared to the pre-2010 Planning Committee chaired by Vicki Schmolka. She was not inclined to routinely favour new, low-density sprawl, just the sort of project routinely promoted by so many local real estate interests.
Which brings us back to the new electoral map backed by the Magnificent Seven. (Which district would disappear from the map? Perhaps coincidentally, the one held by Bill Glover.) A Whig-Standard editorial just after the gerrymandering decision put it pungently: “The new electoral boundaries were determined in part, by projections of population growth. So Council is counting people who don’t exist, and not counting people who do.”
Sergio Sismondo will be making a presentation to the OMB hearing. He says that the issue is clear. “A group of mostly suburban councillors latched onto a tenuous argument in order to reduce the number of councillors representing the centre of Kingston.”
If you think there’s something wrong with this picture, visit http://ygkeffectiverepresentation.com