was held in the Salvation Army Building at 789 Dovercourt Road, organized by Gilleen W. and Chad. About thirty area residents came and heard brief introductions of 10 of the 12 candidates running for City Councillor in ward 18, and were able to ask some pointed questions. (Not attending were Mohammed Muhit and Joanna Teliatnik who were invited but declined). The ten candidates who did attend were:
Doug Carroll, Nha Le, Kevin Beaulieu, Hema Vyas, Abdirazak Elmi, Frank de Jong, Ana Bailao, Ken Wood, Joe MacDonald and Kirk Russell.Three prepared questions were asked and provided in advance to candidates:
1. What will be your approach to building consensus with the new mayor of the ciy and the rest of council to further your agenda during your term?
Ken Wood's answer: I would first find what the core values of each person was. For instance, here tonight I can say: Doug = eloquent and skilled; Nha = sincere; Kevin = affable; Hema = talented; Elmi=real; Frank = experienced; Ana = connected; Joe = honest; Kirk =intelligent and Ken ? = different. I would then work with them using their best skills and talents to advantage. As everyone else has said, you have to build relationships. And no doubt there will be a major change in the next council composition.
2. Community-driven programs in Dufferin Grove Park have been an example of how local residents can partner with municipal government. Would you like these kinds of initiatives to continue or even expand? Yes. Ken's answer was that often central bureaucracies try the one size fits all approach which is wrong for very local neighbourhood situations and can kill innovation. I would want to expand them and push for community-driven innovation.
3. Do you think that long term residents of Toronto should be able to vote in municipal elections?
I don't recall that we really got to this question as there was a jump to audience questions, but my response (Ken Wood) is that I am a little undecided. Being a citizen should mean something and voting rights should go with that - yet, it does take 3-5 years for new immigrants to get through the federal process (too long in my view), all the while they pay taxes and are affected by city decisions. Still struggling with this one, but still open-minded.
Other questions from the audience that often provided some heated exchanges between candidates were:
4. Seniors' issues: How will you respond to the needs of seniors, in things like affordable housing and other things you think need done to help seniors?
My response was to ask how many people over 60 were in the room (3) - which show that reaching out to seniors is the first priority. (Nha Le promised to spend $20,000 of his councillor salary tobuy a minivan to transport them to appointmenst and such - something that was raised as a concern). I also can identify with the mobility rerstrictions in our society like have to race the 'countdown clock'at intersections and the need for rest stops and benches. Many issues are tied in with seniors: hunger/food banks, affordable housing, high taxes, wheeltrans, pedestrian accidents, etc. and more must be done by the city to help our seniors.
5. Youth and Children: What programs do you think are needed in the community for our youth and children and what would you do to help in this area?
(Questioner was hoping answer would be more help tutoring our youth) Ken's answer was that there are a host of things needed, like childcare, after school programs, keeping pools open in the summer, having more sports activities, etc. I would talk to those passionate about youth to get ideas to expand programs. I commented one thing that helped were breakfast programs, but that it is shameful that we force so many to rely on food banks.
6. An audience member raised concerns about media reports that young volunteers for candidate Ana Bailao were caught breaking election law by erecting signs prior to the 12:01am Monday Oct 4 allowable time. She felt this was a poor example. Nha Le asked Ana how she could be Councillor if she cannot control her own people. Ana apologized and said it was over-exuberance by volunteers. (Note: It was candidate Kirk Russell who provided Toronto Elections and the media with documented photos that infractions were indeed done - no charges are laid as of yet)
7. An audience member tried to get Ana to say who she supports for mayor. She said she was undecided. Ken Wood pointed out that Ana was clearly a Liberal with deep ties to the party and enjoyed a significanty advantage of their paid volunteers and networks from outside the ward. No doubt she will be voting for Geeorge Smitherman whom many say has already endorsed Ana. An audience member also brought up that Ana's funding seems to have come from outside the ward mostly.
(Note: All candidates committed on air at the Sept 29 Rogers TV debate - The Local Campaign - with moderator Dale Goldhawk to publicly release their donor list one week before the election = October 18, 2010)
8. An audience member asked Hema Vyas to respond to claims that she actually does not live in this ward and was shopping around for a ward to run in. Hema replied she has an interest in this community of ward 18. Joe MacDonald pointed out that it was common knowledge that Hema chose our ward as second choice.
9. An audience member asked what candidates would do to get the Strip Clubs like the Lancaster shut down. This was the most emotional exchange of the night, with most candidates agreeing it was legal and not much could be done except to improve the area around it and get more foot traffic in the area. Some questioned why the head of the BIA in the area in fact owned and opereated the Strip Club. Another complained that the city's facade improvement meant $10,000 of taxpayers' money went into making the exterior of the strip club look better and why did the city give them the money. (He was not happy with Kevin Beaulieu's answer)
10. One gentleman asked why we leave a lot of social programs to charities to handle... Ken answered that it is supposed to be the job of governments to help build a better society and often they have ignored helping and left it up to charities (like food banks), who then go to donors asking what amounts to another voluntary tax. Cities need to do more
He also asked why we see so many big box stores and malls and Walmarts that drive out tradional small business like hardware stores, why does the city let this happen: Ken asnwered that change and development is inevitable. The trickis to plan for SMART development that meets local neighbourhood needs.
Thanks to Gilleen and Chad for contributing to our community by organizing this meeting.
NEXT (and probably last?) Candidates Debate will be:
* Thursday, October 14 6:30pm at 72 Perth just south of Bloor at The Church of the Firstborn, Coordinator contact email is: TOWARD18@yahoo.ca South Perth and Sterling Road Residents' Association
Also, the annual YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) gathering will be held Saturday, October 16 from 11-4pm at The Gladstone Hotel http://www.gladstonehotel.com/events/exhibitions/yimby
I hope we get a better turnout of voters on election day, OCTOBER 25... because...
DAVENPORT DESERVES BETTER