Each candidate seeking to represent Welland’s Ward 6 was given the opportunity to answer these eight questions. Here are their submissions:
I’ve received several surveys from groups advocating for various issues, and it’s great to see people getting involved with the current elections. I am sympathetic to many causes that have been raised, but in several cases I’ve been asked to commit to specific strategies that I can’t fully support. My promise to the constituents of Ward 6 is, if elected, I will listen to all sides of any issue raised and work to build consensus on strategies that are Good for Welland. I will not agree to take a position on an issue for the sole purpose of attaining an endorsement.
- Downtown Strengths: One big strength of Welland’s downtown core is the small business owners, who have been in operation for several years. For example, Cheers, Volcanoes and Mario’s Pizza have become successful venues in downtown, and continue to do business despite the struggles that they face against corporate chains, large companies etc. Their passion in regards to keeping up their business is admiring, and they have not given up, even though we have seen a re- concentration of business to the North End, despite a global recession/ food financial crisis, and many other tremendous factors. They speak to the attitude of Wellanders, to never give up despite the hardships. Another great thing about Welland’s downtown is the Welland Heritage Council and Employment Solutions centre. Where new Canadians are given the supports they need to thrive in a new community, and where young people and others out of the job market are given hope and opportunity through Employment Solutions. Another strength that I see in the downtown is the John Howard Society, where people can go to upgrade their skills, and seek support in the areas of education, work and training. All these venues that I have named above give our downtown hope.
- Downtown weaknesses: It is without a doubt that the downtown has some weaknesses however. The bus terminal is one of those weaknesses. I believe that the bus terminal is far too small, especially in consideration to the rate that Welland is expanding, and with the need for transit growing, (because of fuel prices/need to respect the environment etc). We should focus our efforts on expanding the terminal, and ensuring that public transit has a terminal, so it can grow as well. Another weakness I see in Welland is the infrastructure. There are some very old buildings, (some being city assets) that need to be fixed, especially if people are living in them. These buildings need to be renovated, so that they can keep up with all the other improvements taking place in the downtown core. The one way streets are also a problem, and we need to re-focus our efforts on improving traffic in the core, so that people are able to park/ visit venues with more ease.
- One-way traffic: As I said in #2, we need to begin the process on improving traffic in the downtown core, including the elimination of some one- way streets. I would go about this by changing Division Street and the other half of East Main Street into 2- ways, so that traffic to city hall and the court house can be improved. People often times feel “packed like sardines” in the core when trying to pay a ticket at the court house, or paying bills at City Hall. Often times the two lane/ one way on East Main can be very busy, and people trying to merge onto the road (after parking to the side) cannot merge. We need to ensure that two way streets are implemented on the two way roads I mentioned, so that our drivers can have more ease. We also need to make more use out of that corner on Division Street (By Cheers and the John Howard Society). That corner could be a 2- way street, but instead we are not making use of it at all. I would also propose that Burger Street and Bridge #13 become 2- way streets, so that traffic coming into downtown can also flow more freely.
- Bike lanes: In terms of the bike lanes, I feel that we need to preserve the ones that have already been built, but also build a few more on Division. Bike lanes are an accessibility issue. It would not be in fairness if we improved roads for drivers, but left out the bikers (people who may not have access to a vehicle.) Also preserving and slightly increasing the bike lanes are good for the environment. They encourage recreation and exercise in our city, and I think that we should look at that as a benefit.
- Undeveloped lands & brownfields: In terms of the undeveloped land in the downtown core, the simple answer is that it needs to be used. The city should be assisting in the development on unused land so that we can build businesses on the land. The land could also be used as social housing units for those without adequate housing. The reality is that there is a more than 5 year waitlist for social housing through the region, and the city should be assisting in finding ways to reduce that wait. The fact is most people who need that adequate housing cannot wait for that long. Housing would also build community. Once the land is surveyed and deemed safe, we could get on this project. In Welland, we have our Hope House (a shelter) and the Heritage Council shelter, these shelters speak to our social nature. We should make the Downtown Core more social, and insure our community that if they are in need, they can access services in the downtown (in regards to housing) for refuge.
- Empty buildings: This is a very difficult situation. If the property is owned privately, then it could be very well out of our power. However, open lines of communication is important to discussing with these landlords possibilities for development. If they are willing to work in collaboration with the city to develop their vacant properties, than this would be a bonus for the city, and them. They should be encouraged to make their sale information available, and in the event they do not want to continue up keep (or lack thereof), than the city should offer them low ball prices, so that we can use them for those social aspects outlined above. There is a lot of room for potential when thinking about these vacant buildings.
- Downtown parking: Downtown parking should be free without a doubt. It should continue to be free, considering that the city already collects quite a bit of revenue through the library and the courthouse. Free parking encourages people to continue to visit the downtown, (because nobody likes a ticket when they are out for leisure), and City Hall has already become quite the “meter warriors” in terms of ticketing people who do not pay their tickets at the court house. The city should be considering putting in more parking spaces, so that people are encouraged to visit downtown without the stress of finding a spot or getting a ticket.
- Other issues: I believe that the downtown core should be a space for heritage, respect for the individual and a social centre for Wellanders. The downtown has many improvements that need to be made so that we do not lose that heritage that Welland once had. We should be encouraging small business to open up shop in the downtown, and giving businesses already established the supports that they need to stay downtown. If our downtown improves, our local farmer’s market thrives, (local food procurements being a very important issue to me), our lines of communication between city hall and Wellanders also improves when we have a more diverse core. It is a no brainer, to get the downtown working again.
- Downtown strengths: Welland’s downtown has a library that is the envy of mid-sized cities in Canada. We should also be proud of our City Hall and Court House. The outdoor skating rink is a wonderful part of our downtown that my daughter uses on many occasions during the winter months. We have a thriving business community in our downtown, including a number of great restaurants to dine at.
- Downtown weaknesses: The biggest weakness of Welland’s downtown is the perception that some people hold of the downtown. Also, the downtown needs to be advertised better to other municipalities (for example: St. Catharines and Thorold).
- One-way traffic: A change from one-way traffic to two-way traffic would have a minimal impact at best. If it isn’t broke, then don’t fix it.
- Bike lanes: Bike lanes are important not just for the downtown, but for additional city streets. If elected, I would advocate for more bike lanes. Bike lanes give cyclists a safe place to bike, thus reducing cycling accidents. Welland residents should be able to cycle safely from their homes to the downtown, park their bicycles in the downtown, and enjoy what the downtown has to offer.
- Undeveloped lands & brownfields: Brownfield Development is an expensive proposition, but not an impossible one. Here are a few examples of brownfield success stories in Ontario: http://cielap.org/brownfields/donewith.html. Turning one of these abovementioned properties into parkland might be the best option. The transformation of Brantford’s downtown is one to pay attention to. Brantford’s downtown has been revitalized with the addition of university and college campuses. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/property-report/students-bring-new-vitality-to-brantfords-core/article4229574/
- Empty buildings: A low cost idea would be to contact the landlords of these properties and see if they would be willing to allow Welland artists to paint displays on their windows.
- Downtown parking: The Court House Parking Lot should be a free parking lot.
- Other issues: The residents of downtown Welland don’t have a supermarket within walking distance. If there was a downtown supermarket, perhaps more college students would consider moving to the downtown.
These questions were posed to all of the candidates in Ward 6. Bob Wright, Jim Larouche, Bonnie Fokkens, and Raymond Rousseau did not respond.
Wednesday 8 October: Regional Council Candidate Responses
Thursday 9 October: Ward 1 Candidate Responses
Friday 10 October: Ward 2 Candidate Responses
Saturday 11 October: Ward 3 Candidate Responses
Sunday 12 October: Ward 4 Candidate Responses
Monday 13 October: Ward 5 Candidate Responses
Tuesday 14 October: Ward 6 Candidate Responses
Wednesday 15 October: Mayoral Candidate Responses