My Christmas Wishes for our Region
On the first day of Christmas...... our municipal leaders would make active transportation (AT) a priority.
Presently, in our city we have pockets of AT paths/trails/routes but there is no regional network. Consider the health and social benefits that our region could enjoy with a truly integrated regional AT network.
Would you support municipal investment to implement a regional AT network within 5 years?
On the second day of Christmas .....our municipal leaders would develop and execute a comprehensive strategy to address food insecurity.
Far too many people in our city struggle to access safe, healthy, affordable food. Healthy diets play directly into healthy outcomes across a person's life span.
Everyone deserves access to safe, healthy, affordable food in their respective communities.
Our municipal leaders must make this a priority, as part of a plan to advance our region.
Would you support a comprehensive strategy to address food insecurity?
On the third day of Christmas...our municipal leaders embrace a municipal government that is transparent and accessible to all citizens
Presently, the majority of standing committees meet when most people are working, or have family commitments that otherwise would prevent them from attending. Thus, while they may "be open for public attendance", the timing of said meetings makes them inaccessible.
Staff reports, while well written are often many pages and written using language or structure that has potential to not be accessible to all literacy levels.
I wish for a 100% transparent, accessible city government that has:
-All committee, council and agency meetings televised and/or streamed online
-That all staff reports include a sheet that clearly explains the purpose of report, recommendations and the how's and why's
-The all regional libraries have dedicated computers with which people can access agendas, videos and minutes of all city hall business
-That HRM partners with community groups to deliver free programming that can help to educate citizens about city government
-That HRM partner with community business/organizations that would provide free child care to parents who wish to attend any public city hall meeting.
-That HRM ensure that all city hall business that is open to public is accessible to people with mobility challenges, hearing and/or sight impaired citizens.
On the fourth day of Christmas....our municipal leaders become the model for encouraging affordable housing.
Rents are rising, property taxes increasing and house values are on a runaway train! Having access to affordable housing whether as a rental or home ownership is a key to the success of any region. Easily accessible housing stock reduces stress of citizens and helps to improve overall health outcomes.
City hall, while respecting marketing conditions should create a better balance of housing stock that balances "luxury housing" vs. more modest housing. Lastly, Halifax must do better to ensure that all of the housing stock is safe and secure regardless of the neighbourhood.
On the fifth day of Christmas... that we get serious about ending poverty and homelessness.
In a city as prosperous as Halifax, there should be no one left behind. For the last two years, HRM has posted a surplus However, we continue to hear countless reports of increased use of soup kitchens and homelessness shelters.
Homelessness is something most of us choose not to discuss, even our municipal leaders.
I call on city hall to within 2 years, to create an office charged with the advancement of people. This office will work with existing organizations that address homelessness to support and further their mandate. No one in our city should have to live on the streets. If we are serious about challenging the status quo, this is an important issue to address.
Action not another study.
On the sixth day of Christmas.... a modernized public transit system.
Let's be honest, our present public transit system leaves a lot to be desired. Overall, it is a poorly organized system, ripe with inefficiencies and in desperate need of a multi-modal system.
As the largest urban centre in Atlantic Canada, Halifax should have a public transit system that residents would be proud of and more of us would use.
To challenge the status quo in public transit, we need a multi-modal across our region: more express buses, regular bus routing, expanded ferry service and express rail service. It should be a properly integrated service that allows seamless connections between bus, ferry and rail while at the same time ensuring strong connections with a regional AT network.
If we are serious about growing the city as established in the regional plan-- strong, stable investment in public transit must be a priority.
How would you like to see Metro Transit modernize?
On the seventh day of Christmas ......we strengthen investment in open public space.
Everyone loves open green space that is public, right? We are fortunate to have lots of green space across our region. However, in this post-modern era it simply is not enough to have nothing but grass.
Public green spaces should be interactive, have some level of infrastructure and features that appeal to varying ages and abilities.
Consider the Halifax commons where there is a playground. The playground feature is great, but there are no benches. What if the parent/guardian of the child had mobility challenges?
Or consider how the majority of HRM parks are only designed to be used during daylight hours. Consider if the Dartmouth Commons had features that would encourage use during day and night. How that could lower crime, and improve health determinants.
People across our region value existing parks, but I call on city hall to prioritize funding to expand, update and improve green spaces--that they be accessible and engaging to all.
On the eighth day of Christmas.......an extensive coastal management strategy.
HRM is home to some beautiful coast lines, and we are lucky to have a harbour that has been crucial to our evolution.
However, with the beauty and fortune comes the responsibility to protect these natural assets. We need to ensure a balance between the natural and built environment.
An comprehensive coastal management strategy needs to be developed, in consultation with community and environmental groups. HRM should do this within 2 years. Also, I call on city hall to immediately ban infilling of any body of water within their jurisdiction.
We can support both the natural and built environment. Let us be a model for our region.
On the ninth day of Christmas..... that our municipal leaders grab the bull by the horns and implement a municipal energy strategy.
While, presently energy policy is generally under provincial and federal control--let's shake it up. We have natural, sustainable power sources we can and should use such as wind, solar, tidal and expanded use of geo-thermal
Also, we can duplicate models from other cities that employ surplus heat (steam) as a way to conserve power resources. It is time that we get serious about sustainable power generation at the municipal level.
On the tenth day of Christmas..... stronger investment in recreation services.
As important as it is to invest in education, transit, refuse removal etc; it is equally important to invest in recreation.
We are fortunate to have many community centres around our city that offer varying programs. However, for many across our region the cost of some of these programs remains a barrier.
I call on city hall to set clear priorities and invest more funds into the recreation budget. This will allow an expansion of programs and something I feel is crucial: provide more programs free of charge. Recreation programming/venues should be accessible to all and our municipal leaders should remove as many barriers as possible to allow equitable access.
Being able to participate in recreation programming helps people of all ages to make connections, learn new skills and help to contribute to building positive change all across our city.
Let's invest more in rec programming, so we all have the chance to play!
On the eleventh day of Christmas.....our civic leaders collaborate with the HRSB and make schools once again hubs of community activity.
All across our region, after the last afternoon bell rings we see many schools with little to no use. Imagine the space and opportunities we are missing out. Having school space that would be more accessible would provide space for a variety of community groups and community based programming.
Having school space accessible after hours would support and expand community spirit. It would have a true power to help bring people together, reduce feelings of isolation and separation.
During the overnights, selected sections could be pop-up shelters all across HRM. Truly, our schools are an underutilized resource. If we desire to challenge the status quo, I call on all of us to take a strong position to city hall and the school board: that public buildings be used efficiently by having secondary purposes.
On the twelfth day of Christmas....we become an even more compassionate and giving region.
We are fortunate to live in Canada, and I feel very fortunate to live in the city we do. We are blessed with natural beauty and an immense, deep beauty of our people. For most of us, we are also blessed with prosperity. At Christmas time our generous nature shows, and I am very proud and thankful to see how selfless we can be. However, poverty does not take a holiday. In 2014, I call on all us to remember the generosity of the holiday season and to carry it into the new year and beyond. Giving back is not all about money, if you can that’s great but let’s get out in our communities! Volunteer, meet new people and let’s all help to support those who need help and let our hearts shine: to spread hope and love all across our city.