Tag Archives: Region of Waterloo

Banning Books, Banning Controversial Topics, Shutting up your Enemies is not Freedom of Expression.

Trans flag

Why am I suddenly wading into the contentious dispute between Mike Ramsay and the other WRDSB trustees by bringing up the credit card scandal from when I was a trustee over 20 years ago? I am presently retired from a long career as a Regional Councillor. It is this statement that I found on the twitter feeds of WRDSB trustees Cindy Watson and Mike Ramsay.

Trans kids” aren’t a thing. “Gender” confused kids are. And if a kid is confused about their gender, it’s because the adults in their life made them confused. Your son isn’t a girl because he likes dolls and dresses. Your daughter isn’t a boy because she wants short hair.

For the past year, my child has been on a gender journey. He is now no longer Bronwyn Elizabeth but Brian John. He says he hid his gender for 20 years, through marriage, separation and two lovely children. Why? Because he feared violence and shunning. My other daughter and myself support him in his journey. It is not easy for me, particularly the change in pronouns, though I find he/him easier then they/them. I am still struggling to call my past daughter my son.

To help myself, I attended a meeting of PFLAG — Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays. Every single person at the meeting was a Mom grappling with the transgender change of their child. The transchildren ranged in age from 14 to 21. My daughter is 37. Not one of the Moms encouraged their child to become trans. Their child, like mine, came out to them. They were at PFLAG to learn how to support their child.

As for my grandchildren (9 and 11), they understand that Mommy is still Mommy but pronouns have changed. I was pleased to read the EFTO document on gender identity that encourages teachers to learn about and embrace diversity. I want to know that when my grandchildren go to their kind teachers, they will be helped and their school mates will be encouraged to understand diversity and not bully. Bullying is one of my granddaughter’s greatest fears.

I have concerns though. The delegation who came before the WRDSB wanted library books about transgender banned. I watched the delegation speak and disagree with cutting her off because after a long political career, I knew it would lead to her being a martyr. It was a tough call by the chair.

I also knew that censoring Trustee Ramsay would only make him a martyr as well. Unfortunately, like any personnel issue, the reasons and actions of the board had to be discussed in camera. I have found in my own career that this leaves the trustees or councillors bringing the action at a disadvantage because they can’t talk about it. Trustee Ramsay, as an experienced politician, also knows that suing the other trustees also stops them speaking because the board’s lawyer and their own lawyer would have advised not speaking when there is a live case as the words can beheld against them.

I find it interesting how Trustee Ramsay keeps speaking yet says he is denied freedom of expression. He wants to ban teachers from talking about anti- black racism. This despite the fact that he said the other trustees were racist in their actions because he is black. Trustee Watson and he want teachers and librarians to be banned from providing help and information about transgendered people. How is this giving everyone freedom of expression?

I congratulate the EFTO for spearheading an understanding of diversity. It leads to the prevention of bullying. Bullying prevention is hard. Acceptance of those who are different is hard. But there is nothing harder for a child trying to learn than worrying if they could be bullied or shunned.

Here is one of the articles about the credit card scandal. I was quoted in some others

I was quoted in a similar article

No Country for Only White Men: The Dewdney Murals

Controversial Dewdney mural. It talks about Joseph Brant
selling Six Nations land to settlers.

My friend and retired counsellor, Jean Haalboom phoned me up to tell me that the Dewdney murals had been removed from the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. I was stunned. Then not surprised. The Dewdneys were originally commissioned by a local bank then eventually made their way to the region. There are also some Dewdneys depicting 1950s life that I assume are in storage at the Ken Seiling Museum.

Who gets to tell the story Article from the KW Record

The article from the Record concentrates on the role of indigenous people in the first Dewdney painting but there is another glaring absence from the later murals. Women. Despite the fact that many women worked in industry at the time, including my mother, the last mural depicting the forward movement of prosperity does not contain a single women. The mural depicting the 1900s only has a woman as a passenger in a car. There are no depictions of the huge arrival of immigrants from around the world during the 1950s, only the arrival of the Mennonites earlier. Some women with a baby were in that mural, behind the men.

I was part of the art committee that commissioned the more up to date mural with modern scenes of women and racialized citizens working and playing in modern situations. I understand that mural has not been removed, though at the time it was controversial because it showed the variety in our society and “didn’t fit” with the Dewdneys. This mural was to try to correct some of the problems with the Dewdneys, rather than removing the popular works. Yes, they were popular.

When the Region of Waterloo was developing the Ken Seiling, Region of Waterloo Museum, a black woman came as a delegation to council. She was a local teacher and asked that the history of blacks in Waterloo County be included in the museum. A number of councillors scoffed, saying there were no black settlers in Region of Waterloo history, and if there were, they were transient. She held her ground, pointing out there was a settlement in the Queen’s Bush.

Queen’s Bush

As we know now, black history in Waterloo Region is Queen’s Bush and a lot more.

Black History

Eventually, black history was included in the new museum along with a few panels about First Nations.

Good for the Region of Waterloo Museum for mounting the Dewdney exhibit. I hope they will also include an exploration of the exclusion of women and racialized people from the murals.

Despite my surprise at their removal, I agree that the Dewdneys have had their day and do not belong on the walls of the Region of Waterloo cafeteria. It is important though that they not be hidden away or destroyed. They are a part of our history and I commend the museum for mounting an exhibit. Perhaps the National Gallery of Canada could take note.

Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council: Death By Politics.

“Once your belief in the power of punishment to solve social problems is shaken, your whole politics will start shifting.” @l_melo_h on twitter.

For a number of years, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has seen the writing on the wall. This past year, they asked to no longer be an arms length organization of the Region of Waterloo.

A number of years ago, Police Chief Matt Torigian held a meeting to talk about this wonderful idea he had discovered out west. It was essentially another Crime Prevention Council. I remember standing up at the meeting and asking about this similarity. Over the years, police travelled to places around the world looking for ideas for crime prevention. They ignored the Crime Prevention Council in their backyard.

On January 26th, Regional Council approved a framework for the Community Safety and Wellbeing plan to much back patting and congratulation of those in the community who have been consulted. https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/health-and-wellness/community-safety-and-wellbeing-plan.aspx

On March 31, 2022, the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council will be no more, the staff dismissed. Five years of funds will be given to Community Justice Initiatives as part of their new Justice hub initiative which will include the Crime Prevention Council, although there is no way of knowing what that new council will look like or if the funds will continue at the end of the five years.

According to minutes of the prevention council’s May 8, 2020 meeting Redman told the council the status quo was not an option because of budget constraints and overlapping mandates with Wellbeing Waterloo Region.

Three options were presented by Redman at the time: shut down, reimagine the council’s work and potentially partner with Wellbeing Waterloo Region or leave the regional umbrella and receive two years of regional funding.

The crime prevention council reports directly to the regional chair.

Quote from The Record: https://www.therecord.com/news/waterloo-region/2022/01/24/crime-prevention-council-merges-into-justice-hub.html

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council was ignored when they pointed out that for 28 years, this community collaborative has been doing the very same work as the Community Safety and Well Being Framework (The WRCPC was once called the Waterloo Region Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council). The Crime Prevention Council was turned down when they applied to do the behind the scenes running of the Wellbeing organization. 18 months ago, the Region of Waterloo terminated the Executive Director and took over WRCPC. The community board no longer had any power.

In 2001, my first year on Regional Council, I ended up as a regional rep on the Waterloo Regional Crime Prevention Council. In this conservative community, I was surprised an arms-length community organization that promoted crime prevention though social development was funded by the Region of Waterloo.

The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (WRCPC) was an initiative core funded by the Region of Waterloo since 1994.  Started by the late MP Andrew Telegdi, former Councillor Mark Yantzi, former Regional Chair Ken Seiling and Chief Larry Graville, among others, its work was rooted in a long history of restorative justice and community stewardship in Waterloo Region. Here is a list of accomplishments.

  • First council of its kind in Canada that got to define what crime prevention through social development means, i.e. make the connection to other social issues such as poverty, homelessness, problematic substance use. The creation of root causes. Many other councils followed their model of government community partnership.
  • Instrumental in starting the National Municipal Network on Crime Prevention www.safercities.ca that put Waterloo Region on the map (visitors from Japan, China, Norway, Mexico, many municipalities from across the country, the UN, and many more visited to get advice from the council and to visit many projects)
  • Pulled significant funds into the Region for projects such as InReach (street gang prevention). A lot of corporations supported campaigns such as Say Hi, Look Deeper, Reach out.
  • Working hard to get Naloxone into the hands of those who needed it.
  • Authoring the first statistical report on the actual numbers of overdose deaths in Waterloo Region.
  • Supporting neighbourhoods through engagement staff and such projects as Safe and Sound .
  • Strong advocating in many areas of justice such as mandatory minimum sentences, safe schools legislation, and the opioid crisis.
  • Supporting many community organizations throughout the years. Many of them were at the start up stage. For example: WAVYE (Waterloo region youth against violence everywhere),  KW Coalition of Muslim women, African Caribbean network, Alliance for Children and Youth (now the Child and Youth Planning Table which remains at the Region).
  • Hosting the Justice dinners that gave voice to many diverse issues
  • Developing the Friend program and Porch Chats that mobilized the grass roots
  • Starting the Upstream campaign, the course on Critical Reflections and the notion of “smart on crime” All of these are now mainstream
  • Assessing annually public perceptions about crime and fear of crime which the municipalities used for planning
  • Developing curriculum at Conestoga college for a degree in Community and Criminal Justice that is unique in the country   
  •                                                                                                                                                      
  • Evaluating and researching the impact of COVID on domestic and intimate partner violence
  • Speaking about sex trafficking prevention
  • Researching and reporting for the community on issues of significance such as the gap analysis when it comes to violent offenders, the reintegration challenges for women from GVI
  • Creating policy papers always based on community input such as the Integrated Drugs Strategy, the Breaking the Silence Against Violence Against the LGBTQ Community and Islamophobia,

But along with all these successes came controversy. This is particularly true concerning the opioid crisis. Promotion of Naloxone, a drug that when administered on the spot can stop death from an overdose, was met with foot dragging at other levels of government.

Complaints came to the Region from the province and the feds that the Council was too radical in their stance. Persistence paid off and now the drug and training on administering Naloxone is readily available. Lives have been saved.

I believe police and social services did not understand why an organization funded by the Chair’s office wasn’t under their control and was instead led by a community board. (Something that needs to be addressed as the Community Safety and Wellbeing Framework moves ahead with a lot of members from Region of Waterloo staff on its committees.)

Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council formed a community of practice; a place where people came for close to 30 years to make difficult discussions. A place where there was honest dialogue about what was happening in Waterloo Region. An organization that fostered change and got things done.

Praise for the Community Safety and Well Being Framework is lovely, but the proof will be if they actually follow up on the changes recommended for our community. The status quo is hard to move. Good luck to them.

The Middle of a Pandemic is not the Time to Cut Daycare Spaces.

The Region of Waterloo runs 5 wonderful, high quality daycares. The daycare in Elmira has just been expanded. They are located through out the Region. Now once again, a review by outside bean counters has suggested the daycares be closed as they are not “efficient”.

This means that these daycares cost more because their staff are unionized and paid what Early Childhood Educators should be paid. Unlike the workers in even the best non-profit daycares that must rely on parent fees. Council feels that the 6.8 million invested in these day cares would be better spread, a small amount for each, over all the other daycares in the Region.

The closing of the Regional daycares was rejected in 2015 for several reasons. Some of those reasons still stand and now there are more reasons to reject this proposal. 

The parents whose children attend the Regional daycares need good quality care, like all parents. Some of the children have disabilities. With the extreme shortage of daycare spaces, any parent who gets a good spot “wins the lottery”. Do not use that statement against them, suggesting they are privileged. How are they privileged?  Are there parents jumping the One List daycare queue to get a regional spot? If so, the public needs to know how and why. Elmira Children’s Centre is the only daycare in Elmira.  I know there are quality non-profit spaces, just that there are not enough. 

Right now daycares are running at 70 percent due to COVID. 2000 empty spaces and 50 at the regional daycares. Here is the problem with those figures. They are temporary vacancies caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Schools also have physical vacancies. Children at home are not attending before and after care. This is caused by families not sending their children to daycare and school because of the risk of COVID.  

All of these children and all of the waiting lists will return when parents return to work. Even working at home, you cannot work properly at a job and look after a child or children at the same time. The Regional spaces will be gone. 

What happens to the physical buildings and equipment? In the last go round of this idea, it was found that existing daycare providers were not interested in taking over the Regional daycares. At that time, the union with its higher wages and benefits had to be part of the sale. I expect their desire would be even less when they are dealing with the effects of COVID. What a shame to see the equipment sold off and the buildings mothballed. Staff let go into a fragile economy. 

KPMG has stated that the Regional day cares are not efficient. Why? The daycares are unionized and the staff get paid what ECEs should be paid.  

Kudos to the person who thought up the sneaky statistic that 10 percent of the childcare money goes to the 1.9 percent of the children who go to the Regional Day Cares. Region owned Sunnyside Home gets a greater percentage of Regional money than the other Homes for the Aged and Waterloo Region Social Housing gets a greater percentage of Regional funds than the other non-profit housing. Similar statistics can be made for both those important social services. With this reasoning, obviously they are next on the chopping block. 

My children and grandchildren attended the quality non-profit daycare I founded and was the first president. It is not easy for a group of working parents to build and run a daycare. My mother mortgaged her house and the executive director of the daycare bought the property at much lower prices than today, although her husband was a student at the time. Many sacrifices. Why should those lost spaces be recreated by the working parents who are now going through serious financial loses and stress due to COVID? 

Two new schools will also have daycares added in the near future. Our Region will still be growing with new families after the pandemic. Those schools and daycares are for student growth. The spaces of the Regional Daycares will be gone. 

Who thought up the idea that it was unfair for the Region to run its own daycare programs, programs that existed before the Region became the childcare service manager. Parents and children should lose their spots because somehow it is unfair for them to have a daycare spot. Am I to assume that the wonderful daycare spots will also disappear simply due to a philosophical, cannot even bring myself to say moral, reason? 

Selling the Regional Daycares is a Band-Aid solution to a continuing problem: Despite many promises, a lack of Federal and Provincial movement to create a daycare system that mirrors our public education system. 

Thousands of people in Waterloo Region marched for Black Lives Matter and moving money to social services. Saying you will help BIPOC children by what? A course on how to treat racialized preschoolers instead of a good daycare space for them? That just doesn’t cut it. An 8 percent increase in policing and the closing and letting go of 200 daycare spaces and well paid day care workers doesn’t look good on Regional Council.

Council needs to find a temporary solution for the COVID childcare problem, not a permanent one.

You might also like to read the words of Mary Parker, the Head of Child Care in 2015, the last time the Regional Day Cares were on the chopping block. https://janemitchell.blog/2015/10/29/why-it-made-sense-to-keep-the-regional-daycares/

Unfortunately, Waterloo Regional councillors decided to close the daycares. A sad day for the Region of Waterloo.

Mandated Mask Wearing: Waterloo Regional Council has Passed Controversial Health Measures Before (And they all got re-elected).

Wearing the mask my daughter got me at the beginning of the pandemic.

When I ran for Regional Council for the first time in 2000, the Region had just passed the no-smoking by-law. Like today, the province refused to pass a law banning smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor locations. A man smoking on his front steps, who had probably been forced out there, asked me if I agreed with it. I did. I do not know who voted for the by-law but no-one lost a seat because of it. The whining and anger over that by-law was huge, as many bar patrons also smoked. The Region used by-law officers to enforce. Eventually the province stepped up. Today, you would never know there had been a controversy

The second instance occurred during my early years as a councillor. Regional Council decided to ban cosmetic pesticides. Interestingly, the medical officer of health would not put out an order for this ban. Council went ahead anyway. There was a lot of whining and anger.By-law officers that also regulate lawn watering regulated spraying. Even today, people still grumble about their dandelions. The province, once again, stepped in after the fact.

This brings us to today. We are in the middle of a pandemic and in the first stages of reopening restaurants, stores and bars. From March to almost the end of May, public health wanted everyone in their homes to stop the spread of this new disease so wouldn’t recommend mask wearing. Now that the numbers are down, but still a bit of spread, wearing a mask is recommended. Like the ban on the spraying of cosmetic pesticides, public health will not recommend a by-law mandating the wearing of masks in places where social distancing is difficult or in restaurants, bars and stores.

Health Canada says,”When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.” It is not known by how much wearing a mask will decrease people’s risk.

When we look at who gets COVID-19, it is important to note that only one case was traced to the large BLM march in Kitchener. I know from my daughter who attended, that almost everyone, including herself, wore a mask. They tried to social distance. Working from home, she quarantined herself for two weeks afterwards. On the other hand, a party in London with no social distancing and masks, has caused COVID spread.

I always wear a mask when I visit a store, and most establishments have their staff masked by provincial decree. Yet there are so many customers not masked. Some are going to be asymptomatic and spreading the virus. Why does everyone have to be masked when I visit the hairdresser (Thanks Control ) and the dentist (Thanks Waterloo Smiles) but not when I visit Basics?

Waterloo Regional Council is the Board of Health. They have passed health measures before both with the recommendation of public health staff and without the recommendation of public health staff. Certainly public health measures have been successfully passed locally before the province moved ahead.

We can’t carry on with everyone shut up in their homes. Everyone needs to wear a mask, hand wash or use sanitizer, not touch their face, and practice social distancing. Follow the recommendations of a safe bubble of ten people.

There will be whining and anger, that is no surprise. There has been whining and anger over the introduction of seat belts, smoking bans, and cosmetic pesticides bans. The world moves on.

Thank you Mayor Berry Vrbanovic for introducing this motion.

Defunding the Police

Defunding the Police

When I was a Regional Councillor, every year we struggled over the budget, trying to get it down to a 1 or 2 percent increase. We would debate adding a million to our social service budget for “unnecessary” items that had been cut back by the provincial government. Things like eyeglasses, walkers, food hampers and dental care for the working poor. Eventually we put money towards some of these necessities for the poor. Money, but not enough, was added for social housing. Transit fares were increased. And so on. We would get the budget down to our 1 or 2 percent goal.

Then the police budget was added. If we were at 1 percent increase, the police budget would add another 1 percent (even though the police budget might actually be going up 3 to 5 percent or more). Half the Region’s budget increase was policing. Other than sending the police budget back to the police board to par down, Regional Council had no way of cutting or changing the police budget due to provincial law. We had to pay it from property taxes though.

The police are expensive. The WRPS 2020 budget, as passed, had an increase of 6,25% for a budget of almost 200 million dollars. This came out to a 1.38% property tax increase versus a Regional operating budget of 1%. Over 90% of the police budget goes to compensation ( paying people).

Defunding the police does not mean getting rid of the police. We will always have sex traffickers, assaults, child porn, fraud, murders, and theft. What defunding the police means is moving funds to what the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council has been advocating for over 25 years. Not well being, but social development. We need to stop pulling drowning people out of the water and go up stream to stop them falling in.

In an interview with NPR, Alex S. Vitale, the author of the 2017 book The End of Policing,(you can download the e-book for free) states:

One of the problems that we’re encountering here is this massive expansion in the scope of policing over the last 40 years or so. Policing is now happening in our schools. It’s happening in relation to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, youth violence and some things that we historically associate police with.

This also includes illegal drugs and all the problems they bring with them. Fentanyl and meth are still a crisis. They did not go away when COVID-19 appeared. Poverty and unemployment have increased. Social problems are not the responsibility of the police but they end up the last resort in times of crisis.

A few years ago, a family member disappeared and we were afraid he was going to commit suicide. When he was found, the police had a civilian mental health team with them. The team defused the situation and the police did not have to go to emergency with our family member (who is fine now) . Police and EMS spend a lot of unnecessary costly time in Emerg waiting for their patient to be moved over to hospital staff.

Counselling, drug and addiction services, homeless shelters and social housing, immigrant and employment services, youth services, sexual assault counselling, mental health, Family and Children’s Services, the food bank, Community Justice Initiatives and more are always chronically short of funds. Recently many have had government funds cut by the province. In this time of pandemic, their charitable donations have dried up.

What if all the organizations in our community that practice crime prevention by social development got a 5 or 6 percent increase per year from our governments. Police would not be the organization of last resort for addiction, mental health, poverty and homelessness emergencies. We wouldn’t need so many police and those we would have could turn their attention to serious and complicated crimes. They would be properly defunded.

Here is a link to a petition and letter writing campaign spearheaded by the local Black Lives Matter. bit.ly/DefundThePoliceKW

You can also write to the WRPS police board here:

https://www.wrps.on.ca/en/about-us/police-services-board.aspx

I might point out that there is a vacancy on the police board!

No styrofoam: Reusable doggy bag reminds me of my mother-in-law

Whenever we went to a restaurant with my Mother-in-law, she would always take home a few sugar packets and a bit of meat for the dog wrapped in a paper napkin. I felt embarrassed. How times change.

Though we don’t take sugar packets, my husband and I do get a doggy bag when we eat out. My husband insists that we take the fries home to reheat for the grandkids and a little bit of meat for our incredibly spoiled dog. Unfortunately, our favourite restaurant uses Styrofoam boxes for the leftovers.

Reuseable doggy bag

Take your own doggy bag

Styrofoam is actually polystyrene. But the foam containers at restaurants and packaging are commonly called Styrofoam. Common Styrofoam is thrown away and not recycled. Not a market.

In memory of my Mom-In-Law we now take her favourite reusable Tupperware for the doggy bag. (BTW, if you know where I can find more containers with an attachable lid, I’m buying them!) Costco and Boar’s Head food truck have disposable containers that are compostable.

In Ontario, companies are now supposed to find alternatives to Styrofoam and eventually look after their own packaging. Not sure what will happen with the change in provincial government.

Vancouver and  various American states have banned Styrofoam restaurant containers. Legal staff say Waterloo region could also do this. They would consult with restaurant owners and the public before moving ahea. if you think this is a good idea, lobby your Regional councillors or the province.

Monument for the Homeless Fills a Need to Say Goodbye.

A client representative died in my early years as Chair of the Region’s Employment and Income Advisory Committee. Disabled, Ed still came regularly to our monthly meetings and he volunteered for the local Liberals on their campaigns. He was estranged from his family.

A neighbour in his social housing complex found him and his body was carried away to the morgue. Ed’s was cremated and his funeral was paid for by ODSP.  He was buried in an unmarked grave.

When the committee found out about Ed’s death and burial, we wanted to do something for such a great committee member. So I suggested passing the hat for a gravestone and found out the cost was 200 dollars for a simple plaque. We also paid for a small obituary. We raised the money and had a memorial for him presided over by Rev. June Anderson. Former Cambridge Mayor Claudette Millar came to represent the local Liberals.

Ed’s mother and sister found out about his death through the obituary and went to see his grave. They sent us a letter thanking us for the stone. They had been estranged from him for many years.

A few years ago, Birgit Lindenberg used this blog to write obituaries for the homeless. because they died and no one cared. Many homeless, even though they are buried by the Region, do not have a gravestone, just a number as shown the Record article, Caring for the Unclaimed Dead

Those homeless do have people who cared for them. Whether other homeless people, workers at the soup kitchen or downtown residents like Birgit. As the famous line in Death of a Salesman says, “Attention must be paid.”

Monument to the Homeless

The monument will provide a place for ceremonies and memories of those who have passed. It will also provide a reminder that the homeless are people who had lives and friends and family. Critics, if you feel that money needs to go to help the homeless, I hope that like me, you contribute to the organizations that help them.

Gofundme page

House of Friendship

YW

Working Centre

The Bridges Cambridge.

Supportive Housing of Waterloo

 

 

 

Vanier/Traynor Informal Pedestrian Crossing.

Here is the text of an e-mail sent to Regional Councillors concerning the Vanier/Traynor Crossing .

As part of constructing the ION system, a fence was installed along the Hydro Corridor, which has restricted previous informal pedestrian access between this neighbourhood and the properties on Fairway Road. This area is now an active part of the ION system, with trains testing along the corridor.

The Region and the City of Kitchener are continuing to work on the provision of a permanent pedestrian access point (with gates and bells) across the LRT tracks, including the identification of a suitable location. The properties on both sides of the LRT tracks are privately owned. Once a the location and property requirements have been finalized, the Region will finalize the design and start construction (funding for construction still needs to be finalized).  The City of Kitchener is responsible for acquiring the property and constructing a formal public access to the ION crossing.

The Region has retained a consultant for the design of the pedestrian crossing. This work is ongoing.  Once the design and property acquisition work is complete construction can start. The Region is also committed to applying to the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund to receive funding for the project and if this is not possible staff are reviewing alternative funding which may require Council approvals.

The City is working on completing the work to select the appropriate location for sidewalks to connect to the ION crossing and the associated land acquisition.  Region staff have agreed to assist the City should expropriation be required.  Region and City staff will coordinate timing of land acquisition and construction to ensure that there is public access to the  ION crossing when it is complete.

Given the current status of design and land acquisition it is unlikely that the pedestrian crossing will be open before ION service starts. The earliest that it could be open is likely spring 2019 (a full schedule is not complete as the design is not complete).  A preliminary design and cost estimate of the walkway and rail crossing is now being developed, which will allow us to move forward with approvals and seek funding.

We are also aware that pedestrians are crossing the LRT tracks and damaging fences in this location. As a result, the Region has placed signage in this area advising that this is an unsafe activity.

In terms of the permanent crossing, the next steps include:

  • Complete the design work and identify the budget
  • Finalize location of the crossing
  • Work with the City to complete their feasibility study
  • Request funding
  • Acquire the necessary land
  • Construct the crossing

which has restricted previous informal pedestrian access between this neighbourhood and the properties on Fairway Road. This area is now an active part of the ION system, with trains testing along the corridor.

People have asked me why there is a crossing at Old Albert in Waterloo and not at Traynor.  Frankly, I use the Albert crossing and kept after staff for a pedestrian crossing from the very beginning of LRT. Unfortunately due to the informal nature of the Traynor /Vanier crossings, no one picked up this need for a pedestrian crossing. It is not uncommon for the needs of pedestrians to be ignored as shown by the many beaten down paths along roads without sidewalks and is something that we must continue working on changing.

A Tour of Social Housing in Rome Created in the Early 20th Century

(If you are looking for my paper on cleaning up the Grand, protection of local aquifers and the Regional Plan, as mentioned in the Record, scroll down, it is the fourth entry.)

At the International Making Cities Liveable Conference, I was pleased to tour the Housing Districts of Testaccio and San Saba with Ettore Maria Mazzola, Architect & Urbanist, Professor, University of Notre Dame, Rome Global Gateway. Ettore Maria Mazzola has also acted as a consultant for the Mayor and City of Rome. As a member of the new Housing Master Plan Committee, this area will be on my mind as we decide how to create and improve social housing in Waterloo Region.

Similar to Waterloo Region today, the City of Rome, Italy exploded in population between the unification of Italy (1861) and 1930. The population of the city of Rome increased from 200.000 to 1.200.000. Most of the people came from rural villages in Italy.  this created a shortage of housing. It was decided that the area around the artificial Testaccio hill would be used to create housing for the poor. In antiquity the area was a dump for broken amphorae and in later times an area for butchering and tanning.  The area of San Saba was also developed.

The municipal government of the Rome of the time owned and built this social housing. Instead of creating a slum, Roman architects such as Gustavo Giovannoni, Quadrio Pirani, Giulio Magni, and Innocenzo Sabbatini developed a new way of creating housing integrating a mix of uses. They were able to harmonize “the construction of large volumes” with “a proper scale that does not harm the landscape”, as well as “the necessity to build rapidly” with “respect for the human dignity of the future residents”.

These neighbourhoods create a good example for the “new urbanism” with density and mixed use. Some of the housing complexes had bicycle rooms and bake ovens. Each development was built with a central courtyard to remind the residents of their homes in the hill villages.

Maria Montessori created the first daycare or early learning center in this area. The concept of free play and learning by choice instead of strict rows and rote started here.

Today this social housing has gentrified and is no longer home to the poor. It is still a beautiful example of housing.

Stay tuned for public consultations on Region of Waterloo social housing  in the coming months. As can be seen by the pictures below, just building more affordable housing, while laudable, isn’t enough. We must also build liveable communities.

 

How one man’s creative, coherent view transformed social housing in interwar Rome

Specific Interesting Photos of the Housing.

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Door to an original bicycle storage

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Fire station

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One of the original Maria Montessori Preschools for the poor

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Early 20th century social housing

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Early 20th century social housing

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Bake house

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Housing built around a piazza to remind residents of their villages

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Piazza in the center of the housing complex

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Windows of different sizes to visually break up the wall