Ward 1 Candidates Address Issues, Part 2

(WINDSOR, ON) – It is still early in the 2018 Windsor municipal election campaign, but there’s no time like the present to learn more about the people asking for the voters’ endorsement on October 22. Over the next few weeks leading up to election day, The Square will publish candidates’ responses to 20 questions so that electors can align themselves with those who will best represent them.

All candidates running in the 2018 Windsor municipal election were provided with the same 20 questions seeking responses to hot button issues facing the city over the next four years. There are five persons seeking to serve the residents of Ward 1, however the incumbent, Freddie Francis, failed to provide any answers to the questions.

Francis, the brother of former mayor Eddie Francis, has drawn much deserved criticism over the past four years for his stand on a number of important issues. His handling of the Ojibway development ignored residents’ concerns and favoured developer Coco Group. Francis as has been almost silent on the city’s neglect to install safety measures for pedestrians and cyclists in the central box area on Dougall Avenue. He also drew a heap of ridicule for proposing to fill in the Grand Marais drainage corridor, especially in light of the increasing frequency of flood damage to homes in Windsor. Francis voted against hiring an Auditor General.

Challenger Matt Ford ran for the Ward 1 seat in 2014. Over the past four years he has worked for the people of Windsor by investigating irregularities in the 2014 election including the failure by the municipality to pass a by-law authorizing the use of vote tabulators, which is again an issue this year. Ford is running on a pro-transparency platform and supports the installation of an Auditor General.

Though she is a relative newcomer to Windsor politics, Krysta Glovasky-Ridsdale was the 2018 candidate in Windsor West, during the provincial election, for the Green Party. Glovasky-Ridsdale has weighed in on local issues by denouncing the location of the proposed replacement hospital and the big box development in Ojibway. She also supports the hiring of an Auditor General and proposes a regular schedule of continued maintenance on infrastructure instead of the creation of unneeded capital projects.

According to his election website, Wiquar Husain is dedicated to progress. The realtor and administrative director in the health industry wants the city to conduct business in a transparent manner and supports holding taxes and lowering city debt. Educated as an engineer, Husain feels the current auditing function at the city is less than effective.

Darcie Renaud is the former constituency and Queen’s Park worker for the late Essex MPP Bruce Crozier. She believes that Windsor needs competitive tax rates while investing in infrastructure, a diversification of the economy, and increasing the quality of life. Renaud is a proponent for real fiscal responsibility and accountability in the city. She advocates value for money expenditures.

Questions 1 through 10 appeared in The Square yesterday.

11. Should Windsor Police be pursuing policing in Amherstburg?

(MATT FORD) – No. See above. [Ed. note. Yesterday)

(KRYSTA GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – No.

(WIQUAR HUSAIN) – Yes.

(DARCIE RENAUD) – My understanding is that this decision was made by Amherstburg’s council, and the deal has been finalized. If it reduces costs for the City of Windsor, then I think it could be beneficial.

12. Should city council consult with the public in all aspects of the new hospital proposal?

(FORD) – I think City Counsel has been very secretive related to Ontario Drainage Act Charges that will be levied on Citizens it may be the “Megahospital” levy is a drainage act charge in disguise. Yes City council should be more open including which builders are benefiting from oversizing the service lines located to the undeveloped Mega Hospital floodplain.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – YES!  How many times can I shout YES!!!

(HUSAIN) – Yes.

(RENAUD) – I think it’s important that all points of view be given consideration.

13. What is your stand on the mega-hospital and the currently suggested location?

(FORD) – I do not support it because I examined the report and data related to holding ponds and costs under the Ontario Drainage Act however these things were not revealed to the public including the 200- 300 million in extra costs of infrastructure not paid for and the costs of reestablishing all the investments from the other hospitals.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – Bad Location.  Should be on a brown field site that already has existing infrastructure like roads and sewers, and near the population that needs it most.

Bad Plan. New building, but no new services. No additional capacity. No additional staffing. Single sourcing healthcare to one location leaves us vulnerable.

(HUSAIN) – It should be built but not at the suggested location.

(RENAUD) – I think it’s important that the costs to taxpayers for improvements in infrastructure in order to accommodate any new location for the hospital be seriously considered.

14. Do you believe that transparency at City Hall can be improved or works in its current state?

(FORD) – No. Many of the current council have proven that they will not stand up for their Wards and their needs both collective and individual.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – It needs to be greatly improved. No more secret deals and sales of buildings. No more proposals that are actually finished plans and already in process. No more sneaking items on the meeting agenda at the last moment or buried in 500 pages of unrelated items.

(HUSAIN) – Transparency can be improved.

(RENAUD) – It can absolutely be improved and I will be sharing a number of ideas as to how I think we can make those improvements over the coming months.

15. Has the city’s response to storm related flooding been either timely and/or sufficient?

(FORD) – The City workers are not the issue the current council have not allocated the resources however this council is doing a somewhat better job than the former Mayor however but they are far from the mark.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – No.

(HUSAIN) – Not timely and not sufficient.

(RENAUD) – No. Many of my neighbours saw their homes flooded not once, but twice in over the last two years. Basement flooding has been on the City’s radar for over a decade, yet it wasn’t until disaster struck that fixing infrastructure in my Ward to prevent flooding became a real priority. We have to stop governing by emergency and be proactive to make sure that our infrastructure can withstand what may now be the new normal.

16. Has the transference of post-secondary institutions to the downtown from other areas of the city been successful at reinvigorating the downtown?

(FORD) – No. But that does not mean it is the cause either. Council was warned about the opioid crisis by numerous people. These businesses and residents downtown have numerous centres who are doing good work but the problem is greater than what they can deliver.

These centers located on prime real estate downtown have been a magnet for congregating drug addicts, shopping carts and a huge issue for our Police and Health Care. Mandatory get tough Treatment at hospital facilities needs to be the cause.

Last week I saw a young man outside a pawn shop feign and crying while his “others” were laughing inside selling his belongings. Is this what we want because we are afraid to change the laws and get creative? We have a new government in Ontario and we better take advantage of it to turn not just downtown around but peoples lives by giving them purpose and meaning because the old way isn’t working.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – It seems that the increased foot traffic may be beneficial for some businesses in the downtown core. And I do like the re-use of existing buildings rather than knocking everything down and building new. However, I am not sure if we are doing the students a disservice by locating the buildings far from other student services like dorm housing and food plan options.

I have heard complaints that Public Transportation and overcrowding is sometimes an issue. The road construction and opoid/homeless crisis in the downtown area makes it hard to analyze. All that to say at this moment I don’t have an answer.

I do want to mention a concern regarding the influx of thousands of international students without ensuring availability of proper housing and infrastructure like Public Transportation.

In the midst of our affordable housing crisis and possibility of changing zoning to allow for addition of secondary units, we cannot gloss over the issues we have with student housing. There are private landlords renting to an unreasonable amount of tenants, far more than the house is meant to contain.

I have heard reports of 15 students living in a 2 bedroom home, where even the kitchen and the furnace area had mattresses. Some students arrived believing that housing was included in their tuition, only to discover that it was not and now they had no place to live.

Others have to share a mattress with a stranger. This makes them easy targets for victimization.

An item I would present if I am elected is revisiting the registering and inspection of private rental units for those that have more than one tenant in addition to the householders.

(HUSAIN) – Yes.

(RENAUD) – This was certainly a step in the right direction. That said, it’s clear that our downtown is still facing significant issues given the rise in crime – both petty and in severity – that we’ve seen reported which is clearly linked to mental health and addiction issues. We need everyone on council and every community partner at the table and on the same page as to how we can best address this.

17. What is your plan to reduce the billion dollar infrastructure deficit in Windsor?

(FORD) – That plan is to curb the “sexy” spending such as a $1 million dollar bathroom at Jackson Park, or throwing away our government buildings and building new buildings. The plan would be is to shift to a more rational proactive investments of our sewers and streets and and core city services and traditions.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – Focus all new builds in brownfield areas in the City that already have existing infrastructure.

Put a freeze on new big box type developments if there are existing vacant areas that can be used and are already serviced. The old Home Depot site for example should be re-used before adding any new developments especially on green field. We need to keep up the tax base for these areas to pay to maintain the infrastructure that was added before we create new areas to maintain.

Increase the tax base by initiating penalties for businesses and store fronts that are left vacant for longer than a certain period of time unless they can prove they are making efforts to rent or sell at a reasonable market price.

Investigate new technologies or materials that may increase longevity of surfaces for roads, sidewalks, etc. Consider becoming a test market for such materials in exchange for cost reductions, partnerships, or special deals.

Investigate alternatives to road salt in the winter to reduce damage to our road and sidewalk surfaces that may be leading to early failure.

Increase the operating budget to make sure we are properly maintaining our infrastructure to increase longevity and performance.

(HUSAIN) – By prioritization and looking at issues from systemic point of view.

(RENAUD) – We need to engage residents to set very clear priorities on how infrastructure funds are spent.

18. Has Windsor reached the point that it should be cooperating with the Ambassador Bridge Company instead of continuing litigation?

(FORD) – Yes. The Ambassador Bridge Company may not have clean hands in the game but The City of Windsor certainly has abused heritage designation in my opinion. It is time to move forward and get the City back to work or we can continue the current chess match until there is no board left to move on.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – This has gone on for too long. The residents in that area need closure. We should stop the litigation. But NO to twinning and keeping the old bridge. It needs to go.

(HUSAIN) – Yes, should be cooperating.

(RENAUD) – An efficient, effective and open border is important for Windsor – for jobs, the economy and tourism. The federal government has set out the terms of the permit and the city needs to ensure that the terms are met and, most importantly, that the city is not forgotten as the process unfolds.

19. Does there need to be more transparency at the Windsor Police Service and the WPS Board in light of the current investigation into the Board’s actions?

(FORD) – The Windsor Police Service rank and file Police are not the problem. The Promotion practises in Windsor Police Services is unfair in my opinion.

Al Fredericks should step down as his turn around of the Windsor Police Services has not proven fruitful he has proven this by very vague investigation results from numerous cases including the Election 2014.

Often there are too many civilians police and not enough actual police on the streets. the Police Board Should all asked to step down by the new administration and more residents of diverse backgrounds should be on the Windsor Police Board.

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – Yes. I think there should be transparency in all public services, without the need for expensive FOI requests.

(HUSAIN) – There should be more transparency.

(RENAUD) – I don’t know that we have sufficient details about the investigation at this point. I would like to see the final report on the investigation before making that determination. That said, I think transparency is important for all public boards.

20. What are the five most important issues facing the city?

(FORD) –

  1. Flooding/Infrastructure
  2. Institutional Corruption/SPENDING/Waste
  3. Jobs/Growth
  4. Community Safety
  5. Identity Crisis

(GLOVASKY-RIDSDALE) – Note that these may not represent individual issues that are important to Ward 1 specifically, but generally to all residents of the City of Windsor.

  1. Healthcare. Losing our current hospitals, our most vulnerable would be farthest from the services they need. Need for continuing and supported care options to get these people out of the hospital (reduce wait times and overcrowding).
  2. Poverty Reduction. Lack of affordable housing options. A workforce that wants to work cannot get to the industries that want to hire them. Loss of walkable communities. Need for supportive housing to reduce chronic homelessness due to being hard to house. Lack of long term permanent employment options that provide good pay and benefits.
  3. Opoid crisis. Increased crime across the city (petty thefts, trespassing). Proliferation of drug paraphernalia litter across the city. Increasing number of addicts across all demographics perhaps due to increased opoid prescriptions for situations where other options would have been more suitable (tooth extraction, for example). Increased strain on the healthcare system. Increased strain on Social Services.
  4. Transparency in Council and how public money is spent. Secret sales of public buildings (Central Library), this deal will cost way more than can be covered by the sale of the building. “In Camera” discussions and decisions. Last minute additions to council meeting agendas that don’t allow time for analysis or delegates. Lack of an Auditor General. Lack of public consultation for large expenditures and important decisions that affect all residents.
  5. Sprawl, Blight, Improper City Planning. Not following the City’s own planning documents when making decisions about zoning or approving projects. Allowing sprawl when we have a large amount of brownfield available for development. Not including things like active transportation infrastructure automatically when fixing or changing roads or adding new roads. Not including things like green roofs or solar panels on at least all new builds to reduce energy costs. Removing resources like community centres from neighbourhoods in favor of building new combined projects far from the residents intended to use them. Allowing property owners to leave properties vacant for extended periods of time (speculators, absentee owners, etc.).

(HUSAIN) –

  1. Financial debt load,
  2. Senior care,
  3. Transportation,
  4. Safety,
  5. Infrastructure

(RENAUD) – We need competitive tax rates, and at the same time we must invest in infrastructure, work to diversify our economy and improve our quality of life. To do that, we need real fiscal responsibility and accountability. Fiscal responsibility is about more than tax rates – it’s also about transparency and engaging people to set clear priorities, sticking to them, and being accountable for achieving the goals we set out. It means looking closely at every single tax dollar we spend to ensure we’re getting results.

The candidates’ responses to questions 1 through 10 appeared in The Square yesterday. Replies from the hopefuls in Ward 2 will be featured next week.

The answers to the 20 questions from the mayoral candidates appeared in The Square on August 7  and on August 9.

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Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.