CBRM district 5 candidates panel

CBC Information Morning held a debate with the candidates for district 5. Listen here:

Municipal Candidates’ Panel – District 5

Here are some of the issues that we discussed:

Creating a vibrant downtown core

Marketing our world-class artistic talent

Debt and equalization

Port development

Community Engagement

Kids and their families

Small town downtown

Tonight, while you’re enjoying the best night out in Sydney at Lumiere, think about how cool downtown Sydney could be every night.

I was out with our six-month old last night between 7 and 8pm, and here’s what I saw: Families walking dogs and pushing strollers (sometimes at the same time). Joggers and hand-holding couples going round and round Wentworth Park. International students carrying their groceries home under their arms looking only a little confounded. An adorable army of nerds playing with paper magic in the comic book shop with all the lights on. Diners in every restaurant. Kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk with flashing LED lights. A tour bus of seniors disembarking in front of one of the downtown hotels. Skateboarders grinding the curb in front of the civic centre.

I had a chat with those skateboarders and they told me some really simple ways the municipality could design public spaces to be more inclusive (friendly, safe and inviting for both young and old). It wouldn’t take much.

As Donnie Calabrese said in a CBC Leadership Series interview, Sydney is already pretty cool. It wouldn’t take much to make it a really cool small town downtown.

More kid- and youth-friendly public spaces. A few more businesses and coffee shops like Island Arts Cafe that stay open later. A better parking design to get more cars off the main strip and more feet on the pavement instead. Bike lanes so those kids don’t have to ride on the sidewalk. A few dozen downtown loft apartments, in a range of affordability, for young families and recently retired professionals looking to hang out a consulting shingle.

These things have a way of complementing each another, and building on one another other. Think about some of them tonight. And then think about how to make them happen.

Sustainable Transportation & ‘Open Streets’

I’m attending a 2-day workshop in Halifax to support the development of the forthcoming “Provincial Sustainable Transportation Strategy”.

Municipalities across North America are coping with rapid economic, cultural and technological change. Those that are successful are the ones that treat these changes as opportunities for revitalization. Many cities and towns start in their downtown core, by creating more welcoming, vibrant, and inclusive public spaces.

As a web designer, I create “virtual open spaces” where people can come together and organize for social change. And in my volunteer work, I’m drawn to opportunities to create physical open spaces where people can share in, and co-create, the life of the community. I hope to bring my passion for ‘open spaces’ to municipal politics.

This might include, for example, transforming downtown Sydney (one day a year, or even one day a month) into a pedestrian-friendly centre of activity — by diverting motorized vehicles from Charlotte Street, and opening it up for people to walk, roll, stroll, play, shop and eat.

By encouraging shopkeepers and restaurateurs to have a presence on the sidewalk, and filling the streets with a diversity of activity (art, live music, community theatre, bicycle maintenance workshops, skateboard demonstrations, outdoor exercise classes, kids activities), organizers would create a ‘street scape’ that integrates active transportation, shopping, food, arts, and socializing.

Creating a walkable downtown core — connecting downtown Charlotte Street, North End Heritage Conservation District, Sydney boardwalk, Wentworth Park, Membertou and the GreenLink trail system — would promote density, diversity, and discovery and give tourists the integrated small-town experience they expect, while giving locals plenty of ways to connect (or re-connect) with their community.

To be continued…