Nova Scotia Moves

New grant program, “Nova Scotia Moves”, supports community-led sustainable transportation initiatives. I’ll be applying to this grant for “Open Streets”.

…transforming downtown Sydney 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… Read more→

Interested in helping? Get in touch:

The Northend Turnip: Election Edition

Below is my contribution to the Northend Turnip’s 2012 election edition, where they asked the eight candidates in district 5 to answer the question: “How would you define a vibrant community, and how could we attain this vision?”

I’ve written a lot on my website about what I think makes a vibrant community, and what I think council can do to achieve that vision. So I’d like to use this limited space to tell a story.

I run my business out of a shared office space in the former Chandler’s building on Dorchester St. I was at work one Saturday when I saw a couple of kids throwing rocks at the abandoned building across the street. I went over to talk to them. Seems they had just missed their bus by a few minutes, and had three hours to kill before they could catch the next bus home. With “no money and nothing to do anyway”, they were killing time by vandalizing an already derelict building. I asked what they and their friends normally did for fun, and the answer wasn’t any prettier.

So I asked them: “If you could turn that abandoned building into something cool, what would it be?” Simple: they wanted an arcade. Of course, it would take huge amounts of capital to renovate that particular building. I was just curious to see what ideas they would come up with. But what about one of the vacant store fronts on Charlotte Street, or behind the Civic Centre along the boardwalk?

We talked about the more realistic possibility of turning one of those into a drop-in youth centre — with arcade games, pool tables, etcetera. CBRM already has several models of successful youth clubs. The new council and mayor, working with other levels of government, could look for ways to strengthen those existing services, and replicate them throughout the region. Even if only on a small, distributed, part-time basis, such services would give kids more options.

And to be clear, it’s not about getting kids “off the street” so they don’t smash windows. Creating a vibrant community is about making everyone, young and old, feel welcome, supported, safe, and valued.

I also talked to those kids about ways to improve the public transit system, which had left them stranded in the first place. More frequent trips, they said. Cheaper fares for youth (and seniors), they said. Wait a minute, that sounds familiar… Had these kids read the 87-page transit study that the CBRM engineering and public works division had commissioned just last year!? Probably not. They just knew what it would take to increase their autonomy, expand their options, and make their lives better.

Council and the new mayor should talk with those kids, and others like them, both young and old, who may feel their concerns aren’t being heard — and we should listen carefully.

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

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…

Message to CBRM

Everyone who brought a reusable mug to the vigil on Saturday had their name entered in a draw for Al Gore’s new book, Our Choice. The winner asked that the prize be donated to a good cause. On behalf of the vigil organizers and everyone who attended, the book has been sent to CBRM council with the following message:

A report released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that ”municipalities have the potential to supply between 20 and 55 Megatonnes of emission reductions, equivalent to 15 to 40 per cent of Canada’s 2020 emission reduction target [of 20% below 2006 levels].”

The report calls for “a strategic approach, led and in part funded by the Government of Canada.”The benefit to the federal government is that local, community-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives – such as improving public transit, shifting to more fuel-efficient fleets, retrofitting public buildings and turning landfill gas into energy – are an especially cost-effective way to cut emissions.

The benefit to municipalities is job creation, community economic development and increased competitiveness; and energy efficiency measures can lead to lower overall municipal operating costs.

Municipalities are key to achieving large and low-cost emission reductions, in partnership with federal and provincial/territorial. Not only do Municipal governments have direct or indirect control over approximately 44 per cent of GHG emissions in Canada, but “Municipal governments are also the order of government that is the closest to citizens and can most easily engage households and businesses to implement local projects to reduce GHG emissions. Municipal governments can affect GHG emissions as a regulator, facilitator, partner, program deliverer and educator.”

Full report: Act Locally – The Municipal Role in Fighting Climate Change [pdf]