To those who want to be mayor of a city that I have grown to love: please listen.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to listen. Limit the buzzwords, stop the empty promises, and give me but a moment, one cathartic, truth-filled, moment of active listening.
I have watched my beloved city change from seeing dollar signs instead of faces, pursuing bottom lines instead of growth, chasing partiers and easy revenue instead of knowledge gatherers and change makers.
We are at a crossroads. As our city continues to grow, the services and support for those members of low socio-economic status remain stagnant. Even those who do not qualify for additional support are facing precarious employment or forced to work multiple jobs just to afford to stay in the region.
Waterloo needs to become a smart, sustainable and socially conscious city.
Stop using the thousands of students who enter the region annually as a means of breaking even on transit issues, or as easily-blamed “gosh-darned trouble makers!”
Start making this a community, a place where students want to stay after graduation. If you retained just 10 per cent of graduates every year, you would have more than $35 million dollars to put back into the region. Just imagine the amount of intellectual property that you could keep in the region.
My loyalty as a former student is not to the region but to community groups, groups that saw me as a valid and contributing member, not a statistic in a budget projection.
Make this a walkable city and a bike-friendly city. You have a beautiful park in the middle of Waterloo; social sustainability projects are a must, especially ones that can tackle two issues at once.
Bike and car shares for those who cannot afford personal transportation, community gardens that donate produce to food programs and soup kitchens, a citywide waste disposal program that rivals Guelph, and recycling programs from residences at the universities and off-campus living so students can donate unwanted items to shelters and subsidized housing.
With LRT coming to the region, you have a duty to make sure you are not driving out those who currently live in newly serviced areas. The cost of living in the region is on the rise.
Make the housing near LRT affordable, as those relying on public transportation need the affordability much more than those who live in areas like Laurelwood.
Place social services along the LRT and iXpress corridors to make them as accessible as possible. In areas that are a part of beautification projects, set up tiny house villages or multi-level shelters that look like any other condo, like those found in Newfield, New York or Olympia, Washington, which can be subsidized for those who need affordable housing.
This would also be a great sustainability and community project as the majority of resources, furniture and people power could be done through community projects.
You have a chance to help my beloved city grow and become the city that I know it can be.
I have hope that in a few years, Waterloo could be a front-runner as a smart, sustainable, and socially conscious city in Canada.
This is dependent on who becomes our mayor and councillors, the strength of the voices of citizens and a solid focus of working on community building at the citizen, institutional, service and governmental levels.
I may only be one voice, but I am a voter, and that should be enough.