So far, five people are running for mayor of Peterborough this time around and, of those five, really only three are notables: current Mayor Daryl Bennett, former city councillor Patti Peeters, and community organizer Maryam Monsef.
As I scan social media, I see discussions of The Parkway and how it’s a deciding factor for people when it comes to their vote. This bodes well for candidate Maryam Monsef as she’s backed by Friends of Jackson Park — a group that’s against the potential development of a roadway through Jackson Park. It doesn’t bode well however for Mayor Bennett who supports the project.
Maryam Monsef has discussed her “Two Pillars” of “People and Place” on local radio; however, her policy proposals are still unclear. I visited Ms Monsef’s website (www.maryammonsef.ca) but there was no information of her political policies.
Ms Monsef has said that she wants a sustainable economy and wants the community to feel involved in the political process — but she hasn’t said how she plans on doing that.
Patti Peeters’ focus is on the youth of the community and the resuscitation of the downtown core. Ms Peeters has the most political experience, with 11 years on city council in the past. She’s concerned with the issue of drugs, alcohol, and mental health within the city. Sadly, when I went online to find out more about Ms. Peeters’ policies, I came up empty handed.
Mayor Bennett has said that he wants to build on the last four years and continue the progress he’s made. He too hasn’t released his policies for a next term, but has said that he will release them over the coming weeks. Under his tenure, property taxes have increased, unemployment has increased, the GPA EDC continues to be arguably unaccountable for economic development, and the list goes on and on.
The funny thing about Mayor Bennett is that he has lived one of Ms Monsef’s “Pillars” in that he’s involved the community on a regular basis. From large community meetings on the Casino and Parkway debate to multiple Twitter AMAs, Mayor Bennett has included the community quite a bit. I think the divide comes from the opinions of the community being completely ignored on major issues. Being involved is simply not enough, if your involvement means nothing.
This is where I become unpopular: The Parkway is not the most important issue. To start, as much as there are people against the idea, there are people for it. Just because they’re not jumping up and down on Twitter doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I know this won’t earn me a lot of respect in my social circles, but I’m completely indifferent on the subject.
On one hand, I don’t want to see a beautiful Peterborough park with a bridge right through the middle of it. On the other hand, I’m a parent of a young child looking ahead at dramatically increasing energy costs and property taxes that have increased steadily for a decade, wondering how I’m going to pay for her college. So at the end of the day, the bridge isn’t at the forefront of my concerns. You know what else? I’m not alone. What is at the forefront of my concerns along with a lot of other parents is how am I going to afford the roof over my head and where will my child work when she’s done school? Hell, for a lot of us the question is “Where am I going to work?”.
Homeowners and business owners alike in Peterborough are going to have a serious problem during the coming mayoral term. Energy costs are already preventing economic growth in cities like ours, so imagine what the impact will be when those costs increase by 40% over the next four years? Couple that with increasing property taxes and insurance costs, and we’re looking at a potentially very serious problem in the decade ahead.
Everyone wants to see a happy and healthy downtown core with successful businesses. Let’s face it, no one is against the idea of a great downtown core, but increasing violent and drug-related crime and no accountability to property owners are not going to allow us to see this idea come to fruition.
Some landlords of the three-storey commercial/residential buildings in the city are in large part notoriously awful to deal with. They leave their buildings is unacceptable states of disrepair, refuse to fix problems related to health and safety, and charge inexcusable amounts for rent. As a result, more businesses continue to either close down for good or move away from the downtown core so they can deal with better property owners. What has the city done to hold these property owners accountable? The answer is nothing.
To the mayoral candidates, I ask these three questions:
- What is your stance on the possibility of bringing the office of economic development back to city hall where it can be as accountable as any other city office?
- What is your plan to help reduce violent and drug-related crime?
- What efforts do you think the city can make to assist families with insurmountably increasing living costs?
I really want to be clear that my goal here isn’t to diminish the opinions of those who are against The Parkway development. Your opinion is just as important as mine. I respect people who don’t believe in the project — and I respect people who do. My intention is to say that The Parkway is only one of the issues of this election.
In the end, if you say that you’re looking out for future generations while looking at election issues in a singular sense, then perhaps you may be falling short on your intentions.