I caught the last half of last night’s Ward 9 debate on Rogers TV. I found myself more often disappointed by the candidates answers than pleased thus making this recommendation even more difficult. I think that Graham Yeates performed best in terms of clearly and effectively making his case. He may have picked up some votes. David Kuhn came across as a stronger candidate than I originally thought. Neither though has a realistic chance of winning.
I was particularly disappointed that not a single candidate came anywhere close to supporting light rail transit. Considering this ward comprises half of downtown Kitchener and would see the route run through it, I had anticipated at least one candidate would be warmer to the idea. The lack of support is disconcerting as the city councillor elected will be dealing with issues that are directly related to the outcome of the rapid transit debate no matter what the outcome is–and inside their ward. I am concerned that none of these candidates view the LRT as a necessity in transforming our city and our core so it is difficult to for me to see how they would satisfactorily handle the issues related to intensification of the core. They seemed to be concerned about the size of the local contribution while ignoring the fact that our options for how to meet the local portion have not been investigated yet and that no recommendations have been made. I would prefer to see them support the LRT and be actively part of finding the best way to make it happen. Unfortunately, voters do not have that choice in front of them.
The race in Ward 9 comes down to Frank Etherington and Debbie Chapman. They clearly have the greatest amount of support and who undecided voters are best to consider. Both Etherington and Chapman have what it takes to be very strong city councillors. Ward 9 can not go wrong by selecting either.
In an exchange with a Ward 9 resident, I was told he was leaning towards Etherington because he thought he could stir things up at City Hall. It’s just one voter but I think there’s a lot of truth in that observation. I would suggest that how you vote in this ward depends as much on the approach and style of the prospective candidates as on their platforms.
Etherington’s high public profile as a reporter and columnist means that he is a well known quantity. I have found over the years that I have disagreed with him more often than I have agreed with him. As a result, I am reluctant to support him despite the fact that I believe that he would be a passionate and tireless advocate for a better Kitchener. In part, my reluctance is because I am concerned about his ability to work with the rest of council and achieve the consensus needed to make an impact.
If I lived in Ward 9, I would vote for Debbie Chapman.
Chapman has a good track record. She has contributed towards a better Kitchener which indicates that she too would work passionately and tirelessly towards a better Kitchener. I disagree with her on some of her positions but it’s clear to me that she’s carefully considering the issues and trying to make the best decisions. Given more and better information to consider, I think her approach will help her to make the best decisions. I don’t believe she could have contributed in the way she has without having an effective approach that tried to achieve as much consensus on moving forward as possible. Her soft spoken style may not garner headlines but I think it can make a difference that benefits our city.
I also like that her broad definition of downtown Kitchener goes all the way to the expressway. Living less than a football field away from Ward 9, this understanding that downtown is not just the traditional commercial core is very important to me, my family and my neighbourhood.
Another bright spot was that she understands that a core problem in determining the future of the Tannery was that the city did have its own Heritage Impact Assessment done and instead relied upon one commissioned by the developer. I would hope that Chapman will see that mistake is not repeated.
And finally, I would like to see women in half the seats at City Council. I would never support a candidate based solely upon their gender but I think being a strong female candidate helps to give Chapman the edge in Ward 9.