Windsor Votes: The Citizen's Agenda: Mark Boscariol
Mark Boscariol lives in Ward 9 and owns a business in Ward 3.
What are the biggest issues municipal candidates need to address to move our city in the right direction?
Well, for me, it's about sustainability for our city because our city isn't exactly growing.
It's growing in size but not yet in population. And what I'd like to see is, we look at things like our heritage buildings, our local independent businesses and instead of subsidizing with taxpayer money I'd like to subsidize them with actually customers and that means bringing residents down into our core and giving those businesses a new customer base.
The province mandated that we have a residential intensification plan for our city and really our city pays lip service to it.
What ideas do you have about how to address these issues?
Maybe by doing what every other city in North America does. Putting tax incentives for residential growth in the core. I mean you have an eighty foot lot in the core that has the same development charge as a lot that's gonna have some big mansion in the suburbs. That doesn't really make sense when you have a house that may have a value of eighty thousand and one house that has a value of five hundred thousand dollars, to charge them both the same development charge. Instead of having to go and ask permission for these things why don't they just grant it automatically? And that way developers know that this is there for them - you had us at hello.
We always concentrate on city centre west, but we have such an opportunity in Glengarry Marentette area. Here you have an area bounded on every side by residential amenities. You have the festival stage that 's going in there. You have a convention centre arena on one side. You have a new train station that's going to be built, the Via Rail station. You have the wonderful riverfront park. And then you have three BIA's surrounding you. With the heritage and cultural district. I mean this is such a richly surrounded area.
What do you think Windsor's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities are? What threatens Windsor?
Strengths: I could go all day. With our riverfront, with Walkerville, with some of our BIA's - with our main streets. We have rich buildings still left. Even though we have torn down many of our heritage buildings there's still plenty of them left. Our riverfront park is world class and yet we have condos that sell for eighty thousand dollars facing that riverfront. We have the low housing prices that we're not taking advantage of. All of our amenities are great and you know we always beat up on our public services but you know what, they get the job done.
Weaknesses: We don't look around to what our neighbours are doing to achieve their goals.
Opportunities: We look at our local independent businesses and that's what's going to make our community thrive. No one ever came to a city and said, "Hey you got a great Costco.". I look at our local independent businesses as part of our cultural identity. That's what make a city memorable. And that's what we need to foster.
We still have Detroit there. I think the days of the people from Royal Oak and Birmingham... they're not going to come to Windsor now. However downtown Detroit is an adjacent neighbourhood . And I'd like to see some sort of Ambassador Program. You know, we asked why do Americans not come to downtown Windsor anymore. Cuz they don't know anybody and we don't know anybody over there. I would love to see us go and meet people, shake hands. I think it starts small like that. If we do some joint events back and forth, it think that will start it and it will spread. But we don't want to roll up our sleeves and do that sort of work because it doesn't sound great. Its not a sound bite. It's not a grandiose scheme.
Threats: It's always been some of the critics and some of the expectations. I really applaud people when they go and see what other cities are doing. We need to see what's possible and tailor these different ideas to Windsor. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Our site plan controls are horrible. You know, I call them the Costco badlands out on Walker. When the prison was going to go there, I thought, what a wonderful idea. People didn't like it. I said but it's got extra safety features - the area is so unwalkable that anyone person caught walking that area could easily be identified as an escaped convict, because why else would you walk there! We can't build like that anymore. And if that's the only reason the big box stores are going out there is because we've allowing them to build that cheaply then we have to stop that. What if we don't get the development? People talk about that. Well that's crazy. Have you ever heard of a community in the world that Walmart said 'Hey you're just asking us for too much. We're not gonna have a Walmart in your city.'. No, they go no matter what. So we just have to make sure that if we're going to sell to them that we do it in a way that fits our community.
Economic diversification and bringing jobs to Windsor is something both residents and candidates are all talking about. What role should council play in helping that happen?
Not too darn much. People always say this, every community is looking for these jobs. What we need to make sure that we foster is local independent businesses by giving them a place. One of the things is, when you build these big box centres out in the county they do not rent to local businesses for the most part. If you go to the Costco badlands, name me a local independent business in those things. Because the landlords don't want that. They want the big box chains. Well how is that going to help grow and diversify the economy?
It's hard for the city to pick who's gonna win - winners and losers. I'd like to see if we get opportunities for solar panel companies, for an industrial base, I'd like to see them located in the core. Get those manufacturing jobs, if you can get them in the core, not necessarily downtown, but just in the core of the city. You'll create better jobs for the people that live there. You'll start to get your classes up... instead of the core just being hospitality and office jobs. If you can get some of that different diversity in there. So as much as I'd like to see that airport thrive I'd love to see solar panel jobs right in that core. Like right where Zalev's are in that industrial park in Walker by Druillard. Those are the areas like, can you imagine what jobs there would do for the people in Ford City and Druillard and all those different areas. Those jobs would just be gold, so valuable.
What will influence your voting decisions most in this election?
I'm looking for candidates that are three dimensional. If helping the taxpayer is simply 'I'm for or against unions', it's not enough for me. I'm looking for someone who wants to look long term and protect my interests by saying , "Hey Mark we're gonna find a way to make the core sustainable so you don't have to subsidize a heritage building, so that can find an adaptive re-use on it's own. We're going to try to bring our city in so that we have a critical mass.' I would like someone to say, 'Mark I'd like to see you ride your bike to work downtown.' which is impossible from south Windsor unless you're willing to take your life into your own hands. By getting those cars off the road, then I don't have to maintain those roads, I don't have to widen those roads. Someone's got to sit down and speak the truth and go in there and look at what we want our city to be.
And it's not just about outsourcing. Yes we need to get value for the money. Yes we need to make sure we have all our costs in line. I'm not pro or anti-union. I've sat on both sides of the table in my lifetime. I want to make sure as a taxpayer I get the best job for my money. But that we're not saving pennies over here and throwing away dollars over here.
We used to have a blog. I looked at our vision for our city and it was to connect every Windsorite to their own walkable neighbourhood filled with local independent businesses and a vibrant art scene. And that 's what I want my city councillor to do. My son needs to go to get an ice cream without endangering his life. I'm not anti car... I want to give people the choice that they don't have to use a car if they don't want to.
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