CBC Windsor

Windsor Votes: The Politics of Downtown

Karen Brady, CBC News

"If it's good for downtown, it's good for the city."

That's a philosophy the University of Windsor is getting on board with. Its Strategic Plan lists partnering with the community to enhance economic and social prosperity as one of its top 5 priorities. And it's something many on our Citizen's Agenda panel are craving to see come to fruition - the University downtown. (link to our Panel) I spoke to University President Alan Wildeman today. He told me a plan to add the University to the downtown mix would be forthcoming within the next year. (watch the interview)

It's another example of some possible momentum for our downtown. The city has a list of projects on the go - projects that could help transform the downtown... the beautification of Ouellette Avenue and Pelissier Street, the plans for the Festival Stage, and St Clair College's new urban footprint. These initiatives have some people excited about the core's future, including the Downtown Business Improvement Association's Chris Edwards. "Bringing education downtown - it's the one thing that we can do now to change the spots on the dog down here."

One question being raised this week: Will the change to the ward boundaries negatively impact that momentum? The new ward 3 boundaries run from Howard Avenue to the CP Rail tracks at Wellington Ave., and from the river up to the rail line south of Tecumseh Road (link to Ward 3 boundaries). That means there's only one councillor representing the core, where there used to be four.

Chris Edwards thinks the boundary change is a bad idea. "I liked the fact that we had four. The problem with local politics is it tends to be pretty grass roots. So you're gonna be interested in your ward. I would have liked to have seen the downtown at least split into two."

Our Citizen's Agenda panellist, Mark Boscariol helped gather the signatures to change the ward boundaries. He views the change as energizing. "It allows more grass roots people." Boscariol says it allows candidates to run, who might not otherwise have had a shot at winning a seat, up against two incumbents - and that, he believes, encourages fresh thinking on the downtown's many challenges.

Windsor's Manager of Elections, Chuck Scarpelli says, "There may be one representative but there are 10 councillors on council, and they make decisions collectively." Scarpelli noted that before the boundary changes, Windsor was the only major municipality to have more than one councillor representing its downtown. The university professor hired last year to study the boundaries suggested that keeping neighbourhoods intact is extremely important. Scarpelli says, "It remains to be seen whether parochial politics will prevail."

Speaking of 'fresh thinking', this week, CBC asked downtown's Ward 3 candidates two questions:

1) What is the main issue downtown?

2) Where would you start, to trigger a revitalization of the area?

Here's what they gave us:

Cameron Adamson

Top Issue: Fees that hinder business development.

Solution: Suggests reducing fees so business will want to invest.

Rino Bertolin

Top Issue: Lack of Direction and Vision.

Solution: Suggests building a stronger and more open relationship with Development Commission to recruit businesses to come to downtown, and placing more emphasis on bringing the University downtown.

Tristan Fehrenbach

Top Issue: Perception that it's a bad place to live/work/visit.

Solution: Suggests city engage in a walkabout tour with residents and businesses to brainstorm about opportunities to enhance the core and work with these stakeholders to develop priorities for improvements.

Shan Hasan: Did not respond to CBC 's request.

John Liedtke

Top Issue: Lack of Strategic Development.

Solution: Suggests a vote for him would trigger a revitalization.

Don Merrifield

Top Issue: Lack of Development.

Solution: Decrease commercial tax rates and business fees as incentives to development.

Shannon Porcellini

Top Issue: Jobs.

Solution: Suggests city create a Small Business Support Centre, and a downtown marina to spur economic growth.

Fulvio Valentinis

Top Issue: Lack of diversification (Entertainment sector not enough).

Solution: Develop the armouries, bring a residential urban village to the land near the Art Gallery, and implement the Community Improvement Plan (incentives for business).

For more information on Windsor's Ward 3 candidates click here.