Public Realm and Community Gardens
The quality of our public realm is critical if we are to be successful in creating environments in which people want to live and work. The public realm provides a setting for community life. It includes all parts of the urban atmosphere that people can experience or access - public space and buildings, and those parts of private growth that impact on public space. Cities with high quality public realm encourage greater participation in community and cultural activities and enhances personal safety. One undeniable factor of a great city is the public realm—the parks, memorials, museums, and other public spaces that are available and inviting to all. Our parks, for example, need to be inviting for people of all ages from the play equipment for children to adult fitness equipment.
In December 2013, the City of Markham adopted a new Official Plan that will guide land use and development in Markham over the next 20 years.
- Complete Streets must be designed for all ages, abilities, and modes of travel.
- Embrace the concept of “complete streets” thoroughfares that equally accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, the elderly and the mobility-impaired.
- Ensure that safe and comfortable access for pedestrians, bicycles, transit users and the mobility-impaired is not an afterthought, but an integral planning feature.
- As a standard practice transportation planners and engineers should consistently design and operate the entire street network for all road users, not only motorists. They are cost effective, sustainable and safe.
The link between Complete Streets and public health is certain. Jurisdictions across North America already include Complete Streets policies in their suite of preventative health strategies. Complete Streets also encourage livability. Human-scale design treatments such as street furniture, trees and wide pedestrian rights-of-way animate our public realm and encourage people to linger, enjoy and become and interactive members of our society.
Children’s Organic Community Gardens
During this years’ Budget process I was able to
Secured funding to establish a Children's Organic Learning Garden School and Community Program to develop and run community gardens in parks adjacent to local elementary schools.
The program would teach students involved in the gardens about agriculture production practices, sustainability, diet and nutrition; and evaluate the learning outcomes. They would learn where food comes from and what fresh foods tastes like. They will also feel the pride of growing and serving vegetables and fruits that grew through their own effort. The community garden would be tended by students, local volunteers, and numerous groups and organizations promoting multi-cultural and intergenerational relationships.
Markham has approved the establishment of 5 proposed initial sites, each with $1,000 of start-up funding for this program. This simply would be impossible to undertake without the passion and dedication of Lynne Koss, founder of the Seeds For Change initiative. www.seedsforchangegardens.org
- Currently working with Adventure Valley Day Camp to establish a major community garden project on their Leslie Street location.
The City has approved the establishment of five proposed initial sites, each with $1,000 of start-up funding for this program. This simply would be impossible to undertake without the passion and dedication of Lynne Koss, founder of the Seeds For Change initiative. www.seedsforchangegardens.org
Arts and Culture
Arts and culture have the ability to stir our emotions enrich our lives. It’s often, mistakenly, one of the first areas cut from school board curriculum when there are budget pressures. Yet, the arts are a critical component of a mature, dynamic city. We take pride in the number of Fortune 500 businesses as well as Small Medium Enterprises located here in Markham. We should be just as proud to call ourselves a centre for the arts, music and culture. We can foster a dynamic and creative home for aspiring talent as well those who have this gift to make it a professional career.
A sample of events in Markham…
- Reel World Film festival
- Markham Jazz festival
- Kindred Spirits Orchestra
- Plein Air Art competition
- Flato Markham Theatre
What have I done?
- Supported funding to preserve a genuinely Markham symphony orchestra
- Worked with the Markham Arts Council to find long term financial solutions and establish a closer relationship with the City of Markham
- Public libraries are public parks for the mind. As a member of the Markham Public Library Board I have been engaged in a strategic planning process looking at what the library of the future should look like to make them more accessible, inviting and engaging for people of all ages. And as technologies evolve, there is more room for diversity and specialization in our library offerings.
For the past 4 years I have had the privilege of working with some incredible individuals – members of the Mayor’s Seniors Hall of Fame. This is a committee which recognizes the volunteer contributions made by seniors throughout our city. Of course, we are privileged to have a tremendous Seniors Centre right here in Thornhill which can proudly boast one of the largest memberships in Markham.
The seniors of our community have made Markham what it is today and we should commit to the following:
- Markham must have a vision of enhancing liveability and being one of the best cities in Canada to live, regardless of age.
- Value and respect individualsd regardless of age.
- All generations have much to teach and learn from each other.
- People of all ages are safe in their homes and neighbourhoods.
- Safety has physical, environmental, financial and health aspects.
- The city’s transportation systems, urban design and physical infrastructure allow all people to participate in full lives. No one should be barred by mobility or resources from involvement in city life.
- Older people have ready access to programs, employment, activities and services that help them stay engaged, respected and appreciated.
- With age is a wisdom and experience which is gift to our city. We will value all the individuals who bring it to us
The greatest thing we can do as a city is give our children the support they need to succeed in the classroom, get jobs, and build successful and enjoyable lives. I have spent four years as the Councillor assigned to the Mayor’s Youth Task Force and had the pleasure of getting to know some exceptionally talented young leaders in our city.
- Youth Expo
- Markham’s Got Talent Show
- Youth Volunteer Fair
I believe that in co-operation with other levels of government we should invest in programs that will show significant return on investment for our youth and keep our most vulnerable children safe such as:
- Youth Summer Company Program
- City of Markham Business Plan competition
- Ontario Starter Company Program
Accessibility & Accountability
These words are often just thrown around because they sound good – the right thing to say. My record shows
For the past 4 years I have held monthly ‘Coffee Klatch’ drops-ins where residents from all parts of Thornhill have been able to come by and discuss any issue of concern to them.
I have organized and hosted annual Budget Town Hall meetings giving residents the opportunity to hear a presentation from Markham Finance staff, ask questions and provide input. I have also sent out an annual Budget questionnaire to residents asking for your opinions on City services and where our financial priorities should be directed.
- Organized and hosted Town Hall events on other important issues such as: Cell Phone towers; Traffic Transit & Gridlock; new park naming, and others.
- Regular electronic updates on Road Maintenance and Construction to help Thornhill residents better plan their travel routes.
- Regular electronic newsletters highlighting relevant local and city-wide issues to keep residents informed.
- Organized annual community clean-up of signs and cleaning of vandalized public property.
- Annual Appreciation Breakfast for Thornhill seniors
- Annual Summerfest Movie in the Park
- Annual Ball Hockey Tournament
Being ‘accountable’ means providing you with accurate information in a timely fashion. More importantly, it also means explaining why I take various positions and how I have voted on particular issues.
Council and Committee meetings can sometimes be long, detailed and stressful. That is part of the job. When someone leaves important Council meetings before the agenda is complete, they are doing the voter a disservice. You cannot represent the community from outside the room.