This week in our Ottawa Election 2014 series we’re hearing from another candidate from Ward 14, Jeff Morrison.
As mentioned, I’ve decided to use the blog as a bit of a platform for urban candidates. These posts are not endorsements; any urban Ottawa candidate can participate and I’ll be asking everyone the same four questions.
Okay Jeff…You have the mic…
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and why you are running for City Council. What do you have to offer Somerset Ward?
When I was 18 years old, I started up the first ever Terry Fox Run in my hometown of Elliot Lake, Ontario. Through experiencing the community-building aspect of that one event at an early age, I learned firsthand the value of community involvement and leadership, a lesson I have lived since moving to Ottawa in 1990. Over the past several years, I’ve combined that belief in community involvement with my strong drive to achieve results-based change, gathered primarily from a career in government relations. That’s what led me to lead the successful opposition to the proposed casino in 2013. That’s what led me to become President of Centretown Community Health Centre, and oversee a $3 million+ expansion grant. That’s what led me to lead the successful campaign to redevelop Somerset House at Somerset and Bank. That’s what led me to start up a Neighbourhood Watch program. So that’s why I’m running for Council – I want to continue to bring that same results-based approach to Somerset ward, and to the city as a whole.
2. What are two of the biggest challenges facing your community and what do you plan to do about them?
The first challenge is the lack of amenities and inequality in services for a growing and diverse population. People move downtown because they want access to services and a lively neighbourhood. In addition to my ideas in Question 3 to increase vibrancy, the city also needs to partner with the province to ensure services to people on programs such as ODSP are protected, and that a “Housing First” strategy is implemented to address homelessness. The second challenge is related to the unprecedented development downtown. Although I support intensification, it needs to be smart intensification, taking into account community interests. That is why I have called for:
- An end to the appeals process to the Ontario Municipal Board – a process that removes democratic accountability from elected officials and neighbourhoods, as we saw with the recent Council decision on the 9 storey development in Little Italy;
- Using Community Design Plans as the leading guide for development decisions;
- Incorporating more innovative, green principles in development, similar to the recently announced Chaudiere Island redevelopment plan. To support this, I want to introduce a green roof policy and increase LEED certification on city buildings.
3. What can be done to improve Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods for families and get more families living downtown?
We can make Ottawa’s urban core more inviting, more vibrant, and more responsive to the needs of the people and families who choose to live downtown. A few examples of how this could be done include:
- Make better use of, and introduce more activities at our public parks, such as Dundonald, Minto, and Plouffe. To make Dundonald Park in particular more family-friendly, I have advocated relocating the Somerset Street Beer Store to another downtown location.
- We need to lobby for more services and amenities. For example, I would lobby grocery chains to locate a grocery store in Dalhousie, and lobby cinema chains to locate a theatre in downtown.
- We need to put in place the infrastructure to encourage physical activity for families. As part of my platform, I’ve promoted the idea of introducing “free outdoor gyms”, so that our parks and green spaces can be more effectively used. I’ve also been a proponent of better maintaining existing bike lanes and expanding cycling infrastructure.
- We need to provide more opportunities for people in communities to connect and enjoy their neighbourhoods. I have called for more frequent “Open Streets”, whereby major streets like Bank and Preston are closed down to pedestrian traffic. I have also called for moving major cultural, arts, and sporting events to public spaces in the downtown area.
4. In one sentence, what’s the best thing about Somerset Ward?
I believe this ward is the most cosmopolitan, diverse, caring, and engaged ward in the City of Ottawa, and it deserves a councillor who shares those same characteristics.
If you’re running in the upcoming municipal election and would like to participate, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org