At our City Council meeting this week, Council approved a plan to make it easier for Kingstonians to vote in the municipal election in October. It’s important that all eligible voters in the community make their voice heard at the ballot box, and to that end here are some of the improvements you can expect in this year’s municipal election:
- Free transit service to and from the polls: on either Advanced Voting Day (Saturday, October 13th) or Voting Day (Monday, October 22nd), you can ride transit for free to get to the polling station, simply by showing your voter information notice. The City Clerk’s office is working to ensure that as many polling stations as possible are located on or near transit routes.
- Vote anywhere in your district: generally electoral districts in the city have 2-3 polling stations, and in previous elections you would be assigned to a particular polling station. However, in this election you can choose to go to whichever polling station in your district is most convenient for you. The City Clerk is also looking at the potential for real-time notifications on wait times, so that you can quickly find out which polling station in your district has the shortest line and head to that location.
- Extended period for internet voting: the 2014 municipal election was the first time that Kingstonians could cast their vote online, and that option has been expanded for this year’s election. You will be able to vote online starting from 10:00am on October 13th right through until 8:00pm on Voting Day, October 22nd.
- Check online to see if you’re on the voter’s list: city staff are also looking into the potential of online voter services where you will be able to check online to make sure that your name is on the voter’s list.
An election is one of the most important ways that citizens engage with their city and help craft the future of their community. With enhancements like these, I believe that Kingston can lead the way in encouraging high voter turnout and making sure that everyone in our community has their say in this year’s election.
Part of being a leading 21st century city means being able to quickly adapt to the changes that technology can bring to our community. A perfect example of this sort of change is the emergence of Airbnb and similar services and how they have greatly expanded short-term rental accommodation options in Kingston. In fact, there are now well over 500 Airbnb listings in the city, which is more than double the number that were available just one year earlier. In 2017, there were nearly 30,000 individuals that booked stays in Kingston through Airbnb and similar services.
There’s no question that the enormous growth in tourism in Kingston over the last few years has been a big driver of the expansion of Airbnb listings, with the vast majority of listings concentrated in neighbourhoods within walking distance of the downtown and most of Kingston’s premier tourist sites. With the number of visitors to Kingston increasing every year, it’s definitely important to have lots of different accommodation options available. However, while most hotels and motels are located in commercial districts of the city, Airbnb properties tend to be within residential neighbourhoods, and that means the city needs to have the right framework in place to ensure to both visitors and neighbours of Airbnb properties have positive experiences.
That’s why the city is working to develop a licensing system for short-term tourist and vacation rentals. City staff will be looking to develop guidelines on details like licensing fees, the number of rooms that can be rented within a single property, and the maximum length of stay permitted. To help make sure the city gets all of these details right, you can provide your input and ideas directly to city staff by completing this survey https://getinvolved.cityofkingston.ca/short-term-accommodations before March 26. There’s no doubt that with the right framework, we can ensure all tourists and visitors who come to Kingston will have a great experience no matter where they stay, which will help establish our city as one of the premier tourist destinations in the country!
After a long, cold, snowy winter, spring is finally in the air, and that means it’s time to gear up for another spectacular tourist season here in Kingston! Check out this great new video showcasing why our city has become one of the top tourist destinations in the province.
To see more of the proposed development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vww7NJWgHnc
When it comes to reimagining what the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial areas of the city could look like, one of the most important parcels of land to talk about is the Davis Tannery site. This large waterfront property has sat dormant for decades ever since the tannery was demolished. It is perhaps Kingston’s most known brownfield site, contaminated by many years of industrial production.
There is finally a plan on the table to clean and redevelop the site. A proposal has come forward from Patry Inc. Developments to remediate the site and build 1500 residential units on the property. I won’t discuss the details of the proposal at this point because a project of this scale involves a lot of discussion between city staff, community members and the developer to come up with the best possible plan. However, I think if we can get these details right, there is a tremendous opportunity for waterfront green space and significant residential development within walking distance of downtown.
Of course, whenever we talk about redeveloping sites like the Davis Tannery, the elephant in the room is the proposed Wellington Street extension. My view has always been that we need a road network in the Inner Harbour area that will allow for the redevelopment of sites like the Davis Tannery. However, I also understand the importance of preserving existing waterfront green space in Doug Fluhrer Park. Right now city staff are exploring alternative options to the Wellington Street extension, and my hope is that we can find a road network solution that preserves existing green space, but also facilitates a redevelopment of the Davis Tannery that will provide even more waterfront green space for residents and visitors to enjoy.
For Kingstonians interested in learning more about the redevelopment proposal for the Davis Tannery, there will be a presentation and an opportunity for public comment at Planning Committee next Thursday, March 8 at 6:30pm in Council Chambers in City Hall. There are a lot of important community discussions ahead, but there’s no question that it makes environmental and economic sense to clean up and redevelop the Davis Tannery.
Miss Council Tuesday night Kingston?
Check out the latest version of From the Mayor’s Chair, where I break down the decisions of Council in 2 minutes! Watch it HERE
Nuisance Party By-Law
Mobile Market Pilot Project
This week we received official confirmation that the federal government is committing $60 million for the Third Crossing! Together with the $60 million secured from the province and the $60 million the city approved, all of the funding is in place for this much needed bridge across the Cataraqui River. After 50 years of debate and discussion about the Third Crossing, now the work begins to build it!
So what happens next? First, the city will issue an RFP for the final design and construction of the Third Crossing. It will likely take around 6 months to select the right project management team, and it’s very important that we select the team with the best technical and financial expertise to ensure that the bridge is built on time and on budget. Once that team is in place, the final design work begins, which would then set the stage for a groundbreaking in mid-2019 and completion of the bridge in early 2022.
This is an incredibly significant moment for Kingston, as we now embark on the largest infrastructure project in our city’s history. I want to thank both MP Gerretsen and MPP Kiwala, each of whom have worked tirelessly to help secure the federal and provincial funds required for this project. I would also especially like to thank city staff for all of their work putting together the case for the Third Crossing and their work bringing the federal and provincial governments to the table.
I encourage all Kingstonians to stay engaged with this project in the months to come, especially as we work through the final design elements for the project and start to consider name options for the bridge. You can check out https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/projects-construction/third-crossing for the latest information throughout the course of the project. I am really looking forward to a new crossing that will connect people across our city and to a new bridge we can all be proud of.
The inaugural Mayor’s Innovation Challenge is just a couple weeks away, and it’s really exciting to see momentum grow as we approach the final competition. For those who haven’t heard about it yet, the Mayor’s Innovation Challenge is a pitch competition in partnership with Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College and Royal Military College, to see which team of post-secondary students in Kingston can come up with the best, most creative and cost-effective solution to one of three challenges the city is currently facing. As a city we’re looking for the best idea to enhance creative public spaces in underutilized areas of Kingston, to strengthen active transportation networks, or make the city more youth friendly, and all ideas must be possible to implement within a budget of $10 000.
Now, thanks to an unprecedented partnership with the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre, there will be TWO prizes to offer! One team of students will be awarded paid internships with the City of Kingston to implement their proposed solution this coming summer, while a second team will be awarded a paid internship through the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI), a leading entrepreneurship program geared to helping students turn ideas into successful new businesses.
This innovation challenge has attracted a lot of attention to date, and it’s been exciting to see the level of interest across all three post-secondary institutions, as many students have come out to workshops to learn how to put forward a great proposal. It’s also been great to see so much interest across the community, including a $10,000 sponsorship from Bell Canada.
Just a reminder to all interested post-secondary students in Kingston that proposals are due next Tuesday, February 20. We will then review all of the submissions and the finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to myself, a representative from Bell and senior city staff on Friday, March 2. I’m looking forward to seeing some great ideas, and harnessing the creative power of young people in our community!
This week City Council approved the final wording of the question for the upcoming referendum on ranked ballot voting. When voters head to the polls for the municipal election this October, after casting their votes for Mayor, District Councillor and School Trustee, they will be asked the following question:
Are you in favour of using Ranked Ballot Voting to elect the Mayor and District Councillors in the City of Kingston? Yes or No
If the majority of voters say yes to this question, the work will then begin to establish ranked ballot voting for the following municipal election in 2022.
Electoral reform has been a big topic of discussion across the country over the last couple of years, but now the debate will be focused here in Kingston, as we weigh the pros and cons of ranked ballot voting as an alternative to the current first past the post system. In the lead up to the referendum this fall, it will be important for all Kingstonians to first make sure that they understand how a ranked ballot system would work. Here is a short video describing the process.
So is ranked ballot voting better than what we have now? I can certainly see both the advantages and disadvantages to ranked ballots. You could argue that ranked balloting is fairer because it considers not only a voter’s 1st choice, but also how they feel about other candidates on the ballot. On the other hand, ranked balloting is more complex, and also more expensive to implement. I look forward to hearing more from those on either side of the debate and whatever the outcome, I believe that Kingston has made the right choice in letting the voters decide which voting system is best.