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.
This coming spring the city will begin work on an exciting new pilot project that will introduce a number of ‘digital smart kiosks’ around Kingston. These kiosks will have large touch screens that can provide a broad range of wayfinding, educational and tourism information. The kiosks themselves will also be able to offer free Wi-Fi within a certain range, emergency calling features, and even charging stations for your phone!
The kiosk project itself is just one part of a new partnership between the City and Bell Canada to come up with new ways for cities to use new technology in ways that can provide better services to residents and visitors. There are many ways that new smart technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be used to make cities run more efficiently, and this new partnership with Bell is about making Kingston into a laboratory to develop and test run these new ideas.
In my view this partnership is exactly the sort of initiative that will put Kingston on the leading edge of innovation in the 21st century. Imagine the potential as our city becomes a hub for developing new city level technologies that will allow us to manage energy use more efficiently, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide more information to residents and visitors in more convenient ways. The fact that Bell has chosen to partner with Kingston is itself a great signal that our city is becoming known as a leader in technology and innovation, and I look forward to welcoming other technology companies to Kingston as we set the standard for what a smart city can be!