On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, before a room of 300 guests, in a special open meeting of council in Memorial Hall, City Hall, renowned urban planner Brent Toderian, challenged staff, councilors, the mayor, and community members to move away from the status quo in planning. He was crystal clear: traditional ways of doing things are not helping human health and climate change. I agreed and commented that this needs to be done in politics too.
Mr. Toderian made the case for a balanced, evidenced-based approach to design that is good for people and the planet. He told us where we’re failing and where we’re getting along alright. He pointed to needed policy and plans that can help us towards real sustainability. We desperately this: a change from meaningful words to measurable action. (Again, in politics as well as planning.)
To make his point, he used examples of what’s working in other places and hinted at how we could adopt these in Kingston. His talk evolved beautifully into a three-hour conversation with elected officials, bureaucrats and residents. All engaged. All asked tough questions. All received honest answers. It was profound.
As you may know, I have attended hundreds of public meetings in my seven years as the Green candidate and engaged community member in Kingston and The Islands. I can say without hesitation that was the best public meeting I have ever been to. Something shifted. Something changed. The binary between good and bad individuals and organizations, right and left on the political spectrum, developers and activists, “us” and “them,” public servants and public citizens, collapsed.
We simply were all there. Together. A group of people thinking about human nature, behaviour,and how we can create livable, lovable spaces and places.
For those few minutes, a way forward for our somewhat divided community opened, opened to creativity and care and trust in each other and something more.
With the provincial election only four months away, I hope this spirit is not lost. In all the door knocking, debates and events, I hope we will always see each other as human, deserving of dignity, respect, and high quality of life – regardless of our positions on a given issue, what job we have or who we vote for (or who voted for us).
Yes, to become more a more economically, socially, environmentally and democratically just society, let’s keep working together.