A lot can change in a week or two. When TriTAG set better winter sidewalk maintenance as one of its priorities for the year, seeing political movement on the issue seemed almost beyond reach. But thanks to your letters to councillors, the path has been cleared to real public debate about where our community’s priorities lie with winter mobility.
Here’s a breakdown of the story so far:
On Tuesday of last week, The Record published a column by Professor Alejandro López-Ortiz calling on our cities to plow sidewalks like they do roads. This week, Kitchener Post columnist James Bow also called on Kitchener to investigate offering this service.
After seeing the positive public response to López-Ortiz’s column, TriTAG published its councillor contact form, allowing you to raise the issue with your representatives. Many of you did.
We also searched our past municipal election surveys to remind you of what your elected representatives promised regarding winter sidewalk maintenance.
In response, Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Kitchener City Council voted to review its sidewalk clearing policy, and reconsider the possibility of plowing sidewalks as other cities like London and Mississauga do. Regular Record columnist Luisa D’Amato praised the move as part of the mayor’s broader approach to governing. Councillor Dave Schnider also invited feedback from the public:
— Dave Schnider (@DaveSchniderKW) February 24, 2015
Meanwhile in Waterloo, Councillor Brian Bourke put out an online survey to gauge public support for changes to sidewalk policy and how to pay for it. At the time of this post, more than three quarters of respondents support the city plowing sidewalks, with nearly two thirds in support of a tax increase of at least $20 a year to pay for it. Councillor Bourke also appeared on the 570 News Midday Show to discuss the pros and cons of the city taking on this responsibility. Waterloo has yet to direct staff to study sidewalk clearing, but it is encouraging to see members of council begin to open up the discussion.
We’ve only just gotten the ball rolling by getting municipalities to consider sidewalk plowing as a possibility. We need to continue to engage with our public officials and help them evaluate the options that municipal staff lay out in the coming months. Please consider taking a few minutes to write to your elected representatives and supporting sidewalk clearing as a Regional priority, so that this story ends with sidewalks that are accessible to everyone.