By Phoebe Heng, Ryerson student based at Dorset Park Hub with input from Anna Kim, ACSA Civic Engagement Project Coordinator
Election campaigns tend to focus on the candidates which can often make us forget that our politicians are elected representatives. In other words, they are chosen to speak and act on behalf of residents. So it is important to keep the needs of the community in our line of sight as we near the finish line of this marathon municipal election campaign.
On Sept. 26th, 2014, the experts of the neighbourhood of Dorset Park (Wards 37 & 40) – i.e. the residents – of this strong neighbourhood gathered at the DP Hub to celebrate their community and to voice their goals for the next four years. As experts of the community, these residents offered concrete and insightful ideas through an interactive democratic community map.
What insights did residents offer for the design of their future neighbourhood? One idea that echoed loudly was the need to integrate food security into urban planning. In concrete everyday talk, this means affordable and accessible local grocery stores. The experts also expressed that planners, politicians and public services need to work on the implementation of stricter safety measures in the neighbourhood.
This community engagement exercise was a way for residents to participate in the civic conversations of Toronto to work towards making it a liveable and great city for all and an opportunity for politicians to learn from the community experts.
The following questions related to municipal matters came out of the Dorset Park Votes 2014 event for electoral candidates:
Community and Culture: What are you doing to ensure the community has access to information about such programs in the neighbourhood?
Transportation: What are you going to do to ensure speed bumps are implemented soon? What are you doing to address traffic safety concerns?
Planning and Development: What local planning measures are in place? How are you working the Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) to ensure accessible and affordable food for all residents?
Parks and Recreation: How will you work to enhance essential public facilities/infrastructure for the community?
Safety: How are you working with neighbourhood groups like Tenants Involved Educated and Ready to Respond (TIERR), Neighbourhood Watch and Dorset Park Neighbourhood Association (DPNA) to address safety concerns?
Housing, Homelessness and Shelters: How will you work with tenants’ associations to address immediate issues? What will you do to actively address issues that are not currently being addressed?
The experts have spoken. How will our elected representatives respond over the next four years? What will Dorset Park look like in 2018 when we return to the polls? Will our elected representatives fulfill our democratic aspirations? A thought to keep in mind when you go to cast your vote on Monday October 27th!