The Chamber membership asked three questions of our candidates, details below.
Williamsville District #9 Candidates
Ian Clark Annette Burfoot Vincent Cinanni
Rob Fonger Selina Chiarelli
Question 1: What do you see as the top issue or issues affecting local businesses, and how would you use your vote on the council to address these issues?
Ian Clark - I believe that the top issue affecting local businesses is the same issue most impacting Kingstonians writ large: The affordability crisis. Too many Kingstonians are living paycheque to paycheque, struggling just to pay bills, forced to spend as little as possible, which not only in and of itself means less consumer spending, it also usually means that consumers are primarily frequenting large chain stores, rather than locally owned businesses. This phenomenon in turn only further entrenches poverty.
It is often said that it is expensive to be poor. This was perhaps best explained by author Terry Pratchett in his 1993 novel Men at Arms, who uses the example of an impoverished labourer being forced to purchase inferior quality footwear that lasts six months, because although footwear that would last ten years is available, and does not cost anywhere near twenty times as much, at no singular point does the labourer have enough money to afford the nicer footwear, even though it would ultimately be the more cost-effective solution. This has come to be known in some circles as the Boots Theory. What is less often discussed is how this phenomenon not only entrenches a cycle of poverty, it also benefits large chain stores at the expense of local businesses. Locally owned and operated businesses are the ones manufacturing and selling high-quality products and services that, due to economies of scale, and the added expense of producing those high-quality products and services, cost more than the cheaper and shoddier products from large chain stores. And even though the higher-quality products are a better value in the end, they remain unobtainable to anyone living in poverty.
By supporting programs that lift people out of poverty, such as affordable and publicly-owned housing options, I believe that I could put more money in the pockets of the consumers most likely to put it back into the local economy. Study after study has shown that, when people in poverty have more money, they spend it at a faster rate than the average consumer. This makes sense, they are spending money on essentials that they previously went without. I believe in a strong social safety net that allows those living in poverty to not only have the basics, but to have enough to be able to make sound long-term spending choices, such as frequenting locally owned businesses that offer high-quality, long-lasting, effective and efficient products and services.
Annette Burfoot - The Williamsville Corridor is the chief area for local business in the District, although the very sucessful Memorial Market cannot be ignored! The Corridor is under intense development at the moment with the promise of increased commercial activity along the streetside. The Williamsville Main Street Study (2012) approved by Council with its plan for a vibrant sidewalk culture is hard to imagine at the moment. Rumour has it that one developer wants to swap out street-level commercial spaces for more residences. The challenge is to make the Corridor welcoming to local business and not a canyon of commercial student residences that tower over the sidewalk with empty storefronts and dying trees in pots out front.
Vincent Cinanni - The top issue affecting local businesses is all the red tape, there are too many obstacles, it can be a discouraging and a lengthy process.
Question 2: Do you believe Kingston needs to do more to support, attract, and retain business and jobs in the coming council term? What would you like to see achieved in this file in the coming four years?
Ian Clark - I believe that the number one thing, aside from lifting people out of poverty, that the City can do to support and attract new businesses and create jobs is to support medium densification across the city, to create the density necessary for the business infrastructure to support walkable communities. This, along with the necessary changes to zoning bylaws, could allow every neighbourhood to have more small local businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants, and specialty shops. The opportunities this could create for new local businesses are immeasurable, as are the environmental benefits.
I fully anticipate that, within the next four years, the necessary changes to zoning bylaws could be completed, and development projects could be approved, although completing them would probably be on more of a ten year scale.
Annette Burfoot - I think the City has to listen to residents in terms of how they do business and respond with appropriate measures to create space for that business to thrive. The Memorial Market is a great example of ground-up community development of a successful business venture. The City can support this by providing the group with proper winterized space at the Memorial Centre site.
Vincent Cinanni - Yes, Kingston needs to do more, make new businesses feel welcome and open doors and guide through the process to make things as easy as possible knowing everything they need to know up front. Kingston needs to work with existing businesses to see how to make things run better. I would like to see Kingston be more proactive with businesses to remove roadblocks and reduce red tape to not hinder success. I would like to see more investment made locally and I would like to see more city contracts awarded to local Kingston businesses.
Question 3: How would you define success in this role for yourself, the city at large, and the district you intend to serve?
Ian Clark - I believe that success is best measured in results. In revenue for small local businesses, in the number of Kingstonians lifted out of extreme poverty, in decreases in vacant storefronts, in increased life satisfaction for all involved. I believe that, when we all take care of each other, every one of us gets back more than we put in.
Williamsville represents a unique opportunity to put some of my ideas into practice. As an already dense community, it could be the perfect place to start exploring what walkable communities look like (while some parts of Williamsville are already walkable communities, such as the neighbourhoods near the Kingston Centre and the ones near downtown, there are still neighbourhoods in the north and south ends of the district that could benefit from something like a neighbourhood grocery store or diner). Further, the development already in progress presents the potential for negotiations to provide affordable and geared to income housing units.
Williamsville has always been a vibrant, progressive community, and I believe it can act in a leadership role.
Annette Burfoot - I am listening to Williamsville residents and have been active in a number of initiatives, most recently in helping to try and calm traffic on Brock and Johnson and to help transition the former school of St Jospeh St Mary into mixed-use housing. I am listening to local businesses in the District as well. I will feel successful if we make the Williamsville Corridor a pleasant and active streetscape, including business.
Vincent Cinanni - I would define success in this role when local business is thriving. When there is pride in running or working at a local business and that is a drive to do better, to see business grow. Where local businesses expand and hire more employees, open new locations. I want people seeking to start a business to view Kingston as a place where they feel they would be welcomed.
* Rob Fonger – withdrew nomination-name remains on the ballot
*The Chamber reached out to all candidates for response. Selina Chiarelli did not submit a response.
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