They said I would be among friends. That’s partly why I went.
Just a few weeks into my post as Chief I met with a series of residents associations during their AGM’s , who were keen to hear my vision for the city. I talked about the magnitude of the challenges we face, the volume of work we do, and the need for the planning division to re-emerge as a leading voice on planning matters. I was questioned about staff shortages, the role of the OMB, navigating the politics of City Hall, managing growth, and protecting employment uses.
All the kind of conversations you would expect, really.
But at the end of the evening with the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA), community activist Sue Dexter approached me during the Q + A and reminded me of our experience collaborating when I was a consultant working on the Bloor Visioning Study. She reminded me, in front of a full house, that during that project the community taught me a thing or two about their neighbourhood, the challenges they face, and their concerns about the future.
She thanked me for listening, back then, years ago, during that study. She also reminded me that I taught them a thing or two – about the importance of the public realm, of walking environments as essential to quality of life, and of the need to shift the conversation away from height to quality of place. She also thanked me for something that, in the intervening years, I had forgotten. She thanked me for changing my mind as a result of the conversations we had.
Respectful discourse. This is the way to build a city. Sometimes we learn, sometimes we teach. Some of our residents associations are among the most innovative and progressive in the world. This is a big, overwhelming city. We need all hands on deck, and I am thrilled to be collaborating with so many engaged, keen, passionate people who are seeking to make their city a better place.
I am among friends. That’s why I’m here.