The following letter was read by the Ward One Councillor’s Executive Assistant, Cindy Stranak, at the AGM on behalf of Aidan Johnson.
Sadly, illness prevents me from attending our AWWCA AGM tonight. But I wanted to send a few words of report.
First of all: Thank you to our hard-working AWWCA executive, and particularly our leader, Ira Rosen, for a great year of service. The AWWCA does tremendous work, and we cannot thank our executive enough.
It has been a great year for Ward 1, and for Westdale and Ainslie Wood specifically.
Last fall, a majority of Council members approved a new map of ward boundaries, which cut Ainslie Wood in two, putting Ainslie Wood North and part of Ainslie Wood South into the Dundas ward. I fought against this measure, and voted against it, but Council was determined. If implemented, this change would have wrecked a lot of hard work over many decades, by groups like the AWWCA, in building up our community.
Happily, Council’s map was stymied by the Ontario Municipal Board. Many Ainslie Wood and Westdale neighbours, including Ira and other AWWCA members, and including student leaders from MSU, sent letters to the OMB, or testified at the day of relevant OMB hearings. These neighbours made the argument for the integrity of Ward 1, and for not severing Ainslie Wood.
Happily, the OMB listened. Our passionate community testimonies on the unity and solidarity of Ward 1 were cited by the board in its written decision, as evidence for the need to leave Ward 1 untouched. As a result of this great work by our community, Ward 1 is the only ward in our municipality whose borders have been left unmodified by the OMB re-alignment.
Thank you to all of you for making this achievement possible.
We’ve executed some fabulous projects in Westdale and Ainslie Wood this past year, through the Ward 1 participatory budget process:
The new playground at Dow Parkette is about to be unveiled.
The natural playground at Canadian Martrys School is attracting children and families from all over the ward.
Planning for our new playground at the City Housing Hamilton complex on Main West is under-way. When complete, the playground will provide recreation and health to some of the most marginalized children in our community.
Plans are also under-way for completion of the Raoul Wallenberg Walk at Churchill Park. At the next council meeting, I will be moving a motion for negotiation of the relevant contract for completion of the walk with Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG).
As many of you will have seen (and heard!), the bald eagles have returned to our Westdale Cootes Paradise lands in significant numbers. It is wonderful to see the birds in action. Anyone interested in hiking into Cootes to try to catch a glimpse of the bald eagles is welcome to do so. However, please stay a respectful distance away from all nests.
In other news: LRT is on track! We are planning a multi-modal transit hub for Mac campus and the neighbourhood, at Cootes and Main, incorporating HSR, LRT, and GO. This will be the first LRT stop (or the last, depending on how one looks at the system).
From the Mac stop, the train will proceed up Main West. We are planning a second stop at Longwood and Main (close to MIP, Columbia College, and Westdale Secondary). After Macklin, the train will proceed on a ramp-bridge across the 403, across Cathedral Park, to King Street and Dunurn — the third stop. From there, the train proceeds up King to Queen — our final Ward 1 station stop — and from there into Ward 2 and beyond, all the way to Eastgate, with special connection to Hamilton Airport and the Mountain via the stop at King and James.
I am full of hope that LRT will proceed. Thank you to all of you who have provided thoughtful feedback about how to make the project a success.
Significantly, a major change will come to our neighbourhood, specifically as a result of bringing the LRT trains to the proposed train-barn site at Frid Street (where the trains will “sleep” at night). That is the re-construction of our decaying Longwood Bridge (the bridge to MIP).
In order to accommodate the trains, Longwood Bridge will be expanded, to permit good car flow, two lanes for trains, protected bike lanes, and expanded, protected sidewalk for pedestrians. As many of our young people and bicyclists use Longwood, and complain rightly about the unsafe conditions on the bridge, this change will come as a welcome relief.
Serving as chair of the LRT Implementation Sub-Committee has been one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of my term on city council. It is wonderful to see the project moving ahead.
Some of you will have heard the news I announced in July, that I am not running for re-election. Instead, I am serving as director of our two Niagara social justice legal clinics — Niagara North clinic and Justice Niagara. The clinics are set to merge in October, creating the Niagara Community Legal Clinic — one grand clinic, to serve the human rights and poverty-law needs of low-income families and individuals in Niagara region.
I am continuing to serve as councillor until the end of November.
The decision to accept the position in Niagara was difficult, as I love my work for Ward 1 very much. While I am sad to be moving on, I am confident that I will be still be serving social justice and community development in key ways, in my new role.
Many of you have reached out to me with kind words regarding my transition, and for these I thank you.
Being councillor for the community in which I grew up has been the greatest privilege of my career.
As I prepare to go, I am consoled by the knowledge that I am not going far.
Helen Keller wrote: “All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” In this sense, West Hamilton will always be with me, and I will never actually be away.
Finally, I would like to thank our two amazing Ward 1 executive assistants, Nikola Wojewoda-Patti and Cindy Stranak, and Cindy’s great predecessor, Dale Brown, for their years of hard work and service. They are as much invaluable as they are irreplaceable.
I wish you all the best for a good AGM. If you have any questions or concerns on ward or city matters, please do not hesitate to be in touch with my office.