City Council met virtually on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. After a closed session, in which they discussed labour relations, potential litigation over the collapse of 223 Princess St. on Christmas day 2020, and activity around Clyde Industrial Park, Council proceeded with a public meeting broadcast to YouTube starting at 7 p.m.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Update and Recommendations
Council approved recommendations from city staff to create a municipal Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, as well as establish a full-time Diversity and Inclusion Manager position at the City of Kingston in 2021. The recommended cost would be $90,000, incorporated into the 2022 operating budget.
Stemming from a July 2020 motion by Council to acknowledge systemic racism at the City of Kingston and review internal policies, the goal is to remove systemic barriers caused by discrimination against race, colour, ethnic origin, ancestry, religion or place of origin.
The report drew on examples of similar committees in six other Ontario municipalities including Burlington, London and Windsor. Locally, the committee’s mandate would include assessment of inclusivity of workplace culture and assessing the methods in which municipal services promote and model EDI.
Wessam Ayad, Workplace Inclusion Coordinator at KEYS, presented to Council on the role of the committee. She said it would scrutinize the City of Kingston as both an employer and a service provider.
“We need all voices to be heard,” Ayad explained. “We want to make sure that we are incorporating in that advisory group voices from different populations — people who represent all systemic barriers.”
This could include representatives from diverse underrepresented groups, she said, including Indigenous, Inuit and Metis communities, newcomers and refugees, racialized minorities, linguistic minorities, the LGBTQ community and women.
Council also heard from Dr. Aba Mortley. Dr. Mortley is a local business owner, has served as a board member and finance chair for Tourism Kingston, and a former associate professor at RMC.
“The intent of the City is a good one,” Dr. Mortley said. “But the key to success is to ensure that all sides are engaging and participating in the conversation. This includes the members of council, union leaders, managers and frontline staff for the City. The City has to be willing to put in the work to assess the implicit bias that we all have…Not just ticking off a box, but making sure that these practices are actually serving communities.”
“It really has to be a grassroots, bottom-up approach that takes into consideration groups whose opinions and recommendations may make for uncomfortable conversations, and may require radical shifts in the way things are currently done. It is with that discomfort that the city needs to grow,” she said.
She called on Council to support the creation of the EDI Officer who would report directly to the City CFO. “The City and the CAO have to create a culture that encourages and supports the changes that will establish a bureaucratic structure and dismantle the one that we currently have.”
Love Kingston Marketplace 2021
Looking ahead to spring 2021, Council is also preparing to reopen the Love Kingston Marketplace (LKM), an initiative to allow downtown businesses to expand their footprint outdoors by creating more sidewalk patios and pedestrian space. In 2020, the Marketplace’s hasty establishment was a point of contention for downtown business owners.
LKM 2021 is anticipated to launch in April or May of 2021, said City CAO Lanie Hurdle, and include live musical performances, programming for children and families, Indigenous programming and reintroduction of the Love Kingston Vending Stalls in Springer Market Square.
It will also, once again, convert paid downtown parking space into patios between May and October, allow for the creation of sidewalk patio space and for temporary road closures to increase pedestrian access, patio expansion, “animation and /or place-making.”
For the 2021 season, the City has proposed that Market Street be closed to traffic full time, that Sydenham be closed Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., that Ontario street be closed between Johnson and Clarence on weekends and that Princess Street be closed from Division to Ontario on four Saturdays between June and September.
“I’m going to be frank and tell you that not every business is happy with the outcome, and that would be impossible, as every business has different needs,” Hurdle said as council began their discussion.
Councillor Ryan Boehme asked CAO Hurdle to explain how downtown businesses were consulted and engaged in the new plans, and what had been done to address the varied concerns raised by members of the business community last year.
Hurdle replied that the Downtown Kingston BIA and Tourism Kingston had been assigned to work as a direct liaison between the City and the business community for 2021, and to make sure their concerns were reflected in the plans.
“Businesses pay their fees to the BIA,” Hurdle said. “We recognize that and they have a role in supporting and representing the business interests.”
Councillor Wayne Hill, who sits on the Downtown BIA, said that in 2020 he felt City of Kingston staff had been adequately responsive to the needs and concerns of business owners, but that the BIA had not consulted with them enough from the start.
Council also heard a delegation from Bruce Bursey and Roger Healey regarding the layout for the LKM, saying it should be adapted to be more bike-friendly.
“A recent travel survey reported that there are virtually just as many bicycles as there are personal cars in Kingston,” said Healey. “To design the road without accommodating cyclists is just a huge [misstep]. When you look at the radius of three kilometres from Princess Street and the marketplace, there’s probably 1,000 people who live within three kilometres. That represents a half hour walk or a 12-minute bicycle ride.”
The plans for the Marketplace were approved by Council with one amendment made requiring staff to report to the City’s Environment, Infrastructure and Transportation Policies Committee within one a year. They are to present information gathered from LMK 2021 and allow the public to engage with and evaluate it in an open forum.
Other matters discussed
Council also approved renewal of an agreement with the PulsePoint foundation, and a Single-Source Agreement with Mercer Canada for a Non-Union Compensation Review.
They received the 2020 Annual Summary Reports for the King Street Water Treatment Plant, the Point Pleasant Water Treatment Plant and the Cana Well Water Treatment and Supply System.
They approved a decision to revise the current application-based 2021 Interim Property Tax Deferral Program, and approved a new motion to provide assistance to the DKBIA in the revision of By-Laws.
The next meeting of Council takes place on Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2021.