Reprinted here is my submission to Shoreline Week for their candidate profiles:
Dear Tecumseh Resident,
With voting now under way, I’d like to thank you for the terrific reception you have given me at the door. I’m proud to have knocked on every door in Ward 1 during this election campaign and to have engaged with thousands of my neighbours.
If elected, this dialogue will remain open. I was the first Ward 1 candidate to launch an interactive webpage at AndrewDowie.ca, Facebook and Twitter to solicit your feedback, and will continue to provide you with town information so that you can be informed of what’s happening within the town.
I will champion the completion and implementation of the Tecumseh Road Mainstreet Community Improvement Plan so that we can establish a walkable and accessible core establishing our downtown as a destination and economic driver.
You can count on my career as a long-time Civil Engineer for the City of Windsor to work for you. Having managed multi-million dollar capital projects, including basement flooding relief and traffic calming programs, as well as serving in the Chief Administrative Office and Mayor’s Office, I will deliver effective and responsible oversight at Tecumseh Town Hall. My experience also ensures for you informed responses and advocacy backed by a solid knowledge and understanding of solutions no matter what the issue may be.
I grew up on Coronado Drive and now call Centennial Drive home with my wife Kristin. I have served on Tecumseh’s Committee of Adjustment since 2006 and Property Standards Committee since 2010. You may have also seen me in the community as a leader with the 35th Tecumseh Scout Group since 2006, or representing our 1700 local engineers as the Windsor-Essex Chapter Chair of Professional Engineers Ontario.
It would be a true privilege to serve you and be your advocate for the coming four years.
It was just over two years ago that the Town of Tecumseh celebrated the grand opening of Lakewood Park North. For the first time in its municipal history, Tecumseh had a lake front public space that its residents could enjoy that was not the leftover property of a pumping station. This really was a milestone for the town; despite being one of a minority of municipalities located on a body of water, our town lacked any meaningful way of accessing it. It now serves as a community gathering place. I enjoy it most for sitting down with my e-reader and reading while listening to the crashing waves. The property formerly housed the Lakewood Golf Course club house, and was purchased for $7.98 million in 2006.
The Town of Tecumseh purchased 2/3rds of the former Lakewood Golf Course (65 of 91 acres) as part of an agreement for $6.9 million. The agreement resolved the Ontario Municipal Board appeals from the former owners to develop the whole parcel as residential lots. The Town has posted the chronological information here.
The agreements remain incredibly controversial to this day. The purchases of the two parcels of Lakewood Golf Course remain the number one issue being brought to my attention at the door. The status of the remaining (undeveloped) property has been resolved through a master planning process that concluded a few years ago. You can read the final report for the Lakewood Park South master plan here. There are a lot of amenities being proposed that I find encouraging, including the innovative stormwater system (with meandering path), the naturalized wetland, the outdoor amphitheatre, and the paths. For my part, I am pleased with the Lakewood Park South master plan and look forward to identifying a funding program to support its redevelopment in the way proposed.
I also look forward to supporting the development of a Splash Pad at Lakewood Park North as identified in the Town's Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Splash pads are relatively inexpensive means of providing active recreational features to our parkland and, as I have come to learn over the last few months, would be an asset truly valued by the families of Ward 1.
Many residents have also observed the construction occurring at the foot of Little River Boulevard. The work being undertaken is to provide upgrades to existing pumping station and to sewer capacity. You can be assured that it is not a precursor to residential development on the town's retained portion of the former golf course. The residential areas will be located on the south and east sides of the property (roughly opposite to St. Thomas St.), as well as on Christy Lane.
The use of the property as a golf course permanently ended in 2011 and its physical features have been transformed. I look forward to working with you and to hearing your feedback as to what elements of the Master Plan ought to be prioritized for the property to ensure that it can best serve you going forward into the future.
Donald McArthur and Dylan Kristy of the Windsor Star hosted me as part of their Trail Talk series of interviews with municipal election candidates.
You can watch my interview here. Enjoy!
There is a terrific facebook group called "Tecumseh, Ontario" that I discovered several months ago whose members pay tribute to the heritage of the Town of Tecumseh. The town has undoubtedly changed over the years. Traffic by-passes and plazas have been built, turning lanes added and buildings have been demolished. Within the group are several photos of Tecumseh Road from years passed.
Back when it was Highway 39, Tecumseh Road was a vibrant place. Inter-city traffic came through our core. As the region grew lanes were added to let us get home quickly. What is now County Road 22 took regional traffic away from the town core and left what was remaining to be reclaimed for its initial, local purpose.
Today's Tecumseh Road has many common elements of the downtown of yesteryear, but we've lost a key component. We have lots of departing vehicle traffic but the corridor sees relatively little foot traffic. Tecumseh Road is still designed to be Highway 39 and as a pedestrian it still feels as such. Therefore, parking and walking the strip on a 4'-wide sidewalk is a less than pleasant experience when you're by foot, especially in the winter when there's a fair amount of ploughed snow drifts.
Looking at some of the quaint little towns that my wife Kristin and I enjoy visiting - Elora, Jordan, and St. Jacobs come to mind, as well as the Walkerville community - there is a lush, historic nature to them that brings us back. The pedestrian connection is a key part of the street. Your day includes a loop including each side of the street and visiting the distinctive shops of the area.
Bringing Tecumseh Road back is the community improvement that I would like to focus upon most if I am elected to Council. I have been involved with streetscaping and other urban road design projects throughout my engineering career and have seen the positive results firsthand. I look forward to seeing the results of the Tecumseh Road Mainstreet Community Improvement Plan that are so far unreleased to the residents of Tecumseh, although the findings of the 2012 workshop can be found here. And once brought to Council for adoption I look forward to supporting and prioritizing this project.
There are numerous reasons why - employment, assessment growth, aesthetics. For me it's a sense of pride in our Town and a way to recapture our history, to give our town some life and help to flesh out our back story. Given the quality of life improvements we experience when we bring in active transportation, new businesses and services to the town, this would be an investment having a solid return.
I would very much appreciate if you can contribute your comments about Tecumseh Road to me through my new survey at http://www.andrewdowie.ca/tecumsehroad . I look forward to reading about your ideas and your thoughts. What kinds of corridor would you like to see Tecumseh Road become? Let me know, and from the outset I thank you very much for your interest and for your information.
One of the most interesting revelations of the campaign has been our evolution as a town. Our families are getting older and younger at the same time. Young and old alike have expressed concern about the viability of the amenities and institutions that make our community.
We are in a period of evolution here in Tecumseh. We've lost several schools in recent memory: St. Anne's High School several years ago and this year's closure of St. Gregory's school and Victoria Public School. These were core assets of our neighbourhoods and town fixtures for many years. It pains me that we're beginning to see abandoned buildings in our town, especially for homes. We're also seeing overcrowding at Tecumseh Vista School only a short time after it was opened. The School Board's decisions suggest that the population of Ward 1 is aging while the population of Ward 3 is getting younger, which, when combined with the reality that fewer adults of my age range are having children, is leading to a smaller school population.
This school consolidation is challenging with respect to planning and traffic issues. With schools further out of reach and outside of a reasonable walking distance, the congestion caused by the new reliance on travel by car to school results in weaving cars, hidden pedestrians, and diverted attention from drivers. While schools remain in the domain of your locally elected trustee, there are consequences to the Town of Tecumseh and its long term future from these decisions and it is a fair expectation that your elected officials from the town speak to this impact. Often missing from the discussion is that educational facilities also provide residents valuable access to recreational facilities, from tracks to soccer fields to playgrounds. Speaking close to home, the 35th Tecumseh Scout Group relies on the school gyms of Tecumseh to ensure that its programming can proceed.
There is no clear age differential when it comes to demand for recreational facilities, especially year-round ones. But demand is certainly there. This is where the oft-cited "Regional Cooperation" mantra comes into play and is where the rubber truly hits the road. For Tecumseh's population and ratio of residential to commercial/industrial taxpayers, I believe that the best opportunity to reach residents' expectations is in considering new recreation opportunities as a service that could be delivered with other municipal partners. With new facilities being constructed in Lakeshore and in East Windsor, I am open to securing partnerships with adjacent municipalities to secure resident rates and to making use of our transit system to reach those facilities.
One recreational commitment that I would support is taken from the Lakewood Park Master Plan. A splash pad is envisioned for that area, and based on reactions that I have witnessed so far, there is no doubt that such a facility will be well used, well loved and well appreciated. Splash pads are a good choice for municipalities, as they offer low maintenance, minimal staffing requirements, and provide a place to visit free-of-charge for residents to quickly and easily enjoy in the summertime heat. I will admit to some bias on this issue; I could have absolutely used it myself last Sunday when I visited the residents of Lesperance Road and it felt like we were destined to break heat records outside.
Tecumseh has performed well in selecting its projects over the year. I am absolutely delighted every time that I am near Town Hall at the Skate Park, for example, and seeing the enjoyment intertwined with community care and concern for the facility. Popular, well-used, and well-respected by users, it was a terrific investment to make. There is absolutely a demand for providing these activities and attributes that families will consider when looking for their future home.
This remains an area that I stand to be informed on, however. I would very much like to hear of your thoughts with respect to the kinds of recreation facilities that you would like to support in-town.
The Town of Tecumseh will conduct the Elections using the VOTE BY INTERNET AND TELEPHONE Methods. A demonstration of the Internet and Telephone Voting Methods will be given at a PUBLIC INFORMATION CENTRE [PIC]. Electors will be given the opportunity to cast a sample Internet Ballot. The PIC will be held:
Where: Tecumseh Town Hall
When: Wednesday, September 3rd
Times: 1-3 pm and 6-8 pm
Everyone is welcome to attend.
ENSURE YOU ARE ON THE VOTERS’ LIST!
You must be on the Voters' List to receive a Voter Information Letter [VIL] containing vital information about voting using the Internet or Telephone Methods. You may contact the Clerk’s Office to confirm you are on the Voters’ List. Eligible voters may attend the Tecumseh Town Hall to have their name added to the Voters’ List, to correct their information, add their date of birth, or to receive a new VIL should they have misplaced or not received one in the mail. Photo identification will be required.
Beginning today, visit the Town of Tecumseh tent at the Corn Festival between 12pm and 5pm on Friday and Saturday to learn more about Internet and Telephone Voting and to make sure you are on the Voters' List.
According to the 2011 Census, Tecumseh has lost 2.5% of its population over the last 5 years.
I will concede that even for me, the world seemed to be a lot bigger than Tecumseh when I was 18 years old. You can drive places, sure, but absent a car, the kind of exciting urban lifestyle that seemed to be the backdrop for most characters in novels and TV shows might as well be from another planet.
Tecumseh alone cannot escape the reality of today. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high. Career path after career path may leave you waiting for a decade or more for an employment opportunity unless you move away. As a consequence of this, many younger people are deciding to postpone starting families until their economic condition improves. Many who do often seek out more urban environments, leading to the explosive growth of the GTA but the continuing lag in growth in outlying areas.
We have fewer parents and therefore fewer kids. Fewer kids means fewer schools. And fewer schools, sadly, has meant fewer occupied homes in Ward 1. I've been saddened to see a couple of homes shuttered and boarded up as I've been doorknocking.
One of the most endangered age groups is my own - the 30 to 34 crowd. The challenges that our Town is facing with respect to declining population and keeping schools open and thriving are in effect a microcosm of the kinds of opportunities that the Town of Tecumseh can provide for our younger adults.
Municipal rebound and population growth are contingent on success in economic development, in providing the tools to develop innovative and exciting career prospects and quality of life improvements. There are some exciting proposals in Oldcastle coming forward for new industries where a market demand exists with minimal supply. Two I've heard of in recent months has been the pet crematorium as well as a medicinal controlled substance facility. In an era of centralization and consolidation, I tip my hat to these entrepreneurs who are repatriating career opportunities back to Tecumseh, and it is these sorts of endeavours that ensure stability and growth in our community.
Indeed, repatriating former Tecumseh and Essex County residents who had to leave for career opportunities is our best opportunity for creating growth and keeping both our housing and commercial stock in use and thriving. We need to be cautious when we create new supply, as without the presence of jobs necessary to increase our permanent regional population, we are likely to hollow out older areas leaving properties vacant and derelict. The net cost to the town, with visual blight, opportunity for crime, and property standards issues, can be substantial. Few want to live next to vacant buildings given these outcomes and as neighbours move out, new neighbours may not move back in.
What is saddening to witness is that our region actually has many ingredients for success and a sound, profitable business decision as a headquarters or major hub. Our region's cost of living is among the lowest in North America. There are local champions who yearn to come home and raise their families here, needing only that one career opportunity. If there is a means to harness these expatriates, Tecumseh has an opportunity to really shine and bring our families back.
You can count on me to support the Provincial Planning Policy Statement in our decision-making, and that Ward 1 intensification, reuse and growth will be encouraged in tandem with efforts to increase our permanent local population. Municipal government has a role to play as a regulator and service provider. Tecumseh has performed admirably and innovatively when companies such as Bonduelle have needed help with respect to a rethink of past practices.
I would love to know of your thoughts regarding services or investments that you would like to see to keep our young families in town and the ways that you too believe Tecumseh can thrive.
I've been asked a few times as I've been doorknocking as to what my position is on sidewalks. My answer is this: I believe in a complete collector/arterial sidewalk network so that there isn't a mix of turning vehicles, parked cars and pedestrians trying to access a given destination. The last thing I want to see happen is someone get hit at a busy intersection because walkers are put on the road.
In my professional career, I work to implement active and sustainable transportation measures. I wouldn't leave a road for cars unfinished for the last block to a destination so I would not do so for a sidewalk either.
Sidewalks are a love 'em/hate 'em dichotomy. They're among the last features of a subdivision to be installed, even after you may have planted landscaping in their corridor. Many streets that don't have sidewalks have always been that way and residents like it that way. Many fear loss of yard, driveway space, privacy, or having to clear them in the winter.
However, when there are no sidewalks but there's a destination to be reached, often a path of some sort creeps up anyway. A nice, worn dirt path is created on front lawns. I recall one street that had several 90 degree bends with poor sightlines in another municipality, where the local councillor asked what the holdup was for installing sidewalks because there was a clear and demonstrated need. It turned out that the Council of the day vetoed its installation.
Sidewalks are now mandated for new subdivisions. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit championed the cause in the mid-90s and the end result is that such decisions have been made so no new gaps will be created. I have no intention of reversing this policy or revisiting it. In fact, you can expect that I will be a champion for filling in gaps in our pedestrian network so that your walk to the park doesn't have to be a game of dodgeball on the way.
Basement flooding has come up as a persistent concern for the east end of Ward 1. One aspect of my professional career that I am very proud of has been my involvement in addressing basement flooding by finding solutions and designing both local and relief systems. I have witnessed the devastation to home and personal property for hundreds of homes firsthand caused by sewage infiltration. You can trust that basement flooding will be top of mind for me.
There is a lengthy history as to the development of Tecumseh's sewer system, as well as that of St. Clair Beach and Sandwich South. Knowledge continues to develop and best practices are now in place. There are many reasons to tackle this issue as a primary municipal function - environmental stewardship, protection of public health, safety, and property - and reducing the frequency of basement flooding is of interest for me as an elected councillor.
Not all solutions require major expense. There are tools that each and every one of us can rely upon. Disconnecting downspouts is something we can begin with today. By diverting stormwater during the heaviest part of a storm, the volume of stormwater and sewage mixing together is diminished. Less stormwater in the sanitary system means that there's more capacity in the system to handle what comes in. At my home, none of my downspouts are connected. I've installed rain barrels for the spring, summer and fall months and replace my eavestrough elbows for the wintertime.
A backflow preventer can also serve as a great tool, blocking any wastewater coming from the mainline side. However it really does need to be maintained and checked every year. It can lose its effectiveness if objects become lodged in it.
There are other best practices at home. Permeable pavement allowing for the water to be absorbed rather than be carried. Rain gardens absorbing surface runoff. Directing some drainage to gardens directly. There is a neat website at http://sustainabletechnologies.ca which speaks to some of what we can do at home.
The town has a role to play, and that is in providing functioning mainline sewers, pumping stations and relief lines where required. From our part as residents, the less stormwater we can direct into the system, the less opportunity to there to run into issues. Plus, it's less expensive for us too - not treating stormwater at the plant means less chemicals as well. Because none of us can control the weather and amount of stormwater coming in, these efforts really can help.
I would like to hear from you as to any basement flooding that you've experienced over the years and what you've noticed. Reducing basement flooding as much as possible is in everybody's interest.