Kelly: A look back at a year of work

It has been just over a year since I was given the honour of representing the people of West Carleton-March.

A column header for the councillor's column.

In that time, I have been so lucky to work and meet with residents in the community to get to know what people love about living in West Carleton-March and what they would like to see from the City of Ottawa. I look forward to bringing those needs forward over the next three years and working to find solutions. 

Rural Summit

When I first began my time as your representative, my focus was to ensure West Carleton-March residents have a strong voice at the Council table. To that end, I introduced a motion to bring back the Rural Summit, which was supposed to happen every term of council. In 2005 and 2008, the city undertook a discussion with rural residents called the Rural Summit to hear from residents on the edges of city limits about how they felt amalgamation was working. Many recommendations and initiatives came forward because of these meetings, including reinstating the Rural Issues Advisory committee and establishing a Rural Affairs Office to deal with the ongoing issues that come from living in the best part of Ottawa. In response to my motion at Council, city staff are currently working on recommendations for the holding of another Rural Summit to further connect residents to city staff. Many things have changed since 2008, and some issues from the previous summit persist. It is vital to provide a venue for residents to have their say, and for that reason, I was insistent on the relaunch of the Rural Summit. Stay tuned for more details about when this will occur.

Spring Flooding

This past spring, the community where I live was hit hard by flooding. This is something residents have encountered far too often, and I am thoroughly impressed and encouraged the people of the community came out to help each other in their time of need. I was proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with residents, filling and hauling sandbags around the village. I was happy to see a robust and communicative plan from city staff with regard to initiating response with sandbag filling stations and sand piles. We were informed of sand being dumped in improper locations. We brought this to the attention of city staff, who responded quickly and effectively. City resources were deployed much faster than previous flood years, and the responsiveness of city staff was appreciated by many who managed to protect their property from damage. After the flooding, we held a meeting at our ward office to discuss the city’s response and what could be done in the future. We also held an information evening about the provincial DRAO program to help residents understand the application for provincial assistance in repairing after the flood occurred. I was so proud to see residents in my neighbourhood come out to help each other. While I hope it is not required in the future, I was happy to see all of us working together.

School Transportation

At the beginning of the fall, many residents of West Carleton-March were struck by an issue with bus transportation to school for their children. In an area with no public transportation, few sidewalks and paved shoulders, few cycling paths, and long distances separating schools and homes, Ward 5 has specific transportation needs, particularly for parents with students who cannot drive themselves. I reached out to the school boards and the authority responsible for transportation. The answers we received were not satisfactory, and the plans moving forward offered little to no solution for our ward. I argued for a commonsense agreement that safety should be our main concern. The safety of students should be of paramount interest to these groups. I advocated for an understanding of the particular circumstances that some parents find themselves in when they have one child at a school 10 km west of their house and another going to a high school 20 km in the opposite direction. Another issue we brought forward was the costs incurred by parents in our ward. These parents travelled long distances, missing hours of work, and added many hours and kilometres of wear and tear to their vehicles. These parents pay taxes, which contribute to school boards and the transportation of students. I needed the people within the transportation authority to understand how paying twice for this service was an unacceptable burden for parents in our ward, and I made those truths known. I have seen a great response from this group as they have been focusing on delivering in the rural area, something that I wanted to see, and hope will continue.

Waste Management

We have brought back the Waste Management Public Liaison committee as a means of engaging the public in the expansion of the Waste Management site at 2375 Carp Rd. We are currently working on improving an online portal with further information about the project and what residents can expect from the site in the future. This is part of my commitment to engaging residents in Ward 5 and hearing what they want to see from the city in our ward. I was a major sponsor of the Carp Fair and helped sponsor Fitzroy Concerts in the Park with Waste Management to support some long-standing traditions in the community. I enjoyed getting to interact with residents at these events and seeing the ward let its hair down to enjoy some agricultural pursuits and music in our beautiful fairgrounds and parks. The Concerts in the Park are an annual tradition in the area, and the Carp Fair is such an important event for farmers all across the rural areas of our city. I was so happy to be a part of bringing those to our community this year.

Connecting with Community

My interactions with the area’s residents are always the best part of my job. I have long spoken about the need to represent the voices of the people of the community at the council table and have been going door-to-door to ensure I have as many of these interactions as possible and hear from as many of these residents as possible. I created an agricultural advisory council with farmers from the area to help my office understand the needs of these essential residents of our ward. Food security and the viability and protection of agricultural land are massive undertakings, and hearing the voices of local farmers helps me continue to represent this community the way I promised to. 

I cannot find the words to relate how much of a pleasure it has been to represent the community I love. I look forward to working with the residents of West Carleton-March for the next three years and beyond.

To read all Coun. Clarke Kelly’s columns, click here.

The preceding column was written by City of Ottawa Ward 5 Coun. Clarke Kelly, part of the councillor’s ongoing, bi-weekly column for West Carleton Online, made available to the entire community through an agreement with the publisher.

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