Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Accessibility for everyone continues to be a priority for incumbent and council candidate Bonnie Henderson.
She sits on the municipal accessibility advisory committee and says she's proud of the work its members have done removing barriers in the community. She cites specifically the new community ramps project that the committee supported earlier this year. Brightly coloured and easy-to-use ramps were provided to select downtown businesses with non-accessible entrances, and Henderson says she's been happy to see so many using them over these last few months.
"I enjoy trying to make our city accessible," she adds.
If given a vote of confidence in the upcoming municipal election, Henderson says she is also very keen to see progress stemming from the city's housing and homelessness plan as well as new and existing roads becoming more pedestrian friendly.
She notes the city has budgeted to install a sidewalk along the east side of Erie Street from West Gore to Lorne Avenue, but she is pushing to have the sidewalk extended further south, all the way to the Harvey's to accommodate people who are trying to access the restaurants and other businesses along that stretch of road on foot.
"The idea is to make sure we have sidewalks on both sides of busy streets. There are lots of people in our city who walk and push strollers and are in wheelchairs who need to get around safely."
Henderson says her reason for seeking a council seat is the same as it was back in 2006 when she won her first of two terms on council: she feels like she can help people who might not understand exactly how municipal decision making works but who have concerns they would like to see addressed.
"I feel like I'm still helping people. People are still calling me and I'm able to help," she adds, noting she also regularly receives inquiries from citizens about a municipal issues by email or Facebook.
Henderson says she's been encouraged lately to see so many citizens engaged with the goings-on at city hall, whether through online discussions or by attending council and subcommittee meetings and making presentations.
That's perhaps no more true than when it comes to the future of the Cooper site, a contentious issue that Henderson feels she is qualified to assist with given the years of negotiating experience she gained as a union rep at Cooper Standard in Stratford. Henderson was employed with the automotive manufacturer for over 34 years as a quality inspector and layout technician before retiring in 2013. She was the treasurer and later sergeant at arms for her plant's union, and today still maintains membership in what is now Unifor Local 4451 Retirees.
Similar to a dispute between employees and management, Henderson says the question of how to move forward with the Cooper site and the former railway shops is proving to be a polarizing one in the community.
"We've got strong opinions on both sides," she notes, adding while that might make the job of a councillor more difficult, it's nothing she doesn't feel they can work through.
"You're not always going to please everybody. What you try to do is (what's) best for the most citizens."
The same goes for Market Square, a project Henderson is eager to see move forward - but in due time. It's important, she stressed, that council take the time to listen to all sides of the debate when it comes to bigger projects so that when ready council can make an informed decision.
She notes, for instance, she recently participated in an online discussion about the square on Facebook, and afterwards found there was a number of aspects to the project she hadn't yet considered, such as how too many trees might block the heritage buildings or how merchants would receive deliveries in a pedestrian-first space.
But she says she supports the project in general.
"I like the idea of a pleasant place to walk and relax. (But) we need to cover all of our bases," she adds.