Mayor has priority list for next four years
October 30, 2018 – by Karena Walter The St. Catharines Standard
There isn’t a lot of time for St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik to bask in his overwhelming re-election win.
The current city council has more work to finish in November and new councillors will be inaugurated the first week of December, when they’ll hit the ground running.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Sendzik said during an interview this week. “We’re heading in a great direction as a city and I think we’ve got a strong council that will help continue that momentum.”
There were a few lessons learned during his first term in office.
Things don’t move as quickly in government as people think, said Sendzik, who headed up Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce before taking on the mayoral job. He said the level of governments that get involved in issues was a learning curve.
The jump in housing prices which impacted the affordability of living in the city was also a surprise.
“We always knew it would eventually come around the Golden Horseshoe, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for how quickly it came,” Sendzik said.
Affordable housing and building more housing in the community that has mixed affordability is on his list of priorities. The current council adopted a housing action plan with 43 points that it wants enacted over the next term of council.
Sendzik said the city wants to attract developers who want to be a part of building an affordable, sustainable community. “That’s really going to be a driver.”
He said he also wants to focus on how to create more living space downtown.
Intermunicipal transit is also on Sendzik’s priority list as St. Catharines takes the final steps towards an integrated regional transit system with Welland and Niagara Falls.
“We’ve got the three mayors that are really focused on making this happen,” he said. “That is going to be an important part of where we’re going.”
He said St. Catharines will also have to be aligned with other Niagara communities on infrastructure projects for the Canada Summer Games in 2021. There are opportunities to look at partnering with different institutions and communities to build legacy projects.
Other items on Sendzik’s agenda include working with developers on moving large-scale development projects forward such as the former GM site and Queenston Street hospital.
And one of the most important parts of the next term of council, he said, is building trust amongst councillors, both at the regional and local level.
“We’re all in there working together. We all believe in the common interest in the city.
“Finding our way through that with a foundation that we trust each other. We’re going to make good decisions. We may not always agree, but we’re making the best decisions in the interest of the community.”
He said high water marks over the past four years were getting a commitment for GO Train, the move closer towards inter-municipal transit, a new business at Port Weller Dry Docks and seeing other businesses move to the city.
But he’s most proud of the compassionate city project that he said was embraced by the community. It got people to think in a different way, he said, looking at issues such as affordable housing or access to jobs, through a compassionate lens.
“My belief is if you can change the culture of how people think, you can start to change the strategy of how we approach issues.”
He said the project has enabled council to make more informed decisions about issues such as safe consumption sites to deal with the opioid crisis, which they voted for unanimously.
“Our policy framework is being more influenced by compassion then it ever has been before. We can’t take our eye off it,” he said, adding the goal of the next four years is to continue to entrench that thinking in the community and push back against “ignorant” thinking.
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