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Talk to me: community engagement during COVID-19

There are are so many important issues right now: pandemic response and recovery, changes to policing, the opiod crisis, risky provincial changes to housing and eviction policies, local service disruptions, growth and development continuing unabated by the pandemic, and more.

I know that if I could open my constituency office right now, many of you would be coming to talk to me. If I was allowed to open a gymnasium to hold a town hall on any of the topics above, you would be coming to listen and participate.

We know we can’t do those things for some time yet. Councillors have been asked to keep our constituency offices at North York Civic Centre closed, and while indoor gatherings of up to 50 people (100 outdoors) are now permitted, we've been asked to hold off until further notice. But there is so much to discuss with you that my Ward 17 Team and I decided to do a little problem-solving to get us all together — safely.

Virtual meetings

Throughout the pandemic, we have been holding virtual meetings to talk to residents across Don Valley North about anything impacting their local neighbourhoods. Earlier in the pandemic, we held one for the whole ward with MP Han Dong and the CEO of North York General Hospital, Dr. Joshua Tepper, to inform you about health and safety and federal benefits programs to get your household through the lockdown.

Every time we held one of these meetings, you rose to the technological challenge and we had great discussions. Moreover, my team and I came away with valuable information about what you want and need from our office right now.

Switching to virtual Council meetings has been an adjustment.

In our discussions about how to serve you as we move towards the Fall and come in from the sun, we have decided to take topics you've said are important and turn them into weekly virtual community meetings.

The meetings will take place on Thursday evenings throughout September and October at 7:00 PM. I will use this e-blast to remind you of that week's topic so you can plan to participate. Here's the schedule:

September 10: Senior living

September 17: Housing and tenants' rights

September 24: Planning and development

October 8: Pandemic recovery

October 15: Transportation

October 22: Public health

Instructions on how to participate in these meetings will be in my next e-blast after my team finalizes the details. Stay tuned.

I'm sick of Zoom!

I feel you. My team and I miss our in-person meetings the most. Recently, we met with the Bayview Village Association and their members on an urgent issue specific to one street. We met on the street and managed to keep a safe distance. Special thanks to the Association executive who arrived early to draw chalk circles on the pavement to guide us. That meeting got us thinking.

We met with residents of Blue Ridge Rd a few weeks ago to discuss community safety.

While the warm weather is still here, we want to make ourselves available to you in-person by meeting outdoors in small groups. So, we are holding pop-ups in local parks across Don Valley North. We will be doing these a couple of times a week so you can drop by for a chat and let us know what we need to work on in your corner of the ward. It's easy to find us — just look for the bright pink tent!

You'll spot the tent tomorrow night (Friday, August 21st) in Ruddington Park from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.

And on Sunday, August 23rd, we will be in Lescon Park from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. Call my office any time to find out where we will be next — you can also follow my updates on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

We had our first park pop-up yesterday in Parkway Forest Park!

Let’s keep talking as we continue navigating through the strangest year ever. To borrow a slogan from the Democratic Convention: if we stick together, we will be able to “Build Back Better.”


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