Marie Robbins, Candidate for Ward 9 in Hamilton Municipal Election 2014

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Candidate Details (top)

NameRobbins, Marie
ElectionHamilton Municipal Election 2014
AreaWard 09
Email marielouiserobbins@live.com
Website http://www.marierobbins.ca
BioBorn and raised in Stoney Creek a part of the Nelson/Warner family, Marie's family has had a long history in the area as some of the original Loyalist settlers to come to Canada. She graduated from Saltfleet Highschool while balancing a part-time job at the Stoney Creek Dairy. Steeped in the values of community, hard work and service above self, Marie became a teacher and after several years of teaching in the city, moved on to teach First Nations children from the Kettle-Point Reserve.

Marie returned to Stoney Creek, to become a small business owner, founding Smith-McKay Florists in historic Squires Hall in downtown Stoney Creek (original home of the Stoney Chamber of Commerce and the Stoney Creek Newspaper) while juggling a degree program with McMaster University. As a longtime Rotarian and one of the founding members of the Jamesville BIA, Marie experienced first hand what a little bit of hard work and commitment to the community can accomplish. After many years of success in the business community, and the eventual expansion of Smith-McKay Florists across 11 locations in the Greater Hamilton Area, Marie opted for a change of pace and sold Smith-McKay Florists.

After a (short) vacation, she decided to return to teaching, this time as an English as a Second Language instructor, sharing her time between the St. Joseph's Women's Immigrant Centre, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board and McMaster University. Combined with a heavy dose of community volunteering with St. Joseph's Hospital, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Hamilton Conservation Authority, Marie began to feel that she could be doing more to give back.

Today, Marie wants to serve as your representative at Hamilton City Hall. A voice for our community.

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Responses to Questions (top)

QuestionBrief ResponseFull Response
Do you support the city's plan to build an east-west light rail transit (LRT) line with full capital funding from the Province? Yes Yes I do and I have written a full article dedicated to this subject here on Raise the Hammer: http://raisethehammer.org/article/2303
The Province has shelved a proposal to build a mid-peninsula highway from Niagara Falls or Fort Erie around Hamilton to connect with Hwy 401 or 407 north of Burlington. Do you agree with the Province's decision to put its development on hold? Maybe This question that has come up earlier in the campaign, and frankly, I don’t think it is very honest for city councillors to be making commentary on provincial issues in this manner. When councillors (or candidates) speak to issues outside of their jurisdiction, they often do so in a manner that misleads the public into thinking that they are responsible for enacting change on issues for which they have no legal authority. I have heard municipal campaign promises as outrageous as that if elected to city council they will widen the QEW, decrease hospital wait times or even adjust federal income tax. Not only is this practice deeply cynical and a horrible abuse of the political process, it also takes away energy from areas where city councillors can actually have an impact.

With all of that said, I have not been party to the province’s decision-making process on the Mid-Peninsular highway proposal and don’t want to comment hypothetically about this bygone project. If in the future there is another provincial highway proposal that will have a strong impact on Hamilton, it should be judged based on its own merits and shortcomings with consideration for what, if anything, Hamilton City Council can do to effect the project’s direction in the best interests of its residents.
Do you support an expanded role for Hamilton to provide more affordable housing? If so, what should Hamilton do? Yes When we see the effect of all the people flocking to Hamilton’s downtown in recent years, it becomes clear that this is a process we want to keep alive. These new residents have been a major factor in the downtown’s revitalization as they bring new life to the city and greater Hamilton region. This migration to downtown has brought about shared prosperity and has been a major factor instigating the current Hamilton renaissance. There are many things that have contributed to the Hamilton renaissance, but perhaps what has pushed our city over the tipping point is the affordability of housing.

Housing affordability has been one of the major economic drivers in the city and is going to remain a key component of Hamilton’s future success. With some of the most reasonable housing and land prices in the GTHA, more and more people have decided that they would like to move to our city. Although at first, the demand for housing had been satisfied with the existing stock, that stock of existing housing has started to run dry, and so new developments are starting to be built. We can see what this looks like by observing the new developments being built in downtown; this is the economy trying to keep pace with the demand for new and reasonably priced housing.

At some point though, housing prices are going to start to catch up with the rest of the GTHA and then we can expect growth and new building will slow, and the economy along with it. To make sure that we avoid this situation, we need to ensure that housing remains affordable to residents through a comprehensive strategy that keeps increases in new housing harmonized with the demands of the market. In other words, when there is a demand for new housing that cannot be satisfied by new buildings due to zoning restrictions, prices start to rise, less people come to the city and builders build less. The City needs to start conducting zoning and building approvals with an eye to economics so that this situation does not occur and our renaissance is not discontinued.

That is not to suggest that zoning needs to be scrapped and that we should allow for a building free-for-all in the city, certainly not. Giving meticulous consideration to zoning and planning helps to improve the livability of cities, which is the most important factor governing where people choose to live. However, we need to move beyond idealistic zoning plans to a zoning strategy which gives equal consideration to a holistic economic strategy. Instead of developing our city against the flow of economic trends, we need to have a zoning strategy that dams up the raw potential of economic trends and harnesses them to build us a better city.
Do you support converting more of Hamilton's one-way thoroughfares into complete, two-way streets that support walking, cycling and transit? Yes Yes I do. One-way streets are an important part of our roadway management system and if we are going to get serious about traffic management we should be keeping all options on the table. However, there are a number of one-ways that are ill suited to the function of the street that could stand to be converted to two-ways. The conversion of James St. North to two-ways, and the neighborhood’s subsequent revitalization, is a clear demonstration that not all streets are successful as one ways.
Do you support the use of participatory budgeting to allow ward residents to propose and vote on local capital projects? Yes In principal, participatory budgeting is a great initiative which has had some remarkable successes, particularly in Brazil. There is something that we can learn from this and it’s clear that some of the best initiatives are grassroots and citizen-driven. In practice, participatory budgeting must be done in a way that is as accessible and legitimate to all residents as any other municipal vote.

I’ve been following some of the initiatives for participatory budgeting coming up through civil society and my biggest concern is that in its current form in Hamilton, the process effectively just gives an extra vote to the small minority who have the spare time to attend privately organized meetings. The process is also conducted with a level of transparency that is far inferior to any other type of election of referendum in Canada and with far lower levels of participation than even municipal elections, which already have a depressingly low voter turnout.

Since participatory budgeting is supposed to be about deepening citizen engagement, it needs to be conducted in a way that is at least as open and accessible to the public as a municipal election. With this in mind, I am in favour of including budget items of a critical mass as a part of the city’s electoral process as a way of making this process work. Perhaps there could be participatory budgeting items on part of the ballot during municipal elections? It will certainly require further study, and there is a lot of room for improvement, but I am supportive of finding a way to make this work.
Do you support implementing a Vision Zero for Hamilton, with a goal of eliminating all pedestrian and cyclist deaths on our streets? If so, what specific actions would you take to implement this policy, and if not, why? Maybe I believe that having a Vision Zero target is commendable. Specifically, I have written on the need to better address community speed limits as way to reduce street fatalities and I favour bike lanes as a way of improving safety and traffic flow. However, from a practical standpoint we don’t want to set standards that are going to be impossible to meet.
The City's Cycling Master Plan is up for review. Do you support improving the plan to speed the installation of cycling facilities and provide more high-quality protected infrastructure like the new Cannon Street cycle track? Yes Yes, bike lines are good insofar as that they separate cyclists from other faster forms of traffic, like cars. This segregation of transportation modes goes a long way to improve safety and the overall speed of traffic flow and should be undertaken wherever appropriate and desired by the community.

Regarding the specifics of the Cannon St. proposal, from what I’ve been hearing from Ward 3 candidates during debates, it does not seem that this proposal is very popular with nearby residents. In the future, this is going to be an important consideration for when this discussion comes up at council and planning future projects. Foremost, Council needs to be respectful of those residents most directly affected.
Do you believe Hamilton should do more to protect and enhance its built heritage? Yes Yes, this is a particularly important issue that is a particular focus of what I would like to accomplish at City Hall. I believe that an appreciation for, and investment in, Hamilton’s heritage and culture will be a critical factor for propelling Hamilton’s development forward and have dedicated several blog posts to this issue, specifically addressing some items of heritage in Ward 9 – Heritage Stoney Creek like Battlefield Park and Olde Stoney Creek, the Devil’s Punchbowl and also a city-wide reinvestment in public spaces.
Do you believe City Hall should be more accessible to Hamilton residents? If so, what steps would you take to achieve this? Yes Absolutely, this is a key area of change I want to bring to City Hall. In addition to having the most comprehensive platform of all the candidates in Ward 9, I have promised to publish my office expenses online so they are available for public scrutiny and to host office hours so citizens have regular and easy access to their representative amongst other things. Most importantly, I’m advocating for term limits for city councillors so that we are able to have more truly competitive elections for city council.

As it sits, incumbent councillors win practically every election race because of the inherent electoral advantage that comes with being a councillor. Not only does this stifle new ideas from making their way to council, it incentivises councillors to squat on their council seats instead of running in the mayoral race, which lowers the pool of available talent for Hamilton’s highest office. If elected, I will advocate for mandatory term limits at city hall and will not seek re-election beyond a second term, regardless of whether or not the rest of city council votes for term limits.
The Province plans to allow municipalities to use ranked ballots in future elections. If so, will you vote to adopt ranked ballots in Hamilton? Yes Yes, I am supportive of this proposal but I want to make sure that it is done in a fashion that is efficient, effective and broadly understandable to residents. I have also been advocating for a larger Accountability Package, because I think that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the quality of representation at City Hall. This includes my advocacy for term limits at City Hall, for publishing office expenses online for all to see, for refusing contributions from special interests, and for generally raising the bar when it comes to the conduct of council.

Actions speak louder than words, and I will be conducting myself according to the standards I’m advocating regardless of whether or not City Council decides to implement them as minimum requirements for all councillors. This includes limiting my own term of office to no more than 2 terms, to publishing my office expenses online, refusing campaign contributions from unions and companies that do work for the City of Hamilton and for exclusively speaking to issues of municipal politics.