Sophie Geffros, Candidate for Ward 1 in Hamilton Municipal Election 2018
Details page for this candidate.
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Candidate Details (top)
|Election||Hamilton Municipal Election 2018|
|Bio||I was born in Ward One and have spent the last 5 years as a proud resident of Ainslie Wood. Ward One is a really special place -- just under a third of our residents are seniors, and just over a quarter are under 19.
When I wait for the bus every morning, I am surrounded by children trying to get to school, adults trying to get to work across the city, and folks of all ages trying to access important medical and social services located in the downtown core.
I believe that we all deserve a Ward One that works for us -- which means making sure we live in a walkable ward, where people of all abilities can access grocery stores and amenities. It means making sure we are somewhere where older folks can age in place. It means having safe and reliable public transit, snow clearance along bus routes, and community services where people need them.
It means making sure our streets are safe for pedestrians and cyclists. It means having affordable and accessible afterschool programming. It means addressing the predatory landlords who plague our ward and take advantage of the elderly and young people who may not know their rights as tenants.
It means thinking beyond "Town and Gown" and really looking at all of the amazing work young people in our community are doing to make their neighbourhoods better places.
It means listening to the concerns of long-time residents who are afraid that rising rental costs will push them out of their homes. It means addressing the acts of hate and exclusion that marginalized peoples in our community face. It means a Ward that isn't a collection of neighbourhoods, but is instead a community of people working together for a common goal of making sure our friends and neighbours are able to live the best lives possible.
It means building a Ward One that works. Let's come together and make something special happen.
Responses to Questions (top)
|Question||Brief Response||Full Response|
|Council has voted dozens of times since 2008 to advance Hamilton's light rail transit (LRT) project, including voting to submit the plan with a full funding request to the Province in 2013, and voting to accept full funding and implementation from the Province in 2015. Do you support completing the LRT plan? Why or why not?||Yes||Hamilton needs Light Rail Transit, with a promised one billion dollars in provincial funding this is a well researched investment in mass transit we cannot afford to pass by. We need to increase our capacity for mass transit, and as a wheelchair user I am well aware that the HSR does not meet the needs of our city for accessible mass transit. Beyond this, I believe that if implemented correctly, LRT can be used to develop equity in our city through holistic investment in communities specifically in affordable housing infrastructure along the line.|
|Hamilton has a legacy of multi-lane, one-way arterial streets dating back to the 1950s. Do you support accelerating the conversion of these streets to two-way? Why or why not?||Yes||Main St and King St must be two-way. As stated above, urban highways have no place in a modern city, and promote speeding and discourage pedestrians and active transit users from patronizing our downtown core. Two-way streets are an essential first step to revitalizing our downtown core as a place for people to gather, shop, and participate in activities.
Indeed, many one-way streets could better serve their communities by being converted into two-way streets. It promotes traffic calming and will make streets safer for all users.
|The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act mandates that cities must be completely accessible by 2025. What changes would you make to ensure Hamilton complies with this mandate?||Yes||Under the law, the overwhelming majority of City services and spaces should already be accessible -- the legal deadline for accessible customer service and public spaces for municipalities was in 2016 (https://www.ontario.ca/page/accessibility-rules-municipalities). 2021 is the deadline for accessible web content for municipalities. In the intervening time, the city must file accessibility compliance audits every year, and may face substantial fines from the provincial government if these audits are not filed or if they do not demonstrate an AODA-compliant city. However, AODA compliance and accessibility are different things. Many areas of public life in our city are not yet accessible, or are “accessible upon request” -- from a severe lack of ramps and accessible washrooms in our parks, to lacking braille interpretation on City historical markers, to a City website that is not in compliance with accessibility standards. If these issues are not addressed, not only will the City face fines from the province, but it opens itself up to private lawsuits from disabled residents. I believe that we must go beyond the standards laid out in the Act. The Act only requires that new or substantively re-developed public spaces be fully accessible -- but our current public spaces, parks, and recreation facilities are in dire need of accessibility upgrades. It is not a coincidence that the ForWard One Participatory Budgeting Initiative frequently includes basic accessibility upgrades for City parks. All City facilities must be fully accessible. This is not optional. I will move that all City facilities be updated in compliance with AODA and that the Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities prepare a series of recommendations to be followed to ensure that Hamilton is not just AODA compliant, but is truly accessible.|
|Since the 1950s, most new residential and commercial development in Hamilton has been single-use suburban sprawl. Do you believe Hamilton needs to concentrate new development within the already-built area? Why or why not?||Yes||Yes, I do. Increasing density is the only way to ensure that we are both able to house more people and also that those same individuals have access to the services and resources necessary to live. Hamilton is in an affordable housing crisis, and as a resident of Ainslie Wood -- an area that in the 50s and 60s was home to suburban sprawl extending to the geographic boundaries of Dundas and Cootes Paradise -- I believe strongly that mixed-density neighbourhoods can be a positive thing. I am strongly committed to increasing the affordable and geared-to-income housing in our city, and given that resources that low-income and working class Hamiltonians rely on tend to be concentrated in the lower city and downtown core, we must increase the density of housing along transit lines.|
|Bonus question: If LRT goes ahead, what will you do to ensure Hamilton receives the maximum benefit?||Yes||LRT is a massive infrastructure project, and with any massive infrastructure project there is the potential for huge investments in our city. Developers are already buying up land around the proposed LRT line -- I will ensure that at least 30% of the new units are affordable or geared to income (this figure is higher than the range given for general housing developments, as it is vital that transit is easily accessible by low-income people and people living with disabilities). I am also excited to work with neighbourhoods, the Chamber of Commerce, and small businesses to ensure that any disruptions to small-businesses are minimal and that individuals are encouraged to patronize the stores along the transit line.|
|Do you support improved public transit in Hamilton? If so, what changes do you propose? If not, why not?||Yes||Yes. As a daily transit user, I am very familiar with the flaws in our transit system ranging from unreliability to poor service, particularly outside the lower city. Council has consistently starved the HSR to the point that it is unable to perform many of its vital services, which has led to declining ridership, which council has then used to justify their lack of investment. This past year we lost thousands of hours of service and in just October, the HSR cancelled 589 buses on 28 routes. When people feel as if they cannot depend on transit they avoid using it. We know that properly investing in our transit system will increase ridership, improve working conditions for operators, and decrease missed service and delays. In addition to the investment laid out in the 10-year transit plan, I will also advocate for an increase in the operating budget of HSR and ongoing capital investment. Further, while it is true that sometimes routes must be delayed or cancelled, school extras must run as scheduled so children get to school on time. Children cannot be casualties of the transit crisis in our city. Additionally, for many residents in Ward One, especially those of us in Ainslie Wood, the 51 University Route provides necessary access to the downtown core and the associated social, medical, and legal resources. Cancelling the 51 between May and September puts undue strain and overcrowds the 5A / 5C routes. The 51 University Route must run year-round. Finally, the City of Hamilton must consult with residents about bus stop location and safety, with an eye to increasing the number of bus shelters available.|
|Global warming is an existential challenge facing humanity. Do you think Hamilton should play a role in addressing climate change? If so, what should the city be doing? If not, why not?||Yes||Hamilton must commit to environmental justice in all aspects of our decision making. That includes making sure that Hamiltonians are able to safely use active transportation such as cycling, and fully implementing LRT. It also means ensuring that all new development is in accordance with a gold or platinum LEED certification. Hamilton should also participate in the LEED for cities pilot project to ensure that our city in general is in accordance with the highest LEED standards.
With rising temperatures, heat waves are quickly becoming a public health crisis specifically for some older adults and people taking certain medications. As we proceed with the creation of our Urban Forest Strategy we must not wait to take action. From pedestrian safety to urban cooling to stormwater drainage to beauty, street trees provide immense benefits to our city and our communities. While many areas of Ward One are filled with street trees this is not equal everywhere in our Ward. For example, in Strathcona, especially along Main and King streets there is an absence of trees for large stretches. Street trees benefit us from a public health, an economic, a social, and an environmental perspective and it’s time we got serious about planting and conservation. Looking ahead we need to raise awareness and usage of Hamilton’s Street Tree Planting Program modelling best practices from OPIRG’s Hamilton Street Tree Project. Additionally we must address the gaps along major arteries like Main street and KIng Street and ensure legislation prevents developers from removing more street trees needlessly.
|Should Hamilton be trying to attract more young people to live, work and start businesses here, including the 60,000 students studying at Mohawk College, McMaster University and Redeemer University? If so, what should we be doing? If not, why not?||Yes||Absolutely. We must move beyond “Town and Gown”, and I am deeply disappointed by the truly absymal “efforts” the City has made to engage with student communities during this election period. In Ward 1, students make up the largest single demographic group -- but no other campaign meaningfully mentions McMaster students in their publicly available platforms.
Our City must increase our efforts to reach out to student residents and young people in general, and we must engage them in decisions that affect all of us.
For too long, students have been ignored or dismissed as politically engaged citizens on the basis that they don’t vote and won’t remain in our city. This must change: pitting students and non student residents against each other hasn’t been working and we must work together to solve the problems within our community. Working with the McMaster Students’ Union (MSU), I believe we can re-imagine the Student Community Support Network to create a program that truly works for everyone. With joint funding from McMaster, the MSU and the city we can develop a proactive bylaw education and enforcement system that prioritizes education and peer to peer outreach to solve problems before they are in violation of a bylaw. Under this model fewer property standard violations will occur and problems can be reported before they reach the criteria laid out in the bylaws. Additionally, we can better educate and inform students of their rights and responsibilities as tenants and hold absentee landlords accountable. This program can also explore non financial restorative justice based solutions that are proven to reduce recidivism and build up communities.
Young people are also much more likely to use public transit and active transportation to navigate our city. Improving the reliability and service of our public transit -- including implementing LRT -- and ensuring that truly protected bike lanes exist to help cyclists navigate the city safely will help retain young people in our city. Further, young people are much more likely to be renters than the general population, and improving the quality and quantity of our rental housing stock will go a long way towards ensuring that students continue to live, work, and play in Hamilton.
|Do you support phasing out area rating for transit? Why or why not?||Yes||As stated above, we are in dire need of significant capital investment in order to improve our public transit, particularly outside of the lower city and along North-South lines. In order to increase the funding available for HSR, we must end area rating. It is an inequitable holdover from amalgamation, and unfairly raises the tax burden of the lower city while starving the transit service in the upper city. I also reject the idea that ending area rating should be revenue-neutral: instead, over a process of several years, the tax burden of the upper city and suburban areas should be brought in line with what is currently paid in the lower city.|
|Do you support the "Vision Zero" goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Hamilton? If so, what specific actions would you take to implement this policy? If not, why not?||Yes||Vision Zero saves lives. It is the obligation of Hamilton City Council to commit to and finance achieving this vision. In addition to the ongoing consultation and feedback the following changes must be implemented to ensure safety:
1. Any pedestrian crossing by a bus stop, school, park or community hub must be a four-way stop.
2. The City of Hamilton should encourage cycling as a method of transportation. All high-traffic routes must have designated bike lanes.
3. In 2016, 279 pedestrian collisions took place in Hamilton, resulting in 257 injuries and 4 fatalities. Council must fund a pedestrian audit of the city, with particular emphasis on the needs of those with mobility concerns.
4. We must consult with road users, residents, and drivers in order to develop a new policy regarding transport trucks on our streets. Trucking routes, whenever possible, must be re-routed away from residential streets and school zones
5. An "urban highway" has no place in the core of a modern city. Steps must be taken to limit the amount and speed of traffic using Main St. and King St. W., and consideration should be given to making these streets two-way.
|Hamilton has been experiencing a slow-motion crisis in housing affordability. Do you support an expanded role for the City to provide more affordable housing? If so, what should Hamilton do? If not, why not?||Yes||Absolutely. I believe that safe, secure, and affordable housing is a fundamental human right, and the City must step in where the market has failed. While proposals like laneway homes are creative and aesthetically pleasing, they will not be sufficient to address this crisis. The City must use its power to mandate the building of affordable housing in private developments. If elected, I will ensure that all new developments have between 15 and 25% affordable or geared-to-income units. I look to examples like Paris, France, and Leeds in the UK. Leeds in particular shares many characteristics with Hamilton, and has seen enormous success in mandating affordable housing in new developments, with the majority of units being rented at between 60 and 80% of market-rate housing. Further, any developments along transit lines or the new LRT line must have a proportion earmarked for seniors and people with disabilities.
We must also address the crisis in CityHousing. Only ⅕ of CityHousing in Ward One is barrier-free, and this must change. Further, much of it is in terrible conditions, with bedbug and cockroach infestations, water damage, and black mould. Council cannot expect CityHousing tenants to live in conditions that they would never accept in their own homes. We must build new CityHousing and overhaul the existing buildings so that they are safe and accessible.