My name is Kasey (Taylor) Etreni, and I am a candidate in the Councillor at Large race.
1. Businesses are frequently the targets of crime and on the front line dealing with societal problems in the area; what steps do you think should be taken to ensure businesses are protected and our community is safer to explore, shop, work, and play in.
I feel that a safe and peaceful community starts with the people. In order to ensure that businesses are protected, and the community is safe to explore, it is important to ensure that the area is perceived as safe. Increased police foot and bike patrol while businesses are open will help visitors to the area feel safer and more protected. Regular clean-up of the area makes the area more welcoming. In particular, the installation of garbage receptacles on street corners may help with some of the litter, and predetermined areas for safe needle disposal will keep the area clean and welcoming. If feasible, I would like to see some additional funding provided to businesses in the area to support upgrades to their security systems (including a buzzer system to enter if necessary) and to support regular clean-up of the area.
Having safe places for people who are vulnerable to visit will reduce the amount of time spent in business locations that are not meant to deal with the societal problem. Customers need to feel safe visiting the businesses for the area to flourish.
2. What is your impression of the Fort William Business community? What is one thing that is done well and what is one thing that needs to improve?
I think the Fort William Business Community is a cohesive group with a common goal of growing the area, encouraging future business development, and increasing safety for employees and customers. The group seems very determined in their wish to develop the area as the second downtown core in our city. Many businesses in the area have been in business for a very long time and seem quite committed to remaining in the area. This is very positive!
In terms of what has been done well, I think the businesses in the area are a community all on their own and greatly support each other. Active business owners try to maintain, beautify, and enhance their businesses. The BIA is a strong voice that aims to advocate on behalf of the business community in the area and works with the community and municipal partners to address safety and the perception of safety in the area. The businesses in the Fort William BIA appear to have a great rapport and partnership with the City Police.
The new Vacant Building Bylaw might present an opportunity for the BIA to work with the City to revitalize the area by dealing with those businesses that are no longer taking care of their property which leaves other businesses at risk for loitering, drug use, and rodents. These vacant buildings will be dealt with and will improve the area’s appearance.
In terms of areas for improvement, the one thing I worry about is trying to do too much, too quickly. The process will be a slow one. The ideas presented at the 2021 AGM were good. I appreciate that there was a change in leadership in the BIA over the past year. Fresh ideas always help to clear the path for growth. Due to Covid, many proposed events were either not well attended, canceled, or required more marketing. I suggest that it is now time to re-examine those minutes and move forward with some of the ideas. Now is the time to act! About events, because of the perceived safety concerns in the area, the events must be well timed, so they don’t compete with other big events happening in the City. It is also important to ensure that there is sufficient marketing to announce the event, what the event will entail, and the safety protocols to be implemented. The BIA will want to ensure that the event marketing is clear that the event is welcoming to all citizens and will be safe for all to attend.
3. With the revitalization of the downtown Fort William project underway there is no planned community center for the area after the project is completed. Victoriaville provided an important and safe gathering place. What vision do you have to recreate a similar environment for community connectivity?
I think the revitalization of the downtown Fort William project will give the city a great opportunity to examine what can be provided in terms of a safe gathering place. Given the proximity to the Shelter House, this area is naturally a gathering place for many of the vulnerable and inadequately housed members of the population. Rather than discourage it, I would support the development of safe and inclusive meeting places. The Brodie Street library is convenient to the area, and if it is feasible to do so, this could be a great safe place for gathering. I would also like to explore the options of increasing availability at Shelter House (through additional funding provided by the city). There are many churches nearby, and perhaps one of those could function as a safe gathering place.
In order to increase overall safety for the community (real and perceived), the city needs to work with the BIA to come up with ideas to keep the vulnerable safe, warm in the winter, cool in the summer and provided with shelter for all inclement weather. I would be open to meeting with the BIA to come up with ideas to provide gathering areas.
Kasey Taylor Etreni – At Large