Performance Review

performance review

As my term with Council has now passed the half-way point, I would like to reach out to Londoners to gain their feedback with respect to my performance as the Councillor of Ward 10. I look forward to the open and honest feedback from Londoners, and know that it will assist me in continuing to improve how I serve my community.
I have created an evaluation form that anyone is able to complete anonymously. The evaluation can be found on my website and hard copies can also be obtained from my office by calling 519-661-5095, please request to speak with my direct Admin.
This is an initiative I have taken on myself as I feel that to best serve Londoners, I need to hear about where I can improve.
I request that Londoners take 2-5 minutes or 5-15 minutes to provide me with the feedback that will shape how I serve the community in the future.

SHORT SURVEY

SURVEY with comment boxes

Posted in Featured, Ward 10

May Newsletter

Virginia-Ridley_WebGraphics-Newsletter

Dear friends,

I don’t want to jinx it, but I think it is safe to say that we are finally out of the random-snowstorms-in-spring transition period between seasons! The month of May also marks the beginning of four quieter months in London when many of the Western and Fanshawe students are home for the summer.

I am looking forward to seeing many of you at the upcoming ward meeting this month! On Thursday, May 25th, we will be meeting at the Westmount branch of the London Public Library (3200 Wonderland Road South). This meeting will go from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Let me know if you are coming by registering at the Eventbrite page here! We will be discussing the different environmental programs that are available in London, such as the Growing Naturally Program, Composting at Home, Naturalization, Tree Removal, Tree Protection By-Law, and ReForest London.

I created a contest for the month of April to encourage all Londoners to plan a park or street clean up. Participants wee eligible to enter a draw to win a $25.00 gift card to a location of the winner’s choice or one of two prizes of 2L of ice cream a month for six months from the London Ice Cream Company! Now that the month is over, I will randomly draw three winning names and contact them via direct message – I will only post the winners’ names with their permission.

On April 23rd, a resident and I arranged a community clean up at the SouthWest Optimist Park. We had about 30 people out cleaning the park for about an hour. Thank you to everyone who took the time to keep our community beautiful! Imagine how wonderful our neighbourhoods would look if this were a habit.

There has been progress towards a decision with regards to ranked ballots. On April 22nd, the Corporate Services Committee held a Public Participation Meeting on the topic. Several councillors who are not on the committee also attended the meeting. The Committee reviewed feedback from Londoners in-person and in written submissions. Tonight, council voted in favour of ranked ballots. I supported this because those who still want to vote for only one candidate can, and those who want to rank three can also do that. This is adding an option, not taking away an option.

In other news, the Urban League of London (ULL) has asked me to spread the word about a global festival that is coming to London on Saturday, June 3rd. The ULL asks residents to plan events, no matter how small, on this day with a goal of 100 events hosted altogether! More information can be found in this quick 1-minute video and on the website. You may contact Wes Kinghorn at info@urbanleague.ca or at 518-858-1900 for more information.

I have spoken with many of you about rapid transit in London, and I want to use this newsletter to be transparent and clarify why I support it. Overall, having some form of rapid transit infrastructure in place will change how future generations of Londoners see their transit options in their city. If they grow up with an effective and affordable system in place, they might not feel the need to buy a car. While you and I might not plan to make the switch, many Londoners already are and some would like to start. Even if you do not use transit, fewer cars on the road reduce our time spent in traffic as well as our impact on our environment.

Not only that, this change is strategic when considering Council’s commitment to inwards and upwards growth, recorded in the 2014 Strategic Plan for London. In previous newsletters, I have mentioned the unsustainable nature of the city’s road-widening initiatives, which will continue to be costly for taxpayers. Without rapid transit, the next ten years of road-widening initiatives are projected to cost taxpayers about $300 million. The BRT will cost about $560 million. $130 million of development charge money leveraged against $430 million in funding from other levels of government. That funding, your tax dollars, is going to go to transit projects no matter what, I would prefer that your tax dollars are being spent in London, saving you money. In comparable cities, media sources have shown that those selling their homes were able to ask for significantly higher prices from out-of-city buyers after rapid transit lines were built. Rapid transit would also improve the parking situation in downtown London. You can park anywhere along the rapid transit route, then you do not have to worry about finding and paying for parking downtown.

Rapid transit would revamp the entire LTC system. The many buses that connect the schools, shopping centres, and malls will be re-routed. As a result, there will be more frequent service and shorter wait times, especially for those living away from the downtown core. I am committed to reviewing the proposed BRT routes and getting the information I need to make the most fiscally-responsible decision for a sustainable future. Feel free to reach out any time that you have questions or input about my position! There are still a lot of technical questions that need to be answered. Our staff – available at shift@london.ca are the best to answer technical questions. A few days ago, I wrote a more in-depth list explanation of my reasons for supporting this decision can be found here, on a blog post from my What Do You Do? series.

For the past month, I have been writing daily updates on the Blog page of my website about the work I have done on that day. While it is clear that I spend most of my waking hours working on City Council business and with my family, I love what I do and I had fun sharing it with you. I am in this work because I enjoy talking with people about the issues that are important to them. For those who were reading along this month, I hope you found this series to be helpful in understanding how I do my job.
If you have not had the chance to read it, you can catch up! Read the first three submissions here!

If you are interested in sharing any of the information in this newsletter, I encourage you to forward this email to your neighbours. If the people you want to share this with do not use e-mail, you can contact my office to make arrangements to receive paper copies. I mail out packages of 10-30 newsletters for those who are willing to share with their neighbours. I appreciate any help that you are able and willing to offer!

I hope you enjoy this wonderful month. Happy May Day!

Kind Regards,

Virginia Ridley
Councillor
Ward 10

Call or Text: 226-927-0539
Email: vridley@london.ca
300 Dufferin Ave, Suite 314
LONDON ON N6A 4L9

Posted in Ward 10

What do you do? – April 28, 29 & 30th

What do you do? – The final entry, meetings, the cottage, and reflections

Well, this is it.  The final post of a month of “A day in the life.”

It’s been a fun experiment, and certainly, has had me reflecting on how I use my time.  I’m going to do the three-day summary, then some reflections on the month at the end of this post.

On Friday, Andrew had a doctor’s appointment first thing in the morning, so I started work a little early to compensate for my time off.  After his appointment, we were to meet his class on a field trip, but when I called to verify the location, realized the trip is next week.  Andrew was bashful about this mix-up.  It worked out well though, and I got him to class just before 10 am.

I got back to work and was able to get everything done in time for lunch with a friend.  She is a real estate agent and had recently completed a walk through of our house.  I have no idea of home values right now and with the market so disrupted, I wanted an understanding of our homes value, as I plan to negotiate with the bank to withdraw some of the equity for a renovation – provided all the numbers work out right. I am still getting quotes for the renovation projects, and if they come in, in the ballpark I am planning on, then I should be able to do the renovations. We had a nice lunch at Angel’s Family Restuarant.  If you are ever looking for a good lunch location, I highly recommend them.  The homemade soups and lunch portions are perfect!

After lunch, I made my way into City Hall for a few meetings and some work.  There was an error in scheduling with my 3 pm appointment, so I was able to catch up with Councillor Cassidy for a few minutes before we both left. I also saw Councillor Hopkins in the office and chatted for a few minutes.

Once home, I had a few errands to run to get ready for the weekend. I picked up a reverse osmosis water filter to install at the cottage to help with the taste and clarity of the well water. Then I got everyone packed up to go. We were on the road by 5:30 pm.

Our cottage is in Kincardine, and takes about 2 hours to get to. I say it’s the perfect distance for a weekend away.  Close enough we can get there in good time on a Friday night, and close enough to get home if we need to. We rent out our cottage most of the summer, and when we go up, it is generally for maintenance, projects, and changeovers between guests.  Our first renter of the season is on the May long weekend, and this was my last opportunity to get it ready before. We got everything opened, cleaned, aired out, and ready.

On Saturday we went to The Bruce for breakfast.  It is one of the most reasonable breakfasts in town. I went to the grocery store, and Matt installed the water filter. We now have great tasting filtered water available in a fountain at the kitchen sink.  No more water cooler and bottled water.  I made the decision to use the water filter, as we needed to replace our cooler.The price for the filter was similar and meant no more lugging bottles of water from the grocery store.

After our work for the day was done, we watched a movie before bed.

On Sunday, we went for breakfast again, then Matt took the kids out so I could clean and prep the cottage.  I finished around noon, and we left juts after 1 pm.

Arriving home means bringing all the laundry, linens, etc in the house and getting everything organized, stored, and through the wash. I started that process, then left for City Hall. I answered all of my emails and prepared for the week. My goal was to be home by 6:30 in time to cut Ben’s hair.  He is trying to grow it long enough to donate, but doesn’t like it in his eyes.  He also enjoys the sensory stimulation of the trimmers, so, we’ve settled on an undercut.  Short for the bottom half of his hair, growing the top, but trimmed around his eyes.  It doesn’t look too funny yet, but by summers end, it’s going to be something else…

I did a quick trip to the pharmacy to pick up meds ordered by the doctor last Friday for Andrew, and came home to write this blog.  So that was my weekend. Cleaning, errand running, and some relaxation.  It’s good to be home, and to be prepared for the week ahead.

So, now my reflections on the month.

Overall, I think you’ve probably gathered that I’m a goer. I hate mornings, but once I’m up, I work either for my job, for the city, or for my family until I go to bed.  I try to fit in bits of leisure and things for just me, but sometimes I forget to do it often enough. You’ve learned that I travel for work, for the city, and for board meetings and that my family is awesome at pulling through and helping when I’m away. Through this blog, you’ve learned about my family, our pets, our home, and our friends. You’ve learned a little bit about City Hall, meetings, and my schedule.

I’ve tried to be as candid as possible about my every day, while still protecting the privacy of my family to a large extent. It’s difficult for them to be in the spotlight to any extent because of my job as a city councillor.  My family is such a large part of my day, it is really impossible to tell you what I do without including them.  I have glossed over many of the details, to protect their privacy.

As a City Councillor, I am answering emails and phone calls from when I get up until I go to bed.  I engage on social media, and in the community.  There is no “off” time.  I don’t get to travel anonymously about the city.  Even when I have the flu and want to go to the drug store – I am not anonymous. I am conscious of the weight of my responsibilities, and that I represent the city to the community and the community to the city.

I love what I do, and am so honoured and humbled that I have the opportunity to do it.  It’s not a hardship, but a part of the reality of my role as a City Councillor.

 

I work 20 hours for my job every week, and I work the rest of the time for my role as a City Councillor. I start working at 8 am every day, and end around 10 or 11 pm usually. I do my council work every day – even on weekends, or when I’m away.

I carve out pieces of time for appointments for the kids, and in my leisure time, I spend it with family and friends. I don’t watch a lot of television, but I do enjoy some Netflix shows or podcasts before bed, and the odd movie with my husband.

 

I live by my calendar, and take advantage of each window of time I have to do something.  I don’t think once this month, I’ve been bored, or without a task to do.  By journaling or blogging each day, I’ve had to reflect on my accomplishments and failures each day, and that is a good thing.

When I look at this month, it really is an average month.  There are times when there are a lot of meetings, there are times when Matt or I are traveling for various things, and there are some slower times that allow me to catch up on chores etc.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this experiment, I know that I have.

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Ward 10

What do you do? – April 27

April 27 – Rapid Transit, Euchre, Pizza Party, Middlesex Municipal Association, and suspensions. 

Thursday.  We are almost there!

As I said in a previous blog we’ve had houseguests for a few days.  They are leaving tomorrow, but we will see them again their next trip through town.

Today, started out as a normal day.  The boys went off to school, and I got to work.  Mid-morning, I received a call that Ben wasn’t doing well at school today. It’s unusual for him as he has been doing really well.  I spoke briefly with the VP, and it seemed like there was a good plan to keep him in school today.  Shortly after that, I saw a little figure dart across my front lawn and come in the front door.  It was Ben.  At the same time he came in, my phone rang that he had left school property.  I had yet to really register what was going on when the VP came to the door.  We spoke briefly, and I indicated I would try to unwind what was going on with Ben and send him back when he was coping better.

Ben and I started to talk – he indicated he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t able to manage himself well.  He had been aggressive at school and was very embarrassed by that. We haven’t seen aggression from him in a long time, so something is going on, I am just not sure what.  There could be a new trigger in the class, or some type of overstimulation going on.  Shortly after the VP left, I received a call saying that Ben would be suspended for the day based on aggression.

I know this sounds pretty extreme – especially to parents of typically developing children, but this it is not abnormal to have suspensions with my boys.  Our goal is to keep them in school as much as possible, and the school works really well with us to mitigate the problems.  Ben has full-time EA support and many other resources at school. If he is required to leave, I require a suspension.  It is the only way to maintain and receive the resources that he requires. I spent a year with the voluntary pickups but realized quickly that to get the support he needed, I needed the documentation to make the case that he needed help.

I still don’t know what the underlying causation is here, but hopefully, we will get it sorted out.

I continued working until about 11:30. My dad was available to pick up Benjamin and take him for a few hours as I had an engagement to attend for the City.

I left the house at 11:30, and made my way to the Ilderton Community Centre to join my colleagues from around Middlesex County who had spent the morning at the Middlesex Municipal Association Annual Meeting.  I saw many colleagues from the area, and it is always nice catching up with them.

After the lunch, I picked up Ben from my dad.  He had spent time reading and being put to work while I was gone.  We went to City Hall where I had two other meetings already arranged.  I try my best not to cancel on short notice, so sometimes it means one my kids may be waiting in my office during a meeting.  Today, Ashleigh and I met for about a half-hour to review upcoming projects, and then I met with a community member who wanted to talk about banning outdoor wood burning.

I had previously at the request of community members brought forward a motion to limit back yard fires to weekends only.  This did not pass at council.  The community has continued to lobby, and are recently made delegations at a committee. The delegations were received, but no action or changes were recommended by the committee. It is very frustrating for this group of citizens, as they face health issues and have concerns about air quality.  Their arguments made sense to me when I brought forward a compromise motion last year, but there is no real appetite on council to make any changes.

I also took a call today from one of my long-time supporters and an active community member.  He wanted to talk about Rapid Transit.  While initially, he indicated he didn’t understand why the city was considering it based on what he had read/heard via the media, after we talked, he felt that it made a lot of sense.  He said, I wish you could tell everyone what you told me because I get it now.  I wish so too.  So here are some brief points about why I am supporting rapid transit.

  1. We already made the decision to do rapid transit – what is before us now is route selection.
  2. We need to think strategically and for the long term.  If we don’t change how our city develops, we will be quickly into an unaffordable/unsustainable sprawl.
  3. We are not a small city anymore.  We are almost 400,000 people and expected to reach half a million before too long.
  4. The funding from the provincial and federal government is for transit projects, we can not use it on other projects.  If we don’t use it on rapid transit, your tax dollars will still be going to rapid transit – just in other cities.
  5. We are leveraging development charge money for rapid transit with the provincial and federal funding.  If we don’t do rapid transit – we are facing 290 million dollars in infrastructure projects which will ocme from the property tax base
  6. I don’t believe RT will move everyone or even many people out of their cars.  It will for some, but more importantly, it’s about how we are going to grow – the next generation, if the infrastructure is in place are more likely to be transit users
  7. You can’t think of LTC buses now and laying rapid tranist on top of the current system.  We will need to redesign the entire system to make it work together.  All of the LTC bus routes we will no longer need, will be able to increase service in other areas
  8. Think back to major roads 30 years ago – commissioners, Southdale, wonderland, and more.  They have doubled in size.  We will be looking at the same increases in the next 30 years without changing the way we view mobility around the city.

These are just some of the pieces of information I share with people to help explain why I think rapid transit is the right thing to do if we are thinking strategically for the city.

I know, I’m going to get a flurry of emails after this blog. There are still a lot of technical questions that need to be answered.  The community still has a number of questions. Our staff – available at shift@london.ca are the best to answer technical questions.  I am not an engineer – and am not going to pretend to be or feign that I have the education or skill set to answer them. I encourage you to send your technical questions to the Shift team.  My role is the strategic vision, holding staff accountable for the expert advice they give us, and the budgets that they present.  My role is to ensure that we are mitigating concerns and that the public has an opportunity to weigh in.  I held a meeting and had shift staff come and speak to the community, and I know that they have done this is in many areas of the city to share information and answer questions.

We are changing and evolving as a city.  We are growing, and we see that in the real estate market, and anecdotally when we talk to our neighbours.  We are doing well, and increasing the number of jobs, decreasing unemployment, and incubating small and medium sized businesses into larger businesses.  We aren’t done yet, but we need to be strategic and visionary thinkers to make sure that our city prospers.  I don’t want to be a topic of discussion thirty years from now saying, why didn’t council build rapid transit when they had the opportunity and funding to do so.

I hear that now about the ring road that never will be, and about the 402 which could have gone north past the city, creating another expressway.  I believe for many reasons, that rapid transit is the right thing to do, and that it’s time to make a decision and move forward with this. I also believe that we need to listen to and stay connected to the community, to make sure that we are addressing their concerns, listening to their expertise, and adjusting as necessary.

There are things I have questions about. I will be asking those questions of staff, and listening carefully for new information and what the concerns and comments from Londoners are at the Public Participation Meeting on May 3rd.

Ok, so back to my day, after that tangent.

After my community meetings, I made my way home and ordered Pizza for dinner.  We had invited my dad and two of my nephews over, and my mom was going to stop by after she took my grandma to an appointment as well.

We had a houseful for dinner, and all the pizza was gone, I did manage to save two pieces for my mom in the oven for when she arrived.

After dinner, we watched a movie with the kids before their bedtime. Andrew chose to tell me about 5 minutes before bed he needed a costume for school tomorrow for Glee Club.  We googled 1950’s boy’s clothes, and found the closest things we had at home.  then taught Tracey how to play Euchre. She played on my team. After three rounds, she was catching on, but we lost 2-1. Everyone has gone to bed for

I ran to the post office to return my bell modem, and mail a few letters, then returned home to teach Tracey how to play Euchre. She played on my team, against Matt and Peter. After three rounds, she was catching on, but we lost 2-1. Everyone has gone to bed the night, and I am working on my blog, then going to close everything up for today.  I have a busy day tomorrow, and will catch up on my blogging on Sunday night!

 

Posted in Blog, Ward 10

What do you do? April 26th edition

Wednesday, April 26 – decorative plates, coffee meetings, agms and sleeping in

Happy Wednesday! The middle of the week.  Is anyone else looking forward to the weekend?

Today was a beautiful day – the sun was shining, the weather was warm, and summer is around the corner.

I started off my day with work as normal.  We were a little late to rise, so it was a hectic start getting the boys out the door on time.  About 3 minutes before they were supposed to leave, I was told it was picture day. Andrew doesn’t let me pick out his clothes anymore, so he went with his everyday look.  Benjamin likes to dress up, so he wore a button-down shirt and sweater vest.

I am working on a trivia game for the conference social. So my work day was spent researching good trivia questions and responding to emails.  My dad came over to help with some minor repairs that we haven’t had time to get to, and spent the morning on some of those chores for me.  My houseguests are staying over for another day, so I was also semi-entertaining them.  They are pretty self-sufficient though, so aside from telling them where things are, it was easy to get through the work.

All of my commitments were downtown, so I was able to give my cousin my car once he dropped me off.  I met with one of my part time staff.  We were supposed to be meeting at William’s, however, her previous meeting was late so we changed up our location, and I met her at City Hall in my office.  The walk over through the park was beautiful, and it was nice to see so many people enjoying the park.

Natalie and I met for about an hour, reviewing her summer hours, and our work plan, as well as upcoming projects.

After my meeting with Natalie, I made my way to Museum London for my monthly board meeting and the AGM.

I wrapped up around 6:00 pm and got a ride back home in time for dinner.  I had eaten a sandwich at William’s and am still full, so it was me serving the food Matt had prepared as he left for Cubs.  It’s all about teamwork around here.  Very often one of us will start something and the other will finish it.

Andrew worked on some french homework and needed help.  I pretty much have peaked at my ability to help him, and am thankful for french speaking friends and google.  I’m not sure how my parents were able to help me through, but perhaps that’s why I didn’t go further than necessary with French. I wish I had, and I am ok to translate written french and get the gist of it, but that’s about it.

Ben seemed to not be feeling well and wanted to head straight to bed.  I found him asleep, fully clothed, on top of his bed.  No fever or any other symptoms, but something is up. After dinner, I went to work on a project that’s been in the making for the past 11 years.  My grandmother gave me 4 plates from her “Love Story” collection for my wedding. These are beautifully hand painted decorative plates.  I have been carefully storing them as they are very delicate, and I was afraid that even on a plate holder they would be broken.  I have wanted to find a more secure way to display them.  I recently found 4 shadow boxes that were just the right size, but the back would not fit on properly with the inserts.  And the plates wouldn’t fit in without the inserts.  I bought some rubber-like shelf liner and got to work tonight lining the inside of the shadowboxes to securely hold the plates.  I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Now if I get them hung up, next time grandma comes over, she will be thrilled to see them!

Once my arts and crafts were done for the night, I spent time visiting with my guests, and got to work on my blog! I work on emails and constituent phone calls all day, every day, and don’t always include those in my blog, but basically – any time there is a gap in activities, I’m doing emails or returning calls. I was up late (as usual) last night, and am planning to head to bed shortly – always the best-laid plans…

I was up late (as usual) last night, and am planning to head to bed shortly – always the best-laid plans…

 

Posted in Blog, Ward 10

What do you do? April 25th edition

boots

Tuesday, April 25 – work, Centre of Hope volunteering and tour, family visits, and blog plans

Today feels like a long day.  Looking back on yesterday – I did way more yesterday than I did today, but for some reason, today just feels like it was long.

This morning, I worked. I started early as I have a fair amount to get done this week.  Andrew had his regular Tuesday morning appointment, then I sent him off to school, and got back to work.  Mid-morning, my cousin sent me a message saying he was arriving today and staying for a few night.  I made arrangements for my dad to pick him up as I would be working then off to the Salvation Army Centre of Hope for my tour and some volunteering. I got through as much of my work as I could, then transitioned to City work.

At 1 pm I left for the Salvation Army Centre of Hope.  As I was going to be in the warehouse, I wore my #ridealong boots for the trip. For many of my ridealongs, CSA approved footwear was required.  I found these boots in the clearance section of the Men’s department, and they are a close enough fit.

boots

I was invited to tour and shadow a staff at the Centre of Hope following a facebook post I made in January.  I had posted a picture of a man sifting through the garbage for food and recyclables and was commenting on the level of abject poverty I was observing while in Mexico.  My friend, a staff member at the Centre of Hope challenged me to spend a day with her at work, to likewise experience the many issues here in London. This was a great idea, and we attempted to schedule a date.  Today was the day.

I arrived at the Centre of Hope, somewhat unsure of what to expect.  I had worked in social services for many years but admittedly have become further removed from the frontlines over time. We all see poverty, disability, homelessness, mental illness, and addictions to some degree in our normal every day, but I think most of us gloss over this, look the other way, or address it on a higher level.   I was still unsure what my afternoon would bring.

We started by touring the facilities and seeing a sampling of the many services provided to hundreds of Londoners every day at the Centre of Hope. We toured the storage space, where resident’s belongings are kept for a few weeks, even after they leave in the hopes that they will return.  Bags and suitcases, filled with their only and most valued possessions, left behind and hoping to be reclaimed.

We toured the communal dining spaces where those staying in shelter receive three home cooked meals every day. A space with seating for a hundred or so people. We toured the housing stability bank and some of the program spaces that are available to the community.  The chapel where NA, AA, and CA groups are run on a weekly basis – welcoming those who are struggling with addictions. We discussed the different levels of support that are given to the community members who access the Centre.

The shelter offers a few different styles of rooms, from a group situation with 5 beds and individual lockers, and private rooms which are rented to those who are staying long term.  I met and shook hands with some of the residents.

I spent time in the detox unit, where 18 beds are available for short stays (7-10 days) who are voluntarily choosing to detox in a safe and supported space. We toured the storage area where donations are sorted for the various programs, such as the Hamper Program, the on-site food bank.

I spent time with the Executive Director who shared with me her vision for the future of services in London and some upcoming changes in how the Salvation Army Centre of Hope intends to provide service to the community. She shared with me the story of one man, whose permission she had to share his story.  He went from being one of the top users of the hospital and emergency services in London to not having accessed those services in the past 5 months.  Can you imagine the time, dollars, and social costs saved through supporting this one individual? I mean – an average week of three hospital visits via EMS would be thousands and thousands of dollars and would pull that personnel out of servicing others. Now because of appropriate supports, that one individual, while he may still struggle with many things, has not accessed EMS services or the hospital. He has a safe and clean place to call home. We have so much work to do, and there is not a one size fits all solution.

I ended my afternoon volunteering in the food program. Community members can access the food program 9 times per year, an additional time near Christmas, and one further time on an emergency basis. The food program used to provide a bag of food based on household size but recently switched to a choice model.  Clients enter and register at the front desk, then are called individually to go to the shelves at the back and select the food from a prescribed list of categories.  They don’t get a lot. They receive:

Bread

One can of: vegetables, beans, soup, pasta sauce, tuna.

One package of: pasta or rice, side dish, cereal, crackers, milk powder (today they had run out of powdered milk.

And one of the ‘extras’ – things like pudding, a frozen pizza, coffee, cake mix, etc.  Larger households get more, but it’s pretty basic.

Larger households get more, but it’s pretty basic. Assessing the options I judged that you could conservatively make 2-4 days worth of food out of the supplies.  The cereal could last 4-5 days for breakfast. Day one could be soup and 1/4 pack of pasta 1/4 can of sauce for dinner.  Day two – Cereal for breakfast, 1/4 pack of pasta, 1/4 can of sauce for dinner. Day 3 cereal for breakfast, 1/4 pack of pasta, 1/4 can of sauce for lunch, crackers, and tuna for dinner, Mix in the vegetables, stuffing, and beans… well you get the idea.

This is not intended to be anyone’s full nutritious food for the month. Some people access many different food banks each month.

I helped about a half a dozen people select their groceries.  They are packaged in regular grocery shopping bags which have been donated.  Staff commented that people much prefer choosing their own food, and there is hopefully less waste – someone who is receiving food that they can’t or don’t eat means that food will go to waste, and by selecting their soup and food options, they are getting the items that they will most likely eat or will supplement the other things that they have.

A lot of people still chose Kraft Dinner for a side.  I was rooting for the stuffing – one of my favorites, but not too popular as a selection this afternoon.

I wrapped up around 3:30 – and made my way home.  Peter, Tracey and their dog Sophie were waiting at my home for me. Ben had come home from school with his respite worker, Ryan. Andrew and his babysitter Alaa had gone to the park.

Tracey had cleaned my kitchen! How lucky am I, that I have a houseguest who is one of those tidy people? I have told her several times that it is not necessary that she help out around the house, but she insists that she is happier to do little chores and keep herself busy.  I wish they visited more often 😉 – ok, not just because she is a constant cleaner (partially – because it’s kind of awesome), but because I enjoy their company.

I heated up the leftovers from last nights dinner.  Unstuffed peppers, and lasagna.  We won’t be having leftovers again tomorrow, as they went over really well.

After dinner, Andrew and I had the opportunity to clean out his backpack, and to organize his bag for school.  The boy keeps everything.  I don’t know where he get’s it from as Matt and I are both more minimalists.  I often do spring cleans and donates forward items we are no longer using.  I also try hard not to accumulate “stuff”.  Andrew keeps everything.  If that boy has ever looked at a piece of paper or drawn a line on it, he keeps it.  Tonight, I let it go – provided it’s all going to his room, he can keep the 1″x1″ scrap of paper that he want’s to keep – heaven only knows why. Every three months or so we do a clean up in his room, and I encourage him to sort his papers and recycle at least half.  We will likely tackle this in May, then again in July after he has had some time with all the school work he is bound to bring home in June.

We got our new internet service from Start.ca installed tonight, and I’m very excited.  Our speed has increased about ten times over our old service, and the change over was very straightforwad.  Our download speed is now around 25 – whereas with our old service it was around 2.5. Significant changes – and hopefully it will help to solve my timing out issue in my inbox (my next project to tackle before bed!)

After the kids went to bed, Matt went out to a meeting for a few hours, and Peter, Tracey and I watched a movie.  That brings us to now.  I am going to review my emails and get some of them answered – the remainder I will do tomorrow afternoon from the office between meetings, then make it to bed – hopefully before midnight.

I will be blogging the remainder of this week, then will do Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Sunday night as we are planning to be out of town, getting the cottage ready for the season. That will conclude my month of blogging.

Blogging each night is taking about 60-90 minutes, mostly of writing, but about 15-20 minutes for reviewing.  I know there are still some typos slipping through my review.  At this time of night especially I tend to miss them, but am trying my best.  It looks like about 100 people a day are reading my blog, and I am amazed, shocked, and a little bashful that so many of you are finding it interesting and following along.  Thank you.

Posted in Blog, Ward 10

What do you do? April 24th edition

Monday, April 24th – work, meetings, leftovers, CWC, mortgage renewals and renovation quotes

Is it really only Monday? It feels like I’ve accomplished a lot already, and it’s just the beginning of the week.

Today I got up and got to work. I knew I would need to take a little extra time off this morning as Andrew had an orthodontist appointment.  He is just 9 years old, but already has quite a bit of crowding – we are having an expander put in, to help make room for the teeth to come in.  He will still need braces later on, but this should help to reduce the amount of time he will need them for.

I dropped him off at school after his 9 am appointment, and got back to work.  We are just days away from our national conference for work, and there is a lot to be done. I’m starting to feel the pressure, but it’s not crunch time yet.  That will come this weekend.

I also had to wrap up work a little earlier than normal as we had a 12 o’clock Civic Works Committee meeting.  The meeting took less than an hour, with only a few questions and comments from the committee and guests.  Most of what we were approving was fairly straight forward – and necessary infrastructure construction.

After our CWC meeting, I met with our Deputy Clerk, then I had the opportunity to chat with a few of my colleagues.  Councillor Helmer and I discussed the announcement of the Guaranteed Basic Income, Councillor Cassidy and I chatted for a few minutes, I also spoke briefly with Councillors Morgan, Park, and Zaifman.  I have been working at home a lot, so outside of meetings, I don’t always have an opportunity to catch up with my colleagues.

I met with some of the office staff on various issues, and correspondence which had come in, and returned some of the Park clean up supplies I had borrowed for yesterday’s clean-up of South West Optimist Park.

I left the office just before 3 pm, and went to London Ice Cream Company head office to pick up a prize gift certificate for my Community Clean Up contest – which we will be drawing on May 1st.  I got a tour of their new facility and heard about the plans for expansion that will be happening over the next year.  It is very exciting to watch a local business grow at the rate they are!

I got home in time to pick up Ben from school.  Somehow, I foolishly thought it would be a good idea to take the dog with.  She is only semi-well behaved on a leash at the best of times, and not so much when there are so many children and people around.  She is friendly, but pulls on her leash enough that my arm get’s a workout!

I did my extra work this afternoon, making sure to get all of my hours in, then cooked dinner.  My cousin and his wife were supposed to be coming in from the west coast (he is a long-haul truck driver and often stays with us if he lands in SW Ontario).  He had messaged me earlier saying they might not make it today, but I decided to cook enough just in case. I had one pan of unstuffed peppers casserole I had made and frozen, and a lasagna – I cooked both.

Well – neither child was interested in either dish.  I did forewarn them that if they didn’t like it today, they were going to like it even less as leftovers tomorrow.  They ignored my advice, but may be wishing they took it by tomorrow at dinner! Perhaps my cousin will be in to help with the leftovers by then.

Have I told you that I have a lot of cousins?  Like, a lot.  My dad is from an east coast Catholic family.  He was the youngest of 15 or more children. I saw or more because I always heard 18, but when I have done the research, I can only account for 15.  Being the youngest – his siblings mostly all had children before he was born – which means his nieces and nephews are often older than he.  By the time it filters down to me – I have cousins who are the same age as my grandparents on my mom’s side, and their kid’s kids are more my age.  That – plus there are a lot of them.  Some day I should count all of my cousins, second cousins, third cousins etc.  I bet it’s in the hundreds. My kids are often looking at me quizzically when I introduce them to someone and say this is our cousin. Another cousin they ask.  Yes – another cousin.

As large as my family is, they are spread out from East to West, and through the states.  I don’t see many of them often, but it’s always nice when they are in town, or I am in their town and we can connect.

After dinner, I began to make appointments for renovation quotes.  We have a number of renovations we need to do, and I’m having trouble seeing which fit into our budget this year, and how much to plan for others in future years.  I decided to book off two days next month and arrange estimates. This way we can look at all the estimates, prioritize based on immediacy and budget, and know what to budget for future years.  I am hopefully we can get some of the more urgent things done this year, but we try to be careful with our spending, so I will have to wait for the quotes.

One of the items will need to be done first no matter what, and the electrician I called is going to stop by tomorrow to offer us a quote.  Matt and I realized – we better clean up his workshop.  After dinner, all four of us went down, and got it cleaned up! Many hands make for light work, and even the kids can help with some of it.

I was feeling a little bit on a roll, and one other task on my to-do list was my mortgage renewal, so I took care of that tonight as well. I had already compared rates and made some inquiries.  I was aiming fro 2.5% renewal – and got close.  2.54% fro a four-year term. I arranged the renewal and can take that off my to-do list.

As quick as I can get items off the list, more always appear.  How is that fair? I mean has anyone, ever, had a day when there was nothing on their daily, weekly, monthly, short-term, or long-term to-do list? One day when you could say you actually had nothing that had to or even should get done? If so, tell me your secret! Perhaps the day will come someday in the future!

Well, all in all, I had a productive day.  I did not do a lot of city work today – I did about 5 hours for my job, 5 hours for the city, and 4 hours on household “stuff”.  I am going to get to work on some emails tonight, so I expect to work another two hours on city business before I call it a day.  Tomorrow, besides work, I will have some hopefully interesting things to report about my afternoon at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope.  Check back tomorrow to see my reflections on the experience.

Posted in Blog, Ward 10

What do you do? April 23rd edition

parking

April 23, 2017 – breakfast club, park clean up, 28 million dollar spending and new shrimp

Today was an early start. Typically, I enjoy sleeping in on the weekends, but I had committed to speak at the Westmount Presbyterian Church Breakfast Club, so I had a lot of notice that I would have to be up early.  I arrived at the church just a little before 8 am and saw some familiar faces fro the community.

I was invited by one of the church members, and a community member who has been a supporter of mine since the campaign.  We enjoyed a communal breakfast, prepared by volunteers, then I spoke about who I am, and why I got involved in politics. I then answered some questions which were sent ahead of time and opened the floor to additional questions.  It was a great experience and opportunity to engage with the community.  I hope to be invited back in a future year.

I returned home with enough time to change into park cleaning gear – rubber boots, and jeans – then made my way to SouthWest Optimist Park for the Community clean up that a resident and I had arranged.  We had about 30 people out cleaning the park, and found a lot of garbage! Everyone worked hard and worked together to get it done.  In less than an hour, the park was clean and beautiful once again.  The SouthWest Optimist Baseball league umpires invited us to stay for a BBQ after. We ran into City Staff who were inspecting fields and they hauled away a pickup truck load of garbage we had found. Here is what wasn’t removed:garbage

 

After the cleanup, Matt and Andrew went to get Drew’s hair trimmed, and Ben and I went grocery shopping.  As a nice surprise Matta nd Drew joined us at the store post hair cut to “help” us shop (read: make sure we got all the junky food). It was nice of them to join us all the same – even if we bought things I wouldn’t buy!

We all arrived home, unloaded and stored the groceries, then had some downtime for a while.

I made a quick stop at the pet store for two more shrimp for the aquarium, and also picked up some curtains for our dining room (not from the pet storem but Jysk).  We have been without curtains for about…. 7 years, and today seemed like the day. Of course, I bought a double hanger, and only one rod – so they are only half up – but Matt reminded me it’s pretty easy to hang the other curtains once I pick up a second rod.

shrimp

It was now mid afternoon and we had been on the go all day. After some relaxation, Matt and I tried to decide what to do for dinner.  Cranbrook Community Association was having their monthly fundraiser at Shoeless Joe’s (last Sunday of the month – if you mention the association – they donate 10% of your total to the Community Association), but Matt rightly pointed out I would be blogging, and people will think we eat out all the time (we do eat out often).

So, I made tacos for everyone instead.  We will try to make it to Shoeless Joe’s next month!

dinner

The boys have been wanting to put together a skeleton kit I bought them from a second-hand shop all weekend, and they decided to do it with Matt after dinner when I went into the office.

Here is the result of their longing and labour:

skelly

The boys enjoy doing “Science-y stuff” and when I find interesting projects for them to do, I get them.  Our boys are both intelligent and curious, and we try to engage them with extra activities whenever we can. I’m sad that I missed out on the construction of this project, but I had work to do.

Sunday nights I always head to the office after dinner.  It’s an important part of my routine.  My weeks can be unpredictable and if I’m not ahead of the week on Sunday, I end up behind all week.  Tonight I cleaned out my inbox again, responding to all emails, and checking the follow-up items. I think reviewed the Civic Works agenda for tomorrow.

Tomorrow at Civic Works we will be approving the spending of about $28 million dollars in infrastructure projects.

28 million

 

There was nothing too controversial in the report.  Two tenders were over their estimates, and one was significantly below.

I ran into Councillor Helmer as I often do on Sunday nights in the office, we chatted briefly as he was on his way to an event.

I wrapped up my work as quickly as possible, after a long day, and still battling this cold that started on Thursday, I’m going to try to make it to bed earlier than normal tonight.

 

Posted in Blog, Ward 10

What do you do? April 22nd edition

apr 22

April 22, 2017 – Ranked Ballots, banana bread, naps and fish

Today, I have to start by saying it was nice to be home.  Both boys came into my room this morning for a snuggle.  I don’t know at what age boys start to grow out of this, but I imagine I’m not far off, and I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

This morning, because it’s the weekend, it was my turn to make coffee.  Matt does it through the week, and I take a turn on the weekends. We enjoyed a cup of coffee, then both started our days.  I was supposed to drop the boys off to my mama this morning, as Matt had promised to help a work colleague with something, but he decided it was just as easy to take the boys with him.

My dad stopped by to pick up some supplies he had asked for that were left over from our renovation, and I made it out the door just on time to get to the Corporate Services Public Participation Meeting on ranked ballots which started at 11.

The committee heard from several members of the public and received written submissions as well.  Several councillors who were not on the committee also attended. I fit into the not on the committee side, but I knew that it was important to hear from the public on this issue.  So far I’m still undecided, to be honest.  I have another week to continue to contemplate this.  The factor that is really holding me back, is that our staff is not recommending it.  There is no verification that the software will be available, and I am cautious about putting the integrity of the election in question.  I am hopeful our staff will have more information by the council meeting. The other concern for me is the price tag.  It is unclear how much this will cost.

There are many advantages to a ranked ballot system and those who still only want to cast one vote can do that.

I left the ppm after the public participation was done, only listening to some of the debate. I learned that the vote was a 3-3 tie.

When I got home, I was feeling exhausted – it is unusual for me to feel tired during the day, but I think I am fighting something off.  I was supposed to build a 2.5-foot skeleton with the kids today, but as soon as I got home, Matt asked if I would pick up a few things from the store as he and the boys were busy baking.  I decided that my best opportunity for a nap was to get them what they needed because then they would all be busy for a while.  I ran into my local MP – Kate Young at the store.  It was a pleasant surprise, and nice to see her out and about in the community.

I delivered the supplies to Matt and the boys, and made my way up to bed! I slept peacefully for about an hour, then woke to the smell of banana muffins in the house.  I have to say – this is not a bad way to wake up!

I started dinner for the boys – a random, child selected meal – rice and pizza.  Matt took over so that I could run one more errand – we wanted to get a few new fish for our small tank.

I picked up 3 fancy guppies, an “Otto Cat” (small catfish type fish) and 2 ghost shrimp for our small tank.  When I got home we added them to the tank and started a family movie. Once we were done watching Gnomeo and Juliet, the boys went off to bed, and Matt and I found another movie to watch – a courtroom drama called ‘The Whole Truth’.  It was interesting enough, that I watched most of it.  I actually can’t sit still long enough to watch a movie, so I typically am working answering emails the whole time.  I did this during the kid’s movie, and only some of the movie Matt and I watched.

I haven’t done any work for my job for a few days, so I spent an hour tonight making sure everything was up to date for next week.  We are two weeks away from our annual conference and everything seems to be on track.

I should mention that we installed the green cone composter/digester last week, and so far so good! The thing takes most anything and digests it – so no compost, but also it takes more.  I diverted two large Rubbermaid lunch containers of food scraps and coffee grounds etc. to it today.  That was probably about 2 -4 pounds not going to the landfill. We still have a traditional composter in the backyard that could have taken my banana peels/coffee grounds etc, but it split over the winter, and I need to replace it, so, for now, all is going in the digester.

I am running a community clean up contest in Ward 10 (details available on my website) and received a number of entries today after Earth Day clean ups. The contest runs until the end of the month – so I hope to have a few more entries.  There are some great prizes – donated by myself, and from London Ice Cream Company – who are great at supporting local community events (and at making delicious ice cream!)

 

Posted in Blog, Ward 10

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