I’m writing tonight because I committed to it, but I’m not feeling it. I’m a little grumpy from a situation that happened today. One that I need to consider more carefully before I react to – including sharing any details. I am naturally a very reactive person – and my first reaction, or my emotional reaction, is not always appropriate. So I’ve made a rule for myself that when I know I’m reacting emotionally – I wait 24 hours before responding. I’m not going to talk about that situation, but maybe about my perception of people’s expectations of public officials. So setting that aside…
I don’t really have much city news to report today. I was in Toronto. Besides blogging and a few emails and calls, I was not focused on London stuff today – I will be working tomorrow and Sunday, and hope to have some interesting things to share. I caught the way too early in the morning train (6:25 am), and I got home around 8:30 pm.
I have been to Toronto many times over the past ten years or so, and only recently have I been accessing PATH. How did I know that this existed, but not really what it was, or how useful it was?
For those of you who don’t know PATH, I am copying the following directly from the City of Toronto’s website:
PATH is downtown Toronto’s (mostly) underground walkway linking 30 kilometres of shopping, services and entertainment. Follow PATH and you’ll reach your downtown destination easily in weatherproof comfort.
PATH provides an important contribution to the economic viability of the city’s downtown core. The system facilitates pedestrian linkages to public transit, accommodating more than 200,000 business-day commuters, and thousands of additional tourists and residents on route to sports and cultural events. Its underground location provides pedestrians with a safe haven from the winter cold and snow, and the summer heat.
- The approximate 1,200 shops and services, such as photocopy shops and shoe repairs, found in PATH, employ about 5,000 people. Once a year, businesses in PATH host the world’s largest underground sidewalk sale.
- More than 50 buildings/office towers are connected through PATH. Twenty parking garages, six subway stations, two major department stores, eight major hotels, and a railway terminal are also accessible through PATH. It also provides links to some of Toronto’s major tourist and entertainment attractions such as: the Hockey Hall of Fame, Roy Thomson Hall, The Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, and the CN Tower. City Hall and Metro Hall are also connected through PATH.
- There are more than 125 grade level access points and 60 decision points where a pedestrian has to decide between turning left or right, or continuing straight on. The average size of a connecting link is 20 metres (66 feet) long by 6 metres (20 feet) wide.
- The building furthest north on the PATH network is College Park at College and Yonge Streets. The building furthest south that can be accessed through PATH is the RBC WaterPark Place building which is just across the street from the Toronto Island ferry terminal and the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. PATH does not follow the grid patterns of the streets above.
- Each letter in PATH is a different colour, each representing a direction. The P is red and represents south. The orange A directs pedestrians to the west, while the blue T directs them to the north. The H is yellow and points to the east.
- Signage includes a symbol for people with disabilities whenever there is a flight of stairs ahead.
- The first underground path in Toronto originated in 1900 when the T Eaton Co. joined its main store at 178 Yonge St. and its bargain annex by tunnels. By 1917 there were five tunnels in the downtown core. With the opening of Union Station in 1927, an underground tunnel was built to connect it to the Royal York Hotel (now known as the Fairmont Royal York). The real growth of PATH began in the 1970s when a tunnel was built to connect the Richmond-Adelaide and Sheraton Centres.
- In 1987, City Council adopted the recommendation that the City become the co-ordinatingagency of PATH and pay for the system-wide costs of designing a signage program.
- In 1988, design firms Gottschalk, Ash International, and Keith Muller Ltd. were retained in by the City of Toronto to apply the design concept for PATH.
- PATH’s name and logo are registered to the City of Toronto. The City co-ordinates and facilitates the directional signage, maps and identity markers throughout the system.
- Each segment of the walkway system is owned and controlled by the owner of the property through which it runs. There are about 35 corporations involved.
- In the early 1990s, signage for PATH was developed to provide pedestrians with better ease of use and functionality. The signage enhances PATH’s visibility and identity, ultimately increasing its use, attracting more people to downtown Toronto, and drawing more businesses there.
On a day like today with winter weather blowing, it was awesome to be able to use PATH to navigate from Union Station to my destination.
I think what I find most interesting is that we have private property and corporations that have created an additional public space and separate mobility option for pedestrians. Next time I go to Toronto, I am going to plan time to explore this more.
One thing I enjoy doing when I’m in a new city is looking for the things I love about that city, and considering whether or not we have anything similar in London. For example – in Kincardine – every Saturday night all summer long they have the pipe band parades. If you have never been – make a point to check it out!
I enjoy looking at antiques and wandering from shop to shop in St. Jacobs. Walking through Old Quebec City – it’s like be transported to another time and place. A very old European feel to the houses, streets, and buildings.
Another place I enjoy is walking through Old Quebec City – it’s like be transported to another time and place. A very old European feel to the houses, streets, and buildings.
In London I enjoy our festivals in the summer – the buzz and excitement of people, culture, and food.
Looking for a common theme in that list, it appears that what I enjoy the most is people – being leisurely – enjoying their surroundings. Those times and places when we aren’t rushing to be somewhere, but when we are enjoying just being where we are.
This summer we are taking the boys on a road trip. We have set aside two weeks, and have only booked our first night’s accommodation, as our goal is to head east and see all that we can at a pace that allows us to enjoy ourselves and time together. It is Canada’s sesquicentennial year – and while I will be celebrating many community events all year long, our goal this summer for the family is to experience a little bit of Canada and to enjoy some of the many sights and places along our journey. I wonder if I can convince Matt to stop at City marker signs along the way – to see if we can collect family pictures at 150 different Canadian towns this summer…
What do you do? April 8th Edition
April 8th, 2017: Laundry, Groceries, Laundry, Neighbourhood chats, Laundry, family time – and did I say laundry (seriously – how much laundry can 2 little boys and one big one make??)
Do you know what your City Councillors does? Or more specifically what she does on a Saturday night at 10:30 pm? That’s right – blogging time.
(Before I start in earnest, I should tell you that after last night’s blog, I received a return phone call from one of our dedicated staff members. I had emailed them earlier that day asking them to call me – and they only got the message at 10:30 at night – thinking it was urgent, they wanted to get back to me. While it wasn’t urgent and we made plans to talk next week – I have to say, City of London staff really do embody “At your Service”.
I additionally spent another hour chatting with one of my council colleagues about an item coming up – we left the conversation with plans to talk more next week. Lastly, I made a few notes on things I would like to work into this blog over the coming month that I haven’t touched on yet. I think I made it to bed around 1 am!)
It is 10:29 pm, and I have a load of laundry in the washer, one in the dryer and about 8 piled on the guestroom bed waiting to be folded. Clearly, as much as everyone in my house can make laundry, no one in my house can fold laundry. Meh. I usually do it all on Sunday’s anyway – and I was successful at folding about a quarter of it through the day between other things today.
So, I got started blogging about 30 minutes later than I usually do – that’s because I’m fighting with Gmail right now – trying to send an email, and I think I’m overworking my computer or have too many windows on the go at the same time -my email is not keeping up with my typing. I decided I might as well take a break, and write this before I flip back to that email.
Today, I was able to sleep in – one of my favourite things to do. By nature, I am up at night – I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I get my energy at night and do some of my best work at night. But that usually means I stay up too late, and wake tired in the mornings. On weekends, I usually have the opportunity to sleep in, which I do when I can, and I love it! There’s nothing like waking up when your body feels rested, and not because there is an alarm ringing.
Mid-morning, Matt and Andrew left for the cottage. We haven’t been all winter, and need to start prepping it for the rental season. I have my first renters scheduled in May and am booked on and off until Labour Day so far. There will be at least a few more weekends of heading up there to make sure it’s in good shape for renters, but this weekend was getting the water on and checking for any winter damage. By all reports, it fared well this winter.
Once Matt and Drew were gone, Ben and I made our plans for the day – for me, I knew work was on the agenda, as well as housework, groceries, a few errands, and perhaps a special dinner out for Ben. Benjamin wanted computer time, time to scooter, and to get a gift for dad’s birthday.
We started out with a little work for me – and computer time for him. Once I got through the most pressing things – which was a frustrating process as the outlook web app for the city of London is not working well and disconnects from the server every 4 ish minutes, we decided we might as well head out. Our first stop was to pick up some dry cleaning. A colleague had been kind enough to lend me a formal dress for the 100th anniversary Vimy Ridge dinner last week, and I wanted to get it cleaned to return. We made it to the cleaners just before 2 pm, then went straight to the Western Fair Market.
We should have been to the market by about 2:15, but a train on Egerton delayed us by about 20 minutes.We arrived at the market around 2:30 and had a number of stops to make. We stopped first for some delicious Apple Fritters. I had been craving one for about 3 weeks and was glad they weren’t sold out. A fresh loaf of sourdough bread, and some candy for Ben. We bought grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit to take home. I bought a local garlic for roasting and spreading on the sourdough bread. We took a quick wander around the second floor, but by this time everything was closing up, so took our goods home, and Ben went back to enjoy another computer game.
I thought I would try to get to some more emails, however, the computer was still not connecting properly, so I did some laundry and tidying up instead. Ben decided he wanted to go to the park – and today was a great day for it.
We went to our neighbourhood park and were surprised at just how many people were there. At least 15 kids, all enjoying the equipment. I chatted with some of the other parents and learned that the park off Elmgrove is still experiencing drainage issues – thus they came over to Village Green Park. Parents and I talked about speed zones, and safety measures, and a few other city hall events. We stayed at the park until dinner time, and then made our way home.
Ben has mastered the scooter – his favorite activity at the park is to use the trails where it is hilly to gain speed on the scooter.
After returning home, we tried to decide where to go for a special dinner. I was still full from the grilled cheese at lunch, and Benjamin was most interested in sushi. I normally like (read: LOVE) sushi, but the idea of All You Can Eat sushi on full stomach was just not appealing tonight. Saturday nights are usually more expensive, and I knew I wouldn’t be eating much. After some back and forth, he decided that what he actually wanted was Kraft Dinner. Perfect – we had to grab groceries anyway, so it worked out perfectly. We stopped at a shop along the way to grab supplies for the birthday gift for Matt, and did our shopping. This was also a good time to work in a brief financial conversation with Benjamin. We talked about making good choices with money, and how eating out can get expensive – so while it’s a nice treat, making the choice to get groceries tonight was a much better decision. We talked about how eating out would have cost us between $30.00-$50.00 – and after our shop, he noticed that our grocery bill was $70.00. Matt and I have always worked in conversations like this whenever a learning opportunity presents itself.
A few things to note about being a city councillor and being in the community. I’m no longer anonymous. I often get the corner-of-the-eye / double looks from people. That “I think I’ve seen her before look”. That, and I get the people who know exactly who I am and who want to chat. Today, I ran into one of my favourite constituents, a man who I hadn’t heard from in a while, and we spent a few minutes catching up in the produce section.
Ben and I finished our shopping and made it home with enough time for him to work on his gift, and me to make him Kraft Dinner. Then off to bed, for him, more laundry for me, and here we are.
I guess the question that really came up through today’s blog is when am I not ‘working’. When I’m at the grocery store, or at the park, I am not there as a part of my job, but I’m always on. I have to be prepared to answer questions, to be accountable for my decisions, and to engage with constituents. I have been known to take notes while pushing kids on the swing – so that I remember to follow up later. This is not a bad thing, and in no way do I want people to stop engaging with me. I love helping people and talking about what’s going on at city hall, and what changes people can expect.
Well – the dryer buzzer just went off, it’s now 11:19 pm and time to put more laundry through and to finish up a few more things before bed!
Tomorrow will be the rest of the housework and some personal/household correspondence and chequebook balancing; prepping for the school week; Matt and I working out our schedules for the week, and a few hours at City Hall Sunday night preparing for the work week ahead.
What do you do? April 9th edition
Sunday, April 9th – juggling schedules, City Hall office space, career changes, and cat pictures (ok – just one cat picture)
So it’s Sunday – which for most people is a day off. I don’t seem to take a full day off each week – instead, I spread my work across the whole week, and it allows me flexibility in each day to take care of family and personal needs.
Today, I woke up to my phone ringing – my sister called asking for some advice. Clearly – I should never answer the phone from an asleep state. Some people seem to be able to do it, and appear both alert and awake to the caller – I am always caught! Once we established, that yes, it was 9 am and I was still sleeping but was awake now, I helped her out.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.
I missed out on the Vimy Ridge services today. Having Ben home, and Matt out of town, it did not work out. Crowds and noise don’t mix with Ben very well. Instead, we watched some of the services from Vimy and talked about war, and peace, and sacrifice.
Ben and I hung out at home this morning – still tackling Laundry Mountain, and tidying the house before Matt and Andrew got home from the cottage. in the midst of doing laundry this morning, I had left the dryer open – and when I went to add the next load, our cat Oreo was curled up inside! Cats!
Have I told you I feel like my house is a zoo somedays? Besides the 4 humans – we also have a 5-year-old Collie-Shepherd, named Cali; Oreo, who we got as a kitten 2 summers ago from London Animal Care and Control; and 2 fish tanks, all of our fish are named Bob – one tank we got for the boys for Christmas with about a dozen fish, then a second tank we purchased in February to prevent new little fish from being dinner for one of our big Cichlid. The small tank houses 8 fish right now. At least one other City Councillor has a fish aquarium, do you know which one?
I enjoyed a few hours of conversation with a good friend who came over for coffee and a chat this morning, then Matt and Andrew arrived home in the early afternoon.
So – how do we do it? We’re both busy people, and like most parents, we have to juggle. Sometimes it feels like we tag in and out – “Tag – you’re it” as one of us comes or goes. Having two children with high needs – one confirmed on the autism spectrum, the other with a case of the 9-going-on-nineteens also possibly on the spectrum – structure is important! If you’ve followed along this week – you will notice that there is a severe lack of consistency – some nights I’m home, some nights I’m not etc. Every Sunday we update the board.
The board hangs on our kitchen wall and tells the kids who is going to be home when, who picks them up from school, chores, discipline, dinner, special events etc. Having kids who need routine and consistency this is as close as we can get. So far this works out well – if there is a change through the week – we make the change on the board and make sure they know about it.
I usually go into the office after the kids go to bed on Sundays, but having had connecting issues all weekend, I knew I had a number of emails to reply to. I went in earlier than normal, to get as much done as possible.
Somehow I ended up with a corner office – with two windows – one facing Central Secondary School, and one facing Centennial Hall. In the Councillors Office – each ward Councillor has a private office. Except for those Councillors who were already settled into their offices from the last term, all the 2014-2018 Councillors were assigned offices by ward number. Mine landed in the corner. It’s a great space and easier for me to focus than at home – especially on Sunday nights when no one is there.
While I usually do my emails and prep for the week, I was trying to make my way back home for dinner. For the first time all week – all four of us were home for dinner tonight! A rare treat! Tonight I just did my emails (about 70 emails requiring lengthier responses than my iPhone typing wanted to tackle this week) and left the weeks reading for tomorrow.
Councillor Helmer could tell me exactly how many pages of reading we have – but I would guess about 250 – 300 pages this week.
So, the other big news of the day. I resigned my position with the Children’s Aid Society tonight. Let me back up a little here. I have been with CAS for almost 15 years. I started as a Child and Youth Worker and later moved to an administrative position. Once I was elected, I tried to work part time and do council as well. That provided to be difficult as the hours and responsibilities of council did not suit a standard schedule that would work well for CAS. I ended up taking a leave of absence. Fast-forward to the present:
I have since been given the opportunity to work for another organization – part time on a schedule that works really well with council. I work 20 hours a week, mostly from home (some travel from time to time), and can work hours around my council responsibilities. This position is a really good fit for me, allowing me to do all of the same work for council, and still continue to grow professionally. I will miss CAS – I worked with some really great people and learned a lot. This new role will allow me to continue to grow professionally while serving the community as an elected official at the same time. It’s a really great fit for me. Letting go of CAS was a hard decision, but it was time.
Matt and I spent some time together tonight watching a movie. I’m not sure what it was- something about Hockey… I have a real hard time watching tv/ movies, as I can’t seem to sit still that long – or to just focus on the tv. I never really had tv or cable growing up – so it’s something that is not a part of my regular routine. We have Netflix, so sometimes I will watch something in bed right before I fall asleep – but without cable, I still don’t catch on to a lot of pop culture references. If there is something on the News – I have to wait until the CTV website posts it to their website to see what was reported – something Daryl Newcombe from CTV laughs about. I think he’s promised/threatened to buy me bunny ears a few times so that I can catch the news live- I replied he can just text me what I need to know. I don’t think either of us is going to budge – him in his resolve I catch the news live, and me in my resolve to catch up later.
So there you have it – Sunday as a City Councillor – work, family, laundry, and planning for the week, and I might make it to bed before midnight today!
A sneak peek at the week ahead – I will be working int he mornings – a few appointments for the kids, and council and committee work in the afternoons and evenings. Matt is headed out of town for another Beal 5024 First Robotics Tournament this week, so I will be doing all the juggling with the help of my amazing support network. The following week it will be his turn as I head to Toronto for Ontario Good Roads Association board meetings.