Shining a positive spotlight on the community
Be compassionate, be ambassadors, Mayor Sendzik says during State of the City
ST. CATHARINES — He celebrated accomplishments such as the opening of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, but Mayor Walter Sendzik also shone a spotlight on development in a whole new way during his State of the City address.
While he championed public and private investments throughout the city, and the significant progress St. Catharines has made over the last year, Sendzik also stressed the importance of community development — building a community from a social perspective, not just from an infrastructure perspective. During his speech in front of more than 450 community members at Club Roma last Friday, he talked about being a “compassionate city”.
He said there needs to be a philosophy of “care plus action” when it comes to the city and the community at large during day-to-day life.
“We can (use) the lens of indifference, the lens of frustration, the critical lens … or we can use compassion,” he said.
From working with the support services like Community Care and YWCA, to providing supports direct to the vulnerable sector, Sendzik said more can be done to work within that compassionate lens. It takes the entire community, he said, noting city hall, the businesses and community at large all can play a role.
“We have to make sure we are working with the most vulnerable. If we call feel the ownership, the sense of working together, we can build a better community,” he stressed. “We can learn how to have that lens of compassion.”
The city, he said, can do more to provide the vulnerable sector with help to allow them toembrace the community supports and services they need, he stressed.
“It’s about dignity,” said the mayor.
Sendzik said that compassionate community is just another way to progress as a city. Over the last year, he said, the city has seen significant growth and it is “getting noticed” for its efforts, from the downtown revitalization to the strength of the post-secondary educational sector and its business incubators.
“We are attracting attention … we are being noticed,” said Sendzik, noting the efforts have given the city coverage in major publications such as the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. “I can’t tell you how many people have come from away and they can’t believe what we’re doing… It leaves us with an immense sense of pride.”
And the development isn’t done yet. Last year alone, he said, the city issued $92 million in total permits, $5 million of those in manufacturing, and another $55 million in residential.
“That’s more growth, more opportunities, more investment in our community,” he said.
The city, he said, should be celebrating the pending opening of the Ikea pick-up point store at the Fairview Mall, and developments like the Penn Terra builds happening in downtown St. Catharines.
“We’re continuing to attract investment, continuing to have local companies … investing in their businesses,” he said. “We’re seeing great growths, great opportunities.”
While he didn’t go into detail about what’s to come in 2016 with the Port Place project, Sendzik encouraged residents to believe in the future of Port Dalhousie.
“Things are going to happen. We’re working with the Fortress Group,” he said, noting the Port Place owners have been working hard to clean up the area as they prepare to move forward with their plans to build in the community.
Afterwards, Sendzik said while he didn’t have more concrete details to announce about Port Place, and while he didn’t touch on the important work being done by BayShore Groups to redevelop the former General Motors site on Ontario Street, he is optimistic about those developments.
“There is exciting news coming on a number of properties people have been talking about for a while. That’s what I think will define 2016 — further private-sector investment that will strengthen the foundation of our economy and community,” he said.
During his speech Sendzik said GO Transit is “not an if, it’s a when”.
“We’re very, very close,” Sendzik said of GO train service to Niagara, applauding Regional Chair Al Caslin for his efforts.
Sendzik challenged everyone to take up the effort of being boosters of St. Catharines, and leading the way in promoting the community and the positives happening in St. Catharines. Everyone plays a role in breaking down the silos, he said, to promote the positives of the Garden City.
“This is just the start of something. You need to be ambassadors; you need to be cheerleaders of where you want to go,” he said. “It’s going to be done by all of us … our future is under our control.”
Sendzik said after the event he hopes his message is one that inspires the community to be inspired, and look at a vision of where the city can go.
“It’s a culture shift of believing in a community. For too long we held this view we couldn’t be better than what we are today,” he said in an interview. “But I think I’ve heard loud and clear from the community we have the potential to be one of the leading cities in North America, we just need to harness that opportunity,” Sendzik said afterwards.