A very interesting issue came before Council on Monday, January 6th. The Jewish Community Centre (JCC) was asking Council to extend the tax-exempt status it was granted on its property in 1960 to include additional adjacent property the JCC was considering purchasing and turning into green space. This was an interesting issue to be sure. For me–as one of two Councillors who voted against the extension of tax exempt status–the central issue was equality: the path to tax exempt status should be the same for all organizations. Here’s the critical fact: community organizations seeking tax exemption have to go through MPAC–an independent body established by the Province of Ontario–and NOT city council. Most exceptions to that standard practice were granted before 1970…long before MPAC was established in 1997. Hence, even though the JCC does exceptional work for the betterment of our community, my decision was based on the fact that the same process should apply to all organizations.
Here is an article from the Windsor Star that summarizes Council’s decision: article.
My first City Council meeting took place on Monday, December 16th. Council chamber was packed–wall to wall–with firefighters eager to discuss the reorganization of Windsor Fire & Rescue. It was great to see MPP Percy Hatfield stop by, offer a hearty handshake and a “good luck” before the start of deliberations.
I will be at the Tim Horton’s on Tecumseh Road (near Banwell) at 4pm to 5pm to chat with Ward 7 residents about issues on their minds and discuss past and future council meeting items. Bring your favourite political souvenir e.g. campaign button, mug, poster.
Anne Jarvis of the Windsor Star published a very upbeat article at the start of the New Year called A New Windsor. I have to say, I share Anne’s enthusiasm for the new bicycle paths that will be expanded around town and make our neighbourhoods healthier and our cities more livable. Take a look, and let me know what you like about the New Windsor.
At the heart of my 7 Point Plan for Ward 7 is the belief that Education is Economic Development, and that we need to bring more resources and partnerships to our schools. Take a look at this excellent Globe and Mail article that helps connect the dots between the health of our schools and the health of our neighbourhoods: ARTICLE.
Ι attended last night’s rally to Save Thoracic Cancer Surgery in Windsor and Essex. The turnout was terrific and the organizers and surgeons present should be commended for mobilizing the community around this critical issue. This issue is not just about saving thoracic cancer surgeries, but about keeping thoracic surgeons and protecting all thoracic services in our region. I know how important that critical service can be, because my older brother required thoracic surgery and care when he was a university student. He is now perfectly healthy, raising a family, and teaching biochemistry at a university. I still remember the drawing he posted on his hospital room door of a dinosaur with the title “Welcome to Thoracic Park”.
I have the great privilege of working with some of the brightest young startup entrepreneurs in Windsor and Essex through a program called DeskUP that provides business mentoring and subsidized office space in the Downtown Business Accelerator. Here is a great article about that in the Windsor Star. Click HERE.
You’ll here me talking a lot about the Downtown Business Accelerator that houses twenty five dynamic startups and small businesses under one roof who work together, share resources, expertise and costs. This is grassroots economic development.
The companies vary across different sectors. There are digital and tech companies like Daedas, Astral Social, Noxtrom Digital and Razzlewood run by entrepreneurs in their twenties. Chris Pressey Design is a graphic design outfit that services not only our region but also Michigan and beyond. There are other services such as Your Choice Paralegals and Enlighten Counselling Services. The Windsor Express basketball team have their offices here too. Stonethro Studies does professional video production. There are non-profits here too including our own WEtech Alliance and Junior Achievement.
You can find the whole roster here on the Accelerator website. Click HERE.
It’s quite amazing, and what is terrific is bumping into entrepreneurs who have moved out of the business incubator and have successfully gone out on their own to establish thriving businesses across Windsor and Essex.
If you get a chance, pop into the Accelerator at 720 Ouellette Avenue on the corner of Tuscarora. I’ll be glad to give you a tour!
Windsor has the potential to be an important player in the technology industry.
This past weekend we held a computer coding competition for programming students from the St. Clair College and the University of Windsor that was covered by the Windsor Star. Click here: article.
The students had 24 hours to design and build web apps and mobile apps using the Government of Ontario’s energy data harvested from residential smart meters. It’s called the Green Button Initiative.
The students came up with some incredible innovations, things that can be commercialized today!
Here’s the really cool thing. We invited the Owners and Executives of four local tech companies to serve as judges from successful companies like Red Piston, Next Dimension, AlphaKOR and iDream Interactive. Our purpose was to connect student programmers with potential employers who could also serve as mentors to help them launch their own tech startups in Windsor and Essex and create jobs in our city. All the participants will be taken out to dinner by the executives of these companies to further establish the kinds of personal relationships that lead to employment or leads to starting their own tech companies here in our region.
The winning team gets to showcase their innovative product at next week’s Windsor Essex Tech Show which will feature tech companies from around the area plus giants like Google, Blackberry and others. Finally, WEtech and local tech companies like Parallel42 and others will be working with the students to polish up their apps and submit them to the Energy Apps for Ontario Challenge in January which has $50,000 in prize money.
Like I said in the Windsor Star article, I want nothing more than to see our Windsor students outcompete teams from Toronto, Waterloo and London and claim the Top Prize.
That would send a signal that Windsor’s growing tech industry is ready to make a splash.
This program provides twenty Aboriginal youth 18-29 seminars on the fundamentals of starting and running a business. The top four participants will then be selected to launch their startups in the Downtown Business Accelerator with additional mentoring. The partnership we built to support this program are tremendous and include a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Union Gas, Royal Bank of Canada, CanAM Urban Native Homes, CanAM Indian Friendship Centre, the Aboriginal Education Centre and the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor, the Small Business Centre and the Downtown Business Accelerator. It has been a tremendous privilege working with our partners and our participants.
Interestingly, the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in Canada is the Aboriginal community, and yet they lack training in the fundamentals of running a business, such as a business plan, and lack networks of support. This gap was what motivated us to build this program in our region.
It is all about empowering our youth to create businesses and jobs in our region.
I spent an evening today with the WE Succeed Youth Leadership Council made up of young women ages 18-25 who are breaking down barriers that prevent them from entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as well as the skilled trades. One of the reasons I am so passionate about FIRST Robotics is because half the participants are girls and FIRST Robotics does a remarkable job of breaking down those cultural barriers that limit the potential of our young women in this regard. Less than 2 percent of workers in the skilled trades are women. Also, less than 10 per cent of engineers are women. That’s our loss!
Check out this great video of an all-girls robotics team from the Bronx:
We have a robotics team in Windsor that is made up mostly of girls including the Team Leader and Chief Engineer. If you are a woman engineer or woman in the skilled trades, make the decision to mentor one of our fourteen local robotics teams today, and help break down these stereotypes and cultural barriers that stand in the way of our girls. Email me and we’ll get you plugged in!