In this space, the Rose City Politics panel will analyze, breakdown, and critique a local political issue that affects each and every Windsor resident.
For April 2021, the Rose Rose City Politics panel opines on how Windsor can best position itself for recovery and resurgence post Covid-19.
There are many different strategies that governments of all levels will take to deal with the impacts of Covid-19. Windsor City Council is tasked with coming up with a strategy for all Windsorites.
DOUG SARTORI: We’re inching closer to a post-pandemic world every day. Windsor’s experience has been difficult and painful – hundreds lost their lives and thousands more experienced a frightening, potentially life-altering, illness. Businesses faced a kaleidoscopic environment of ever-changing rules and restrictions. Some time in the near future these challenges will be behind us. If we’re wise, the experience will lead us to a better way forward.
There are things to build on in Windsor’s response to COVID-19: Windsorites should take pride in the way they rolled with the changes, found ways to adapt, and stepped up to help those in need.
Strong, creative organizations found ways to innovate, improve, and survive. Businesses shifted to new markets and evolved with the needs of their customers. Community organizations found new ways to serve. Local government worked with residents and businesses to create opportunities.
Downtown business owner Renaldo Agostino told me “The City and its businesses are all on the same team for once and we are playing for survival. After all this we know anything is possible. We have seen the negative, now it’s time with everyone cooperating to balance that out with the positive!” Maybe it shouldn’t take a global catastrophe for City regulators to look for ways to get things done instead of finding ways to say no, but now that it has happened City administration should build on it.
When leaders listened with an open mind and made decisions based on empathy, evidence and trust, their choices helped to soften the impact and avoid a worst-case scenario. People suffered most when those things didn’t happen.
As we recover and rebuild in the aftermath of COVID-19 our community should go forward with a renewed commitment to consult widely, innovate out of their comfort zone, and find solutions beyond the status quo.
Doug Sartori is a political observer and organizer. When he’s not recording podcasts or getting people out to vote he runs Parallel 42 Systems, a technology consultancy in downtown Windsor.
JON LIEDTKE: It’s time to leave the past behind. We’ve done perpetual budget cutting in Windsor for so long some have forgotten what it means to invest and reinvest in our community or even see the opportunities right in front of us.
Windsor can take cues from other progressive cities and use the global pandemic as an opportunity to reinvest in our community itself. Federal money will continue to flow and Windsor can make meaningful investments that can be impactful and innovative.
A major opportunity is to capitalize on remote work and meaningfully support small businesses. Not only is living in Windsor more affordable than many other cities, you also get big city amenities for a third of the expenses. This is an opportunity to grow our population with higher income jobs. If someone in Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary can work remotely anywhere in Canada, Windsor is well positioned to take advantage, if we want to do so.
When it comes to supporting small businesses, a cohesive policy is not only necessary but warranted. Look no further than outdoor patios to see the impact. For a minimal investment the city provided a significant impact; this is how you help businesses, if we want to.
Having lived under lockdown for the better part of a year, residents have explored their communities and used their assets, whether they be parks and patios, or trails and beaches. People move to and live in communities that are vibrant and with minimal investment the city can help spur that. Why not have a live music series in our parks provided free of cost by the city? We can, if we want to.
Instead of saying no to proposals, why don’t we start by asking ‘why not’? Why can’t we offer patio extensions or ice-skating for free annually? How can we best utilize our existing assets and animate our spaces?
That’s the question we need to focus on as we emerge from this pandemic.
Jon Liedtke is a co-host and producer of Rose City Politics, a business consultant focusing on cannabis and marketing, an occasional reporter and writer, and a member of Windsor’s The Nefidovs.
Don Merrifield: There’s nothing like a global pandemic to shed light on the shortcomings of various levels of government and the issues a local municipality have not addressed properly. As we start to see some hint of a light at the end of the Covid tunnel it’s a good time to see what worked, and where we came up short as a municipality in dealing with Covid.
Covid brought into focus how terribly ill equipped our hospital infrastructure is in dealing with community wide medical emergencies. Lack of ability to isolate contagious patients from each other took a terrible situation and made it worse. We have accepted our poor hospital infrastructure for way too long and must let the powers that be know this unacceptable situation has gone on way too long.
From a more local perspective the pandemic showed our transit system has been ignored for way too long and needs to be overhauled to serve the people who rely on it the most. The people many of us relied on the most to get us through this. The programs put in place to help businesses operate as best they can during these times are things that we should not end when the pandemic fades to a terrible memory.
Letting restaurants, cafes, bars and other small businesses expand to use outdoor spaces is something many cities have done for decades, but for some reason seem to be a struggle here. I still believe downtown Windsor should be pedestrian only, but nobody has anointed me King of Windsor yet.
Hopefully the things that worked to get us through this will not fall by the wayside as things get back to “normal”. History has shown us that Windsor tends to be way to reactive instead of proactive. Maybe it will be different this time.
Don Merrifield Jr. is a realtor serving Windsor Essex County for over 21 year, a co-host on Rose City Politics for over 10 years, a former professional musician, father and grandfather, and a former ward 3 city council candidate.
Rose City Politics broadcasts each Wednesday at 8:00pm at RoseCityPolitics.ca and is available on all your favourite podcasting apps, and appears in print monthly in Biz X Magazine.
[This column first appeared in the April 2021 issue of BizX Magazine]