City politics come to campus

In an attempt to engage more of the university community with the city of Waterloo, the Waterloo City Council came out of their comfort zone Monday evening to give Wilfrid Laurier University students and faculty a small taste of municipal politics.

The Waterloo City Council conducted a meeting just like if they were at city hall, except for the fact a large presence of students, faculty and community members were there to experience the process. This was a first for the council.

“I shot off an e-mail to Mayor Halloran and she was really receptive,” explained Erin Epp, a fifth-year student at WLU and president of Wilfrid Laurier University Student Publications, who set up the meeting.

“I think that reflects really positively on the city of Waterloo and the council that they are willing to connect with the university.”

“We’re very pleased, it’s unusual of any council to be invited outside of city hall to hold a meeting this is for us something that we really like to do,” Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran told The Cord after the meeting.

While the meeting was treated like a regular council meeting, Halloran took time to carefully explain some of the procedures. After a lengthy introduction, the meeting then proceeded into community presentations, which included one by Laurier president Max Blouw.

“This partnership between the city and university has been very positive for a long period of time,” Blouw later told The Cord. “I hope we can really strive for an exciting vision of a new relationship between a growing university and a growing community.”

Blouw’s presentation hinted at the future goals of the institution and how it can create a vibrant community with Waterloo. Other presentations included a recap of the centennial campaign by Mary D’Alton, chair of the centennial steering committee, and a presentation by ACCESSU’s Jon Pryce.

Once the presentations were finished, the council then went onto to discussing agenda materials, one of which was regarding slight tweaks to the bylaw enforcement division. The reshuffling of staff and creating a more effective way to outreach to the community were some of those changes.

That, along with the financial plan for the city’s water distribution system, was approved unanimously by the councillors.

“With the bylaw report that came out tonight, we have been doing a lot of work around bylaws to make sure we’re protecting student citizens from difficult situations as well as working with the police so that your safety is the utmost importance,” said Halloran.

Local politics haven’t always been a huge interest among many university students, especially considering many of them will only live in the Waterloo community for four years. But Halloran, as well as many of the councillors, felt that students should be actively engaged in Waterloo.

“No matter where you live you should get engaged in that committee because it has a direct impact on you,” Halloran continued. “And you have a direct impact on the community.”

Jeff Henry, councillor for ward six, which is home to a large portion of the student population and who is directly involved in the re-visioning of the Northdale neighbourhood, felt similarly to the mayor.

“We’ve also got that broader opportunity for people to weigh in and it’s important that people come out, whether they’re students or not. And we see a lot more that are not.” Henry said of the ongoing issues in Northdale, which is bordered by King Street, Columbia Street, Phillip Street and University Avenue.

To Epp and Halloran, the turnout for the campus event, which saw few empty seats in the Senate and Board Chamber was overwhelming. “I thought it was a great turnout. I know a few professors told their classes to come. It was a really good diversity of faculty, staff and students, there wasn’t just one group,” Epp said.

Though there’s always room for more engagement, Halloran was fairly optimistic about the student involvement. “I’m finding that the longer I’ve been mayor, the more engaged the students are getting in the city,” she concluded.

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