(Got those post-holiday season blues? Well, here’s a blast from this Christmas just past. Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, Ward 35, Scarborough Southwest responds to our queries!)
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1) The Gift of Councilling: What is the one moment in 2012 that struck you as the best example of why it was you became a councillor?
It is difficult to synthesize so specifically into one moment all of the rewarding experiences and challenges I have encountered as a Councillor in 2012. The best examples I can point to in terms of why I became a Councillor are found in the many opportunities each year I have to engage residents in my community. The hallmark of my election platform and for my role as Councillor of Ward 35 is community consultation. I recall bringing together residents through community working groups I had established to deal with the challenges of development proposals that were going to affect residents. It is enormously gratifying to actually change these proposals in a way that makes them acceptable to that community. Similarly, I always find it rewarding to engage with residents at my ‘neighbourhood focused’ Town Hall Meetings. Ward 35 has long been a ward where residents lacked political engagement — not because they are apathetic — but due to the fact that many residents are busy seeking employment or working two jobs and trying to get food on the table. Ward 35 is home to very hard working people and I had to create ways for residents to have a participatory voice in a world where time is a luxury. I believe that information and education is key — when residents understand policies and process (at any level of government) then they can better understand their own voice in the process.
2) Going Forward: In 2013, what is the one aspect you would like to see happen that would help develop better civic discourse?
I believe very deeply that we need to restore focus on the challenging issues that are facing our communities and our City as a whole. We need to nurture a cooperative approach where we seek to find and support commonality rather than the divisiveness that seems to have permeated public discourse for so long. Divisive discourse or ‘dialogue of despair’ is completely focused on the “negative” and not on positive solutions — it is easy to throw stones. Some people are constantly looking for the problems and seek to create a negative narrative on every issue. Identify concerns, but focus on creative solutions that will work for everyone. The challenges and opportunities facing our City belong to all of us and we need to turn our attention toward principles and less toward personalities.
— seasonally submitted by Councillor Michelle Berardinetti