When former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson switched (*ahem, ahem*) horses over to a run for city council in Ward 20 Trinity Spadina earlier this week, she threatened to suck the remaining oxygen from the race. An open ward after the departure of Adam Vaughan to the rank of MP in Ottawa, already with 27 candidates vying to fill the vacancy although there does seem to be some last minute consolidation ahead of tomorrow’s registration deadline, something of a known entity in local politics like Thomson could well vault to near the head of the pack, based solely on name recognition. She was a second place finisher in the riding encompassing Ward 20 in the 2011 provincial election and now would be facing the second place finisher in this summer’s federal by-election, Joe Cressy.
Here’s the funny thing, though. Neither of them are the best candidate in the race. Not even close. That honour goes to Anshul Kapoor.
If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll probably know his work. Kapoor is the founder and chair of NoJetsTO, a grassroots group that sprung up to fight Porter Air and the Toronto Port Authority’s attempt at expanding the island airport to allow jet flights from it. To date, NoJetsTO has been successful. The mad rush to get council approval earlier this year was fended off. The city has a long list of conditions that have to be met before negotiations even begin.
It is an organization that has spread its support far beyond Ward 20 and all along the waterfront. Chatting to candidate in Ward 3 a few weeks back, he told me there’s a sizable NoJetsTO presence when he’s out knocking on doors in central Etobicoke. It is community organizing at its best.
What else do you want from your city councillor? The ability to help bring people together in a way that contributes to and affects the life of your community. There really isn’t any stronger endorsement than that.
Fighting airport expansion was Kapoor’s first foray into political involvement. It was an issue that hit close to home. He and his wife moved to the waterfront in Ward 20 in 2010. They chose to do so because, for them, the ward represents the cultural and development epicentre of the city. It was where they wanted to raise their family. Being so close to the island airport was simply a bonus.
Until the expansion talk, bringing with it the push for jets. For Kapoor, that was a threat not only to his quality of life but that of every nearby neighbourhood. Once neighbourhoods come under duress, the building blocks of a vibrant city get chipped away at.
Just in case you think Anshul Kapoor is a one trick pony, someone representing a pushback on development, a Johnny-come-lately NIMBY type, you’d be wrong. He wants to promote development in a way that encourages a less transitory nature in the ward where young people pass through when they’re at school or just starting out in their careers and relationships, only to move on when it comes to raising a family. That means more family friendly building, more mixed income and affordable units. It means fighting to implement inclusionary zoning, to establish a percentage of affordable units be included in new developments.
“How is Toronto preparing for 2050?” Kapoor asks. Anyone seeking the city councillor job in Ward 20 has to be very, very mindful of the impact of development, 10 years down the road, 20 years, 30. Will the proper infrastructure be in place to handle such an enormous population increase? It’s already groaning under the strain. With projects like the Gehry buildings on King Street on the horizon, the pressure is only going to increase. The next Ward 20 councillor has to be prepared to tackle that.
How do they do that? Start talking about the ‘opportunity cost’ of low taxation, for one. What it costs us as a city to maintain a low tax base and restricted revenue streams. An over-crowded transit system. Crumbling and compromised infrastructure. Depleted public spaces. “Adult conversations,” says Kapoor, “lead to productive discourse.”
Not only is Ward 20 a key centre for residential growth, it’s the 4th largest tech hub in North America, bringing in billions of dollars to the city annually. It needs to be nurtured and given all the opportunities to thrive. Kapoor believes Ward 20 businesses need to be promoted, their importance to the city, region and country ‘shouted from the rooftops’.
Anshul Kapoor wants to represent Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina at City Hall because it is his story. It lured him downtown from the outer suburbs of the GTA. It provides everything he’s looking for, for him and his family’s well-being. Amenities. Vital and energetic neighbourhoods. A solid sense of community. Ward 20 introduced him to local politics.
This is the 15th instalment of our Challengers to Watch series, and while we’ve met, talked to and wrote about many good, solid candidates, there’s only been a handful who struck us as primed and ready to go as city councillors. A few who have truly excited us about the prospect of them going to City Hall and fighting for the future of this city.
Anshul Kapoor is one of those. Ward 20 Trinity Spadina will do itself and the entire city a huge favour if it looks past the big name and the anointed successor and elects Anshul Kapoor as its city councillor. He helped bring the community together once already from the outside. Imagine what he’s capable of working on the inside.
— enthusiastically submitted by Cityslikr