Community Action Toward Children’s Health Q and A

A group of children walking along a sidewalk holding handsThe Community Action Toward Children’s Health Coalition sent this list of child-friendly questions to all the candidates. Here are my answers. I’ve provided some links to some interesting programs for your information.

1. In what ways will you help make your community more child friendly (for example: safe routes to school and access to services), and how will you report your progress?

I have been working on making Kelowna more child-friendly for the past two terms and we have seen some results. One of the projects the City is already working on include a Safe Routes to School pilot project around Glenmore Elementary. I also suggested and was able to see to fruition the creation of a Traffic Safety Officer though the Regional District. I have supported safety improvements around our local schools such as the recent work at North Glenmore Elementary. But there is still much to be done. The Women’s Advisory Committee, which I sit on as the council rep, is making Child-Friendly City their priority topic for the next term. Our first job will be to review what is already happening in Kelowna and then identify the gaps. There are still definitely still gaps in safe routes to school and I would support budget requests that deal with those. While the City already supports low-income families to access recreation through the “Everybody Gets to Play” Network we still need to promote the availability of this and provide more funding as the demand increases. The best means of reporting the city’s progress on these issues is to remain connected with CATCH and other agencies that work with children and families.

2. How will you help children in your community find housing that is safe, comfortable and does not cost more than 30% of the family budget, and how will you report your progress?

Affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing our community. The city is currently in consultation on the last phase of the Housing Plan which was put forward by the Housing Committee. There are a number of recommendations that I want to move forward as soon as possible to help create more affordable housing. Included in these are increasing the supply of rental accommodation through revisions to the secondary suite by-law and partnerships with developers and non-profits, continuing to partner with senior levels of government to provide supportive housing, increase funding to the Housing Opportunities Fund, encourage six story wood frame buildings, continue to award density bonuses for affordable housing. The final report on the Affordable Housing Strategy Recommendations should be in front of council shortly. In the meantime, more information can be found in the draft reportĀ here. The strategy provides a framework for monitoring and reporting success.

3. What will you do to increase access to community owned resources and facilities to improve early childhood development (for example: co-location of services in public buildings and remove barriers to wider use of public buildings), and how will you report your progress?

I’m proud of the partnership that the City already has in place with in the city-owned Martin Education Centre which provides a home for a number of early childhood programs. The city is also a provider of early childhood programs through the Parkinson Rec Centre and we support similar programs in the city-owned Rutland Y and H2O facilities as well as the Mission Field House and Cedar Creek Activity Centre. We also have community space in a number of elementary schools where children under 6 and school age children receive extra enrichment. I have encouraged the School Board to open their doors to the community and now see preschool programs and family activity nights in a number of schools. I would welcome suggestions of joint uses in other city-owned buildings. The city doesn’t have a lot of excess space in our own buildings, but I certainly continue to support programs like Success by Six and would happily work to create partnerships with other building owners to accommodate these. There are a number of programs for children under 6 offered at our library branches and as the Kelowna trustee to the Okanagan Regional Library I will continue to support these.

4. What will you do to encourage businesses to be more child friendly (for example: breastfeeding friendly policies and child safe public spaces), and how will you report your progress?

I am certain that the Women’s Advisory Committee, which I sit on as council rep, will look at ways to include business in making our city more child friendly over the next term. Education is one of the most important things we can do – I’m sure most businesses want to be child-friendly and just need to know how. The Women’s Advisory Committee reports regularly to Council. I have supported public breast-feeding initiatives in the past and will continue to do so. The city has embraced the use of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design guidelines and I would be interested in augmenting those to include recommendations to increase child safety as well.

5. As an elected mayor, councillor or trustee, how will you ensure that all council and board decisions are made from a child friendly perspective, and how will you keep residents aware of your advocacy for children?

As a councillor for the City of Kelowna, I am committed to making sure that all of our citizens enjoy the best quality of life possible. I believe that if we look after the needs of children in our community, then we are automatically taking care of everyone else. I believe that the work of the Women’s Advisory Committee over the next term will lead us to a Child Friendly City Policy that council can endorse and also use to encourage other communities. I will continue to use my own personal channels of communication such as my blog, facebook and twitter streams to inform our residents of the good work being done and to encourage their feedback on child-friendly initiatives. I am also always available to the public through e-mail at mrule@kelowna.ca and by phone at 250-717-6359.

Thank you for this opportunity to repond to import questions about children in Kelowna. Please visit my website at www.michelerule.ca for more information about my complete platform.

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