The latest Strategy 2020 meetings have been gaining mixed reviews.
On one side, some residents believe the meetings are productive and useful. Others deem them useless.
“I don’t think it’s productive,” Councillor Mike Del Grande, (Ward 39-Scarborough Agincourt), said. “I think this just by itself doesn’t do justice, you need to have that exposure with the people that deal with everyday social problems in the community.”
His vocal approach comes after attending the eighth Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020 public meeting.
On Nov.1, local residents in the Scarborough region came to Stephen Leacock Collegiate Institute to discuss with the City of Toronto, the improvements needed for the next generation of Torontonians.
Del Grande’s vocal dissent is a reaction to the ratio of city staff to Scarborough residents. The residents were outnumbered.
“It probably would have been better to deal with the NGOs and churches … with the population that they are trying to reach out to,” Del Grande said.
But levels of confidence around the successful outcome of these meetings differ among residents
Catherine Dennis, a social service student at Humber College, came to the public meeting as a skeptic.
“I’ve come across these flyers many times but, now that I’m actually involved, I think these meetings are useful,” she said.
The strategy has meetings taking place for nine nights in and around Toronto. Formerly known as Priority Neighbourhoods, council is hoping talking to residents and business owners in the community will help them understand what changes they need to implement for the next generation.
The changes are being grouped into five sectors: economic opportunities, social development, participation in decision-making, healthy lives, and physical surroundings.
Their campaign slogan is “local impact for citywide change.” As a result, the city staff that have been attending the meetings seem enthusiastic.
“We are really talking about strengthening what we are doing… Many times we eat ourselves up on the negatives but we need to build on our strengths as well,” a project management team member for the strategy Fenicia Lewis-Dowlins, said. “I have to be optimistic because this is about strong neighbourhoods. This is about how what happens in one region affects us all.”
The meetings are being held in small, intimate groups. Instead of the usual crowded round-table discussions, the high school cafeteria tables held about three to four residents each.
This formula opposes the large group round-tables that end up having only two or three people in the discussion. Lewis-Dowlin commends this strategy for avoiding that mistake.
Each table also has a facilitator and a note taker.
Lewis Dowlin assures it’s all about quality over quantity.
“Whoever came out, that’s who needed to come out,” Lewis-Dowlin said. “If you want hundreds of people you cannot get good data, but if it’s hundreds of people with really good content then definitely sheer numbers would be valuable.”
In spring 2014, a staff report will be up for debate for the City Council.