Coun. Karen Stintz governs a very politically active ward
Residents put pressure on politicians to side with them
(Column written Feb. 5 for Town Crier.)
Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Karen Stintz represents a very politically engaged Ward 16 that has high expectations of their local reps.
The ward has six ratepayer organizations as well as tenant associations, condo boards and co-ops.
On top of that is the very active Federation of North Toronto Residents’ Associations that represents three dozen ratepayer organizations in the broader midtown area. And they are a politically active bunch.
Stintz says this is a blessing not a curse.
“One of the strengths of the North Toronto community is they are highly engaged and relative to the city there’s a higher than average voter turnout,” she says. “The community is very engaged and that’s not just during an election year it’s throughout a person’s (political) term.” This dense ward has faced intensification in the form of many development applications. So residents are very organized when it comes to battling developments they don’t like and they expect their councillor to take up arms with them.
Before Stintz came to power, during the 2003 election a group called the Coalition for Municipal Change that included reps from a handful of ratepayer groups took out an ad in the Town Crier saying: “Councillor Wanted”.
They were expressing dissatisfaction with then councillor Anne Johnston. She had fallen out of favour with Ward 16 voters because she supported the Minto towers at Yonge and Eglinton. Residents spent $100,000 in an unsuccessful fight to stop the development. Stintz answered that ad and mounted an election campaign and defeated the veteran Johnson, who’d been a city politician since 1972.
That sends a pretty clear message to anyone who wants to represent this ward: you are either with us or against us. And if they are unhappy they won’t just grumble about it, but might actually vote you out of office.
Michael Visser, who doesn’t live in Stintz’s ward but is a member of the group who took out the ad looking for a new councillor in Ward 16, said he’s not aware of residents wanting different representation in the 2010 election.
“Most people seem to be pretty happy,” he told me earlier this month. “I think the consensus is she’s doing a good job and is pretty outspoken when necessary.”
Some residents have suggested Stintz doesn’t make her opinion known right off the bat unless there’s clear case for or against a project.
She says she has reasons for this balanced approach.
“Involve the community and people can contribute (ideas), let the process unfold and then weight the wants and wishes of the community against the city vision. And come to a conclusion on that basis,” she tells me.
But she will be vocal early on when the case is clear cut for her such as a development at 34–70 Montgomery Avenue that she opposed.
The city and residents fought the developer at the Ontario Municipal Board and won when the project was turned down.
Jordan Applebaum, co-chair of Eglinton Park Residents’ Association formed to fight the Montgomery development, is happy with
Stintz’s approach to governing even when she takes a more cautioned approach.
“Karen seems very clear about respecting the process. She tends to take an approach of gathering information from all sides before forming and vocalizing a potentially premature view,” he tells me. “That has been a style of hers and I am comfortable with that.”