With election day less than a month away, students are being turned on to the impending vote. From candidates going door-to-door, FedS' get out the vote effort (though we haven't seen much of that), to being one of the many students involved in the Northdale issue the one question underlying student's concern is: "what part do I play in the city?"
One contentious role is that of neighbour. Over the past year the tension between permanent residents and student tenants reached a breaking point in the Northdale neighbourhood---the residential area roughly bounded by King, Columbia, Lester, and University. The outgoing City Council punted on the issue when it came up at the June 7, deciding that the proposals were insufficient and commissioning another land use study. In the run up to the meeting and during the discussion it was stressed that the issues in Northdale were not just students versus residents but a larger failure of zoning and growth planning in the area. This is not to say that direct conflict between students and residents does not exist. Noise bylaw violations, rowdiness, poorly maintained properties, and property devaluation stemming from the above were all pinned on students by frustrated residents.
The issues in Northdale are not restricted to a box marked by streets in Ward 6. Students live throughout the city, and make up a significant fraction of the population. In interviews on campus The Chevron found many students noted tension between themselves and permanent residents in all of the neighbourhoods surrounding campus. The noise bylaw was an oft-cited point of conflict. Students we spoke to found the 7pm `bedtime' for stereos to be written with out any consideration of their lifestyle, and were especially put off by the fact that the bylaw requires that after that time the stereo be inaudible in the area outside of their residence. Music at a backyard barbecue is not permitted in the evening; even holding a party at a reasonable volume in the summer is risky if the students' house is cooled by keeping windows open. Noise is not the only stick the students get the short end of. Many property maintenance bylaws are the responsibility of the landlord, and the city does little to protect students from abuse by absentee landlords or inform them of their rights as tenants. The students we spoke to were looking for a mayor and ward councilors aware of the student side of the conflict and willing to work towards a solution amicable to both residents and students. They hoped at least one candidate understood that being asked to turn off the stereo when the sun is still up is a recipe for disaster and that battling an abusive landlord while maintaining a full course load is immensely difficult.
Bylaw mismatch and poor tenant protection are not the only obstacles facing students who wish to join the community. There are plenty of residents who view the issue as one of students versus residents, and this is reflected in the candidates. At the Ward 7 debate on October 6 held by the Voter Support Committee, candidate Duncan McLean suggested that the solution to tensions between residents and students was increased bylaw enforcement. Mr. McLean stated he was aware of the concerns residents had for decreasing property values and proposed additional police presence during problem months. McLean expressed the desire to teach the students to be respectful members of the community through increased enforcement alone. Mr. McLean is not alone in his views, students we spoke to stated they were often stigmatized by their neighbours simply for being students, even when they were clean and law abiding. It is no big secret that many apartments refuse to rent to students. The Chevron has also heard the common rumours that there are businesses and business owners that dislike dealing with students. Whether or not they are true---we plan to cover the topic in a later issue---the fact that they cannot be dismissed out of hand points to the depth of the student-community relation issue that simmers in the city's background. When asked about this, one student we spoke to went further than asking for a councilor who understood student needs, and wondered if one would address the issue of educating residents as well.
An election wouldn't be much fun without debates between the candidates, this municipal election brings plenty. The Chevron has made an attempt to cover the races closest to students: the Mayoral race, Ward 6, and Ward 7. However, we aren't swarming in reporters; at our current staff level we will be able to provide coverage of the Voter Support Committee Ward 7 town hall meeting on October 6 and the UW Debate Club's Ward 6 debate on October 13, both reports will be available on our website. We will also publish coverage of the October 21 Mayoral town hall meeting organized by the VSC next issue. If you would like more debate coverage contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org and join the reporting effort.
Concerned about the direction of the city over the next four years? Worried about a council that prefers teaching with police to community engagement? Get out the vote. If you are a student, over the age of 18 and a Canadian citizen you have the right to vote in this election. To vote you need to bring identification to your designated polling place. If you live on-campus, that is the SLC. If you live off campus, you must vote in your ward subdivision's polling place. To find out where this is consult the city's website, or the link to the city's website in the online version of this issue.
by Charlie Chaplain