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Making your voice heard

(Cartoon by George Longley)

The voices of the people are ringing out at Oshawa city hall.

Over the last few weeks, several contentious issues have landed themselves before councillors, and loud community voices have come right along with them to let our elected officials know just where the community stands.

This is a crucial aspect of our political system that for a long time has been sadly lacking in this city. It’s one thing for residents to sound off on message boards and Facebook posts about how unhappy they are with the decision-making of our political elite. However, these online voices are often lost in the void of the Internet and do little towards letting councillors know the pulse of the community.

Getting out from behind the keyboard and into the council chambers is the best way to let councillors know what the city is thinking.

A few recent happenings are a perfect example of this.

Earlier this year, the council chambers were filled as neighbourhood residents showed up in droves to protest the construction of a series of apartment towers across the street from the busy Costco plaza on Ritson Road.

Now, council is set to turn down to the developer’s proposal, having them go back to square one and come back with a more amicable solution for the city and the residents.

The Ritson development is not the only project seeing strong community voices coming to the table.

A pair of heritage homes have also seen community members stepping to the forefront to save them from the developer’s eye.

A heritage house at 494 King Street East, also known as the White House or the Rogers House has seen a group of community representatives come forward to speak on her behalf, saving her from being uprooted and shunted to the back of the large property in order to make room for more houses. And while the residents and Heritage Oshawa may not have gotten the victory they were looking for with an upgraded heritage designation, they were still successful in spurring further study around the heritage significant of the grand home.

Also on the heritage front, voices that came forward earlier this year when a wrecking ball was threatening a heritage house at 195 Simcoe Street North have been successful in getting council on board with potentially adding the house to the non-designated registry. The designation, which is a step below full heritage status, similar to the designations held by Lakeview and Memorial Parks, never would have happened had community members not stepped forward and said something.

These are only a few examples of strong community activism that has come forward throughout this year.

With a provincial election around the corner and a municipal campaign that is already starting to see new names come forward to represent Oshawa citizens, one can only hope that the discussions, the protest and the community involvement only continues to grow.