By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
With only a few weeks before the new term of council begins, Ward 2 city elect Jane Hurst is counting down the days.
“I’m really looking forward to being on city council, and not only working for the folks in Ward 2, but everyone in Oshawa,” Hurst says. “I’m really looking forward to getting to work.”
And the new council has some big tasks ahead of them, including the 2019 budget.
“It’s a daunting challenge. The devil’s in the details when you deal with any budget process,” she adds. “We have stewardship of our residents’ and businesses’ hard-earned money.”
Hurst says she wants a “clear discussion” on the budget, with no ambiguity.
“If you have something to say, say it at the table, so everybody hears it.”
In preparing for the term, Hurst has learned quickly that “everything is different when you are on the other side of the desk.”
She has been an active member of the community, serving on committees for Heritage Oshawa, property standards, and Durham Region Land Division.
“I bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the table. It’s just seemed like a natural progression and the time was right [to run for council].”
In fact, Hurst recalls a meeting with Oshawa Mayor John Henry a few years ago where they discussed a number of issues.
“We had a really good discussion, and we finished it by him saying, ‘What are you doing in 2018,'” she says with a laugh.
Hurst would like to see the city regulate multi-use buildings more closely.
“The onus is really on the property owners to do that, but can we, as an institution, do better?” she says.
Hurst proposes a rating system for rental buildings, akin to those given to restaurants and other personal service businesses.
To her, this would show possible tenants the building has been inspected and found to be in proper compliance.
While she admits this would be challenging, she believes it would provide peace of mind to those who require it.
“Not everyone has the resources to check out landlords. At least you know something has been done.”
Such a system would not be meant “to stigmatize a building or the tenants, it’s to get the property owners to step up,” she adds.
The previous council had pondered expanding the city’s Residential Rental Housing License system, which currently only exists in the area surrounding Durham College and UOIT.
Ultimately the RRHL system wasn’t expanded, a decision Hurst questions.
“We have a licensing system in place for the area around Durham College and UOIT, basically geared towards our out-of-town students. What makes their safety and security different from the people who live in Oshawa 24/7?”
That’s not to say Hurst doesn’t support the system as is, especially as a parent of students who have attended postsecondary institutes outside of Oshawa.
“But what makes it different from somebody living in another part of town. Shouldn’t they be afforded the same type of care and concern? It makes it a bit more equitable and fair across the board.”
Also on Hurst’s agenda is traffic safety.
When the region undertook water main servicing on Simcoe Street last year, many drivers took to side streets in relief of congestion.
“The residents of Mary Street, for example, they were concerned,” Hurst says.
She noted during the construction, she found herself sitting in a traffic jam on Mary Street for the first time in her life.
That area has a personal edge for Hurst as she was involved in a collision at the intersection of Mary and Darcy Streets years ago, and shares the same concerns as the area residents.
“It’s not just me, you’ll hear similar experiences across the city.”
She is calling for reduced speed limits on more side streets, and not just those near Simcoe, but all over Oshawa.
Hurst is also concerned about the issue of homelessness.
While she believes there are a number of individuals and organizations with goodwill and intentions in the community, she believes perhaps efforts need to be “a bit more organized.”
She’d like to see the return of a recreational marina to the city’s harbour as well.
“Here we are, we have a beautiful community that has such potential. It’s kind of a given,” Hurst says. “You see, Cobourg, Whitby, all these other Lake Ontario communities that do have a marina of some sort.”
The city’s return to the ward system is something she is very happy with as she was a huge advocate for this decision.
“I’m happy, and even if I hadn’t run as a candidate, I would have been one of the biggest cheerleaders of it,” she says.
Under the at-large system, Hurst says theoretically every councillor could be from the same area, something she didn’t believe was fair. It also caused confusion to her.
“When I had an issue, I didn’t know who my city councillor was, like who do you call?”
With that said, she notes councillors did their best to help but she feels they couldn’t always fully appreciate the situation if they didn’t know her neighbourhood.
As she joins council, Hurst says they should “embrace the future” and learn from the past without dwelling on it.