Interview with Mathew Njenga, City Council candidate for Wards 2 & 6 in Brampton, Canada
Thursday, October 5, 2006
The upcoming 2006 Brampton municipal election, to be held November 13, features an array of candidates looking to represent their wards in city council or the council of the Peel Region.
Wikinews contributor Nick Moreau contacted many of the candidates, including Mathew Njenga, asking them to answer common questions sent in an email. This ward's incumbent is John A. Hutton; also challenging Hutton is Derrick Coke, Navdeep Gill, Jim Howell, Joyce Rodriguez, and Doug Whillans.
Q: List the three most important issues in your campaign.
- A: The three top issues for my campaign are crime, urban sprawl, and the environment.
Q: What one election issue do you feel is most relevant to your ward in this election?
- A: Urban Sprawl – The city has grown so fast especially in Wards 2 and 6 that the infrastructure, recreation centers, libraries and roads are all seriously lagging behind. If we give our kids nothing to do they will end up falling in between the cracks.
Q: What qualities or experiences do you possess, that make you more desirable than the incumbent?
- A: I have worked, traveled and lived in many parts of the world and I have volunteered for the communities that I have lived in and gained a wealth of experience dealing with people from all corners of the world. Brampton represents the world in terms of diversity due to the recent influx of immigrants and my experience dealing with diverse communities make me a more desirable candidate for City Councilor in wards 2 and 6.
Q: Why do you want to represent your ward on council?
- A: The issues that affect Wards 2 and 6 range from the Environment, Urban Sprawl, Business Development, Crime and Fair representation .My understanding of these issues in wards 2 and 6 and associated insights place me at a vantage point to address them for our common good in Brampton.
Q: Of the decisions made by council since the last election, which one would you have changed, and why?
- A: Since the last election, council issued a lot of construction permits for residential construction and that has had a terrible impact on the communities in Wards 2 and 6. In the last five years, the traffic congestion has been unreal, many residence in wards 6 have to travel far to get to a recreational center because non were build to accommodate all the new residents. Our students study in trailers because the schools construction was lagging or the buildings weren't big enough to house all the students. Residential home construction is a good thing but it has to be controlled.
Q: How are you currently involved in the community?
- A: Currently, I volunteer for an after school Basket Ball Program that's put up by Stone Church Community in Wards 6 for free on Tuesday night at Fletchers Meadow. We can only accommodate 50 students and each evening we have to turn away many willing participants because of lack of space. The lack of a recreation center accessible to the youth demonstrates the lack of vision and forethought in community planning by council.
Q: Much of Brampton's existing council is quite seasoned in the civic political process. What could you bring to the table as a "rookie", above and beyond the current roster of councillors?
- A: The one thing that I would do differently from the incumbent is to make sure that I involve the community in the decision making process and educate them about municipal services. Wards 2 and 6 where I am a candidate have the biggest influx of immigrants in Brampton. I had a chance to meet most of them over the summer and they know very little about the city they live in. Therefore, they presume that all is fine and that everything will fall in place. As a councilor in wards 2 and 6, my role would be to educate the community so that they can become more pro-active in helping us deliver the services that are most suitable for them. Most people were also quick to point out that it was the first time anyone from the municipal government had actually knocked at their door. If elected, I would make sure to close that gap which currently exists between the majority of the residence of wards 2 and 6 and there councilor. I believe to closing this gap requires a fresh pair of eyes and that is what I intend to bring to the table as an elected councilor.
Q: The Rose Theatre recently launched. What are your thoughts on this facility? Have you had a chance to tour it yet?
- A: The Rose Theatre is a magnificent building and it's a step in the right direction. Brampton Downtown needs several other projects that would attract business and improve the general profile of the city. So often, residents of Brampton have to commute to Toronto if they want to catch a good show and have a relaxing evening. If we can offer that right here in Brampton, then we can keep the dollars within the local economy creating Jobs.
Q: The province has strongly encouraged the development of high-density residences near the downtown. Do these buildings fit in with your vision of the downtown? How much say should other levels of government have in urban planning?
- A: All levels of government have to work together as the same taxpayer funds them all. I believe that high-density residents in the downtown location make sense given the proximity to the transit routes planned for the future. This would also bring more business in an area that really needs rejuvenation.
Q: How do you feel about Brampton's rate of expansion? Council recently capped the annual amount of new development; do you agree completely with this decision, would you have slowed development even further, or not have imposed a cap at all?
- A: I would have gone a little bit further because it's important that we first complete the infrastructure required to accommodate the current residents leaving in wards 2 and 6. The roads need to be completed, the recreation center needs to be completed and program for the youth developed to make sure they are not idle and falling between the cracks.
Q: Why should businesses be attracted to locating in Brampton?
- A: One of the things that I would do to protect the environment would be to attract new business and encourage the planning of smart communities. Currently, the majority of residents in Wards 2 and 6 in Brampton have to drive to the nearest grocery store and commute long distance to their places of work. In future, we should plan communities where grocery stores and other amenities are within walking distance to the majority of the residents. We should also attract new businesses in the areas to avoid the long commute for most residents hence reducing the amount of gasoline consumed and the infrastructure required to accommodate all the traffic. Another important point is to design communities that are bus and transit friendly. Currently, one has to walk far to catch the bus in Brampton and it's equally important to note that the city has so far not build the majority of the bus shelters. During rainy days, residents get really soaked which I am sure would be a major deterrent to would be transit commuters.
Q: How could Brampton further itself in attracting corporate investment?
- A: The creation of business incubation centers where those who have promising products could get subsidized rent would go a far way in attracting entrepreneurs and businesses men who have venture capital. It is important to note that 80% of people are employed by small to medium sized enterprises and this is the segments that we should target for job creation in Brampton. Many corporations have taken to outsourcing and they use small to medium sized companies to deliver non-core businesses services that they require.
Q: Why have you chosen to involve yourself in the political process?
- A: I am running for public office because I believe I can make a difference. My understanding of the issues and associated insights place me at a vantage point to address them for our common good.
Q: What does Brampton mean to you?
- A: Brampton is where my family and I have chosen to call home and therefore we want nothing but the best for our community. Strong families create strong communities.
The order of questions in this interview has been changed, however most everything else has been left intact, from what Mr. Njenga responded to Wikinews. The entire original text can be read on the article's talk page.
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