An Imaginary Platform: 2010 Municipal Elections in Windsor

We’ve updated our imaginary campaign post to reflect some recent (positive) changes:

Our projects try to work around the realities that we encounter in Windsor on a daily basis. We address these realities creatively, and so the ways in which we address them don’t always translate to solutions. We usually try to suggest the change we’d like to see, albeit on a small scale. So, in continuing with this work, we offer the following:

We’re little less than 3 months away from the 2010 municipal elections here in Windsor. We’re not sure what to make of all the candidates entirely at this point, though it’s encouraging to see so many people entering the process.

It’s essentially a given that we’ll have the same mayor for a third term (or maybe not?), but we’ll likely see a number of new councillors. This is, in large part, due to the new 10 Ward system along with promises from councillors to not run again.

In hopes of imaging a greater city, we’d like to propose the following platform. It has gaps, it’s biased, it’s potentially unfundable, but it’s a list of ideas that we think could make Windsor a better place to live:

  • Have at least two open-air city council meetings at Charles Clark Square, encourage a large audience, showcase democracy in action.
  • Find a private partner and retrofit the Armouries tomorrow: get the WSO their permanent venue, renovate smaller spaces for artist studios, and keep larger rooms for small theatre performances.
  • Sort out the Capitol Theatre appropriately. Clear the way to make it easier for WIFF to do more screenings, for Artcite to stay put (if they want to), for community theatre groups to do more performances, and to give Media City a consistent and reliable venue.
  • Partner with the University to put a large multi-department Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences building in that parking lot across from the AGW and the downtown bus depot.
  • Raise the cost of keeping buildings vacant. Do this immediately.
  • Encourage small businesses to locate downtown by offering free-rent for the first 6 months they’re in business. It didn’t take long — some folks picked up on that idea. Offer rent at 50% for the following 6 months if the business hires to 2 of more employees in the first 6 months.
  • Connect Transit Windsor with Tecumseh and the county with express buses, and do a better job at integrating with Detroit, get aggressive with promoting the use of public transit for everyday commutes.
  • Commit to planting more trees on those barren stretches of sidewalks. Who wants to walk next to 4 lanes of traffic in the baking sun?
  • Get bikes lanes in that make sense, ask the everyday riders where they go and how they like to get there, cross-reference that information with new public transit plans to make it easy to bike short commutes and dead simple to connect to the transit system for longer ones.
  • Initiate an aggressive campaign to retain talent that graduates from the University and St. Clair. It’s unacceptable to sit idly by as our best and brightest move to bigger cities. Short-term subsidies to start a business fresh out of school, 6 months of free studio / rehearsal space for artists, musicians, and performers. Tell the world that we are doing this.
  • Empower and fund people at the city like Jim Yanchula to act on their ideas.
  • Give the Cultural Affairs Office the resources to do good things and help that office to understand the needs of the arts and cultural community.
  • Commit to acting on Community Improvement Plans with an actionable to-do list over the 4-year term.
  • Create an international competition to design gateways for our city (at the border and from the 401 at the least), then make sure there’s money to actually build these gateways. Advertisements should not be allowed.
  • Start an innovation prize by partnering with Essex County and appropriate Economic Development entities to solve large problems and reward real innovation happening here.
  • Convert 30% of riverfront and other key city-owned spaces to naturalized areas.
  • Make the deep and rich histories of this region a part of everyday life — provide artists, community leaders, local historians, and elders resources to demarcate small and large historical occurrences.
  • Own and embrace that we are an international city with an unbelievable wealth of multi-cultural communities.

If you’re running for council, please steal these ideas.

Thinking About Borders

We’ve noted before that we’re working on a proposal for CAFKA, as we’re interested in the border between Kitchener and Waterloo. Though certainly every place is bordered with another, it’s the kind of K-W relationship that intrigues us, as we’re wondering about the potential possibilities in thinking about Windsor and Detroit as D-W.

We’re wondering about examining the process of  instigating a formality that addresses one’s existence in a bordered-region that (at least from the outside) imagines itself as one coherent region to attempt to, in the first instance, create an analogy to the way that the border-complex exists here with the increasingly arduous reality of crossing the border between Windsor and Detroit, and in the second instance, imagine that changing this was as simple as creating a one-stop office to attain a regional dual-citizenship card / document / visa of some sort.

This also extends into our increasing focus in unfolding what shapes locality, and perhaps, by overlaying local concerns over other places, we might find new ways of thinking about the way locality is created here in Windsor.

Plus, we’re really interested in building some thing soon.

For Windsor, Realistic Expectations and Imaginative Solutions

Read Tom Lucier’s recent blog post. He spells out nearly everything he does in this city, for free. He draws on examples of other talented people in this city who continue to try to stick it out for who knows what reasons. He makes a compelling case for having to give up some of these things he does as labours of love.

It was upsetting and it was terrifying.

That there remains any talented creative people in this city (and I suppose I’m being slightly narrow in my definition, thinking of artists, musicians, actors, writers) is kind of incredible. As much as I believe in this city, I really don’t believe we are giving enough people enough reasons to stay.

So, I have to suggest some ridiculous and likely impossible ways to get people to stay, because that’s what we do — we look at problems, invent solutions, and then sometimes we even try to act on those solutions.

We need to establish a social innovation fund. This will supply micro-grants (up to $2500) for people who want to do something creative and amazing here in Windsor.

We need to identify and make accessible studio spaces that can be shared, are safe, up to code, and very reasonably priced. This will create a place for people to work out of should we be lucky enough to entice them to stay.

We need to figure out how to convince the huge number of people who graduate and leave every year to stay just a little while longer. This will give us ample opportunity to get those talented people invested enough in this place to want to stay.

We need to figure out how to convince more people to pay more money to retain the talent we have in this city, or we probably need to figure out how to find value in what we already do. This will provide a base level of income to keep people like Tom writing and reporting instead of having to do something like take up a paper route.

We need to put Windsor on the map, the world map, as a place in which to do more than just pass through. This will enable all of the above things to happen, and happen sooner rather than later.

We needed to do this yesterday. Realistically though, it’s already too late.

Solutions in Deep Imagination

The Golden Institute for Energy in Colorado by Sascha Pohflepp

Sascha Pohflepp imagined a future predicated on the re-election of Jimmy Carter in 1980. In this future, there exists a think tank called, “The Golden Institute for Energy” based in Golden, Colarado, which imagines and invents new technologies to make the US the most energy-rich nation on the planet.

Capturing lightning, stealing back energy from off-ramps, and weather modification balloons are all imagined as feasible energy-generating technologies. The institute, or rather the idea of the institute, becomes a vehicle for creative and critical thought and invention, and it is more about that idea than the computer-generated images, scale models, or fake corporate videos that make Pohflepp’s project so interesting.

Rewriting and re-imagining something as huge as a national energy policy could certainly appear reckless or hopeless, but it should instead be read as hugely exciting and filled with potential. Inventing an entirely new trajectory for something so large (like say, the city of Windsor) could indeed facilitate a crucially important discussion: in the instance of Pohflepp’s project, how different would the world’s stance on climate change be if Carter had been re-elected; in the instance of imagining the future of Windsor, how bad will things get if nothing changes.

[via We Make Money Not Art]