London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Mackenzie Howson and Marco Masutti are relatively new to London, but both took the opportunity to get involved in their community’s future for the first time on Monday (June 11).
Howson, an intern interior designer, and Masutti, an architectural technologist, were just two of over 300 participants in the latest ReThink London event. Held at the London Convention Centre, the event entitled Discover Your City, was a series of five rotating lectures that introduced participants to the themes that make up ReThink London, Prosper, Live, Grow, Green and Move.
While Monday’s sessions were focused on city staff providing information to the community, both Howson and Masutti said they were using it as a way get involved in their city’s future.
“Tonight seemed like a good opportunity to get involved in the future of London. I moved here three years ago because it seemed like a city with a lot of potential,” Howson said. “Tonight perked a lot of ideas about what is most important, in terms of some of the urban planning downtown, getting the different communities and neigbhourhoods involved.”
Masutti, who has lived in London for about six years, said he felt it was important people his age (Howson and Masutti are both in their 30s) had the opportunity to have their voices heard around the city’s future.
“Getting engaged is something new for me. I see a lot of decision making, not to give any offence, by an older audience. So I wanted to make sure my demographic was represented,” Masutti said. “Like Peter Mansbridge said, this is our chance to have our voices heard and not just sit back and be cynical.”
Corina Morrison is no stranger to getting involved in a cause, but she was also trying something new with her ReThink London experience. Morrison, co-founder of the London Anti-Bullying Coalition, said she felt a sense of responsibility to get involved in ReThink London.
“I have seen lots of talk about how we are going to move this community forward over the years,” Morrison said. “This time I wanted to participate. It is good to educate yourself as a member of the community because you never know where you fit into the plan.”
Bill Brock and Shawn Adamsson are in much different places in their working careers, but both have been champions of civic engagement, in their own ways, over the years.
Brock is retired now, but he is a former London Transit Commission manager and school board trustee who has run for city council in the past. With that kind of background, he certainly has his feelings on what ReThink London can accomplish.
“I am here because, as a citizen, I am concerned about the public input process. I am concerned about ownership being with the community rather than the politicians,” Brock said. “ReThink London is for everybody, and that includes the politicians. What I heard here tonight is that there is an opportunity to do that, to get everyone involved.”
Shawn Adamsson is vice-president operations for the web design company, rtraction. Adamsson has, in a relatively short amount of time, become a social media lightning rod for the cause of citizen engagement.
With that in mind, Adamsson said he also felt he needed to be part of ReThink London to see who else was hearing the call to action.
“I was interested to see what kind of crowd showed up, what kind of questions were going to be asked,” Adamsson said. “I wanted to see what kind of audience we were going to be taking forward. It has been encouraging.”
There was perhaps nobody more encouraged at the end of Monday’s event than John Fleming, London’s director of planning. Fleming, perhaps the lead voice for ReThink London, said he was excited by the diversity (in terms of age and ethnicity) that he saw in the crowds.
Fleming also said it was “really gratifying” to see not just the usual faces that come out for civic engagement opportunities, but all those — like Howson and Masutti — who were coming out for the first time.
But perhaps most of all, Fleming said he was quite pleased with just how engaged, and prepared, the ReThink participants were.
“People had really informed questions. That tells us this is a community that is ready to talk about city issues. It is a community that wants to talk about its future,” Fleming said. “That is exciting to me as a planner, it is exciting to me as somebody involved with this rethinking of community. I think this community is ready to have this conversation.”
The next ReThink London event, Your Vision, Your Future, takes place Saturday, June 23, at the London Convention Centre. The sessions take place 8:30-11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.ReThinkLondon.ca.
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