Saturday, 25 October 2014

Kim Zippel the Intelligent Choice for Otonabee

Whatever the outcome of the Oct. 27 election, 2014 will be remembered as a great leap forward for the progressive movement in Peterborough, with a wide selection of strong candidates in every race putting forth good ideas, as documented on this blog over the past weeks. It’s also been notable for the popularity of female candidates, with Maryam Monsef leading the way. Monsef has emerged as the clear alternative to business-as-usual in Peterborough, with the backing of much of Peterborough’s professional community.

Regardless of her gender, Kim Zippel is the intelligent choice for Otonabee Ward, the only ward with two female candidates for council. Is it possible that Otonabee voters could send both Zippel and Lesley Parnell to City Hall, and Dan McWilliams back to the trucking biz?

The South End of Peterborough has a distinct character and is in some ways a world unto itself. With the Memorial Center, Kenner, Holy Cross, Fleming, Harper Park, and the city’s primary industrial and commercial areas, Otonabee Ward is largely self-sufficient. The south-central residential area has been noted for its high degree of community continuity across generations.

The ward, which roughly comprises everything southwest of General Electric, Lansdowne and the Otonabee River, was represented for a long period by homegrown citizens Glenn Padgett and Jeff Leal on city council. Leal, a Kenner graduate, has gone on to represent Peterborough at Queen’s Park. The two incumbent councillors, Dan McWilliams and Lesley Parnell, who were both first elected in 2010, owe much of their success to having been long-term residents with family ties in the south end.

Parnell, a graduate of Kenner and Fleming, was elected with nearly 3000 votes despite limited business or professional experience. McWilliams, owner of McWilliams Moving and Storage, a high-profile South End business, was elected with just over 2500 votes. Gary Baldwin (now running in Ashburnham) finished well back with 1700.

Their only serious challenger this time is Zippel, also a long-time resident of the ward. Stephen Morgan’s campaign is strictly amateur, and Camille Parent withdrew his candidacy after the deadline for getting his name off the ballot.

McWilliams reinforced the public impression that he’d been recruited for council by Daryl Bennett when he waited until Bennett registered in the mayoral race before announcing his own bid for re-election, and when he said in his Cogeco clip that “people” came to him asking him to run. His campaign received contributions from some of the same businesses that supported Bennett, including Saverio Montemarano of Melody Homes.

Throughout his first term, it seemed that city council was just one more board of directors for McWilliams to sit on. He supported the Parkway, the Jackson Park bridge, the Lily Lake subdivision, and anything else the mayor wanted him to. McWilliams provoked sharp rebuttals a few months ago when he argued that the Peterborough library didn’t deserve to be renovated because libraries are “dinosaurs” that we don’t need any more. He also made the news when he got busted for over-fishing. Maybe if he’d been to the library, he’d have been able to understand the fishing rules.

In his Cogeco clip and his website McWilliams tries to paint himself green, but his stilted, clumsy script-reading suggests he’s dropping a few progressive-sounding terms he doesn't entirely comprehend in hopes of minimizing the defection of supporters. His simplistic website provides no specifics on any city council actions in the past term, yet his slogan is “Making a Difference.” A difference in what? McWilliams’s campaign suggests that everything is just fantastic in Peterborough.

Parnell comes across more as a rookie just excited to be there than a wise managerial presence for a quarter-billion-dollar budget. She repeatedly tells us how much she “loves” representing Otonabee at council. Other than having lived in the ward since the age of two, Parnell’s primary selling point is that she’s a “very, very positive person.” Her slogan is “Positive for Peterborough.” Everything’s just as hunky dory for Parnell as it is for McWilliams. She provides a list of all the committees she’s served on, but nothing about what they did, and nothing of substance on any issue. Parnell tried to sit on the fence regarding the Parkway and the bridge.

Enter Kim Zippel, whose campaign seeks to tap into citizen discontent around the unresponsive and uncritical council of which McWilliams and Parnell have been part. Zippel has oriented her campaign around “you” (us) rather than on herself with the slogan “Respecting Your Opinion.” The series of modest and practical points she makes in her Cogeco speech suggest that Zippel already has a better understanding of the issues facing Peterborough and Otonabee Ward than the incumbents she’s up against.

A retired nuclear operator at Darlington now pursuing a B.Sc in Environmental Science at Trent, Zippel has a history with local activism and has lobbied for the preservation of Harper Park from careless development. She’s also a Rotarian and a member of the Field Naturalists. Zippel’s website calls for a more holistic vision of Otonabee Ward at city hall. She wants a more attractive “gateway” to Peterborough along the Parkway off the 115, integrated cycling paths, community gardens, and more arts and culture in the south end. She also wants a proper management plan for Harper Park.

Like the thoughtful candidates in Ashburnham and Town Ward, Zippel has realized that spending millions on the Parkway is going to do nothing for Otonabee tax-payers but divert dollars away from their own local projects. Her website suggests that she would find more economical and sustainable alternatives to the Parkway boondoggle.

We’ve lagged behind other Ontario municipalities in terms of female political  representation on council. But this year the lone female incumbent Parnell is joined by Zippel, Monsef, Jocasta Boone, and Diane Therien as credible candidates.

For the first time, female voters have a realistic opportunity to change the makeup of council by supporting female candidates whose maturity of outlook and energy levels in general surpass those of their male rivals.

Can we improve on our standard 10-1 male-to-female ratio?

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