At Electric City Magazine’s first All Citizens Meeting back in May, we were host to almost 50 people. After some connecting and mixing, people were invited to create the news three years in the future: May 2021. The following headlines and ledes were what they came up with.
These 25 or so stories from the emerging future serve as a collection of intentions, possibilities, and initiatives that could help set the agenda for the upcoming municipal election, and for the government that will be formed after.
They offer a generative image that transcends representative politics as usual. As you read through these, allow yourself to suspend disbelief. Some of the initiatives are straight-up citizen-led. Some of them are for City Hall to do. Some of them hint at new, working partnerships between citizens, community organizations, and City Hall.
Every single story we collected that day is included below and without prejudice. We have edited out some names so as to not give any particular current candidate undue exposure, and to colour inside the lines of election laws. Only a little bit of editing has been done to shorten or smooth out some of the impromptu pieces people put together. There is a little bit of overlap, but each story was different enough to warrant its own space.
Each story points towards a reimagined democracy. To explore these and your own stories of the future, be sure to join us at the next All Citizens Meeting on July 14 at the Mount Community Centre. All are welcome.
Enjoy. Here are the people’s stories of 2021….
Peterborough Named Most Progressive City in Canada
Peterborough has just been recognized internationally for being the most progressive, forward-thinking community in the country. The city has an award-winning approach to social services, reconciliation, diversity, poverty, environmental stewardship, food security, and housing.
City Celebrates Accomplishments, Looks Forward
City Council has announced an impressive suite of accomplishments three years into its term. Downtown is now home to new and affordable multi-unit rental apartments, pedestrian malls, support for small business, alternate transportation, and a vastly improved bus service.
Flourishing neighbourhood associations are supported by City staff and together they are finding local solutions to local issues.
New employment opportunities are attracting younger residents and families. New school openings are on the horizon.
Backyard chickens are flourishing as much as the new farmers’ market.
Belonging Is No Longer a Buzzword
In three short years, Peterborough has transformed itself into a lived, felt place of belonging for all. Tracking with Peterborough Vital Signs from three years ago, new survey results verify stunning change. Belonging is no longer just a buzzword.
UN Says Peterborough is Greenest City
It all started with a collaboration between citizen-experts and City Hall to map out alternative routes to the Parkway. Thanks to new tracking technology and traffic apps, millions of dollars were saved because the earlier proposed Parkway was no longer needed.
With diverted funds, traffic-, pedestrian-, and bike-friendly complete streets have been established and some streets have been closed permanently. New city gardens are growing food and fruit trees.
Urban density is quickly overtaking urban sprawl, supported by more convenient and electrically operated transit. Formerly vacant, or mostly vacant, downtown structures are now well serviced and offer downtown housing. Cars have been banned from the downtown core and bus routes offer less than five-minute wait times.
Core neighbourhoods have been given heritage status and the city has mandated pedestrian-first policies.
The green economy is thriving as a result of new jobs created by the city’s successful efforts to be the ‘greenest city’ in Canada.
The awarding committee cited these accomplishments as reasons for acknowledging Peterborough as one of the World’s Greenest Cities.
Sustainable Electricity Moves Electric City
A solar DC charging centre for electric cars has just been installed in downtown Peterborough.
United Nations Lauds Carol’s Place
Carol’s Place has received recognition and acclaim by the United Nations for its innovative and groundbreaking engagement with people who had been marginalized.
No One Sent to Prison in First Three Months of 2021
A break from a dependence on federal policy, people in Peterborough struck out on their own with striking results. Better community supports for people navigating the criminal justice system have been established. Restorative and rehabilitation programs have made a difference. As a result, in the first three months of 2021 there have been no new incarcerations in Peterborough.
Children Raised in Peterborough Now Returning
With decreasing youth unemployment and housing costs, Peterborough has become livable for young people. As a result, children are returning to their hometown to make a life.
City Ombudsperson’s Term Renewed
In 2018, following an All Citizens Meeting, a movement to strengthen the city’s governance took hold. The City of Peterborough appointed an ombudsperson to develop and implement ethics processes to suit the times. Since then, decision-making processes have become increasingly more engaging and transparent. Three years in, the ombudsperson has been reappointed with popular support from city councillors, staff, and citizens alike.
Peterborough Now Energy Independent
Peterborough residents now enjoy Ontario’s lowest electricity rates. The inventive application of creative technology has made Peterborough energy independent. The energy boon has blown the lid off what was previously thought possible and delivered electric street cars servicing the downtown. Heated sidewalks have ended noisy plowing and salt pollution. Low-cost electric heat is now in most homes.
City Endorses Right to Exist Legislation
Peterborough was one of the first cities to endorse new Right to Exist legislation. The new legislation guarantees the right to a living income, housing, healthcare, education, and working access to public transportation for all community members.
Peterborough Spearheads Localization Movement
By uniting beyond party politics and connecting with other cities, the people of Peterborough are playing a leading role in a global movement of localization. By linking community groups to one another, people are recognizing their common humanity and home while honouring the diversity of experiences.
Parks Conservancy Partners with City to Manage Major Natural Areas
All of the natural areas in the city will now be stewarded by all the great people who like nature.
Community Parks Part of Reconciliation Path
A linked system of parks and green spaces in the Peterborough area has been turned over to First Nation ownership with community management and named in Anishinaabemowin as part of a larger reconciliation initiative.
New Council Chamber Goes Engagingly Green
In the third year of this Council’s term, councillors and citizens alike are saying that the change in Council chambers symbolically and practically hailed in a new era. Councillors are saying one of the best things they did was to recognize the importance of Peterborough’s natural environment as fundamental to healthy and thriving city. Along with a host of policy changes, the City made the bold move of radically redesigning its Council chambers. The new look sports a circular configuration to honour citizen engagement, natural light, and view of nature from every vantage point.
A City Hall That Listens
Making good on its early efforts to engage community members differently, Peterborough’s City Hall has become a leader in community engagement. It has established processes and policies that make citizen involvement and expertise the cornerstone of local government.
Political Hat Trick
This Council’s mayor, accompanied by fellow councillors, today announced a political hat trick. PDI is off the table, Jackson Park Bridge is off the table, and a new arena just opened. Who saw all that coming?
Fully Funded Mental Health and Addictions Clinic Opens
A unique collaboration between mental health professionals, foundations, trusts, and community members has opened a fully funded community centre. The new centre provides resources, professional mental health services, help for those suffering from drug, alcohol, sex, and gambling addictions, and crisis support for survivors of physical and sexual assault and their families.
Working Place Continues Mobilization
The Working Place continues to engage and mobilize a full spectrum of community members through a variety of social enterprises, housing, an arts studio, to name a few.
Peterborough Group Gets Nobel Prize for Civic Engagement
Reimagine Peterborough has been awarded a Nobel Prize as a model for enhanced civic engagement for communities with populations under 100,000. By accessing the wisdom of citizens and linking their expertise with decision-makers and technical experts at City Hall, Reimagine Peterborough has reinvented how City Hall works and how Peterborough is governed. This is the first time the Nobel organization has awarded a prize not to an individual, but to a group.
Housing the Homeless Pays Big Dividends
Peterborough’s decision to fund housing for all the city’s homeless last year has had incredible benefits for the city, according to new survey results. It looks as if the move is saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in social services, mental health, and emergency medical services.
Birchbark Announces 5,000 New Jobs
Birchbark is manufacturing natural, sustainable goods. The company has a growing international market for their environmentally safe and sustainable products. The new company has three sites in the city including downtown, the north end, and the south end.
Detox Centre Celebrates One-Year Anniversary
In its first year the city’s new and comprehensive detox centre has helped hundreds of people. Peterborough’s housing, mental health, and addiction crisis is abating as the city adapts to new models of housing and employment.
P-dot Puts Citizen Democracy to Work
Peterborough has just recognized a citizen-led body, an association of associations, that not only provides input to municipal Council, but also promotes and elicits citizen engagement and contribution. The power of making change has shifted from City Hall into the neighbourhoods and homes of Peterborough residents.
New Official Plan Imagines the City in 2071
Decisions at City Hall are made with the assistance of open advisory committees, including a diversity of citizens as well as scientific and cultural advisors. Together, they have finished work on the new Official Plan based in acknowledging, celebrating, and supporting natural diversity. Peterborough has turned green, supported the arts, and increased social services and affordable housing. The new plan envisions planning for Peterborough 50 years down the line in a changing world.
Photos by B. Mroz and Yvonne Hollandy.
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