Community Newspaper Columns

Councillor Chernushenko writes a regular columns for the local community newspapers OSCAR, the Glebe Report, The Mainstreeter, the Heron Park Herald and the Riverview Park Review.

What are your priorities for the City budget?

February 2015

Every year, in advance of the City’s budget-setting and approval process, I solicit input from Capital Ward residents about what they would like to see changed (or kept) in the upcoming budget. The Mayor does the same on a citywide basis. In an election year, this formal exercise starts later than usual, but with all the debates, questionnaires and doorstep conversations, an election campaign is a fairly comprehensive budget consultation exercise in itself. So I feel I have a pretty good sense of what people are thinking and feeling.

However, what I hear during an election tends to be very general: More funding for transit, hold the line on wages, support affordable housing, stop widening roads, etc. This is helpful as broad guidance, providing a general sense of your priorities, but really useful budget direction needs to be more specific.

For example, what programs or specific projects do you feel should be maintained or boosted, and by how much? Why are they important? Which programs should be decreased or eliminated, and why? Are they a luxury or counter-productive? I want to hear your arguments for and against budget items because I will have to weigh them against the arguments I hear from others. Ultimately, I must present a credible argument to Council in defence of any proposed cuts or increases.

New year, new roles, new challenges

January 2015

Entering my second term in office, I felt it was time to step up in a leadership role, as chair of one of the City of Ottawa's standing committees or boards. With my background, ongoing interests and passion for a healthier society on a healthier planet, it seemed natural to chair the Environment Committee — and evidently the mayor and my colleagues agreed.

Known to be "green," and proudly so — even if I dropped any political party affiliation in 2008 — I took office in 2010 with the desire to demonstrate what I knew to be true: I do not hold any fixed ideology, I make decisions based on evidence, and I have found that the best solutions to most challenges do not pit what is ecologically necessary against what is good for people and good for a healthy economy. Rather, I believe — because I have seen it — that the city of the future is one where renewal and respect for all people, species and natural systems gradually supplant their exploitation and degradation.

As chair of the Environment Committee, I have the opportunity to put this philosophy into practice. Can I remake the city, stop global climate change or get everyone onto a bicycle? No, and nor should I try. But I can do more than just provide competent management of the big files coming to the committee this term, including:

Onward and upward in Capital Ward

December 2014

Four more years — so much to do and so little time. So let's get started.

But first, I want to express my gratitude to all those who placed their faith in me to represent them for a second term as Capital Ward councillor.

To everyone who voted, no matter who you supported, thank you for exercising what is both a right and a privilege fundamental to democracy. Too few citizens — less than 40% in the Ottawa municipal election — take the time vote, and that's a shame.

On the other hand, I was truly amazed by the effort many voters made to ensure they could cast their ballot — advance polls, proxy votes, requests for a drive to the poll. One lady of a certain age, determined to keep her perfect voting record intact, simply wanted an arm to hold on to as she crossed Main Street. I was honoured to offer that arm.

To my two competitors, Scott Blurton and Espoir Manirambona, I commend you for putting yourselves forward, and I thank you for bringing your ideas to the race. We had a respectful competition, as seems to be the norm in Capital Ward. Long may it stay this way.

I am looking forward to working with my newly elected colleagues and to continuing my collaboration with re-elected councillors. Although each of us represents a specific ward, I believe we can accomplish much more and build a far better city if we think of ourselves as a team working in the interests of all Ottawa residents.

Ottawa’s service organizations benefit us all

August 2014

I recently attended the re-opening of Heartwood House (heartwoodhouse.ca) at its new McArthur Ave. location in Overbrook. Heartwood House may be unfamiliar to many residents — the former Rideau St. site was best known as OC Transpo's lost-and-found facility — yet it is home to a remarkable array of valuable service organizations. These small non-profits benefit from the reduced costs and shared amenities that come from being under the same roof.

While touring the facility and meeting volunteers and employees of the groups located there, it struck me that more people need to know about this gem. We all benefit from the work of groups at Heartwood House, whether we step inside or not.

Here is a sample of what you will find there: