Kathy Vassilakos

BIO

I was born in Toronto and was raised on a farm in Oro-Medonte near Orillia, Ontario. My parents were Greek immigrants who came to Canada after the Second World War. They ran the family farm and owned a local restaurant.

I went to university in Hamilton and Toronto. I am a Biochemist and have worked in the drug development field as project manager for preclinical drug development, technical writer, due diligence reviewer for new technology & business development, and as a consultant. I have also tutored high school Science & Math, and occasionally work as a gardener.

We settled in Stratford 16 years ago, knowing it would be an ideal community to raise our two children. Before being elected to council I was active in the community volunteering with a number of organizations including school council, community meals, and Hoops for Fun.

I was first elected to Stratford City Council in 2014 and am a member of the Finance and Labour Relations Subcommittee, Heritage and Planning Subcommittee, and I am Vice-Chair of the Social Services Committee. I also represent Stratford City Council on a number of community and advisory boards including the Perth District Health Unit, the Social Research Planning Council, the Active Transportation Advisory Committee (currently Chair), Spruce Lodge and Non-Profit Housing, the Stratford Perth Housing Corporation, Stratford Tourism Alliance, Gallery Stratford, and the Stratford Chef School. I also chaired the steering committee for Stratford Welcomes Refugees community project which supported the sponsorship of 5 Syrian families.

My approach to decision making has always been to read all the relevant documents, do additional research where needed, consider different viewpoints, and ask questions in order to make an informed decision. In the end, the decision should serve the public interest and improve quality of life in Stratford.

Municipalities do not have inherent powers and are limited to those which are granted by the province through statute and regulation. The ability to remain within the bounds of these powers while serving the interests of our community requires the creation of, and adherence to, sound policy. I feel that informed decision-making and sound policy are the foundation of effective, transparent and accountable municipal government.

In the last 4 years Stratford City Council has made progress on several initiatives and there is momentum to complete some critical community projects over the next term.

My vision for Stratford hasn’t changed from 2014. If elected for a second term, I am committed to making Stratford a more liveable city.

CONTACT INFO

www.facebook.com/kathyvassilakosforcouncil

Each Candidate was asked to send a bio, photo and to respond to the ten questions below with a limit of 75 words per answer. We have identified any truncated content with “...[]” Please feel free to reach out to each candidate for more information.

RESPONSES

1. Over the last five years, how have you contributed to the City of Stratford (volunteering, boards, etc.)?

Represent Council on a number of boards:

  • Perth District Health Unit,
  • Social Research Planning Council,
  • Active Transportation Advisory Committee,
  • Spruce Lodge and Non-Profit Housing,
  • Stratford Perth Housing Corporation,
  • Stratford Tourism Alliance,
  • Gallery Stratford, and
  • Stratford Chef School.

Personal Activities:

  • Chair of Stratford Welcomes Refugees Project
  • Grant committee for the Stratford Perth Community Foundation.
  • Prior to 2014: Bedford School Council (Accommodation Review) and volunteered with community meals and Hoops for Fun.

2. What do you believe your unique contribution will be to council (strengths)?

I have a background in science and this gives me a unique perspective on decision making. I like evidence-based policy and prefer to use local data to come up with solutions that meet the needs of our community. I am the daughter of immigrants and grew up on a farm in central Ontario. I entered school at a time before ESL support and know what it is like to be a newcomer and different.

3. What would you like to see achieved over the next four years (be specific)?

  • Britannia Street apartment buildings completion and start another affordable housing development
  • Grand Trunk site redevelopment begun and that the long-term vision for the site is refined
  • New strategic plan for the city that provides better guidance than the one that was done in 2014
  • Completion of a cycling loop around the city with connecting spokes through the core.
  • Complete the Asset Management Plan and close the infrastructure deficit.

4. What committees do you see yourself sitting on and what experience qualifies you for that committee?

Having sat on a number of committees I am looking forward to completion of projects in progress. For example: merger of the Perth and Huron Health Units; completion of a number of Social Research and Planning Council reports (in support of a poverty reduction strategy); Active Transportation gap analyses and recommendations, and School Travel Plans for all schools wishing to participate. Happy to sit on the same boards or try a couple different ones.

5. What means of transportation are you using in the city, and/or in and out of town and what improvements do you recommend?

Walk/bike/drive in town. Inter-city transportation is mostly car and occasionally train.

  • Address cycling safety bottlenecks and fill gaps between cycling facilities.
  • Pedestrian linkages - especially in older neighbourhoods.
  • Create county and regional (London and KW) transit service. Provincial money is guaranteed for only 5 years so need a sustainable model.
  • Close infrastructure deficit so that roads/trails/sidewalks are in better repair.
  • Improve Stratford Transit reliability with routing and technology. Expansion of Sunday service.

6. Describe what you believe the Cooper Site should look like in 10 years?

In 10 years, the site should have the Community Hub completed to anchor the remaining development. There should be a number of new uses completed or in progress and these would hopefully include housing and community arts space. Whatever the build-out to the master plan, the site should be vibrant with activities for all ages and should include outdoor space that invites spontaneous and structured community use.

7. What are your objectives with respect to housing and how do you expect to accomplish them?

The 5-year update of the 10-year housing plan is underway and will guide programs to reduce wait times for affordable housing and expand the Housing First strategy to address complex needs of many of our homeless citizens. More new housing similar to Britannia is needed and partnerships with the not-for-profit and private sectors may help achieve this goal. As always, new development areas should be zoned higher density to create a range of housing affordability.

8. If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?

  • Real assessment growth is a good way to achieve financial stability. Invest Stratford needs to continue to focus on innovative, high value business growth.
  • Pay down existing debt, especially that which relies on tax levy, before taking on significant new debt.
  • Consider new technology that reduces the cost of repair/replacement of expensive infrastructure (e.g. sewer relining process which saved significant time and money). Joint procurement with surrounding communities to bring these technologies

9. How will the new provincial legislation with respect to conflict of interest on municipal councils, coming into effect January 2019, hinder your effectiveness on council?

The new legislation will not hinder my ability to serve the public interest or limit my effectiveness on council. Due to the nature of my work, any contracts I may have would not be in Stratford. My partner works for an international company reporting to Dublin, Ireland with no business in Stratford. Both children are currently in school. I have declared pecuniary interest for some items. I would continue to do this as needed.

10. How will you encourage youth engagement, retention, re-attraction and skills development?

  • Listen to the recommendations from the Youth Advisory Committee.
  • Encourage young people to go away to school, work or travel. It is good to explore the world. For those who stay and return, provide a variety of education, skills and training programs.
  • Stratford needs to consider what young people need and expect - careers, housing affordability, entertainment and recreation. All in a diverse, barrier-free (physical, social and economic), liveable city with opportunities for everyone.