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Make arts and culture a priority, say delegates

By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff

Despite several shouting matches with delegates who didn’t stick to outlined time limits, city councillors had the chance to hear from members of the community about how 2013 budget funds should be spent.

Arts and culture were frequently referenced priorities, while cutting the fire department’s budget was also raised several times.

“Over the years, Christie (Digital) has been a very strong supporter of arts and culture in the region. I guess partially you could argue that’s because entertainment is part of our core mandate, but also because it does enrich the community that we live in and that we work in,” said Jerry Remers, from Christie Digital Systems.

“We also believe that a vibrant art sector is vital to attracting the kind of talent that the region’s firms are hungry for.”

Iain Klugman, president of Communitech, agreed that the city needs to support a tech industry that created 900 new companies in the last three years — 40 per cent of those in Kitchener. But support comes in the form of improved public transportation for new-economy tech workers — many of whom prefer a car-free, urban lifestyle — and a thriving arts scene.

“The talent we need to attract to this region can go anywhere. They come out of our great universities… but it’s really the investments in culture, recreation — building a vibrant urban core — which will ensure the long-term prosperity of this community,” he said.

The fire department budget has been a subject of debate in recent months, and while one delegate suggested cuts, Alexandra Pintea and Yasha den Hoed, from the Kitchener Youth Action Council (KYAC), defended the cost, which accounts for the largest chunk of the city’s budget at 30 per cent.

At a previous budget discussion, councillors directed fire chief Tim Beckett to cut $480,000 from the fire department budget by eliminating four positions through attrition.

The delegation from KYAC said the potential impact on public safety is not worth the cost savings that would be achieved by eliminating four firefighters.

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