By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff
For Ward 4 Coun. Yvonne Fernandes, 2012 was a year of adjustment and learning.
Personal changes to her home life — a newly empty nest — and continuing to learn the ins and outs of representing the residents of her ward have led to both highs and lows.
“I think the biggest change in my house has been that my husband and I are now empty-nesters,” she said, noting that her daughter moved to Grande Prairie in July.
“That’s been a really big change for me — adjusting to the quiet. I love having the family around . . . Christmas [brought] them all home again, thankfully.
“I’m sure I’ll get used to it. The dog is getting a lot more attention than he used to.”
Among her professional highlights were moving forward on designating 500 Stauffer Dr. as a heritage property, opening the Walter Bean bridge and getting new bus service to the Doon area, not to mention connecting with residents.
“There seemed to be a level of comfort, that [residents] were comfortable coming to me, raising their concerns, and we were able to work through some of them,” she said.
“I wasn’t always able to give them the answers and responses that they wanted, and that was frustrating and disappointing for me.”
There have been a few bumps along the way this year, including requests for reports that never came and residents nervous about trails running behind their homes.
“We were able to show [those residents] that connecting other trails to other areas of the ward, and then eventually to the city, would benefit everybody,” said Fernandes. “I think there’s still some uncertainty whether everybody’s going to be on board, but as an avid cyclist and a walker I think it’s wonderful that we’re opening up these areas for the community to reach other areas without having to use cars.”
Student rental licensing and recommendations made by the cycling advisory committee are both items that Fernandes wants to address in 2013, after they fell by the wayside this year.
Few of the recommendations made by the cycling advisory committee were completed, and changes recommended to increase safety where the Iron Horse Trail crosses a set of train tracks were delayed by the railway companies, according to Fernandes.
And, despite asking for a report on the rental licensing issue, the item has yet to return to council.
“I understand that we have a long road to travel on that, so let’s at least start the conversation about whether this is a good fit for the city, what other options we have, and maybe engaging the college in accepting some responsibility. You’re going to bring in thousands of students into the city, we need to find some place for them to live,” she said.
However, despite some bumps in the road, Fernandes feels as though she’s grown as a councillor through connecting with residents, working with the region on getting bus service to areas of her ward and learning more about the financial side of the city.
“I feel a lot more comfortable with the budget, that I understand it a bit more. And I think I’m asking questions that are relevant,” she said.
In the New Year, along with items on her to-do list, such as designating more heritage properties, improving trails and getting online registration into area community centres, Fernandes is hoping to get more cycling in as well as engage more residents.
“(I want to) see if I can engage the citizens more, especially as we approach the next election. See if I can really affect some change in voter turnout, get people enthused and excited about coming out and making that vote and making that change,” she said. “You know, if I haven’t done a good job, vote me out. Don’t vote me in just because you just happen to recognize my name. Vote me in because I deserve to be here.”