(Note: This post was written by Laurel Regan (pen name Dawn Storey) and originally published in Windsor Square on February 28, 2012.)
Though I’ve attempted, unsuccessfully, to block it from my memory, I can clearly recall way back in my very early elementary school years when we first started playing baseball in gym class. I was still young, so hadn’t yet realized that I was, quite possibly, missing the athletic gene, and was therefore reasonably enthused about learning to play the game. That enthusiasm passed quickly, however, and was replaced with dismay (tinged with mounting panic) when I discovered that somehow, all of my classmates had already learned the rules of baseball, knew how to play the game, and, not surprisingly, were quickly getting impatient with me because I had no clue whatsoever what I was doing.
I don’t know how I missed that vital bit of elementary sports education – perhaps I was sick the day they taught Baseball 101 – but needless to say, I quickly developed a dislike of playing sports and my gym career went speedily downhill from there.
Moving to a new city means that on occasion you may find yourself in a similar situation. You want to get involved, to find out what’s going on in your city, to understand local issues and politics, but it’s like jumping into a pool full of people who already know how to swim, and swim well, while you’re still paddling around in the shallow end.
Thankfully, while changing my DNA to improve my sports abilities is still outside the realm of possibility, learning the ins and outs of Windsor politics is entirely within my reach. So welcome to my attempt to educate myself from the ground up as to who’s who, what’s what, and where we as a city are going – a sort of Windsor Politics 101, if you will.
If you are a politically well-informed Windsorite, you may well be rather bored… er, uninspired… by my baby steps. If that is the case, please bear with me as I come up to speed on the things you already know, tell me if and when I get anything wrong, and, if you’re really feeling particularly charitable, help to educate me along the way as I slowly crawl towards the deep end of the political pool.
But if you, like me, are a newcomer to the city, or perhaps are just starting to find your way around in Windsor politics, my entry-level digging may just be helpful to you.
Starting at the beginning (I mean, the very beginning) is figuring out who’s who in the zoo. So far all the names I’ve heard bandied about in articles and on the news are mostly just that – names. As a newcomer I know the name of the mayor (it would be difficult even for a newbie not to have figured that one out!), but have only the vaguest of ideas as to who else is running our city.
First off, I headed to The City of Windsor web site and discovered that in addition to the Mayor, who is elected by the whole city, City Council is made up of ten Councillors, each of whom are elected from one of the ten wards in the city. In addition to the Mayor and Councillors, several other people attend Council meetings (there’s a detailed list here), but I’m going to keep it really simple for the time being.
So, wards? See, right there my newbie status is confirmed, as the term “wards” wasn’t even used back in Victoria (I think we just called them neighbourhoods!). My first task was to educate myself about these wards, and to figure out which one is mine, so I could determine which Councillor represents me.
Handily, The City of Windsor web site includes an overall map of all ten wards, as well as individual ward maps, so pinpointing my own ward (Ward 4) wasn’t difficult. And once I’d established that I was in Ward 4, finding my Councillor (Alan Halberstadt) was easily done – as you would expect, there’s a list of all the City Councillors, their contact information, and even their pictures on the city’s web site.
But for those social-media-inclined internet junkies among us, the city’s web site is missing some basic pieces of information; that is, Mayor and City Councillors’ Wikipedia articles, Facebook pages, and Twitter* accounts (because really, isn’t the internet where real life plays out?!). So I did some digging, which unfortunately turned up all too many dead ends, and compiled this list for your edification:
Mayor – Eddie Francis (Wikipedia, Facebook)
Ward 1 – Drew Dilkens (Facebook, Twitter (unverified profile))
Ward 2 – Ron Jones (no social media links)
Ward 3 – Fulvio Valentinis (no social media links)
Ward 4 – Alan Halberstadt (Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Twitter (unverified profile))
Ward 5 – Ed Sleiman (Twitter (unverified profile))
Ward 6 – Jo-Anne Gignac (no social media links)
Ward 7 – Percy Hatfield (no social media links)
Ward 8 – Bill Marra (Facebook, Twitter (unverified profile))
Ward 9 – Hilary Payne (no social media links)
Ward 10 – Al Maghnieh (No individual Wikipedia article, but there’s some information on this List of Canada’s youngest city councillors, Facebook, Twitter (unverified profile))
* Caveat: Because in all cases the Twitter accounts noted above are unverified, and in some cases the content seems highly suspect and may not actually have been set up by the appropriate individual, let the follower beware!
Thus ends the first installment of Windsor Politics 101. For newbies like me who haven’t already done so, your homework for this week is to find your Councillor, read their Wikipedia article (if they have one), subscribe to their updates or “Like” them on Facebook (if you don’t particularly like them, just consider it unfortunate Facebook terminology and do it anyway), and start following them on Twitter. (Alternatively, you could always contact them and ask why they aren’t more accessible on social media!) For extra credit, do the same for the Mayor and the other nine Councillors.
You know, I feel smarter already.