Former Orléans Star editor Catherine Kitts is the newly-elected city councillor for Cumberland Ward 19.
Kitts won Monday's by-election by a landslide, securing more votes than the other eight candidates combined. With voter turnout a little over 23 per cent, Kitts received 4,736 votes; Yvette Ashiri came in second with 1,907 votes; and Lyse-Pascale Inamuco finished a distant third with 789 votes. Cumberland farmer and volunteer firefighter Henry Valois had the fourth highest tally with 484 votes; Ottawa Community Voice editor Patrick Uguccioni received 374 votes; and Carlsbad Springs community association president Denis Lebrèche got 239 votes. None of the other candidates received more than 100 votes.
Kitts will replace former Cumberland Ward councillor Stephen Blais who successfully ran for the local provincial seat back in March.
After securing her victory, Kitts laid out her priorities in a phone interview with the Orléans Star. First among them is to try to get a deferral of the Ottawa Ward Boundary Review to allow Cumberland Ward residents a chance to provide additional input into the six options currently on the table, all of which would see the rural part of the ward merged with Osgoode.
“People are quite concerned about being merged with Osgoode, so I will be vocally fight-ing for them,” said Kitts. “The biggest problem is that we haven’t had a voice on city council since Stephen resigned in March and during the consultation period from March 5 to April 4 we were experiencing a lockdown and people were more concerned with the coronavirus than the ward boundary review and justifiably so."
One of the concerns Kitts heard the most from voters is excessive speeding on local streets. She plans to meet with city staff to see if there is any funding available to pay for traffic calming measures.
Under the city budget, each ward is allocated $50,000 to be used for temporary traffic calming measures at the discretion of the local councillor. It is unclear whether Blais used the funds before he left. Kitts plans to find out if he did.
She also plans to establish a solid line of communication between her office and the various community associations in the ward, but first she must put together her office staff, a task she plans to do in consultation with her fellow east end councillors. Unlike a general municipal election when the newly-elected councillors have over a month to hire staff and get their office in order, the winner of a by-election inherits their predecessor’s staff until they decide who to keep and who may need replacing.
Kitts will also need to be brought up to speed on the budget process which began in the summer. The draft budget will be presented to council in November after which the various standing committees will review the document department by department.
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