Stoney Creek resident Kevin Geenen wants ‘direct democracy’ with residents on future local issues

Kevin Geenen is running for councilor for Ward 5.

If Stoney Creek resident Kevin Geenen succeeds in winning the Ward 5 council seat this fall, he says he will follow the best form of democracy.

“I will listen to what the residents have to say about the issues,” said the 23-year-old University of Ottawa graduate. “It’s the number 1 thing. It’s closer to direct democracy. I want to be a facilitator of discussion, provide information (to people) and let them decide.

Geenen said when he makes a decision around the council table, he wants to represent what the residents want.

“It’s not about where I stand on something. It’s about listening to what the community wants,” he said in a recent interview.

Geenen, who has lived with his family all his life in Stoney Creek near Eastgate Square, said current councilors should be more accessible to the public than they are now, giving them the opportunity to communicate with residents and to participate on social networks.

“Some people don’t see their adviser until they show up at the door during the election,” he said.

Residents of Ward 5 have spoken to him a lot since he signed up to run in the ward which was represented by longtime Councilor Chad Collins, who is now the Liberal MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.

Top issues people have spoken to him about include affordability, housing, traffic issues and pedestrian safety, as well as addressing the city’s more than $3 billion infrastructure deficit.

It supports the expansion of public transit in the Stoney Creek area.

Regarding eliminating the zone pricing tax policy for public transit and using the funds to expand bus service, Geenen said he wanted to “consult with residents first.”

If zone pricing is eliminated, it will mean a significant tax impact for residents.

“What are the costs and benefits? ” he said.

Geenen considers the $3.4 billion light rail project a “deal done” and said the next Ward 5 councilor will oversee construction since the line terminates at Eastgate Square.

“It’s time to move on,” he said. “People will realize that there will be economic investments along the LRT corridor.

“But I have concerns. It’s a bit of a gamble,” Geenen said, citing construction costs, inflation and maintenance expenses that the city is responsible for covering.

He laments that there was never a referendum on the municipal ballot for the LRT to assess whether the public actually wanted the project.

Geenen is also interested in commissioning the long-awaited GO Train station at Centennial Parkway. “If it takes a few years, it takes a few years.”

He supported council’s decision last fall to curb expansion of the city’s urban boundaries. But it does mean meeting the city’s provincial planning objectives within Hamilton’s existing boundaries.

“What we have to do is find a balance (in development),” he said.

For example, is a 40-storey residential tower in Eastgate Square appropriate, he wondered. And there is a 13-storey residential development planned for Nash and Queenston Roads that needs to be considered.

“Residents need to have a say in the matter,” he said.

Geenen, a St. John Henry Newman graduate, said he wants to see more development happen at Wild Waterworks and Confederation Beach Park beyond the park’s current expansion plans.

Geenen, if elected to council, would break Collins’ record for youngest councilor when Collins was first elected to council for the former City of Hamilton in 1995 at the age of 25. Geenen acknowledged that he considered seeking the Progressive Conservative nomination for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek but ultimately backed out.

“I know the area,” said Geenen, who works as a journalist, with articles in the Hamilton Independent and the Bay Observer. He has also worked with Cable 14 Hamilton.

He also held other jobs, including Amazon, the occasional shift at Dofasco, and landscaping.

“I’m as local as it gets,” he said.

Other contestants who have signed up include Matt Francis, Olivia Divinski, Bob Hurst and Sebastian Aldea.