There have been a lot of positive developments in the downtown area from new patios at several businesses, to street furniture including pianos, to murals and unveiling celebrations.

FutureSSM’s most recent quarterly update was presented to City Council at Monday evening’s meeting and it included details on several projects that resulted in the developments mentioned above. These types of projects represent quality of life investments that are needed to ensure our youth, our young professionals and tradespeople see a life for themselves in our community, and it is great to see them moving forward.

The Community Art Project provides a great example. It included the GFL Memorial Gardens Mural Project, Traffic Wrap Project and Sault College Grad Show, street furniture, public pianos and the Downtown Mural Project. Since it began in January, the Community Art Project has engaged more than 300 youth; providing mentorship opportunities and helping them develop skills related to arts and culture. A quote included in FutureSSM’s report illustrates the impact these initiatives are having.

The City is committed to the downtown area, and to seeing it thrive. Simply put, if the City continues to help develop a downtown where people want to spend time through initiatives such as the Community Art Project, commercial investment will follow. We are starting to see that.

The recent progress would not be possible without the support of our community. The Downtown Mural Project is a great example. The project was led by FutureSSM and the Downtown Association and supported by several local businesses/organizations (OutSpoken Brewing, LopLops, J.Caroline’s, Fringe North International Theatre Festival and the Arts Council of Algoma), sponsors (Equipment World Sault Ste Marie, Color Your World/Cloverdale Paint, Kiwanis Club of Lakeshore, Batchewana First Nation, Village Media, Michaels Stores, Holiday Inn Express Sault Ste Marie, Days Inn & Suites and Bay Front Quality Inn and Suites) and artists (Jerry Rugg, Darren Emond, Alexander Bacon, Patrick Hunter, Rihkee Strapp and Mishiikenh Kwe).

The teamwork of these organizations, businesses and individuals resulted in a fun project that added five new murals to the downtown area. While progress is being made, it would be premature to conclude that our work is done, but it is important to recognize that by working together we are making a difference and if we keep at it we will continue to do so.

For a remarkable 13th consecutive year, cadets from 310 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and 155 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Corps (including highland dancers from MacLeod Highland Dance Studio) finished first place at the Area Band and Drill Competition. It takes incredible amount of hard work and dedication to prepare for and succeed at these competitions, and their efforts deserve recognition.

The cadet program is an asset to our community. One of the primary goals is fostering good citizenship and leadership skills in a supportive atmosphere that helps to develop our community’s future leaders. This is accomplished through the hard work of the dedicated volunteers who support the cadet program and helped developed this atmosphere.

I have been fortunate to participate in many events involving the cadets, and I am always impressed with the maturity, confidence and energy they continue to exude. I look forward to seeing what they will accomplish in the future.

On demand transit service

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The City has a responsibility to support the movement of people throughout Sault Ste. Marie, whether it be to and from work, appointments, essential services or recreational options. Transit is one of the most important services the City provides, and staff is working hard to provide a service that meets the needs of users.

City Council received an update on Transit Services at Monday night’s meeting in the form of a report about an on demand transit one-year pilot. As a means of making the best use of our resources and better serving users, the City is seeking proposals to shift to an on demand model starting with a pilot for Sunday evenings this summer (an RFP will be issued in the near term).

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Fantastic local volunteers working for the betterment of our community

A flag raising for Autism Awareness Month is held annually at the Civic Centre and each year you will see the photos appear in the local media and on social media, but I want to recognize the people behind the scenes who worked hard to organize the flag raising and who work even harder to support people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families.

The flag raising is organized by Autism Ontario’s Sault Ste. Marie Chapter, a tremendous group that helps spread awareness about ASD, facilitates social opportunities for individuals with ASD and their families and provides support to these individuals and their families. For example, they organize workshops, parent caregiver support group meetings and at a Baby Bumps and Beyond event this weekend they have arranged for a sensory room.

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Staying focused on Sault Ste. Marie’s future

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The withdrawal of NOHFC support for FutureSSM is a disappointing decision from the Provincial government, but it will not keep the project from moving forward and it should not overshadow the great work that is going on.

FutureSSM is a community development project that was developed through extensive consultation with the community.

We have come to accept and recognize that economic growth and development does not happen in isolation, rather it happens when you create a place people want to live in, when opportunity is more fairly shared and accessible and when there are vibrant spaces, places and experiences people can enjoy and share with one another. Simply put, we have to do more than just maintain the community we have, we need to build the community we want to become.

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Recognizing our fantastic Special Olympians and the people who support them

Sault Ste. Marie has a long history with the Special Olympics and our community is very proud of the many Saultites who have been involved over the years – whether as athletes, coaches, organizers or supporters.

With the 2019 Ontario Special Olympics Winter Games kicking off tonight, I want to send a message to all of the people involved with the games.

To all of the athletes: I wish you the very best. It takes an incredible amount of training to get ready to compete in the games. Your participation is a testament to your hard work and your positive attitudes.

To all of the supporters, organizers and coaches: thank you for helping the games and the athletes. Your guidance, assistance and support has made and will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of the athletes.

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