Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic gave his annual state of the city address on Thursday morning, speaking of the need for the community to come together after many became divided during the COVID-19 pandemic while also urging residents to find their voice.
“We have stayed apart out of necessity, but too often that distance has grown into deep-rooted division,” the mayor said as he spoke before a crowd at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts .
“Too often the pandemic has become a flashpoint as our emotions bubbled to the surface.”
He said now is the time to turn the page, for residents to come together, as they face the spectre of war in Europe.
“As we cope with this new conflict, begin adapting to this next phase of the pandemic and work our way toward a new normal, I am optimistic that we can also begin to heal,” Vrbanovic said.
“As individuals, as a community and as a nation. To look for the things that unite us, rather than divide us.”
Going forward, he also spoke of connections that the city is attempting to build with both businesses and neighbourhoods.
“We’re also building better neighbourhoods. Parks and community centres that bring us together, roads, trails and bike lanes that connect us, arts and culture that inspires us,” Vrbanovic said.
“We’re partnering with 29 residents, business owners and community stakeholders to shape our vision for the future of downtown Kitchener.”
The Kitchener mayor urged residents to get involved so they could have their voices heard as the city rapidly evolves.
“We’re making change today and we invite you join in. Step up, speak up, and raise your voice,” he said.
“Whether you provide input to our strategic plan, volunteer, serve on a citizen committee, delegate to council, provide feedback on Engage Kitchener or attend a public meeting, these are small but powerful actions that have a big impact. That bring us together and hold us accountable.“