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Dear Editor:

In response to media release from the City of Owen Sound on August 30, City Council Stands Steadfast with Owen Sound Police Services to Resolve Recent Homicide in River District

The response from the Mayor and City Council does not go far enough to recognize Sharif Rhaman's murder as an experience that has shattered our community's sense of safety, order, justice, predictability and connection in the world.

Installing street cameras, hiring more police officers and putting more people in jail is not the answer to transforming our downtown and making it a place of safety and pride.

Neither is opening more emergency shelters. Our city must not only invest in transitional/supportive housing to coax and keep people off the street, but also assist people – especially young people – at risk of becoming homeless in the first place.

Short- and medium-term interventions can only go so far if they aren’t coupled with longer-term solutions to the systemic problems of an unsafe downtown that has led to Sharif's death in the first place.

Fostering connection and togetherness is crucial to transforming this city.

Mayor Boddy and Council, it's time Owen Sound focused on learning what does help cities turn around, not continue as you have by telling us every city has the same problems and no city has answers.

I could go on and on but I've said it to all of you before you were elected.

Transforming and revitalizing downtown is as you have indicated, not the job for this City Council or the City Manager alone.

We need trusted local leaders who can mobilize this whole community to envision a bold new future for this city.

We need experts to help lead the process.

We need people and organizations like 880 Cities or Jay Pitter (unsecured site – Ed.) whose expertise is urban planning that has enabled other small cities to address recovery and growth, mental health, addictions, housing, homelessness, economic and social wellbeing.

The way people care about Owen Sound is what sets us apart, as we have tragically learned.

The local city and county government plus the county’s economic development arm could open a community-wide study circle process with a kick-off gathering to attract the local citizens who have walked the vigils the past weeks. Citizens and students in schools can meet in small groups, discussing what they like about the community, what they dislike, what they want to keep, what they wanted to change, and how to go about it. Committees can form to address: marketing; attracting and retaining businesses; recreation; and repurposing buildings.

Take this terrible crime and engage the whole community of people who live here in conversations that can make Sharif Rhaman's legacy reflect his life – caring, community, courage.

Lets get the help needed to transform Owen Sound.

Pat Kelly


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