01/21/2014 11:59 EST | Updated 03/23/2014 05:59 EDT

Why I'm Running for City Council

You grow even fonder of your city when you've travelled abroad, I remember returning from a trip overseas and almost kissing the ground when I landed at Pearson -- almost. It's not just our diversity, it's our people that makes Toronto unforgettable. Our potential to lead in arts, technology, business and transit have never been more apparent, but there's always room to turn Toronto the good into Toronto the better.

Often quoted as being "world class" Toronto lacks the political will or infrastructure to support much of that hype, at least at the moment. It's part of the reason why we've slipped from first place to fourth on the world's most livable cities list. With a little less than nine months until the next municipal election in Toronto, local candidates and elected officials including mayoral hopefuls are gearing up for what's sure to be one of the most exciting and hotly contested elections we've seen in decades -- and our city's future lays in the balance.

After years of careful consideration and talking with the boss (my fiancé), I've decided to run for city council in the community where I've grown up and currently live -- Davenport, Ward 17, which includes St. Clair West and Eglinton Ave.

A large part of why I'm running is because I for one am tired with the lack of vision, leadership and plague of dirty politics that have hindered our collective progress. As an advocate for the past nine years, I've come to realize that those who are not engaged in the political process are treated as afterthoughts. In some cases the so-called divide between the downtown core and the suburbs is one that needs to be addressed and remedied as we need to be one Toronto, united in our differences promoting it as a strength rather than a weakness. Our political culture needs to change.

Not long ago, when seriously considering a run in this year's election I was met with taunts and intimidation from some surprising individuals in the community who wanted to ensure that there was no threat posed to their favoured candidates: you're coloured (thanks, hadn't noticed), you won't win (brought to you by the same people who predict lottery outcomes and natural disasters), wait until it's your time and let the better known candidate run (in politics there's never a right time, there are only choices), you'll split the vote (so will every other individual on the ballot that runs a big campaign), you'll lose support and no one will like you, etc. Without even knowing my platform, my experience, who I was or what I had to offer, their choice was made, their opinions -- set in stone.

The fact is, I'm not the only one who fell victim to such ungrounded taunts; hundreds of others have heard and dealt with worse, including violence and vandalism. Municipal politics includes a long and dark history of discouraging good candidates to run, simply to sustain the status quo or ensure that partisanship reigns supreme. This is a big reason why politics remains the same - why bright, young and diverse candidates don't enter politics and decide to take their talents elsewhere. As Sweet Brown once said, "ain't nobody got time for that" -- but we need to make time for that, if we're serious about being taken seriously.

Those that want things to remain the same need to consider that the original foundations of our democracy is to ensure every voice is heard and the ultimate choice lies in voters' hands regardless of what electoral system we have, not political operatives. This election, needs to be won on ideas not slogans, civility not disrespect.

It's not idealistic, it's basic.

Modern Toronto, a city ripe with city-builders, is being built by local and community visionaries who are coming together like never before to discuss how we can make a good city even better.

Ideas like Ranked Ballots, transit investment, smart financial management and green initiatives are at the core of a movement slowly brewing, waiting for a chance to have a positive impact on the daily lives of Torontonians everywhere. But we can't do it with more of the same. We need new solutions to old problems and in some cases that means completely new candidates who are passionate about their neighbourhoods, communities and their city.

That's the Toronto I believe in, that's the Toronto I know we're capable of and that's why I'm running for office.