WATERLOO — While Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky delivered his annual State of the City address Wednesday morning at RIM Park, audience members tweeted pictures of their socks.
It appeared to start with one audience member's photo and tweet about his marijuana-themed socks in honour of April 20 — or 4-20 — a celebrated day for those who smoke the stuff.
Soon photos of socks were popping up on a screen set up to capture social media posts of the event behind the mayor as he spoke. When the hashtag for the state of the city address #watSOTC started trending on Twitter, second to it was #Happy420.
But it didn't seem to bother Jaworsky.
He took the stage to deliver an opening address before answering questions from Eric Davis, president of Rotary Waterloo, which hosted the event.
Economic development and the greatness of Waterloo were recurring themes.
"We live in a great city," Jaworsky said. "What we have is the opportunity to make Waterloo a great global city — in fact, a great global region — through a high level of co-operation … We have all the right ingredients to be great on the global stage. We need to combine them in the right way."
Drawing on a recent trip to California with Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, as well as local economic development staff, Jaworsky said they heard time and again about the benefits this region offers over places like Silicon Valley.
Health care, maternity leave and less expensive housing are just some of those, the mayor said.
That's one of the reasons the Toronto-Waterloo Region Innovation Corridor is so important — because it creates a larger region able to go up against the large populations of places like Silicon Valley, he told the crowd.
"A lot of the benefits that we have, they are not just Waterloo Region, they're not just the corridor, they're all of Canada so we just have to punch above our weight," Jaworsky said.
He said another key factor to attracting talent and new business is the local quality of life, which the city maintains through spending on local parks and trails.
The mayor set out his vision for the future here, with a strong emphasis on active transportation and the Region of Waterloo's light rail transit project.
"Station areas will be people-friendly," he said. "Jobs, homes, retail, restaurants (will be) walkable … cars will continue to be kings of the road but people will become kings and queens of our station areas, parks and trails."
Touching on the city core several times, the mayor said intensification is working and that the city aims to build more urban employment.
Jaworsky said the question of how much development is too much is a fine line. This was in reference to the towering new developments going up in the core.
"Some people wonder, Is it too many buildings? And the reality is we never saw the sprawl before," he said. "If a new subdivision went through there it was horizontal. Now everything's going vertical, everybody can see it."
Some young residents who might benefit from the vision Jaworsky outlined were present at the event — winners of the city's council-for-the-day contest.
Zoe St. Germain was named mayor; councillors, by ward, were Leya Oommen, Zekhari Bauer, Leah MacMillan, Miles Solomon, Alexandra Kirkup, Olivia de Koning and Vansh Vasavada.
The children were selected based on their ideas for making Waterloo a better place.
All proceeds from the State of the City event benefit KidsAbility and the Rotary Peace Centre and Scholarship Initiative.