1) Why did you want to run for city council?
I didn’t take the decision to run lightly, in part because of my experiences of being a candidate in the 2006 election. It was a dirty election. I ran a disciplined campaign and steered clear of the polarized fighting, remaining true to my message and platform (I called it the Common Ground Campaign), which was about starting with the positive assumption that we all want what is best for the city, and to start from positions of mutual agreement. I was approached by various people at various times over this past summer, and after a lot of thought about it, decided that I was the right person to bring much-needed change in Ward 3 representation and much-needed balance on council.
2) What do you think of the performance of the last council?
This past council was out of touch with most people’s realities. It spent too much, too fast on a special interest-driven agenda, committing taxpayers and future councils to capital expenditures people cannot afford and many do not support. It seemed as though the recession was an inconvenience for this council. This council had a need to remake Guelph in its image. They branded their term on almost any flat surface they could, even in road asphalt, using colours that seemed more appropriate for a marina. I know that is a minor issue but it epitomized for me just how out of touch this council was with residents’ needs.
3) Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues:
Taxes are the number one issue in this election. I think this highlights how close people are to living at the edge, and I think it reveals a degree of non-confidence in this council’s special interest-agenda – people do not support how their taxes are being used, they don’t support the spending, and they are in no mood with how hard they are working to make ends meet to further subsidize it. And I think this fundamental lack of confidence in the agenda was the driving force for many in not supporting the sale (merger) of Guelph Hydro with Horizon. It was a lack of confidence in that direction because people simply did not trust how the proceeds from that merger would be used – to finance more capital project empire building. The whole issue revealed that the public had picked up on the “demons” if you will about this council – and were right on. I have heard a number of times over this past term, “we have to get this or that through with this council, because we won’t have the numbers for it in the next council”. That’s not how I operate. I cannot push something through that people don’t support. It’s their money and their particular collective wisdom.
The fact of the matter is the debt load for the city has increased and that debt needs to carried in future operating budgets, so special-interest driven spending does impact on what future councils can achieve operationally, because it has to be paid for with taxes.
We need to put people first, and get back to the basics of municipal government. This past council was too head-strong in its campaign to remake Guelph in its own image, spending as it did on the downtown core. For the businesses that manage to survive all of the construction in and around the downtown, they may be happy with the direction of the past term; otherwise I cannot help but look at it all as a bit manic in the energy and disruption that happened there, in the name of political legacies. And it’s hard to think about what it would have been to have a business there through it all and not think, “with friends like that, who needs enemies?” As for my spending priorities, I think of things like fixing broken sidewalks so that those with mobility issues or strollers aren’t having difficulty using them and that they are put ahead of building empires.
That’s what I mean by getting back to the basics of municipal government, and there is a deeper wisdom to it. We need the sidewalks cleared in the winter because it’s important that people can use them safely, and for seniors, its part of assisting them to live independently and to have the exercise they need to maintain their muscle tone and overall health. Also, if you want to promote walkable communities, the sidewalks have to be in good repair and cleared in the winter – having sidewalks in poor repair or uncleared is, in my opinion, a poor way to promote that kind of lifestyle change. Unfortunately, this sort of issue is not sexy enough for some, and had it not been for stimulus money most of the work that was done would not have happened.
I want to see buses pull into commercial nodes, wherever possible. I like how it happens at Stone Road Mall and I imagine we all appreciate being able to wait for a bus inside when it is frigid cold and when there are smog and heat advisories. And imagine for a moment what it is for our seniors to get off a bus in the heat or the snow at curbside, having to navigate heat off the asphalt or the ice and snowbanks as they make their way across parking lots to get to the entrances of these commercial buildings. We can do better as a community for our seniors and those with mobility issues. For transit, it will be good to revisit collaboration with our friend to the west for inter-city transit.
This council spent too much too fast. I understand there was stimulus money. In our own lives, if there is a sale on... furniture... somewhere, we may go get a few things we were wanting, and if we are lucky we might even get a new dining set or a new bedroom suite. We generally don’t go out and replace ALL of our furniture because it’s on sale. It may be a great sale, but we know we need to keep some money for things down the road – the roof looks like it’s going to need to be replaced in the near future and we can’t max ourselves out on new furniture. We have to get away from talking about how much money was saved. No money was saved. Saving money is not spending it, but socking it away somewhere safe. What happened is we spent less than we would have. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should go to the max with it. It’s not how we would run our households and it’s certainly not how we should run our city.
e) Arts & Culture
We have some great festivals that enrich our community and bring in tourist dollars. I am hopeful that with its higher profile location the new civic museum will be able to cover its future operational and capital costs (it is an older building) and provide financial gains for the city.
4) Is there another issue that you’d specifically like to highlight/focus on?
We need to get to a place in this city where we can look critically at proposals without being characterized as someone who “doesn’t get it” or is some kind of jerk. It shuts down the healthy and necessary discussion we need to make sure what we are doing makes sense and that there is broad support for it, because it truly merits it, not because the people who are asking the difficult questions have been vilified and their voices marginalized.
Otherwise, we can get ourselves into a lot trouble, fast, with our spending. And quite frankly, pushing something through may work over the short term, but if the due diligence is lacking, that will become apparent, and support for the whole idea is at risk. Just as I said above, there was a fundamental lack of confidence in what this past council said was important because it was obvious that it was too headstrong and agenda-driven to be objective.
Let’s suppose Project X is important for good reasons. Presently, the way to promote it is to talk about its wonderful aspects without discussing the downside or risks attached to it, and ramming it through – but it’s not a good idea until the plan to implement it makes it a good idea. This past council didn’t understand that. In the end, how Project X is implemented will determine what people think of it, and if it is based on noble ideas of what we can be as a community, those who have rammed it through and have left us paying for a white elephant has not done anyone any favours. Because the facts do eventually come out.
We need to get away from needing villains and scapegoats for our problems, and take responsibility for the ways we have failed. We need to own our role in the debacle with the County, and not make city staff defend themselves for wanting to go to work in the morning and pay their mortgages.
5) What’s your message for voters?
It’s time for change in Ward 3. We need more balance on Council, we need representation in Ward 3 that puts the issues in Ward 3 first, instead of trolling the party line, and I can do that with balance and integrity. We need councillors that that represent Ward 3 to council, not council to Ward 3.
This past council spent too much, too fast, committing us to debt many of us cannot afford, for expenditures many to not even approve of. It’s time to get back to the basics of municipal government, which is about ensuring services are maintained and the nuts and bolts of the city are maintained. Spending sprees that leave the City maxed out and needing its staff to lock the doors and go home is not good management – it’s just a bad way to do business.
You won’t see an election sign for me. I have decided that I have to not just talk about less spending and being careful with other people’s money, I have to demonstrate that with my campaign. I have heard a lot of stories of heartbreak and courage as people pick up the pieces or soldier on from the downturn in the economy, and not spending money on election signs is one way I can show that I understand and respect that.
Thank you for your questions.