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Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire - Mark Enchin (Ward 3)

1) Why did you want to run for city council?

I felt the present council was out of control when it came to spending. They seem to have lost touch with the people of Guelph. Over the years many people have come to me telling me that I would be a good representative of the people of this city. Not only because I am from Guelph, but because I have a good understanding of the issues on both sides of the fence. Business and Social programs. In my past I have been able to bring the two together to create a win-win for everyone.

2) What do you think of the performance of the last council?

I think they performed extremely well. They were a cohesive unit, worked well together and did everything they were told to do by the Mayor and City Staff.

3) Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues?

a) Taxes
We need to get more commercial and industrial taxes into our coffers so we can balance the tax base better. Currently I feel the residents are bearing a greater percentage of the taxes this city is collecting. It should be at least 20 per cent commercial /industrial. Look at different opportunities to collect revenue from services we presently contract out. And look at reducing the waste in government. Speak to the people that work in the jobs to find out how to better manage their time, instead of creating more reports and committees to investigate it. Just ask the people!

b) Budget
We have to stop hiring consultants to do our job(s). If we can’t make our own decisions then we need to get rid of the people in those positions and hire the right ones. The damage has been done with the new city hall, transit station, civic museum, etc. We spend money on items that we can live without and ignore the items that give our residents a better quality of life, such as: community and recreation centers, more parkland, downtown parking, level sidewalks, better social services and programs for our seniors and youth. Take care of the people that are living here now and stop trying to impress the ones that aren’t. Create a marketing and promotion department for the city that handles advertising for the city instead of contracting that out to outside companies. (Bus advertising for example.)

Where’s the audit report for this city? Let the people see how they are spending our money so we can give them input on where to cut back.

c) Transit
Co-ordinate our bus schedule to run more efficiently using transfers throughout the whole city, not just downtown. Offer free bus passes to people that can’t afford it, like people on social assistance and disability pensions. They can’t afford to ride the bus anyways so why not give them the opportunity to get around the city to help them find jobs, shop, get to appointments and take their children to events. It’s not like we’d be losing revenue, since they don’t use it now, anyways.

We need more transit between cities like Cambridge and Kitchener/Waterloo. I don’t know if this is under our jurisdiction, but buses and trains for commuters to use in the golden triangle can only strengthen our economic base and make it more attractive for people to live in these areas.

The problem with our downtown transit is there is no parking. How do we expect people to commute to Toronto from downtown when they have to walk up to half a kilometre to park their vehicles? We needed a GO station for years in this town but city hall has always fought them from coming in the past. And now that it comes to Aberfoyle how is that convenient for the people of Guelph?

d) Development/Infrastructure

We need to make things easier for developers and builders to develop new projects in this city. We are losing good builders that have moved on to other cities because they are tired of the red tape and bureaucracy that Guelph is famous for. We need to implement a new workflow software program that enables all participants in the approval process to be involved. Much of this can be done on-line and would make city hall more accountable for their actions.

We are to add another 50,000 people to this city over the next few decades, without expanding the city limits, without cutting down any trees, without any new planned neighbourhoods offering all the amenities required by the residents. The only place we can grow is up or under. And as a realtor in this town I can tell you that it is too costly to build apartments and even condos without subsidies from the government. So how is this going to be accomplished? My clients still want a house with a nice backyard on a quiet street for their kids to play in – no problem right? No problem if you have a $500,000, because that is what it will cost in 10 years.

I use to move a lot of people into this town because of the small town feel Guelph had. For some, back then it was still too big and they were moving up to Fergus and Elora. Now I’m finding that people are looking to get out of the southend and eastend because they feel it is too much like suburbia and everything is becoming “cookie cutter” from the houses to the plaza’s, to the franchises and big box stores. So do we have to grow like the province tells us we should? Or can we put our efforts into developing neighbourhoods in the outer parts of Guelph to be like the ones we grew up with; Riverside Park, Exhibition Park, St. George’s Park, Woodland Glen.

We cannot create communities like these in other parts of Guelph because we’ve been legislated not to. Over time people will come to realize that life is more than commuting to work, driving kids all around and sorting their garbage. I know the people living in these older neighbourhoods have figured it out. Where are the rest of us going to go?

e) Arts & Culture
Well it was just announced that the city is giving another $56,000 to do another study. The study is going to tell them what they already know, like most studies. Which is to find locations in the downtown that are big enough to accommodate a variety of different artists for performance, training, galleries, etc. So I walked downtown and spoke to some local artists, visited a dance studio, talked to the Guelph Arts Council to find out what they wanted. Turns out that they would like to have the public library for a new performing arts centre. Except that the city has deferred building the new public library, because they have no money. So they are at a standstill, but we have $70,000 dollars that’s in the budget, sooooo let’s spend it.

Now we all know that artists in general do not have a lot of money, so why not give the arts council the 70k to use as a down payment on the library when it is ready to be moved? I know they will require much more, but at least it is going towards something concrete and real and will enable the artists in this city to focus on a place they know they will eventually have.

This unfortunately is how I think, less studies, more action – put the money in the hands of the people that need it and stop trying to manage everyone’s life.

4) Is there another issue that you’d specifically like to highlight/focus on?

I’ve been running in this campaign for only a couple of weeks, but have come to realize that the bureaucracy is too much for one person to take on. Every business person I have spoken to has told me to stop trying to change things and just get back to my business. I know they are right and I know I shouldn’t care but I do. I care because I know the people in my town are not getting the representation they deserve or the funding for their non-profit organizations, community groups and social services. The city spends millions each year on building up the infrastructure but none of the money ever gets to the people, it only gets put back into the machine that is government.

I spoke to the people working in my Ward involved with Onward Willow and the United Way at a poverty briefing. They were telling me how difficult it was to get funding from the city and county for programs and studies for research. We’re talking in the hundreds of thousands. So I asked how much of that money actually gets put in the hands of the people on social assistance.

I got this look back from this lady who must have thought I had come from another planet. “The money we get from the city goes to pay our wages, we have to spend a lot of our time just fighting for funding to keep our jobs” she said to me.

“Really? So the 2,700 families in Guelph don’t get any money from the city?” “No”, she said, “I think they get a discount on bus fare.” “How much” I asked, “I don’t really know” she said. “I’ll have to ask someone.”

So, the people living in the lowest income bracket in our city get a discount on their bus tickets and that’s all the city gives these people. This, after I was told by the United Way that they did a study (costing thousands of dollars, of course) determining that these people cannot afford to even take the bus, discount or not and that these people have been on waiting lists for years to get into affordable housing units that I’m told are old and in need of repair. So we have 2,700 families waiting years for affordable housing, living on approx. $1,000 a month including rent and all the city gives them is maybe 20 per cent off on their bus fare, which they can’t afford, anyways.

But, we needed to move our civic museum for $16 million on leased land that we don’t own. That was important – To whom? I have no idea.

I was ashamed to be a Guelphite after leaving that poverty briefing. All the talk, all the studies, all the bullshit and still these people can’t be given a few extra dollars to help them live in our city and enjoy all the supposed wonderful amenities our town has to offer. These are not just people that we think of as stereotypical “welfare people” these are people with disabilities, mental health issues, even people that have recently separated or came from abusive homes and are forced to find shelter for themselves and their family. We all know people like this, and this is what our great city does for them. I was born and raised in the Willow Road area. I was there when they were building the townhomes on Valleyview and Willow. Things were better for them back in the 70s , at least the units they were living in were brand new! After that meeting I realized that nothing ever will change for these people. They have no voice, they have no representation, and they have no hope. That’s why I’m still in the race.

5) What’s your message for voters?

Nothing will ever change in this city unless you vote in the people you feel will make a difference and promise to stand up to City hall. I don’t feel a councillor should be representing the interests of City Hall but the interests of the people that live in this city. And that hasn’t happened for many years.

I would represent the kind of people that wanted more rec centres in their community rather than a new city hall.

I would represent the kind of people that would have wanted more parking downtown for merchants and shoppers than an outdoor skating rink.

I would represent the kind of people that would have wanted more programs for conserving our energy like tax incentives for solar panels, grey water recovery systems, compost bins, and rain barrels than changing our entire waste disposal system.

The quality of life in this town has only improved for the people that work at city hall it hasn’t improved for the rest of us. The problem is the rest of us don’t seem to get out and vote. So I guess we get what we deserve, as always.

On October 25th VOTE

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