1) Why did you want to run for city council?
As a lifelong resident of Guelph and having followed Guelph’s council for a number of years, I decided now is the time to do so. Four years ago residents of ward one went to the polls and thought they were representing two councillors who would represent them. It became clear rather quickly these two councillors were not going to live up to the promises they made and the expectations residents had. We have some critical decisions to make over the next four years and beyond and residents need to be informed. Ward one needs a strong voice from a councillor who will represent their best interests, listen to their issues and concerns, treat them with respect, show transparency, ensure there is accountability on council, to serve with honesty and integrity, and to be a responsible and reasonable voice on council. Ward one needs a representative who will be here for the long run and not for a four year term. I am ready, willing and able to be the citizens voice in Ward One.
2) What do you think of the performance of the last council?
This council did a less than average job. They came in with one priority which was to change the decorum around the council table. Unfortunately to avoid any conflict or heated discussions, too many times issues and proposals came forward which were flawed. The right questions were not asked of staff or delegations, and several councillors, including both in ward one voted in a ‘block’ and did not consider how it would affect residents in ward one. Some councillors often went into meetings with a decision made before hearing from delegations, which is unacceptable. Citizens are given the opportunity to come forward and speak to council, at which time council should be considerate enough to hear them and ask questions, only some of them regularly do. Spending was out of control in a time Guelph could not afford to do so. Council approved salary increases and continued on with capital projects as if the $8 million deficit did not matter. Ward One saw invisible councillors who ignored residents and did not respond to phone calls and emails, disrespect was given to citizens and previous election promises were not kept.
3) Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues?
I am not in favour of seeing a tax increase. A number of residents have talked to me about their concerns with taxes and how increases will greatly affect them. Constituents have raised concern about having to pay for this year’s $8 million downfall through their taxes. I feel there are more ways we as a city can see an increase in revenue and it is up to the next council to stand firm and take the necessary actions to do so.
This council had the opportunity in the 2010 budget to cut costs and capital projects, as well as profit on items they currently do not receive income from. They missed the boat on this one which lead to the five days of shutdown. We can not afford to burden the taxpayer with anymore debt. In the next term of council, as an elected councillor I will be encouraging members of council to heavily consider all avenues to cut capital projects and capitalize in areas we currently do not receive money from. In my own opinion, when the budget comes forward to council and a councillor does not agree with items in the budget, they should vote against the budget, until the problem is solved.
Making cuts to transit in 2010 was completely unnecessary and unacceptable. I believe transit should be treated the same way we treat our essential services. Would you cut service to the Fire Department because research showed there are not enough calls coming in on Tuesday’s? Would you cut Ambulance service during the rush hours because there is too much traffic in the streets, which slows the response time? The answer is no! We can not cut transit services when so many residents in Guelph who do not drive, who are disabled and who primarily rely on transit to get around. Transit is important in Guelph and we need to continue to work to improve the service.
In ward one, two of the hottest topics in terms of development are situated around the East End Commercial site and the W.C Woods redevelopment. Creating a working relationship with city staff and Loblaws will be essential if we plan to see any development occur in the East End. Public input will very important in determining what kind of development is seen in the East End. Residents were not happy being left in the dark with the East End Library. The W.C Wood re-development must meet the needs of the surrounding residents and city staff needs to honour the six story height restriction they have ensured residents they would keep. Ward one will need a strong voice when it comes to the development of these sites.
e) Arts & Culture
With a degree in Visual Arts and Geography from Brock University I gladly say I am a big supporter of Arts and Culture in Guelph. Guelph has often been seen a hub when it comes to diversity within arts and culture. The arts however is severely lacking when it comes to space, teaching space, lecture space, meeting space, studio space and performing space. At one point the federal government had promised Guelph grant money to create the required space. As a councillor I would be willing to work with our local MPP and MP to ensure we can obtain grant money to move forward with an arts centre. I am also in favour of working with the University to bring a common space that can be shared by the arts community as well as the university.
4) Is there another issue that you’d specifically like to highlight/focus on?
It is difficult for me to pick one issue to highlight because there are so many constituents speak with me about. Traffic is becoming a large issue in Ward One. I think a lot of the issues are because of the current construction, however there has been very poor planning in certain areas of this ward. The mentality of the city and police services is ‘nothing will be done until someone gets seriously injured or killed’ which has been the mentality of this city for years. It is time to change this. Why should a parent have to lose a child because our streets are unsafe? Waiting until someone gets killed is not an acceptable answer, and this is where accountability and a strong voice is needed on council.
5) What’s your message for voters?
My priority is not my own personal agenda, my priority is to represent the residents of ward one through accountability, transparency, respect, honesty and integrity. My priority is to ensure your voice is always heard around the council table, that your values are well represented. I am committed to serving the residents of ward one for the long term. I am not here to serve for four years and either do such a terrible job that I do not get re-elected, or to just give up and walk away from council halfway through the term. I have a commitment to this city and when elected to the residents of ward one. I’m asking voters to elect me as their councillor to ensure their values, visions, issues and concerns are heard and know that they matter. I ask voters to contact me via phone and email (russell[at]russellott[dot]com), as well as visiting my website (www.russellott.com). I respectively ask that on October 25 you Elect Russell Ott for Ward One.