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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, October 10, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire - Jim Furfaro (Ward 1)

1) Why did you want to run for city council?
I believe that one of life’s mandates is to “be of service.” I have always believed in and practiced public service. Life is not always about “taking.” It should also be balanced with “giving.”
A common and often heard complaint from voters is that that candidates are visible to voters during the campaign and once elected are seldom seen. I want to assure voters that their support will be recognized beyond Election Day. I plan to “put constituents and their needs first.” I will keep voters informed (townhall meetings) and up-to-date on key issues that have a potential impact on Ward One or the entire city.
I have many years of leadership experience (in education) that will be valuable when addressing the many challenges that face Councillors. I also served as a Catholic school Trustee for the last four years. While chairing the Corporate Services Committee, I gained a lot of insight into the budget process that will greatly assist me as a city councillor.

2) What do you think of the performance of the last council?
On the positive side, Council gets credit for a number of initiatives. A much improved organic waste processing facility, 25 infrastructure projects that will save taxpayers millions of dollars, a new transit terminal, a partnership with Guelph Hydro for photovoltaic electricity and the new Hanlon Creek Industrial Park.
Balance the above with the following: Guelph Civic Museum is expected to be considerably over budget. We have an organic waste plant that was built larger than necessary. The Region of Waterloo gets two-thirds of our facility for 20 years. Why did the city not partner with The Region of Waterloo to cut costs and debt load? The Canadian Federation of Independent Business conducted a survey last June. A total of 272 firms were asked to rate city hall’s performance as good, adequate or poor in five areas. A “poor” rating was the grade in each area. IMICO is the elephant in the room nobody wants to acknowledge. It’s been an embarrassment to the ward and city for many years. When will Council realize that rehabilitating this property is good for Ward 1 and the entire city?

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

a) Taxes
In the last four years, property tax increases have totalled 16.4 per cent, an average of 4.1 per cent per year. This is considerably more than the cost of living or inflation rate. Industrial commercial taxes need to be adjusted upward from the present rate of 16 per cent. I believe this is possible with the newly developed Hanlon Creek Business Park. More serviced land is available and a plan should be in place to gradually raise the present rate to at least 20 per cent. I think this is attainable and would take some pressure off the residential rate which is 84 per cent.

b) Budget
The 2011 budget should not contain many big-ticket items. Several deferred projects are presently on the books. Library ($50M), south end rec centre ($37M), Wilson Street parkade ($16M). Let’s also keep in mind the possible over run in costs associated with the many infrastructure projects, the Guelph Civic Museum, the Transit Hub and the three bin garbage system to be phased in 2012.
The new council needs to set a "ceiling" on property taxes prior to the budget process. This tax cap will help councillors focus on expenditures that are well planned and absolutely vital.

c) Transit
I am not fully versed in the current “official” transportation plan, however, the city needs a system that is comprehensive enough to serve the needs of commuters, those who rely on the various means of public transit (GO Train, coach) plus students and seniors. The system needs to be reliable, efficient and cost effective in order to encourage ridership. I would like to see an official review take place every couple of years to determine if the transit plan (of the day) is meeting the needs of those who use it.

d) Development/Infrastructure
There are a number of opportunities in the coming term for council to address development and infrastructure. The Wood/Kilmer property is awaiting a demolition permit, which is the first step to developing is prime brownsfield and key component of the overall downtown development plan. The former Marsh Tire location is another downtown property that will need to be looked at and determine what role it will play in the downtown development plan. Finally, there is the long forgotten IMCO brownsfield. I would like to see this long forgotten albatross addressed in earnest. It has been neglected far too long. Residents within the immediate area need to know that IMCO will be given “top priority.” It’s time to meet with prospective developers, establish a number of partnerships and discuss potential uses for the site.

e) Arts & Culture
The annual “Festival Italiano” is a great success story. I believe it’s possible to duplicate the format with other cultures. The “multicultural festival” is a one day experience where numerous cultures attempt to do what Festival Italiano does over three days. Consideration should be given to a different format. Have all the participants of the multicultural festival choose one full day throughout the summer months to showcase their food, music, dance and related activities. This now provides a number of opportunities for the public to participate and become more familiar with the varied and rich cultures we have in our city.

4) Is there another issue that you’d specifically like to highlight/focus on?
While campaigning door-to-door, the vast majority of seniors had lots of questions related to the newly proposed three bin garbage system. Their concerns revolved around the issue of storage, size, odour, maggots and the unknown challenges of winter. Will the use of bio-degradable (liner) bags be explored? Will council seek public input prior to implementation in 2012? Council has more than one year to provide answers to many questions. Council needs to do its homework and get this three bin garbage system right the first time.

5) What’s your message for voters?
This election is as much about “change” as it is about issues. There are ten incumbent councillors seeking re-election and twenty-three individuals believing they can make a difference. Be prepared for “business as usual” in how things are done in the council chamber if voters choose not to make substantial changes.
I have held positions of responsibility. I possess a range of skills. I am in good health and prepared to take on the challenges of this job. I will be visible and provide a quality level of service to Ward 1 constituents and the city.
I want to work for you! Hire me on October 25.

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