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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.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Candidate Questionnaire - Karolyne Pickett (Ward 1)

1) Why did you want to run for city council? 
As a resident, I wasn't engaged or consulted by council, and I want to change that. I think it's a councillor's job to seek resident input proactively, not just field complaints. How can councillors represent their constituents unless they asked for their opinions on an on-going basis? As councillor, I will find out what my constituents views on issues are before I make a decision. I've already started building a Ward 1 contact list to do just that. Residents I've talked to are forthcoming with their ideas and suggestions; they deserve a councilor that will make the effort to ask. 

2) What do you think of the performance of the last council?
I support the strategic initiatives taken on by last council with respect to reducing our water consumption, developing community energy consumption goals, and looking at how to improve our transit system. My concern rests with development plans and zoning decisions. Single-use residential subdivisions are still getting approval, and it's resulted in a complete lack of amenities east of Victoria. I want the City to shift to mixed-use zoning, because people want residential areas to include grocery stores, cafés and small local businesses. Finally, spending decisions by last council was out of touch with the economic reality of our households. Case in point is the amount of money spent on the "Guelph Remastered" marketing signs for the road construction projects, while deciding to cut the Sunday bus service to deal with the revenue shortfall.

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

a) Taxes 
Property taxes are an increasing burden, and a source of anxiety particularly for seniors. Unlike income tax, municipal taxes increase whether there has been an increase in household income or not. I want to explore a couple of options to address this issue. First, when it comes to seniors on fixed income, I want to look into the pros and cons of indexing property taxes to the rate of inflation. Secondly, I want to generate new revenue streams for the City to lessen our reliance on property taxes. Let's rent our roof space to solar energy providers and partner with local business to open a café at the Victoria Rec Centre, for example. 

b) Budget
I intend to manage the City budget as I do my own. I won't make spending decisions based on the assumption that property taxes automatically increase. Rather, I will seek opportunities for partnerships with local businesses in relation to capital projects such as city hall, the transit hub and the proposed downtown library. This will benefit local entrepreneurs and create new revenue streams for the City. I will not cut services we depend on, but I won't support frivolous expenses such as the Guelph Remastered marketing products I mentioned above. I will urge my fellow councillors to help me rectify the current imbalance in our property tax assessment ratio by no longer approving further residential subdivisions at the expense of commercial and mixed-use spaces.

c) Transit 
Public transit is a key component of a vibrant city. A modern Guelph must include an efficient way of getting people to school or their place of work, because shorter commutes mean we will be happier and more productive. I'm pleased with what I've heard so far coming out of the recent transit study and I will work to implement those recommendations to create an efficient city bus service. I want to see direct routes along major arteries, and greater bus frequency at peak travel times. This will result in the added benefit of alleviating traffic congestion. Lots of people work on Sundays and use the bus to get to their job, so we must provide this service to support the economy (i.e. helping people get to work).
I also support the multi-modal public transit hub; when traveling abroad I see the degree to which they enhance civic life. I am therefore concerned that the one stimulus fund project that hasn't begun--out of 25--is our downtown transit station. I am also concerned that the Ministry of Transportation's GTA transportation map depicts the link to Guelph with nothing more than a dashed line, meaning there's still no concrete plan to connect us to the GTA transportation grid efficiently. As councillor I will prioritize public transit initiatives over new roads.

d) Development/Infrastructure
As I mentioned above, urban planning in Guelph is still following the obsolete model of suburbia. I am a strong advocate of mixed-use zoning, because residential development must include shops, offices, cafés, and plenty of green space to create vibrant neighbourhoods. I want to work with staff to develop minimum requirements for commercial and green spaces in new subdivisions. I am concerned about the continued focus on high-rises as the way to achieve intensification. At the moment residents are very anxious about the redevelopment of the Woods Site on Arthur Street. I will prioritize the development of brownfields and idle pavement towards reaching provincial targets so that the City grows strong from within. Finally, I want new development to play a major role in implementing our community energy strategy. That means, for instance, placing the onus on developers to incorporate low-flush toilets and grey water systems in the new houses they are building, rather than the City asking buyers to start retrofitting their brand new house.

e) Arts & Culture 
Our current strengths are our events: the Hillside Festival, the Guelph Studio Tour, and the Jazz Festival to name a few. I want to support these initiatives, both for our benefit and as tourist attractions. On that last point, I would love to see boutique hotels in Guelph to complement Guelph's artsy, quirky side. I'm also aware that our local artists are craving for community space, so I look forward to the results of an upcoming mentorship initiative involving our city's visual arts groups. In terms of market accessibility, there are a number of options worth exploring, such as increased partnerships with restaurants and hotels. Given how happy parents are with the new east end library, I think a main library would equally contribute to revitalizing the downtown core. It's worth looking at opportunities to create a synergy between the library and community are space, as well as integrating small commercial spaces (e.g. cafés) to offset costs.

4) Is there another issue that you’d specifically like to highlight/focus on? 
Ward 1 residents I've spoken to are supportive in principle of composting and recycling. So am I, though I favour promoting backyard composting, because people end up benefiting directly from using this rich material in their gardens, and by dealing with it at source, we would reduce pollution stemming from trucking it to a centralized facility. That being said, I do not want my tax money lost by reneging on last council's financial commitments. The automated system should be implemented gradually, even if that means that not all trucks will be replaced at the same time and that garbage on some routes will continue to get picked up manually. In moving forward, I want to address the concerns that residents have with respect to the green bin in particular, because we need people to buy-in on the initiative for them to use it properly. This means negotiating a middle ground with provincial officials, such as the option of using compostable bags.

5) What’s your message for voters?
I intend to seek meaningful input from my fellow Ward 1 residents on an on-going basis, so that I can make informed decisions. Thanks to all of you who have spent time with me at your doors, and allowed me to stay connected with you not only during the campaign, but after Election Day.

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