1) Why did you want to run for city council?
I am running to help facilitate an atmosphere of civility and broader discussion of the issues. I believe that council is becoming a rubber stamp for staff decisions.
2) What do you think of the performance of the last council?
I felt that this council voted in blocks. I think they dropped the ball by cutting services and saying that this was necessary and at the same time agreeing to a waste management program that will cost over $42 million when all the costs are added up. The priorities of this council have been to spend money on "want" items and not "need" items. We are in debt that will take the next four years to recover from. Any new capital spending is ridiculous. We don't have the money and taxpayers have had enough.
3) Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues:
This council has raised residential property taxes by about 15% in the last four years. Many people I have talked to have told me they haven't seen any real increase in their services so where does the 15 per cent increase go to. It has gone to paying consultants to tell council what the citizens of Guelph tell them if they asked us. The ratio of 84 per cent residential to 16 per cent commercial/industrial means that homeowners in Guelph are paying the lion’s share of the cost of servicing our city. If this city did more with the serviceable land it has then more commercial and industrial development would occur. Why did Woodstock get the new Toyota plant and we didn't?
The process needs to have a higher degree of citizen involvement. Staff need to not only recommend what they want council to approve, but they need to also give council the chance to discuss the other options that come to staff to consider. The process should allow for innovation and give the people of Guelph a choice to have council consider differing points of view. I said before that I feel that council sometimes appears to be a rubber stamp for what city staff want. Council need to be the able to consider a broad and innovated range of ideas when considering how to best spend the tax dollars of the citizens of Guelph.
I really have a special place in my heart for this. I was a member of the transit advisory committee. This committee unfortunately is no longer in existence. This committee gave citizens a real voice in how transit would function and how transit could look in the future. I believe that transit should be recognized to be an essential service and therefore a priority, not just today because of the changes coming, but all the time. I say this because this council didn't seem to consider transit essential enough this summer when service was cut. They did this, as they say, to reduce the revenue shortfall from the budget. They didn't seem to realize the needs to people who use this service all the time, including Sundays. People need the service to get to work, get to church and get to shopping. I would challenge councillors who never had need of transit to see how they would be affected if this service was cut. I also feel the seniors of this city should get the same deal for bus passes that the University has for its students. This would be a huge savings for a large part of our population that lives on a fixed income and need to use the bus to get around.
Development has to follow the official plan and be able to integrate into the neighbourhoods it’s going into. It also has to make sense. I saw the last council meeting and a great deal of time was spent around a development just off Arkell road. The person addressing council made reference to many parts of the development not being in compliance with the city's official plan. Despite this, the developers were going ahead with what he had proposed. This can't happen. If it does if I am elected, I will vote against it every time. Now to infrastructure. Well, the city councillors and the mayor are falling over backwards to pat themselves on the back for the current 25 projects we are driving around when we travel in the city. What isn't being addressed is the underground infrastructure beneath our feet. Currently we are losing about 14 per cent of the water we have underground due to pipes that have huge leaks, and in some cases have had major structure failures. The roads we see, and when they are finished, will look great. The challenge we face in Guelph is the state of our underground infrastructure and how on Earth are we going to repair and extend the system we have to accommodate a population growth of 55,000 more people in the next 20 to 25 years.
e) Arts & Culture
Guelph is an amazing city and the art and cultural community that exist here is diverse and alive. The city needs to recognize that the energy of the people involved in this can be a resource for many things. I see this as a way to develop and encourage tourism, to tell the province and the country just how alive this city is. We have music and art festivals that bring people from all over Ontario to Guelph. We should look at the huge agricultural presence in our city and see if we can't see opportunities for celebrating this. Maybe we should have the Royal Winter Fair back in Guelph – where it belongs. The other thing I see is the need for the city to fund and take an active part in all the community centres that are all over the city. I remember the co-operation the city had with the Onward Willow neighbourhood group around day camp and other recreational ventures that worked with co-operation from other neighbourhoods and the city.
4) Is there another issue that you’d specifically like to highlight/focus on?
The only thing I would highlight is that the next council will be working to reduce and eliminate the current debt we have today. If candidates are talking about big new things, they are not dealing with reality. So I point out that this council has already agreed to spend millions on a new waste plant but haven't told you that on top of this cost there will be the added cost of new bins and new trucks to collect the waste. The total real cost will be $40 million plus and that’s if we spent the money today. Who knows what the cost might be in 2012? This council choose to eliminate services to reduce the budget shortfall this year. The cuts were on some of the most needed services like transit, garbage collection and recreation. The same council then approved spending on waste bins and a skating rink in front of our city hall. If council believes we couldn't afford the essential services then how do they think we can afford the millions for waste bins, new equipment to collect the waste and a skating rink in front of city hall.
5) What’s your message for voters?