Karl Wettstein has been a city concillor in Ward 6 for 11 years, and while some people might look at over a decade of public service as a job well done, Wettstein is looking to bank four more.Wettstein has been a Guelph resident for over 30 years, and during his time on council he's beem Chair of Finance and Audit committees, one of the executive on the Corporate Strategic Planning, Human Resources, Real state Management/Development committees and sat on Governance, Community Services, PBBE, River Run, Guelph Junction Railway and many more. He's sat on the boards for Downtown Board of Management, Chamber of Commerce, Meridian Credit Union, Guelph & Wellington Credit Union, Cooperators Dev. Corp. Ltd. and volunteered with the Rotary Club of Guelph, the United Way and Guelph Minor Baseball and Hockey. Now, he wants to make a case for his re-election to city council.
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
From Karl Wettstein's campaign website:
I am pleased to announce my candidacy for Guelph City Council in Ward 6 in the upcoming 2014 Municipal election. A key focus for me, over the 11 years I have been on Council, has been to positively and constructively contribute to strengthening and improving our financial and corporate governance policies. My financial and business background and experience, both at senior operational and functional levels as well as at the Board of Director level, together with the opportunity and privilege to have chaired both the Finance and Audit Committees, has enabled me to contribute as an effective member of our Council/Management leadership team.
I was privileged to have had the opportunity to make a contribution to a number of significant and important accomplishments: - Our strong AA+ Credit Rating - Strong financial policies - particularly our Debt & Reserve policies - Establishment of our enhanced Business Case management discipline - Working on the development of an "Affordable property tax" model. - Establishment of an Internal Audit function - Implementation of a Performance Evaluation program for Management - Re-establishment of a Strong Executive Leadership Team.
Going forward we have two additional key financial issues / opportunities that I believe we need to aggressively pursue:
1. Issue - Work with the Province on the OMB & Arbitration processes - they are costing municipalities hundreds of thousand of dollars and need to be brought into the 21st century.
2. Opportunity - GMHI ( Guelph Municipal Holding Inc.) is an outstanding opportunity to more effectively manage key corporate assets/businesses to enhance our bottom line revenue stream. I have represented Council on the GMHI Board since it's inception and, if elected, would seek re-appointment. More broadly I have also served on the other three Standing Committees as well as Guelph Junction Railway Board , Downtown Board of Management,Tourism Board, River Run Board, and the Guelph/Wellington/Dufferin Health Board.
On a personal note I would like to thank all of the constituents in Ward 6 for your support and encouragement over the years. It has been a privilege to work with you and for you and it would be a privilege and an honour to serve you for another 4 years.
I would also like to thank Councillor Todd Dennis for his support, assistance and teamwork in effectively representing Ward 6 over the past 4 years, particularly in the area of constituent communication and involvement (emails, phone calls, ward meetings, etc.), as well as his leadership and support on the South End Recreation Centre project (moving it to the next level - something we have been striving for in Ward 6 for almost 15 years.)
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
We are by far the largest Ward by geography and population. We are also one of the most diverse wards in term of ethnic make-up. We have an excellent mix of residential, commercial, retail and industrial presence. The upside is higher property values but the downside is higher property taxes.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
Grading Council as a whole or as individuals is something our constituents should and will do. Considering the complexity of overseeing a $500 million corporation where individual constituent ratings always fall between A & F , I think Council as a whole has had a very successful term. This is not to say we do not have a ways to go. The next Council will have a huge task ensuring we maintain the gains we have made and staying true to our strategic plan and financial discipline.
4) Some people say that Guelph is over-taxed, others believe that our taxes are inline with a community our size; where do you stand on taxation in Guelph?
Every city has people who believe they are or are not over-taxed. We are very competitive with cities our size. The issue for me is what is the most cost effective way to deliver the services our constituents require and can afford.
5) Do you believe that Guelph has a spending problem? If yes, then please cite specific examples of areas and/or programs that you would cut to save money.
Characterizing it as a spending problem is too simplistic. What we have is a need to foster a culture of constant efficiency management & regular assessment of what services we require and what is the best way of delivering them. Our challenge is cultural change.
6) What’s the biggest priority for Guelph in terms of services needed? This could be something that’s provided by the government, ie: a library or rec centre, or it could be a commercial need, ie: a new grocery store in the east end.
To me the biggest priority is developing an effective priority setting process. Everyone has different needs depending on where you live and where you are in your own life cycle. All of the items listed in your question are important to someone and it is a small sampling of the requests we receive. From a Ward 6, community need perspective, all ages, we obviously feel our Community Centre is well over due.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
We had a long negotiation process and some tough decisions had to be made on both sides. It was unfortunate that we had a work stoppage but we had a very successful completion to the process. As with all tough negotiations a little fence mending is required on both sides. This is happening and I am totally confident that we all have the same objective of providing the best bus service we can at an affordable price.
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
What I have always done – Answer all emails and phone calls – I answer my phone 7 days a week, anytime of the day or evening, be available for constituent meetings small and large-including one-on-one coffee meetings, attend Committee meetings especially those impacting Ward 6 whether I am on the Committee or not. Ensure constituent concerns get to the right staff and I stay in the follow-up loop.
9) Guelph is implementing online voting for the first time with this election, are you in favour of this development or against it? Explain.
In Favour - We are in the forefront - many constituents and councillors have expressed concerns about security and abuse – however, it is coming, and we are prepared to start a pilot project this term. Let’s hope is it as successful as we think it can be.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
The full roll out of GMHI (Guelph Municipal Holding Inc.) – This initiative more than any gives us the best opportunity to optimize our underperforming assets, attract critical partnerships and investments and make a major contribution to keeping our property taxes affordable.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
We are the only level that has direct contact with our constituents on a day to day basis. We have the best opportunity to include them in our decision making processes through community engagement and an open government culture. We are not bound by political party structures so individually and collectively we can take all Provincial & Federal parties to task if required.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?