The city will evolve and change considerably by 2031 so, if we are to succeed individually and collectively, we must think outside the box. If elected, I will work with you, council, staff, business and all stakeholders to advance five bold ideas that will help deal with Guelph’s challenges related to property taxes, government efficiency, infrastructure needs, cultural support, citizen engagement and community well-being.
1) FACILITATE REGULAR FEEDBACK THROUGH INTERNET AND FACE-TO-FACE FORUMS
Everyone in this ward (and in the city) has knowledge and experience to share. Unfortunately, many of us feel disconnected and insecure due to the increasing size and population of the city. With the help of staff and external experts (e.g. University of Guelph), I will work with citizens of all ages to bring new ideas to the community and, through the Internet and in-person forums, have them piloted and ultimately implemented. This way we can learn from and with each other as we make Ward 2 a laboratory for innovative thinking and demonstration. In the end, we will be able to export our ideas. We will be the most politically engaged community in Ontario and eventually Canada.
2) ENSURE TRANSPARENT AND CITIZEN-ORIENTED GOVERNMENT
I will work to ensure that the current open government process that is underway is expedited and expanded. This will allow citizens, business and stakeholders to use the city’s website to quickly find information pertaining to:
- Staff chain of command (from top to bottom), contact information, position and résumé;
- Capital and operating costs associated with all city plans and projects as well as the business case for those undertakings. On-site construction signage will also indicate infrastructure costs with links to further project information.
3) INTRODUCE NEW TRANSPORTATION POLICIES AND GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE
I will work to hold the line on property taxes, reduce congestion and improve health by presenting new transportation policies and governance structure for delivery of related services by:
- Creating a new city-wide transportation hierarchy that meets the mobility needs of everyone fairly – no matter age or ability. While all users of the road must be accommodated in a balanced way, the new hierarchy will keep pedestrians’ safety in mind first, followed by cyclists, transit users, and personal vehicles;
- Ensuring that sustainable transportation modes, smart development, beautiful public spaces/tree canopy and urban design trump the city’s current adherence to uninterrupted traffic flow;
- Using pilot projects to demonstrate how quality of life can be improved. For example, I will work to establish a Speedvale Avenue road diet pilot project (between Woolwich and Manhattan Drive) in order to produce actual (not modelled) travel data. We already know this option will save millions of infrastructure tax dollars and create a safer street for all users but congestion may be a concern – especially in the short term. A road diet pilot will inform us as to whether this design could work beyond December 2015. SPEEDVALE UPDATE: We did our best to pilot the road diet but backwards thinking council and staff opted for much more expensive 20th century upgrade -- see news section for details;
- Redirecting infrastructure capital and property expropriation funds to a comprehensive Transportation Demand Management program (e.g. transit passes, carpooling, guaranteed ride home services, parking cash out) ;
- Moving transit, parking, road infrastructure and traffic enforcement off of the property tax supported budget and into Guelph Municipal Holdings Inc. With political oversight, transportation staff will be encouraged to be entrepreneurial and propose innovative ways of raising capital and operating funds through earmarked user pay measures (e.g. parking, tolls) and other transport taxes (e.g. vehicle registration tax, wheelage fees);
- Using all means possible to stop the “new” Highway 7 located at the city’s north end and running to Kitchener-Waterloo. While this $600,000,000 highway (estimated) will be paid through provincial taxes, Guelph will be on the hook for expanding all roads to and from the road. This will result in the need for more staff and increased property taxes as well as more car dependence, loss of green space/farm land, aggregate extraction and bad air quality. Worst of all, expanded roads induce car travel which ultimately leads to more traffic, less transit/active transportation users and a physically inactive citizenry -- which adds costs to Ontario’s $40 billion a year health care system. More taxes again. UPDATE: MTO is moving forward with 20th century plans for this unneeded highway -- which unfortunately the Guelph Mayor and most council members support.
4) PROMOTE GUELPH’S HERITAGE AND ARTS SCENE
Guelph’s natural and architectural beauty is unique and, for its size, its arts scene is unsurpassed. As a result, these attributes should be promoted more within and, especially, to Canadians and tourists from outside Guelph. With Canada’s sesquicentennial taking place in 2017, I will:
- encourage banks located in St. George’s Square to return their facades to the original ones (prior to demolition in the mid-20th century);
- work with local artists and CN railway to paint and enhance the Norfolk Street overpass and corridor so that it is an attractive gateway to downtown;
- work with local musicians and the music industry to promote Guelph as the “Nashville of the North”.
5) SUPPORT LEADING EDGE GUELPH COMMUNITY WELLBEING INITIATIVE PROJECTS
I support bold ideas that foster citizen health and wellness as they will have significant benefits to our city economically, culturally and socially. “The stress of our daily lives is contributing to health problems, poor relationships, lost productivity at work and, even, increased crime and violence in our communities.”Healthy citizens are engaged, contributing citizens. I am proposing to work with local professionals, citizens, council and staff to support two specific projects that forward GW objectives:
- Healthy Guelph Community Kitchens: Malnutrition, resulting from poor diets and food choices, is one of the major contributing factors to illness and disease, regardless of an individual's socio-economic background. There are already some wonderful community kitchens operating in Guelph. I propose augmenting these and retaining the expertise of holistic nutritionists to educate on food choices and preparation. By promoting the growth of "healthy cooking collectives", we can support the health of Guelph citizens. Citizens of all socio-economic backgrounds will be invited to participate at a nominal cost. Preparing nutritious meals in bulk, collectively, will support good health and save money, reducing the cost of eating nutritiously, which can be beneficial for everyone, especially citizens on fixed incomes.
- Community Stress-Reduction Program: By offering community classes focussing on clinically-proven stress-reduction strategies, such as yoga and meditation, we can support Guelphites in reducing their stress levels. This, in turn, will lead to better health, more functional relationships, optimal efficacy and productivity at work and, even, a safer, more secure city with lower crime rates and violence.