I’ve spent the past few years listening to people’s concerns, and coming up with solutions. Many of my ideas found their way into policy already, which defines me as a credible, sensible candidate. Sadly, too much remains still to be done, and several plans were implemented poorly. This requires my own oversight as mayor to remedy.
Other candidates say they started listening and will take action, but how? They barely even noticed that we have a crisis. They plan to order administration to come back with the answers instead of providing the leadership required to be mayor, which results in the rubber-stamp council people say they don’t want.
Mayor Hope did not bring one single motion in 4 years to keep his campaign promises, nor are we certain of his own enigmatic vision which he seems unable to articulate when asked. Nobody on council with mayoral ambitions stepped up to fill the leadership void. The urgency to take action on critical issues has never been greater.
This campaign is all about you, and giving control back to the people. I’m prepared to bring answers to the table, and make sure administration implements the will of council. If elected, I will put my energetic entrepreneurial spirit to work solving problems immediately, as a full-time mayor. My direction and vision are defined and in place from day one. I am ready!
- Accountability & Ethics
Council is the ultimate authority in the municipality. As head of council, I will exercise my obligation under the Municipal Act to represent the public, enhance the best interests of the municipality, develop and set policy, ensure administration carries out the will of council, and to maintain financial integrity. I will be accountable to the public, and will hold administration to the same high standard.
To improve ethics, I propose appointing an Integrity Commissioner, Auditor General, Lobbyist Registrar, and Municipal Ombudsman, as permitted by the Municipal Act. These will be volunteer appointments vetted by council. Each position has special powers, and can go places council cannot, including compelling testimony under oath.
Freedom of Information needs a complete overhaul to remove the power Randy Hope gave himself as Head of MFIPPA. Currently, the mayor sees all FOI requests and all replies, and determines what is released. He’s used this power to give private and confidential information to others for inappropriate purposes, and also to hide and obstruct municipal information that should have transparent public access.
FOI applicants are not advised the mayor will see everything, and is in full charge of who gets what. Randy Hope promised transparency and did the opposite.
- Economic Development
My Plan for Prosperity highlights many ways we can achieve some accelerated results instead of just coming in second. These are concrete ideas which can be implemented, not simply vague observations of the problems. The plan includes ways to identify and target emerging new sectors.
Some of my ideas and policy directions have already been embraced by Economic Development. Details of this Plan for Prosperity have been mentioned elsewhere as the underlying theme of my campaign, and the document will be released online shortly.
- Property Taxes
I hear you loud and clear. Controlling spending and taxes are an absolute priority. The time for studies and makeshift measures (such as dipping into reserves to limit the election-year tax increase) is over. This is how I’m going to do it.
We have spent money for 12 years building infrastructure that’s first rate. We are not lacking in recreational facilities, roads, bridges, PUC services and the like. We built it, but they didn’t come. Now, it’s time to step back and evaluate our direction.
I am committed to seeing approved projects through to completion. That said, I’m tired of hearing from administration that we’ll attract jobs and industry and immigrants if only we had a new ________. Well, we’ve got it. It’s time to concentrate on capitalizing more on what we have, and fixing the one red flag that chases away investors – high taxes.
This isn’t a line in the sand against new spending, because our direction must always be forward. I will insist that proposed new spending be analyzed for a Return on Investment. That means taxpayers must have some intrinsic benefit over the short or long term – value for money spent.
Next, expenses must be brought under control. My plan will review departmental needs, and identify duplication, inefficiencies, and potential synergies. In my opinion, Sunshine Club wages need to be controlled because that club doesn’t let members leave easily. In the midst of the worst recession, they earned 7.3% more from 2008 to 2009, including “step” increases – symbolic of the disconnect with our people.
Some consultants play critical roles in government function. The planners provide independent overview on a cost-recovery basis. However, millions do go to consultants to perform tasks that should be left to the people. I propose that the way to reduce these costs is to make better use of resources in the community, with citizen’s committees, think-tanks, and brainstorming sessions.
Finally, our priority must be increasing the tax base so that more taxpayers pay less. Business taxes are disproportionately high, and need to be realigned as tax base expands. My economic development plans address this.
Having an Auditor General will ensure maximum transparency and identify to investors that Chatham-Kent is well-run.
The Municipal Act permits a municipality to appoint an Auditor General who reports to council and is responsible for assisting the council in holding itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for achievement of value for money in municipal operations.
The Auditor General is entitled to have free access to all books, accounts, financial records, electronic data processing records, reports, files and all other papers, things or property belonging to or used by the municipality, the local board, the municipally-controlled corporation or the grant recipient, as the case may be, that the Auditor General believes to be necessary to perform his or her duties under this Part.
The Auditor General may examine any person on oath on any matter pertinent to an audit or examination under this Part. The Auditor General has the powers that Part II of the Public Inquiries Act confers on a commission, and that Part applies to the examination as if it were an inquiry under that Act.- Municipal Act
This is not a function that council can perform, contrary to what some candidates stated. I propose the position be a volunteer appointment fully vetted by council.
Some candidates are capitalizing on public outrage by promoting misleading figures for political advantage. This means that our municipality has not done a good enough job communicating the facts to the public.
I do my research, and read the reports. My promise is to provide accurate facts, and perform due diligence to ensure administration reports are also fair and factual. The layers of secrecy at city hall must be peeled back, with better access to information.
Correction – on October 7th during a televised debate, I inadvertently claimed our new municipal logo cost $200,000, when in fact we spent $28,350 with a Nova Scotia consultant. The tender included extensive public consultation of the type I promote. It was the cost of implementing the new logo that drove up expenses, such as $60,600 for new signs and fleet decals at an unnecessary and arbitrary time.
- $641,555.33 for a Website
There is much valuable information on the Chatham-Kent portal. However, the interface is unfriendly – even I have trouble finding things I need. There are no photo galleries of our communities, pictures of our residents, business and personal testimonials, or multimedia.
This website is the FIRST IMPRESSION many people get of Chatham-Kent.
It is critical that it be user-friendly and interesting. Today’s reality is that we are more likely to attract a new business, industry, tourism or doctor through a Google search than any other means. I will use my considerable expertise in photography, web design and software programming to ensure our website is providing vital information in a friendly and effective way.
In doing my research, I learned our municipal website has recently soaked up $641,555.33 ($117,500 of that funded by the province), but I had a hard time seeing much change. In particular, our Economic Development site is a mess. Tools don’t work properly, and the coding is sloppy. The user interface is lame. Even mayor Hope admitted that it’s embarrassing. Nothing about that site screams out “come and invest in Chatham-Kent.”
Our main site, and the cost incurred under mayor Hope and councillor McGregor, does not impress me. It is bloated with invisible scripts, and slow to load. The municipality could reduce text bandwidth by up to 89% by activating compression, which also speeds the site up – especially important for dial-up and wireless.…read more
- Council Agendas
The council agendas used to be available online as a single document, easily saved and sorted. Now, they put every agenda item in a separate file, with the same file names used over and over every week, which actually makes them less accessible and harder to catalog.
I was told this was done to prevent somebody from “accidentally” printing off all the pages at once, but to me, it makes it easier to hide things.
I’ll put the council agenda back online in a more user-friendly style. I want the option of having all the pages in a single document filed by date.
Streaming council meetings online for those not served by Cogeco was also my idea from previous campaigns that I pushed to have implemented. Mayor Hope was actually elected but didn’t accomplish any of his campaign promises. I guess they liked mine better.
- Community Identity
Most of my thoughts and observations on community governance were validated by the Corporate Review and Community Governance Task Force. Certain parts of amalgamation weren’t done well.
I intend to open up lines of communication with rural communities. I’m concerned about escalating user fees and insurance premiums disincentives. There should be local business attraction efforts, and success should be rewarded by area-rated tax credits.
To achieve this, I first proposed forming a network of community councils, nominated and elected at townhall meetings, to serve as volunteers. They would meet to address local matters, and have certain authority designated by council, so that some decisions are made back at the local level.
A delegate would liaise with the ward councillors and mayor, with a defined communication strategy. As mayor, I’ll spearhead this initiative. It can be tried on a provisional basis, and if it works as well as I predict, it can be a permanent part of municipal restructuring on passage of a proper referendum.
Chatham-Kent has incurred some debt to complete important capital projects. This debt, at today’s low interest rates, enabled infrastructure to be maintained and improved in a prudent, forward-thinking manner.
Standard & Poor’s has rated this debt low-risk with a positive outlook, and we have a better credit rating than Essex County. While not alarming in the proper context, I will not become complacent about our levels of debt, since maintaining our good credit standing saves tax dollars in interest. There had better be a very good reason to take on further debt!
Some candidates are once again distributing false debt figures. Their figures look good and provocative on glossy paper, but it isn’t factual. I question the source, and challenge them to disclose the accounting principles they are using to inflate the debt figures and unduly panic voters.
They also forget that not all the debt is funded by taxpayers. The PUC pays debt through rates, not taxes, and our water rates are some of the lowest in Ontario. The loan for Riverview Gardens is paid by the province.
- Health Care
Being the husband of a breast cancer survivor, this issue is very close to home. I have seen the system work to save lives. I’ve also seen how easy it is to fall between the cracks like too many people here. My wife has no follow-up because of the doctor shortage. The system that saved her life is now failing.
I am strongly motivated to address this crisis. Doctor recruitment efforts must continue, stressing the amenities we already have in place. Council must continuously lobby for recognition of foreign doctor credentials, and identify new physician attraction methods. An independent Medical Officer of Health is a top priority – still – just as it was in my 2003 campaign.
I want greater emphasis on wellness programs designed to keep people healthy promoting active lifestyles, trails, recreational facilities, outdoors activities, and nutrition. Let’s do this financially smarter than current methods. I saw a Participaction ad recently that said absolutely nothing (federal tax money hard at work), and $20 million in paved bike trails is not effective use of tax dollars.
There has been too much silence on the lack of family doctors, and I’m putting it back on the agenda. I have personally faced struggles that include delay and denial of medical care, and that’s not acceptable for anybody.
Tourism is part of my Plan for Prosperity. I have ideas for more effective and unique promotional methods. Passport programs will be developed for day-trippers, to get people out into our rural communities on bike, foot, and car – maybe even horseback and skidoo.
We’ll work with other jurisdictions to implement a Lake Erie Circle Tour, and base new initiatives on our rich local history, such as “Reality” experiences of the Underground Railroad or the War of 1812, which is a huge opportunity. I’ll call Discovery Channel and invite them down here to film some re-enactments in advance of the War of 1812 bicentennial.
The importance of hosting weddings and family reunions in Chatham-Kent must not be overlooked.
- Film & Television Industry
Chatham-Kent is an ideal place to create a thriving film and television industry.
With the move to HDTV, a great opportunity exists to fill the need for new programming. As an amateur filmmaker myself, I will work hard to introduce concepts which will designate us as a “Hollywood North.” The Chatham-Kent website currently mentions nothing about this important emerging sector, while other municipalities have policies and movie coordinators to assist producers. With “Reality TV” being popular, Chatham-Kent’s rich history provides ample opportunities for local productions.
I am extremely committed to forming environmental policy, from tree planting programs to alternative energy. I’ll work to improve the Strategic Plan’s environmental priority.
I propose turning the Industrial Park into a modern model of environmental responsibility, through exploration of co-generation compatibilities, attraction of alternative energy equipment manufacturers, and green-minded landscaping (on paper concepts, not with tax dollars).
Stewardship opportunities will be promoted. I don’t favour laws that take away property rights, but I think we can achieve good results with voluntary programs. There are some good examples of land, wetland, and forest stewardship across Chatham-Kent without costly master plans and tough by-laws.
- Waste Management and Recycling
Recycling programs must be expanded to divert additional types of waste. There should be recycling facilities in schools and parks. Apartments and institutions must not be exempt from recycling.
For 7 years, I haven’t heard the word “compost” outside of my election campaigns. We should renew our composting initiative, including a central facility for yard waste. Christmas trees, pumpkins, yard waste, or any recycleable material does not belong in the landfill.
I’d like to explore options to temporarily exceed bag limits, for a fee, which is used to offset costs and improve the recycling program. I will not be pursuing any plans to bring Toronto garbage to Chatham-Kent to prematurely fill our landfill.
One big problem with recycling was that the trucks left a trail of broken glass everywhere due to the design of drainage holes. I identified the problem, and was told nothing could be done. After suggesting they cover the drainage holes with screening, the broken glass was reduced significantly.
- Senior Care
Some candidates are upset that we hired extra staff to look after our seniors in a chronically understaffed facility. Prisoners have a bigger food budget than in seniors’ homes. I will be vigilant to ensure our seniors are experiencing the highest standard of care, and if not, we need to spend appropriate funds to comply. If standards are too low, I’ll lobby to raise them.
These are the people who built our community.
- Emergency Services
I’m a Certified Emergency Coordinator. Consequently, I have some insight into emergency management, and the important role the mayor fulfills.
At this time, I favour an OPP costing – if only to acquire a benchmark for our own service. I’m sure this will result in savings as our own police service sharpens their pencils. We do not need a big-city police force with the latest toys. Provincial compliance has always been cited to justify escalating costs, but that can’t explain why so many police and firefighter salaries ended up on the Sunshine Club list.
As I attack escalating management salaries, I do so with the utmost of respect and admiration for all our emergency workers from the front lines on up. This does not negate the need to identify savings and synergies. There are opportunities to eliminate duplication between police, fire, and ambulance.
I intend to review our disaster warning and preparedness system. Our Emergency Plan is outdated. Let’s fix this ourselves minus the outside consultants.
Many of my business ideas extend to and include farms. I grew up on a tree and shrub farm. The smell of rich Kent County soil is etched in my mind.
Issue number one is that farmers cannot absorb any more tax increases. Period. MPAC already phased in punishing increases to assessment. There isn’t room for more.
Our economic development plans must identify new agri-markets. It’s hard to find local produce in our local stores in Canada’s breadbasket, because corporate purchasing is done at the Ontario Food Depot in Toronto. I remember buying produce as a kid from tailgates in Market Square, and finding it in grocery stores. We can do better in opening markets.
Bio-fuel research is emerging with promise. We used to have hemp production that American paranoia killed. Now that the latest electric cars are being made of hemp composites, perhaps that’s a new market to explore. Attracting the vegetable pre-processing sector has good potential.
I will form a committee of educational experts to investigate the possibility of attracting a University Campus and expanded post-secondary programs in Chatham-Kent, including academic and medical curriculum.
Working with the school board, I’d like to get local history on the curriculum.
Chatham-Kent must ensure adequate retraining programs are set up and funded, including efforts to encourage the Grade 12 GED program.
Too many unemployed workers were denied retraining because similar jobs existed elsewhere. Ontario Works makes it almost impossible to upgrade education. I’ll set a policy direction to improve literacy and high-school graduation rates.
We can form partnerships with business and industry to implement and advance job-skill development.
Many universities are offering free online courses (though not always for credit). This resource should be utilized more to improve learning.
Our BIAs and Chambers of Commerce must be closer partners with the municipality in promoting and revitalizing downtowns across Chatham-Kent. These lines of communication need opening right to the mayor’s office.
I think it’s time to explore improving traffic flow with sequenced traffic signals, striving towards central computerized control. Problem intersections must be addressed. I’ve followed a University of BC study that could assist us.
Sidewalks are public infrastructure so I disagree with the policy that requires homeowners to pay the costs of installing sidewalks.
Our airport is a neglected gem that needs to be better promoted as a destination and business attraction tool. I attended a fly-in recently with over 50 planes, so when special events are available, people will come.
I’ll work towards providing more green space and trails. The lack of lakeside access along Lake Erie should be addressed, and include the Thames and Sydenham Rivers for preservation and park space.
Investigate the lack of appropriate play areas across Chatham-Kent.
Our beaches don’t figure prominently enough in promotional material, and there should be signage from the 401 to our beach areas.
Absolutely no closures to rural libraries! We need to improve resources available, including more French language children’s books. Exploring partnerships with businesses may allow us to acquire a better inventory of books.
I will continue to work towards protecting citizen’s consumer electronic equipment (wireless phones, baby monitors, cordless microphones and speakers, etc.) from the illegal interference caused by Hydro Smart Meters.
I oppose sewer projects in areas where septic systems are the best environmental option (Bothwell). Improvements must be made to the method of apportioning water project costs. PUC policies which excessively penalize low income families will be reviewed.
There is far more to my platform, and I’m happy to answer your questions. This is my vision for Chatham-Kent, and I’m ready to be elected mayor.