Scott Tracey spent years in the council chambers watching the action from the press box, but now he aims to be the reported rather than doing the reporting.
Like potential future council colleague Maggie Laidlaw, Tracey was born in Scotland, but moved to Canada with his family at the age of four. Settling in the Hamilton area, Tracey attended Niagara College’s Journalism program and got his first job at the Niagara Falls Review before joining the staff of the Guelph Mercury in July 1991. While at the Mercury, he covered entertainment, education, police and courts and eventually City Hall, which Tracey says it allowed him to indulge his longtime passion for municipal politics.
The husband and father of three says that those years on the city hall beat have given him the insight and experience needed to represent Ward 4. “I love this city, but I know it can be even better,” he says. And now, Scott Tracey tells his answers to the Guelph Politico candidate questionnaire.
1) Why did you decide to run for city council?
After voluntarily leaving the Mercury last fall to pursue other opportunities, I began to consider running for council, which had not been possible while I was on staff at the newspaper. My decision to seek office was bolstered while working for much of this year in local manufacturing industries, where I witnessed first-hand just how hard residents work for their money and gained a better understanding of the need for council to be careful and respectful in how they use the money collected from hard-working taxpayers.
2) What makes your ward unique to Guelph?
Ward 4 is unique within Guelph because it is the only one which could be completely self-sustaining, with large industrial and residential components, great parks and green spaces, a wide range of retail opportunities, great restaurants, a movie theatre, community centre, gas stations and a fire hall. Ward 4 has been truly lucky over the past few terms of council to have representatives who have fought to bring these amenities to the west end, and I would like to continue this strong representation.
3) Using a letter grade, how would you rank the performance of the current city council? Explain.
B- …. I feel council has done a fairly good job with the day-to-day operation of the city, but has seriously dropped the ball in some areas, such as the handling of the Urbacon fiasco (both the handling of the lawsuit itself, and the subsequent handling of it in explanations to the public) and its slow pace of dealing with the factors contained in that 2012 report which first introduced us to the idea of the ‘Guelph Factor.’
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?
I don’t think our tax levels are as bad as many would have us believe. Rather I think a key issue is how tax dollars are being (and have proposed to be) spent. I believe most residents accept that taxes are a necessity and are willing to pay them in return for core services; however I think people begrudge paying their taxes when they feel those dollars will be used for large capital projects and non-core services.
As a councillor, I would work hard to encourage more commercial and industrial development to have those sectors contributing more to the tax base and take the pressure of the residential sector.
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?
I think Guelph has a spending problem in that we often simply don’t know where money is being spent. A perfect example of this was the recently-completed review of the legal services department, during which it was discovered the city was paying $800,000 annually for outside counsel because various departments were hiring lawyers but it was coming out of those departments’ budgets rather than the legal services department.
By taking a step back and understanding how those dollars were being spent, the city was able to hire an additional staff lawyer to handle those cases. This had the net effect of saving approximately $700K per year while having no effect on service levels.
This is why one of the key elements of my platform is service reviews. While many seem to associate that term with “privatizing,” I am simply suggesting we need to have a better understanding of where money is being spent so we can identify efficiencies and recover those funds.
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.
Certainly a grocery store in the east end is required to improve the walkability and livability of that part of the city. A south-end community centre is also high on the priority list because it would benefit all residents of Guelph by having an additional facility available and taking the pressure of the existing ones, and would also offer programming space for south-end residents, particularly seniors for whom making their way to Evergreen is not always practicable.
We also need a wholesale rethink of Guelph Transit. I would like to see options which could include an east-west/north-south grid system rather than the current — and I believe inefficient — hub system which requires most riders to go downtown before heading to their true destination.
7) How would you propose to mend relations between the city and transit workers, and to improve the services of Guelph Transit?
See above re improved service. As for mending relations, it is difficult to comment on that because the public does not know how the relationship deteriorated so far in the first place. I believe the city needs employee/employer committees in each service area to bring both sides together proactively to talk about how the needs of each side are or are not being met, rather then getting everyone around the table only during adversarial bargaining talks. (I don’t believe such committees already exist, but if so we need to understand why they are not working)
8) What will you do to insure the best possible communication between yourself and your constituents if you’re elected to council?
I have always been very approachable during my 22 years at the Guelph Mercury and would continue to be so as a councillor. I specifically sought and recently began part-time employment to allow me to focus on being a full-time city councillor. I have already published my personal email and cellphone number, and also can be followed on Twitter @scottjtracey or @GuelphToday and also will maintain my blog at guelphtoday.typepad.com
9) Guelph is implementing online voting for the first time with this election, are you in favour of this development or against it? Explain.
I have already voted online and found it to be a wonderful experience. While there will always be some risk associated with non-in person voting, I feel city staff and their consultants have designed a good system of checks and balances to maintain the integrity of the process. I look forward to hearing staff’s comments afterwards and to seeing whether it has the effect of increasing our dismal voter turnout.
10) What issue, aside from any previously mentioned in this questionnaire, do you think should be a priority and why?
I think we need to focus on active transportation when building/rebuilding our road network, and to that end I recently signed the Active Communities Pledge from Share the Road, a provincial cycling advocacy group. Roads like Woodlawn, for example, are key routes not only for cars but for pedestrians and cyclists wanting to access businesses and services and we need to ensure people can access them safely and during all seasons.
11) How can local government be a force for good in the lives of the people of Guelph?
A good city councillor should use as a test in almost all decision making whether their decisions will improve quality of life for their residents.
By helping to control taxes and spending, council can ensure people have more money available for leisure activities, or simply to reduce stress levels associated with not having money. Council also has a significant impact on other quality of life issues such as ensuring sports fields are in good order, ensuring water is safe to drink and that roads are cleared in winter.
12) Where can voters get more information about you and your campaign?