Jamie Killingsworth is probably well known to local sports fans, but now he’s all about politics and is running to be one of Ward 1’s councillors.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
I love the city of Guelph and want to make sure it remains the terrific city it is. It’s a great place to live. Our family can’t imagine living anywhere else. That doesn’t mean we don’t have problems. Our city is getting bigger. We are experiencing the problems that come with growth. We need practical solutions to these problems. I’ve been in most people’s shoes at some point. I came here as a university student, I’ve been a condo owner, now I’m a homeowner with a family. I want to serve – and I’m a bit of a policy geek.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
I believe the merger of Guelph Hydro merger with Alectra was the most important decision made by the last council. This was a decision that made a lot of sense in my view.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
The last council has taken the first step towards building a new main branch of the public library. I think this was a bold move and the right decision. If elected to council, I want to make sure this project comes to fruition. We need a new library. We need libraries in general. They are so important to communities. Libraries do more than store books. They are keepers of our history. In this technological age, we need these kinds of community hubs more than ever in my view.
Our society continues to have a love affair with books. Young people don’t use e-readers. We have pop-up libraries in many neighbourhoods, which tells me people want the experience that a library provides.
Libraries are where children gain a love for reading. Libraries are incredibly important for immigration. Often, the library is one of the first places new arrivals to our city connect with. They learn about our community and in many cases learn English. Libraries are essential in helping newcomers become part of our community.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
There’s no question we have a housing problem in Guelph. Real estate prices have increased dramatically, but that has been the case in many communities across the province. This is an area that municipal governments have a limited ability to influence. The lack of affordable rental housing is also a problem.
There is government supported housing which is run by the County of Wellington and partially supported by the city of Guelph. Our contribution to funding supported housing is one of the largest line items in the city’s budget. But we need to do more. We need to do more with developers and make them provide more “below market” units.
5) Guelph is required by provincial mandate to accept thousands of new residents by the middle of this century. How is the City presently managing growth? What should we be doing differently?
One of the reasons I’m running is I think the city of Guelph is at a crossroads. Those of us who live here, know what a great city it is. I meet many new residents on the campaign trail who’ve come here because they love what Guelph has to offer. We have some challenges ahead. I think we need to avoid sprawl and protect greenspace.
6) Transit. First, what is your experience using transit? Second, do you think council and staff presently understand issues with transit? And third, what is one specific thing you would suggest to improve Guelph Transit service?
This is a question that really made me think. And the more I thought about it, the more realized how little I actually did know. I’ve heard from a number of people at some events about their experiences with transit, and how tough it is to get around. So I decided to find out for myself. One night I needed to get a cable for my television set. I thought it might be a good idea to take the bus from my home in St. Georges Park to Best Buy on Stone Road. It was an interesting experience to say the least. If I went by car, the whole trip would have taken less than half an hour. Taking the bus round trip took about 2 hours. From that one trip, I have a much greater understanding of what it must be like to rely on public transit. It was an eye opening experience. There are limits to what one can learn from one experience, but we need to do better with transit. I’m going to reserve judgment on what exactly we should do until the service review is complete. But my initial feeling is we need to re-allocate our resources. I was in the Netherlands this summer, and attitudes towards mass transit in Europe are very different. Everyone uses it. But people use it because it’s fast and effective.
I think everyone running for office should try to get from one part of town to another on the bus, just to see what it’s like.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
See my previous answer. We need to change our attitudes in general about mass transit. I’ll speak to one part of this issue. The rail link is downtown. It’s great if you live near the downtown. But the reality is, many residents who don’t live near downtown aren’t going to use it. If we make it easier to get downtown from all over the city, I think we might encourage more people to use GO trains.
8) If there’s one power that’s currently the jurisdiction of the province or the federal governments, but should be transferred to municipalities, what would it be and why?
I would prefer to see cities have more of an ability to chart their own course when it comes to growth.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
I would define a taxpayer in the broadest possible sense. Taxpayers are everyone who lives and works in Guelph. I know it’s more complicated than that, but I think that’s a pretty good way of looking at it.
When it comes to budgeting, I think council has to be responsible and accountable. There are times when it is necessary to make bold moves; there are times when it’s necessary to invest in our city and the services provided. But we need to be honest and upfront about it. And we also need to realize we are dealing with taxpayer money. It must be spent wisely.
10) Hypothetical: The City’s in a budget crunch, and a substantial tax increase is cost prohibitive for the average Guelphite, so a cut *has* to be made. What City of Guelph service do you look at and why?
Hypothetical questions are kryptonite for any politician. Without knowing the entire circumstances, it’s tough to really answer. I’d prefer to avoid getting into the situation. If there was no choice, I think I would go back to charging for parking in the downtown. We’ve had free parking in the downtown for a while now, it would be interesting to see what changes come about as a result of paying to park. This is something we could study; does it ease parking in the downtown? It would be a cut, but we might be able to gain some useful data in the process. We might actually turn a negative into a positive. Keep in mind, this is not a policy I’m advocating for.
11) Describe a time you had to make a tough decision, and the thought process you went through in order to reach that decision? (Doesn’t have to be political)
My life is filled with difficult decisions. I teach at a University – I have to make decisions all the time on everything from student grades to curriculum. For years, I worked in television news, where tough choices have to be made about what to cover given the resources we have available.
I am also an umpire who has worked at the highest levels of baseball in this country. Working as an umpire, one has to make decisions all the time – many of which are not popular, many of which are done in the face of huge criticism.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
I’m starting to think that I’m the only one bothered by this. But I never liked the move from 3-year terms to 4-year terms in municipal elections. I realize it’s been in place since 2006, but it’s really entrenched incumbents. I think it’s increased the distance between the residents and their government. And I think municipal government is different from other levels. I understand that there is a cost savings involved too with having less frequent elections. But with fixed election dates in Ontario, municipal and provincial elections will almost always be in the same year, which can result in voter fatigue. This will probably be the last time I talk about this.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?