Barbara Mann is one of the candidates running in the very competitive Ward 1 race.
1) In 100 words or less, what’s your main reason to run for council?
I love Guelph, I love my Ward 1. My voice is strong and clear. And I have no hidden agenda. My only goal is to make all of Guelph a better place to live. I am a Guelphite, born and raised in Guelph but, I have had the privilege to work, study and travel in other countries. I have seen the worst, and best we can become.
I will push for public consultation that means something. I will listen to you, represent you, and work with you. I am on the side of sustainability: employment, economic vitality, protection and maintenance of our natural assets, transportation, culture, heritage, social integrity — the feel of a place. Our place, our sense of belonging.
Guelph has an amazing reputation, and in order to fulfill this reputation we must move into a safer, sustainable and more affordable way of living. I make decisions through an economic, environmental, social and cultural lens. My voice will reflect your voice, and better our community.
2) What, in your opinion, was the most consequential decision on council last term?
I believe that the selling of Guelph Hydro and the delay in passing the Parkland Dedication By-law were two decisions with heavy negative consequences. On a good note, I believe the decision to build a new main library is very forward thinking. Libraries are more than a repository of books. They are a community centre where one can engage in knowledge through a variety of materials and activities with others. Aside: My spidey sense tells me a private public partnership may result in negative long term consequences.
I am also, really excited that Guelph Transit is doing a service review with the transit users with the plan to implement changes for a more reliable transit system. There are so many reasons to continue to improve our public transit. To start, no one should have to choose between losing a full day of work and missing an important appointment. Nor should they feel unsafe getting around Guelph, or home from a night shift. Research has shown that when everyone has access to affordable transit and safe active transportation routes, communities thrive.
The selling of Guelph Hydro, a profitable, locally owned utility made no sense to me. It felt even more uncomfortable, when I learned that when it was being sold to a private utility company, the market value of Guelph Hydro had decreased from its 2008 value. Yes, the City of Guelph needs to keep up with emerging technologies. That is why we should have been working with our Innovation Centre, University, and the other partners in the technology triangle of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge to create these opportunities ourselves.
Guelph is only collecting a fraction of the parkland and/or cash in lieu that we are actually entitled to under the Planning Act. Not passing a comprehensive Parkland Dedication By-law before moving forward with current development proposals will continue to result in the loss a significant amount of revenue or land for the people of the City of Guelph.
3) What is *your* issue? What is the one thing you want to accomplish during your term at council?
I want to help Guelph become a safer, liveable and more affordable city. Municipal politics is about things that affect people in their everyday life. I believe that an open and transparent dialogue between the public, city staff, council and the Mayor will result in more vibrant neighbourhoods and connected community. I am confident that my fellow residents not only feel the impact of decisions being made at City Hall, but predict the consequences earlier than staff and council. Thus, meaningful public input and consultation, will allow us to work in partnership to insightful solutions, and effective development.
4) What is your understanding of affordable housing versus social housing? How can Guelph develop both?
By definition, affordable housing costs less than 30% of individuals before tax income, and is a safe and healthy place to live. It includes Social housing which is subsidized, and can be market or before market housing.
As a municipality we must commit resources to increase our supply of affordable housing. Both governments have identified ending homelessness and providing affordable housing as a priority. The federal government has announced a National Housing Strategy – the Ontario government, their Poverty Reduction Strategy -Realizing our Potential program. One of the key amendments to the provinces Promoting Affordable Housing Act is that it gives municipalities the option to implement inclusionary zoning, which requires affordable housing units to be included in residential developments. Thus, ensuring new developments will become home to a new mixed-income community with a mix of affordable housing for rent or sale, as well as housing for sale at market rates. The rest of the site will be protected as green space for future residents to enjoy. This concept of mixed use housing has been used successfully in Guelph. If legislation allows, it should be mandated in the future – if not it should be encouraged. Regent Park, Toronto is a great example for local developers to emulate.
This is a historic opportunity for Guelph to work towards ending homelessness and supplying affordable housing. It is important that we work with the both the federal and provincial governments to ensure they keep their commitment to make affordable housing a priority and seize this opportunity.
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?
Guelph is working well in regards to the population targets set by the provinces Places to Grow Act. We are actually ahead of schedule. In my opinion however, we have been moving too quickly, and without important incentives to ensure that this development protects the character, affordability and health of Guelph. Nor, has much of the development been built using innovative and green technology. Each of the new high rises has vacant commercial spaces. Yet, we no longer have a day care downtown, and many successful, young entrepreneurs I know, have moved away because they could not find suitable and cost effective locations in Guelph. Note: The day care that was in the Cooperators building had a two year waiting list.
Some ideas, I believe would enhance our new development would be to first and foremost to ensure we are protecting our natural assets and becoming a green and blue belt community. Also, we should create a built form mandate; utilize inclusionary zoning; implement protection of our night sky; ensure that all developments provide multi-use and accessible inter-connected pathways to other parts of the neighbourhood; accommodate three stream waste pick up, and have adequate green space for healthy outdoor activities. Development should pay for itself. One neighbourhood should not be carrying a tax burden in order to subsidize development in another area.
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?
Having lived on public and intercity transit for over 20 years, I have seen the best and the worst of it. If it had not been for the commitment of the drivers of the Guelph City Transit, and the long distance buses, the journeys to my destinations would have been even longer and more difficult. I believe that council and staff do understand the issues with transit but, may not fully understand the positive impact good transit has on the economy and health of a community. When people choose public transit, there is less wear and tear on roads and thus, less expenditure needed to maintain them.
Combined with the fact we are a car centric society, there has never been the incentive to invest properly in transit. When people can move around easily in Guelph and the surrounding area, there will be more participation in the work force, greater social wellbeing and economic success. Every dollar invested in transit has a $3 return to the economy, according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association. So one thing Guelph can do to improve Guelph Transit is, to invest in it.
One of the best decisions Guelph Transit staff made was to increase the number of bus stops and decrease the distances between them. Having said that, I know there are several locations in Guelph where changes actually hindered residents and thus, this needs to be re-evaluated, with input from the users, and appropriate changes made.
I am pleased that Guelph Transit is currently conducting a service review. One which I hope results in implementation of rider based solutions. I support staff to continue to build a Guelph Transit System that the riders have trust in.
Transit is like any service – provide a good transit system and the ridership will increase. We need to provide a reliable and consistent service that provides dignity and affordability for all riders. So, let’s invest in it.
7) What needs to be done to improve Regional Transit? (This includes intercity buses, two-way all-day GO trains, and high-speed rail?
I have ridden public transportation in Guelph and “the Dawg” (Greyhound) regularly between Guelph, Toronto, Kitchener and the odd time Cambridge for over 20 years. There are two major challenges with utilizing regional transit: availability, and scheduling.
Whether one wishes to visit a friend; attend a meeting; go to a concert, or make a daily commute, it is difficult, and expensive. And, even though there are housing start-ups closer and closer to city limits, and more people commuting between regional cities, we have not seen an increase in other regional transportation options.
Sadly, many people promote and advocate for trains over long distance buses. This is a shame because buses can go and stop places that trains cannot. And due to this bias we have seen a drastic decrease in scheduled Greyhound runs and, a loss of routes between cities. Trains and buses are equally important.
Therefore, we need to collaborate with all transit providers (public and private), neighbouring cities and other governments to provide reliable, and affordable regional transit connections, including all day two way rail connections between KW and Ottawa.
Aside: Anyone who travels Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph understands a major traffic pattern at 6:00hr and 18:00hr. I would like to open a dialogue about options for a commuter bus for employees who live in the KW area.
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 believe the pressures of managing growth, economic restructuring, social and demographic change, environmental sustainability, and shifting public expectations of government requires reforms in provincial-municipal arrangements.
Currently, municipal government is responsible for delivering local services doesn’t have control of the revenue to deliver these services. Although, the other levels of government have a greater tax- raising power, they are often hesitant to transfer monies needed in the municipalities to cover their needs. Cities have to go to the provincial and federal governments and negotiate for money to spend on expensive projects, such as infrastructure, transit or renewing public housing.
I believe we are at an inflection point where this has to change. There should be new civic charters that would give cities more decision-making and revenue-generating powers.
9) How do you define a taxpayer? What is the responsibility of a councillor when it comes to budgeting?
A taxpayer is anyone who pays any form of taxes. I believe it is the responsibility of everyone in leadership roles, including councillors, city staff, and the residents themselves, to use those taxes for the benefit of the whole population in the most efficient and effective way. There must be value for those taxes. Thus, it is important that the community is involved in deciding what services are needed now and in the future.
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?
During times of prosperity such as we are now experiencing, I do not believe that any one service has to be cut to balance a budget. Often, if done correctly an investment in services may result in a revenue stream. So, let’s look at this another way using my example of the Parkland Dedication By-law. The investment of a consultant to review our Parkland Dedication By-law resulted in a possible million dollar benefit.
When examined more closely, cost saving measures can be found in doing things more efficiently and effectively. One of the best places to find these efficiencies is through the service providers, and users themselves. Corporations, such as Toyota profit from discussions with their employees. Towns such as Rio Preto Brazil, use participatory budgeting (ask the tax payer what their priorities are) to provide a tax level that is comfortable to their citizens. Our citizens would benefit from a better understanding of the roles of each government, and why specific decisions are made and how much they save the taxpayer. An example of this is when several streets are waiting for the black top. Then all of a sudden they are all done at once. Bringing in a company once to black top many streets saves citizens thousands of dollars over hiring the company one street at a time. I suspect many residents would prefer a longer inconvenience of traffic re-routed on their street if they understood the cost benefit.
Let’s start by making the Corporation of the City of Guelph a role-model for electrical energy, waste and water conservation. For example, let’s start turning off the lights when people go home, not back lighting signs on municipal buildings and remove lighted information signs. Let’s not water the day after a rain, just because it is on the schedule.\
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)
To run for council was a difficult decision. Civic engagement has always been important to me. It is shown through my work and volunteer history. For as long as I can remember, I have participated in public planning charrettes, written letters to the editor, delegated to City Council and I sat on the City of Guelph Smart Guelph Steering Committee. I know the importance of the publics’ voice for constructive outcomes. So, while a logical decision to seek a position on council, I had to weigh the options of now being part of the public voice or the advocate for the public voice. I accepted the strong positive response, and offer of support from people, who wanted me to be their representative at City Council.
12) Is there a municipal issue that you don’t think gets enough attention? What is it and why should it get more attention?
Effective development and urban built form results in less frustration for residents, enhances quality of life, and saves money. Whether we are talking about something as simple as building colour, and permeable driveways, or as complex as cogeneration heating systems, the results are significant. Imagine waking up one morning and finding every building in Guelph was battleship grey, or the entire city hardscaped. Imagine if there were not a variety of housing styles, commercial or institutional options, and no green space. What if nothing was connected making movement through the city by any mode of transportation difficult? When developing we are building neighbourhoods, we must include civic space, respect the context of the area, and design beautiful, functional and beautiful structures.
Also, I encourage fiscal responsibility and transparency. I believe there are times for large investments that have a variety of rewards for now, and leave important legacies for future generations.
I believe that fiscal responsibility and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive. A lot can be achieved if we have both. Efficient and effective project management frees up monies to be used elsewhere. Thus, I encourage transparent project budgets and timelines be available to the public.
13) Where can people learn more about you, or your campaign, and how can they get in touch with you?
I have been enjoying meeting people face to face, corresponding by email, and telephone. I invite others to connect with me as well.
Campaign Phone Number: (226) 979-7197