Why did you decide to run for council?
As a planner, I'm interested in what is going on around me and have an endless desire to make the environment in which we live as good as it can be. I've worked on the periphery of government and its politics and know that it's a complicated arena. I've written a lot of documents that have gone to Council for approval and understand for a municipality to advance, its decisions must align with its vision and all within a framework of fiscal responsibility. In my current position, I'm active on a number of committee where stakeholders come together to resolve problems and find better solutions. I'm also a bit of a dreamer believing that things can be made better. Also, I can make the difficult and non-popular decisions. That is where my passion lies. Six months ago, I was asked if I would run for council, and I wasn't ready. Three months ago I was asked again and I considered it. The third time is the charm, as they say. So here I am, ready to put my experience to good use.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for your city any way you wanted, what would you do with it?
How I would spend it depends on the City's strategy. These days, it's easy to spend $1M and investing it without leverage, may not amount to anything. Having said that, it would be most strategic to invest it where major investment has already taken place and in places and in initiatives that benefit many, so I would invest it in expanding the Active Transportation, Bell Park and a downtown project.
What do you think are the greatest challenges your city faces?
I truly believe that those involved in politics have the best intentions. It's a tough job, and a thankless one. The right combination of decisions are made when a Municipal Staff and Council are on the same page, when they're following one clear and simple vision. I'm not sure Sudbury has one clear and simple vision.
Sudbury has many challenges and the greatest is coming to terms with the fact that its economy is stagnant and its population is not increasing and growing older. The tax base is not growing. We have more road network than we can afford to properly maintain and community nodes that are at such a distance from the core that there is little or no relation to a "central city." All of this is costly.
In addition, we have four major capital projects on the books...how does a declining and aging city support these? While I agree in principle with heighten our cultural presence within the Region, I feel the four projects, as currently presented, are neither affordable nor will they create economic or employment growth. There is a misunderstanding that large capital projects are transformative, but they are not. The challenge is for the upcoming Council is to realize that its the 100 little strategic projects that are in alignment with a vision that will create meaningful change.
Another challenge for the City is unity. Be it the Capital Project or the current ward system, there are many different voices working against each other. A clear vision, focused investment, and tough decisions are required.
Regarding our road network, we should get the best product for our investment. There are issues to be resolved here, however, Sudbury needs to understand that Canada is a country that experiences freeze and thaw cycles and, as a result, roadways suffer. Sudbury spends considerable more on roads that most other municipalities. Changing the roads-first mindset is a huge challenge.
I feel the City needs to pause, and clearly define it's vision, and that vision should be evident in every strategic document and Council decision. It is my belief that until this is done, no initiative and no amount of money will change things.
Other than the official ways of communicating (minutes, municipal notes), how else will you reach out to your constituents to involve them in the decision making process?
I like the Town Hall format where the community/ward comes together to discuss issues. Communicating what's going on in the ward can be done via blogs, and input can be gather by online survey platforms.
What is your favourite thing to do in your city?
I love to cycle the trails, hang out on a beach and swim. It's my time to reconnect with nature and just be still. The festivals are well organized and a great opportunity to share in cultural experiences. The Northern Light Festival Boreal was fantastic and I'm looking forward to Cinefest.
What do you cherish most about your community?
Sudbury is a very friendly community. There isn't a place I go that I don't end up chatting with a stranger, or someone from high school, or someone who knows my parents. That is a unique quality. Preferring to be outdoors, I absolutely adore the nature that we live in, and in all seasons. A comedian who visited the City years ago said this about Sudbury: "Sudbury isn't beautiful; it isn't ugly. It's sublime." It's a bit difficult to hear at first, but when I thought about it, I felt he hit the nail on the head....the nature that surrounds us is grand and, if treated properly, is inspiring. I'm not sure we see it or appreciate it. It's my wish that we gently develop on the natural environment for the benefit of all.
Where can people find you?