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Ottawa Citizen election coverage – Somerset ward

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My responses to the Ottawa Citizen all candidate questionnaire.

ISSUES PAST

How did you vote, or how would you have voted, on the 2013 Transportation Master Plan that includes a $3-billion plan for the second phase of light rail?

If I were a member of the previous Council, the only way I would have voted for the Transportation Master Plan is if it was amended to include a link to the Airport in the second phase of light rail.  Including that very important link to the plan is crucial and would cost a great deal less doing it now then waiting 10 or 20 years.  We must ensure our city offers residents and visitors to Ottawa a quick, economical and environmentally friendly transportation option between the Ottawa Airport, the City’s downtown and perhaps even over to Gatineau with the use of existing tracks over the Prince of Wales Bridge.

Was the outcome of the city’s casino deliberations generally positive or negative? Why?

I believe the outcome to be generally positive.  I did not agree to a new casino in Ottawa nor did I think there was a need for it.  I understand the importance to generate more revenues for the city other than property taxes but we must consider the social implications of our decisions as well.

If it decided that we have an Ottawa Casino, I have been loud and clear that I did not want it downtown and that Rideau Carleton Raceway was the only logical location for it.

How did you vote, or how would you have voted, on the move to biweekly garbage?

To be honest, I probably would have voted for the move to bi-weekly garbage pick-up but on a trial basis.  Knowing what we know now, and from the concerns I have heard at the doors during the campaign, I would support bringing garbage pick-up back on a weekly pick-up for the hotter summer months such as June, July and August.

How did you vote, or how would you have voted, on the $100-million plan to redevelop Arts Court?

If I were on the previous council, I would have fully supported the $100M plan to redevelop Arts Court.  As a amateur actor and co-founder of two community theatre companies that have used Arts Court on a regular basis I would have even lead the campaign for it.

What’s been the greatest success of the current council over the past four years?

Finally moving forward on LRT.  Light Rail Transit (LRT) will defiantly and positively change the way we will transit around our City and how it will enhance the City’s landscape especially in Somerset Ward. The LRT will replace city buses allowing us to redesign some of our Centretown streets; add additional bike lanes, widen our sidewalks, plant more trees, include more patios, more food trucks and overall make walking around the core safer, more fun and enjoyable for everyone.  As mentioned in a previous question, One and very crucial piece missing from Phase II of Ottawa’s LRT plan is a North/South link to our City’s international airport.

What’s been its greatest failure?

One word… Orgaworld.

YOUR WARD

What are the two most important issues in your ward (or the city, if you’re running for mayor)? Why?

Issue 1:  Public safety has probably been one of the most mentioned issues at the doors throughout the campaign.  Residents simply do not feel as safe as they would like living downtown for a number of reasons, one of which is the increasing number of shootings and stabbings.

Issue 2:  I would put development, affordable housing and homelessness together as an important issue.  As we continue to grow our city it is very important to ensure we have a good balance between all levels of housing so that more people and/or families as possible have a roof over their heads.

What specific measure will be your top priority if you’re elected?

One of my top priorities will be  to work with the Ottawa Police Services Board and the Ottawa Police Service to bring back the Somerset Community Police Centre. I suggest that we look at the property across the street from Dondonald Park (where the beer store is) as a possible new location.  A constant police presence in close proximity of the park might be a viable deterrent for many.

I will also immediately organize a series of Community Discussions on Safety to come up with solid ideas on how we can make our neighbourhoods safer.  As each community have different safety concerns, these discussions will be held in the various areas within Somerset Ward.  We must take back our streets and our parks.

If you are the incumbent, of what decision made by council in the last term are you most proud?

n/a

What do you wish the council had dealt with better?

City of Ottawa contracts, more specifically Orgaworld.  Don’t get me wrong I support recycling and the green bin program.  However the Orgaworld contract has been a mess from the word go.  The amount of waste going to Orgaworld was a mystery to everyone, including the city. It all depended on how much waste would be generated, how well the city sold the idea to residents and of course residents’ buy in.

I think what should have been done is for the first few years agree on 25,000 tons (just throwing a number out there) and see how that worked out.  Depending on the results, I would have increased it to let’s say to 45,000 tons for the following five years and continue to incrementally raise the tonnage according to waste being produced and/or disposed of through the green bin program.

If you’re not the incumbent, say something nice about the incumbent.

Diane Holmes is the incumbent for Somerset Ward and is retiring after 30 years of service to the city and the community.  I may not have agreed with Diane on a some of the issues we have faced in Somerset, however, she has worked hard for our community and has dedicated her career to it.  I wish her all the best and a great deal of rest and relaxation on this well deserved retirement.

Now say what you’d do differently, if elected.

First thing, I would not have stayed for 30 years.  It is important to have a reasonable turn around at city hall in order to bring in new ideas and be open to new ways of doing things.  I do not think term limits are needed but I also do not believe municipal politics should be a career.  That does not mean in any way, shape or form that my commitment to my community and city is not as strong.

Second, one thing I will be doing differently is work collaboratively with the City’s BIAs, businesses and community in order to revitalize our main streets, for example Bank, Sparks and Somerset to name a few, in order to attract new businesses that will not necessarily compete with those we already have, but complement them.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a local hardware store in Centretown or a grocery store in Little Italy?  Wouldn’t it be awesome to once again have a movie theatre downtown?   We must prevent our community from slowly become a ghost town.  Together we can prevent that from happening.

CITY ISSUES

Taxes. Are they too high? Just about as high as they should be? Not high enough for the city we wish we had?

I, and most people I have talked to during the campaign understand the need for municipal taxes and don’t mind paying as long as it is not wasted and they get the core and social services they need.  That said, I think the previous council did a great job at capping taxes at 2.5% which I believe is a good comfortable number.

It is important to note that we also must find new and innovative ways of raising revenues without always depending on property taxes.  Something I am willing to explore when elected.

Development issues continue to be controversial. What would make the planning process smoother?

Let me begin by saying that I support intensification in the Ward and believe it can be done right and can be done smart while simultaneously protecting the community’s character and the environment.  What would make the planning process smoother is ensuring that the Community Design Plan (CDP), which has been developed by city staff, the community and developers, guide us as we continue to build our city without losing our identity or our greenspaces, whether in Centretown, Chinatown or Little Italy.   Although the city is not bound by the CDP, it is important that we make sure that the Community Design Plan be the rule more often than the exception.

The lines of communications between the City, developers and the community must remain open at all times.

The city is now constructing the first phase of LRT, the Lansdowne Park redevelopment is all but complete, and council just approved the Arts Court and Ottawa Art Gallery expansion. What other “city building” projects do you think council should consider in the next term?

The City of Ottawa’s main library branch.  I will support a P3 model for the redevelopment only with services run by the city.  The new library building must remain in Centretown.

GOVERNANCE

Roughly how many council meetings have you attended in the past year?

I’ve only been able to attend two council meetings but have attended many city committee meetings including those I have sat on.

  • Community Services Advisory Committee (Vice-chair)
  • Parking Stakeholders Working Group (representing community associations)
  • Ottawa Police Service Liaison Committee for the LGBT Communities (Community Co-chair)

Should the transit commission include “citizen” commissioners who are not elected officials? Why or why not?

Yes I do.  I think it would take some the political aspect  out of the decisions made.

What would make the goings-on at City Hall —whether at council or in the bureaucracy — more transparent?

I think Mayor Watson and the current council have done a great job at making transparency a priority at City Hall for elected officials and the top brass of the bureaucracy.  More community consultations that are not simply done for the sake of adding a check mark on a list but to truly let residents know what the city is planning and seriously consider the advise given by residents.

Should councillors have term limits? If so, what should they be?

I do not believe term limits are needed but I also do not believe municipal politics should be a career. It is important to have a reasonable turn around at city hall in order to bring in new and innovated ideas and be open to new ways of doing things.

There is a ward-boundary review coming up in the next term of council. Do you think we have too few, too many or just the right number of wards?

The city has already dealt with this issue and I support its decision.  We must stop wasting time by always revisiting every decision taken by previous councils and concentrate on the City’s future.

Is your campaign willing to accept corporate and/or union contributions? Yes or no?

No, I am only accepting donations from individuals and small local businesses.

Some people think those sorts of contributions should be banned. What do you think?

Yes, I believe they should be banned.

Some people are interested in the city moving a ranked-ballot system of voting. If the provincial government allows municipalities to adopt this system, would you be in favour  of it?

No I would not.

ABOUT YOU

What formal education, training or other credentials do you have?

My formal education is as a Computer Programer and Internet Specialist but have worked in Communications at the federal level for 25 years. At the political level, I have worked on the Hill both in government and in opposition, have worked on a number of political campaigns from all levels and have sat on a number of city committees.

If the election were held tomorrow, which mayoral candidate would get your vote?

Jim Watson will get my vote.

Do you live in the ward in which you’re running? If not, what’s your interest in the area?

Yes, I have lived in Somerset Ward for almost 30 years both in Centretown and Little Italy.

Did you grow up in Ottawa? If not, what brought you here?

Yes, I was born in Vanier (Côté Street) but moved to Beacon Hill South in the City’s East end at the age of four.  I have very deep roots in Ottawa going back a few generations.  I am the proud son of Roger and Cécile (née Leblanc) Schryburt of Lowertown and brother to Ginette (Dufresne), Lynn (Delage), Monique (Schryburt) and Josée (Welsh).

What’s the most significant position of responsibility you’ve ever held, either in work life or as a volunteer?

The words “significant responsibility” are very relevant depending on the position held.  That said, there have been a few throughout the last 30 years such as:

  1. The positions I have held on the Hill as Advisor to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Legislative Assistant to the Member of Parliament for Brampton Springdale;
  2. Community Co-chair of the Ottawa Police Service Liaison Committee for the LGBT Communities; and

Are you married or in a long-term partnership? Kids? How old are you?

I am a single 48 year old man with no kids.  I like long walks on the beach… (just kidding).

When did you last take OC Transpo to work or to run an errand?

I am the proud owner of a presto card but have not taken OC Transpo for a while since working on the campaign.  The great thing about running in an urban ward like Somerset is that you can walk from one end to the other in very little time.

How often to do you take transit?

I do use all modes of transportation (walk, bus, cycle and drive) but try to use transit as often as possible. I walk more than anything.

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