Community / Guelph / Opinion / Uncategorized

Full time Councillors?

I had the opportunity last week to offer my thoughts to the media regarding changing our present system and position status of city councillors and their wards. In a nutshell, here is where I stand. Feel free to offer up your thoughts or discuss further with me via this blog, Twitter, or this email address jason.dodgeWard3@yahoo.com .

1. Full time council positions? Now is not the time…

Given the financial situation we are presently in, I do not believe that we should be entertaining the idea of the large costs associated with adding full time positions on council. I highly doubt the residents of Guelph will tolerate higher tax increases and more service cuts to fund full time salaries. Besides, it would be hypocritical of city hall to do so and still justify wage freezes and potential staff cuts in other departments and services.

2. Is Guelph large enough? Not yet…

I am not convinced that the population is large enough to warrant 12 full time council positions. Perhaps the future may hold differently, and even then I would rather evaluate the idea of 1 full time and 1 part time councillor per ward before jumping the gun. Creating strictly full time positions would limit the number of candidates who are able/willing to fully postpone their careers knowing the uncertain odds of re-election.

3. What if the salary is high? This will not change work ethic…

As far as I am concerned, no one chooses this type position for the money. People opt to run for council because they want to make a difference in the way their city is run and want to contribute to a better future for the residents. More pay does not necessarily mean a stronger work ethic within council. The workload for some sitting councillors seems much heavier than others and that is one reason why this item is on the table. But would the workloads be so heavy if others carried their fair share of the load? Truth is, no amount of money will make some people work harder for their constituents. Raising salaries will get you the same (but more expensive) results we have now.

4. Fewer representatives per ward? Not an option…

The diversity in Guelph demands that each ward not be limited to just one representative. We need the option of having different views representing each ward. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but having two councillors per ward offers better chances of pleasing the majority. And pleasing the majority is what our city representatives should be doing.

5. Are we asking too much from councillors with the present system? Well, yes and no…

As I mentioned before, some councillors are undertaking a massive workload while others are skating by on thin ice. The proof is in the way they communicate with their constituents and colleagues as well as their attendance at meetings and public events. As a result, the councillors that seem to truly care are sometimes overwhelmed.

6. How can this be resolved? (a) Communication and organization…

Communication and organization could radically change the issue of unbalanced work loads. The beauty of City Hall is that all of the resources needed to be a solid representative is at your fingertips. The building is full of knowledgeable staff that can offer expert advice and information at any given time on almost any give topic. The problem is, instead of open communication between staff and council, some councillors have built dividing walls between them causing resentment and bad blood. And once these walls are built, the citizens of Guelph are the ones who suffer most.

(b) Most importantly…

Vote. Find the candidates who are willing to work respectfully and diligently for their constituents and vote for them. Find the candidates who are willing to build better relationships with their colleagues and city staff and vote for them. Find the candidates that best represent the majority of residents and vote for them. Find the representatives that understand your needs and values and vote for them. Vote.

Find the candidates that are not in it for the money. Instead, find the candidates that are willing to fight for yours.

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4 thoughts on “Full time Councillors?

  1. I agree with Jason on most points. The City of Guelph does not need full time councillors.
    A few of the councillors take the position seriously, but a lot of them have their own agenda IE: the Wilson farm house and the Lafarge properties, Planning recommended the demolition of the Wilson farm house which council dismissed.

    Councillors seem to over react to a chosen few that do not represent the majority of the neighbours. These councillors act on impulse and do not take into consideration the cost of delaying projects which causes taxes to go up.

    One thing I disagree about is the planning staff at city hall, they are creating nightmares for traffic . Try making a left turn out of any business or plaza on Silvercreek Pkwy North and see how long it takes. I read a letter to the editor in the Mercury the other day and the comment was the first bike I see using the bike lanes will be my first. I agree!

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond DANMO1.

      Regarding the Wilson farm house and the Lafarge lands: These are prime examples of how some representatives outright refuse to represent the majority of residents or use the common sense recommendations presented to council. A waste of our money that leaves many residents feeling ignored; which I believe contributes to our low voter turnouts in Guelph.

      As for the bike lanes: I travel along Silvercreek Pkwy multiple times a day. I have to be honest though, I have seen 2 “cyclists” in the bike lane since they have been installed. Funny thing is, they were both motor cycles using the lanes to pass other vehicles.

      These bike lanes are ill-placed and an accident waiting to happen. These lanes are constantly used by cars and trucks as a way to turn right at the Speedvale intersection as well as the many commercial buildings along the way. One of these days a cyclist may actual attempt to use these lanes and end up side-swiped by a vehicle. Silvercreek was intended to accommodate traffic using 4 lanes. And if I am not mistaken, Willow Road is in the plans to be reduced as well.

      Despite what one of our current Ward 3 representative claims, vehicles will not be “obsolete” in Guelph 20 years from now. To push that pipe dream on so many unwilling residents is a ridiculous misuse of her public duties.

  2. Thanks Jay for your insight! I am not sure how Guelph councillors feel that their positions should be increased to full time when the city of Kitchener has double the population and only have 10 councillors. Keep in mind, Kitchener is a two tiered system, however, the population of 230,000 people is managed just fine by part time councillors. Mississauga and London also have larger populations then Guelph, and they too are managed by part time councillors. How Guelph Council can align themselves the same as Toronto is mind boggling. Cambridge and Waterloo only have eight part time councillors and Guelph has the most representation with twelve councillors. Until we hit the population level of 350 000 people, council positions should remain part time. Ms. Farbridge and her council members need to stop putting their hands into the consituent’s pockets, for the pockets are close to being empty. The main point you raised that holds the utmost importance….VOTE. Guelph council chambers needs a major shake up in 2014!

    • Thank you Jen. You have brought up some good comparisons of other nearby communities.

      Again, I truly believe that some councillors have been quite diligent and faithful to their constituents by working hard to get a sense of what they have been elected to do…represent the majority. As a result, those few councillors have definitely been putting in more hours than others. If they all dedicated their time equally, used the available aids and resources, and worked as a team, I don’t believe this issue would be on the table right now.

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