20 Questions for Karen Farbridge

Monday, December 11, 2006

Still shining in the light of victory, Guelph’s recently reposed mayor Karen Farbridge sat down to answer 20 Questions from the Cannon. Like the 20 Questions to the CSA Exec last summer, some are serious but a few others are silly. Read on to see what Mayor Farbridge thinks of being in charge again, how she intends to accomplish her ambitious agenda and why there’s been so much darn road construction lately.

1) How does it feel to be the Mayor again?

Great. I look forward to serving my community again as Mayor.

2) Will you miss being a campus dweller?

I have already been invited to an open house and a class so I think I will have lots of opportunity to visit campus.

3) The election was pretty heated at times between yourself and Mayor Quarrie, not to mention your individual supporters, has peace been made?

Graciously, Mayor Quarried visited me on election night to wish me the best for the future.

4) This term is going to be four years rather than three, what’s that going to be like for you and other experienced and incumbent councilors?

The new four-year term will give us some additional time to get things done for our community. I think it will also push us to think longer term when making decisions.

5) Will the new council’s inexperience bring more challenges or opportunities?

We have an opportunity to start fresh with this new term of City Council, breaking old behaviours that perhaps interfered with sound decision making. We need to ensure our new members receive the orientation and background information they will need to do their jobs well. I am happy to report that is well under way. Members of Council have already had extensive orientation and training with our senior management team. With good information, they will get the job done.

6) How has Guelph changed for the better since you were first elected to council in 1991, and how has it changed for the worse?

Growth over the last decade has brought many new services and facilities like the Student Bus Pass and perimeter bus route, the River Run Centre, the Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre, and the West End Recreation Centre. The culture that can be found in our community has become richer and more diverse. We have received international recognition for our environmental achievements. And our academic institutions have thrived.

However, “business as usual” growth threatens our future quality of life. We are beginning to see the signs of this in Guelph. As we continue to grow, the principles of partnership, public involvement, respect and trust will allow us to build a community that we can all take pride in.

7) This election saw a slight increase in voter turn out, how are you going to capitalize and enhance upon community involvement?

In the late 1990’s, Council adopted guiding principles for public involvement. I believe it is time to revisit those principles to reaffirm our commitment to public involvement. I will ensure that all delegations to City Hall have a voice. More ward meetings are being planned and members of Council are already exploring all the ways we can share information and receive input.

8) What did you learn about Guelph during this campaign that you didn’t know before?

I learned a great deal more about the growing diversity of our city, and the need to better recognize the role newcomers will play in our city’s future and find new ways to promote cultural inclusively and services for new Canadians in our community.

9) Can we assume that the matter of maintaining the ward system is settled for now?


10) Give us a sneak preview of your first 100 days.

I will be meeting with many people - in our community, in neighbouring municipalities and other orders of government - to build partnerships for our future.

There are also many issues that require the direction of Council including the composting facility, our Water Management Master Plan, the Baker Street Parking Lot redevelopment, Community Energy Plan, new main library, and much more. We have a lot of work ahead of us!

11) The tide of the election seemed to be against the construction of a pipeline, shall we assume that this is “case closed” on that idea?

I have made two recommendations to Council. First, to receive the full fifty-year Water Management Master Plan – at the moment only the first four years have received approval. This is a comprehensive and well-prepared report that provides a menu of options we can consider to meet our future water needs. Second, I have recommended we direct staff that they can work from the menu of options but with one exception - a pipeline has no place in Guelph’s future. I believe our residents deserve a clear statement of Council’s intent and not the prospect of revisiting this debate in 2010.

12) A lot of folks are wondering about Wet/Dry Plus, so what’s the status of the plant and how are you going to re-establish Guelph’s place as a waste management leader?

While a long-term Waste Management Master Plan has been initiated, we simply cannot wait two or more years to act. It is not acceptable to truck our green bags to New York to be burned. I have asked the CAO and Director of Environmental Services to bring forward options for Council’s consideration in January. This will allow us to bring our composting system back on track as soon as we can address all Ministry and neighbourhood concerns regarding building safety and odour issues.

13) What’s the biggest hurdle in stemming the tide of rapid growth in the city?

We will continue to grow as a community. Our challenge will be to provide a solution to growth that reflects our community’s unique identity.

We need to maintain a rate of growth that is in line with our ability to pay for it so we have the resources to build a prosperous, well maintained and vibrant community for everyone. We have the vision. There is widespread agreement within our community on the principles of Smart Guelph. The last term of Council integrated them into the terms of reference for the future Growth Management Strategy. We know where we are going.
But it is in the day-to-day decisions - on waste management, water supply, infrastructure development, community planning and urban design - that we bring that vision home.

14) The changes you’ve proposed to transit seem like a huge task to undertake, where will you begin?

We begin with the political will to make it happen; I believe we have that on Council. The next step is to let our staff bring forward their best proposals to enhance our service in a responsible manner.

15) Seriously, you can tell us, what’s the deal with all the road construction?

The Federal government has begun sharing a portion of the gas tax with municipalities to help pay for repairs to transportation infrastructure. This has driven the road reconstruction that you are seeing in the city. A lack of funding in the past has led to a back log of work that needs to be done.

16) A lot of students are wondering what the next four years will hold for them as a specific group, perhaps you could enlighten them.

The University of Guelph continues to seek new ways to strengthen their involvement in the community. I am excited about the opportunities for our city to partner with faculty, students and staff. I think we will see stronger and better partnerships that will provide new opportunities for student citizenship. Important issues for students – like responsible waste and water management and enhanced transit services – will be addressed.

17) What’s on your Christmas Wish List?

A community inspired by opportunities and not held back by barriers.

18) Good answer. here's another freebee: George W. Bush: great president or The greatest president?

No comment!

19) I’ll just put you down for great. Anything to add that we didn’t get around to mentioning?

Community health leaders have told me that we should be planning to meet the current and future social and community health needs of our community just as comprehensively as we plan the next road or waste water treatment expansion. I will create a Mayor’s Community Health Advisory Council, to ensure we address issues like mental health, poverty and senior’s care so we build a community where everyone can live in dignity – regardless of age, health or personal circumstance.

20) In the news business, reporting what’s today is unacceptable without looking forwards; so, will you be seeking re-election in 2010?

My mind is on the City’s future past 2010 at the moment, not on my future in 2010.

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