Accountability Updated: September 5, 2018
Accountability means taking responsibility for the actions of the city. Oshawa used to have an accountability office and an Auditor General who kept an eye on what was going on at council. That role was intended to provide independent audits of municipal operations, and represented the interests of the population rather than the government. In 2013, our Auditor General disagreed with a land purchase deal, stating that we were going to over pay by as much as $2.3 million dollars. Council disagreed and hired a municipal lawyer, who decided the deal was sound. Rather than disciplining the auditor, or even just firing and replacing him, council decided closing the entire accountability office was the right choice.
I believe this was a deplorable decision. Prior to this, the Auditor General had consistently saved the city millions of dollars per year. Since then, city spending carries on unchecked. As mayor, one of my top priorities is to petition for the reinstatement of the Auditor General and the Accountability Office, and to order a forensic audit to determine what kind of damage has been done since that time.
The current administration still hasn’t released the full costs associated with the construction of the Consolidated Works Depot. As mayor, I would expect our major spending decisions to be open to scrutiny by the taxpayers and would suggest all major projects include public final cost analysis so you can see where your money has gone and see for yourself that we are being responsible with your tax dollars.
I will seek and encourage meaningful community participation and feedback, as I can not represent the wishes of the citizens without being fully aware of what those are.
The future Oshawa will be accountable to its residents and a leader in community participation.
Transparency Updated: September 5, 2018
Recently, council has admitted that they have been failing to uphold the requirements of the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act. In some cases it takes more than a year to get a response from a FOI request. While this is the highest profile case of a lack of transparency in city hall, it is far from the only one.
Oshawa’s website seems purposely designed in a way that makes it near impossible to find the information you’re looking for. While every council meeting is recorded and web-cast, links to many of the sessions are dead or lead to something irrelevant. You can find budget documents for the past year, however there is very little detail about how our money was spent. We have the highest property taxes in Durham, and the second highest in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, and it’s next to impossible to determine why. You will have to dig deep if you want to go any further back than a year or two.
In 2014, Council requested that staff provide an updated records retention program. Four years later this project is still incomplete. As an IT person, I will expect that our Records Management Systems be updated, simplified, compliant and accessible through our website.
The future Oshawa will be transparent and open to its citizens and a model for others to follow.
Oshawa's Downtown Updated: September 5, 2018
For as long as I can remember, there's been talk about the "Revitalization of Downtown" but it's never been clear what that meant. What would a "vital" downtown look like? How long would it take to get there? What would we do once it's done?
I try my best not to use the term revitalization, it implies that our downtown is not vital. I've lived downtown for over a decade and believe we should have pride in how far we've come. However, planning for our future should never end. I propose we consider the long term goals of the city and break the "revitalization" plan into smaller projects so that we can see how far we've come. Let's make our success measurable.
No community can survive without a downtown core, and this is not a one time need but a continual need. As such, our downtown 'plan' must continue to evolve and move forward.
The future of Oshawa will include a vibrant and active downtown, a welcome and inviting community.
Opioid Crisis Updated: September 5, 2018
Many years ago, the province mandated that Oshawa was to receive the first drug rehabilitation centre in Durham. Being the only place to go at the time, this drew people who required the service from across the region. Over time, the clinic took on more clients, and more addicts came to Oshawa to receive the service. Methadone clinics, being private businesses like any other, saw the growing addict population and took advantage of the situation. To this day, they continue to pop up around the city. Oshawa has the most clinics in the region, and it's my belief that it's because they originally had nowhere else to go and that it continues to be the case.
To complicate the issue further, Durham currently has no safe injection sites at all. While the city has been working towards a solution, ultimately this is a topic that must involve both the region and the province. While the previous provincial Liberal government did approve a safe injection program, the new Conservative government has not decided whether they will continue it or not. I do believe that safe injection sites are a required piece of the puzzle. I will engage with the community and all levels of government to try and find suitable funding and placement within the city, and engage with the region to ask the other municipalities to do the same.
Your future Oshawa will be a safe and comforting community.
Homeless Crisis Updated: September 5, 2018
Oshawa currently registers the largest percentage of homeless people in Durham Region. Some may attribute this to the increased presence of agencies and facilities providing much needed social services over other Durham municipalities.
As mayor and a member of Regional Council, I will advocate for increasing these needed services in the other member municipalities. The disproportionate number of homeless in Oshawa may not be a natural phenomena but be attributed to these people coming to where the services are available. Either the Region needs to put more focus and resources in Oshawa, or the other municipalities must service their own needs better.
Rather than a 'move them along' attitude, I will advocate for increased social services for the entire Region, sharing the strengths of Oshawa's current services to meet the community's greatest need. We must work together to find suitable solutions to ongoing problems.
When social housing was uploaded to the Region, a number of units available in Oshawa were deemed not satisfactory to the Region's requirements. As a result, over time, those units have fallen into greater disrepair and been closed. It is imperative that the Region addresses the shortfall of affordable housing and social housing in Oshawa and takes steps to replace and increase the number of available units.
The future of Oshawa will have great social services and respect for all.
Affordable Housing Updated: September 5, 2018
Affordable housing means different things to different people. Durham, and Oshawa in particular, is a surprisingly attractive destination right now. People who work in Toronto are purchasing houses cheaper than they could get in the city. Students are coming here from all over the world and renting whatever they can find, for whatever the price. These factors and more make it difficult for the locals to find affordable housing, both for purchase or for rent.
I can't address all of these in one broad sweeping statement, but I can leave you with a thought about registered rental units. Currently there is only one neighbourhood near the north campus where this is a requirement. Municipal inspectors regularly check on these units to ensure that they are safe and appropriate units to remain occupied. My hope is to use this system as a starting point, expand it to new neighbourhoods, and broaden its scope so that one day pricing could also be taken into consideration.
The city also has a registry of two-unit homes, but as we have seen in the fatal fire last February, not all are properly registered or inspected. It is imperative to educate the public on current regulations and safety requirements, and where applicable, to ensure that inspections are completed on a timely basis. This registry ties in to the Records Management System update and the accessibility of records on the city's website. We need to ensure the safety of our community and citizens and ensure the accuracy of our records, registrations and enforcement.
The future Oshawa will be one that represents all classes, prospering and living in harmony with each other.
Taxation Updated: September 7, 2018
I am not naive enough to suggest that I can lower your taxes. However, it will be one of my goals to take Oshawa out of the "highest tax rate in Durham Region" spot.
I am confident that I can do a better job of spending your tax dollars wisely.
The first step is the return of the Auditor General and accountability office. Thorough reviews of the budgeting process and purchasing processes at the city of Oshawa will be imperative to get a full understanding of how we can become more efficient.
Budgeting should transition into a zero based budgeting process where departments start with zero and justify every expense in their budget ask. Presently it would appear that we start with a current year and add in additional spending requests for the next year.There is no incentive for staff to find efficiencies or savings in this process.
On the surface, it appears that we use too many sole and single sourced contractors in our purchasing. This leads to familiarity with the contractors and does not necessarily ensure value for money. We have great and experienced personnel at the city, and we need to encourage that they are using their talents fully to provide us with the best goods and services for the best price.
There are huge pressures to our reserves from the continued development of Oshawa. The 2016 Asset Management Plan identifies a shortfall of over $460 Million for the next 9 years. We need to balance the costs associated with expanding services to meet new development and maintaining existing services in established areas. We need to ensure that our development fees cover the costs of expanded services while promoting continued expansion at a sustainable rate. As mayor, I will be open to discussions and input from current residents, developers and our own staff to help build Oshawa into what we want and need it to be.
I will work with council, citizens, developers and staff to ensure that our future tax increases meet the required investments while keeping those increases to a reasonable minimum rate.
The future Oshawa will be lean and efficient, where living is reasonable and desirable.
Reputation & Community Profile Updated: September 7, 2018
Depending on your age, personality and sense of humour, the term "the Shwa" can be interpreted positively or negatively. When it is extended to "the dirty Shwa", we battle an age old stigma that must be defeated.
The best way for Oshawa to improve its reputation and profile is for a city Council and Staff that works in a collaborative and helpful way with citizens, businesses, developers, upper tier governments and media. This can be accomplished through various ways identified in my platform, including greater accountability, greater transparency, more efficient service delivery, purchasing, and taxation.
Most recently, the Freedom of Information process has given the city a black eye with residents and the Oshawa Firefighters Union. The ongoing dispute with the Oshawa Port Authority, the lengthy battle with the Region over the unfunded transit liability, the protectionist process of trying to limit Designated Drivers and ride share entities and the on again off again refurbishment of the Genosha Hotel serve only to raise questions of professionalism and secrecy within the halls of Rundle Tower.
The return to the Ward System of voting will give residents a distinct representative responsible for local issues. However, it also pits ward against ward in a divisive manner. As mayor, it will be essential for me to provide strong leadership for the best decisions of the city as a whole while maintaining a balance and equality across our vast city. I will work with Council to ensure that voices are heard from every nook and cranny across this great city.
As Mayor, I will work with council to develop and implement problem solving attitudes within the city administration, cooperation between departments, outside entities, and our citizens. Less conflict and greater cooperation will lead people to understand that Oshawa is great, has a vision, and a willingness to make things better for all.
The future Oshawa will be one which other municipalities envy and attempt to emulate.