2022 City Election



- by Jeffrey Alan Caldwell

1. Owen Sound Council has fewer citizen committees and task forces than most similar cities. Opportunities for input are scarce, and many residents feel their comments and complaints are not respected. What specifically would you propose to improve and strengthen citizen input?
Democracy doesn’t end after one has cast their vote. Elected officials need to be held to account for the choices they make, or in many instances in our council’s case, don’t make. Committees and task forces can help guide and inform the decisions of council during their term. Input from passionate, informed and experienced members of our community is invaluable and should be welcomed and encouraged.

2. Many complain that property taxes are comparatively high in Owen Sound; however, there are significant problems that could benefit from a more funding. How do you propose to keep taxes down while addressing problems like homelessness, addictions and the desperate lack of affordable, licensed rental housing?
Owen Sound operates at costs that in many areas are drastically higher than comparable cities. There seems to be no discernible reason for this, other than historically bad choices, and lack of action. Council it seems has come to believe that taxpayers are a bottomless well, to which they can return whenever they need. The current attitudes and trends towards taxation are unsustainable, the council knows this, they've been told this by staff.
We need to get our dollars and cents in order not to simply have a good-looking ledger, but as a means to an end. That end is tackling problems like housing, addictions and affordable and attainable housing because the solutions to these problems require cold hard cash.

3. Owen Sound is facing a housing crisis. We urgently need action to build new, affordable homes for purchase and rental, and to improve and expand rental accommodations.  Will you support reviewing the current practice of waiving development fees to entice companies to build?
There is no circumstance in which Development Charges (DCs) should be waived. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, of which Owen Sound is a member, has made this clear. There is no evidence beyond the anecdotal that giving breaks on DCs has any effect on development or the cost of housing. Our city has been giving developers a 100% break on DCs, this is moronic, doubly so when we get nothing in return other than still empty fields, and failed developments that sit unfinished in our community. We, the taxpayers, are left to pick up the tab. Over 3 million dollars in DCs have been waived. Council will let us know the total after the election, impeccable timing on their behalf I’d have to say.The only situation which could warrant the consideration of waiving development fees would be for builders who are creating attainable and affordable housing in our community, and at best it would be a rebate of some kind AFTER the actual building is done and other commitments were met.

Will you approve a landlord licencing system to give the city and tenants more power to upgrade the safety and quality of rental apartments?
No good landlord would refuse such a system. However, any licensing system would need to be self-sufficient from the fees it collects. I would support a licensing system for landlords as long as it included knowledge testing for applicants that demonstrates they know their responsibilities under the Landlord and Tenancy Act. In my decades of renting, I found that most landlords are clueless when it comes to tenants' rights, or at least pretend to be. London, Ontario already has such a system, so we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, they did the hard work already.

4. What can the City do about poverty, homelessness, and addictions and mental health problems, given that such issues are the responsibility of multiple levels of government?
It is a moral imperative that we give shelter to those who lack it. Even my 6-year-old instinctively knows this when he asks me “why don’t we get them a place to live”? My explanation of upper-tier and lower-tier municipalities and their responsibilities is in his opinion “stupid”, I agree.
Nothing prevents us from taking ownership of these problems when the responses of those who are responsible fail. That the current council lacks the basic empathetic instinct of my 6-year-old is troubling, and that they can so easily pass the buck is mind-boggling. For those who can’t get behind the ethics of such a position then consider it an economic imperative, it costs far more to not do something than to do something.
How can we show empathy and compassion - and find viable solutions – to help the most vulnerable residents of our city? Would you support assigning members of both Council and staff to the Poverty Task Force?
Groups like the poverty task force deal with these problems day in and day out, they are experts and should be supported, encouraged, and invited to participate in meaningful ways. If they want a council member and a staff member to participate then they should be given that.

5. Let’s face it: the worldwide climate crisis is impacting all aspects of life; our children and future generations will pay the price. Municipalities directly experience extreme weather events including heat waves, floods, health effects and the cost of adaptation measures. Therefore, Owen Sound must work with other levels of government to reverse and adapt to climate change.
What steps should the city take to reduce its carbon footprint and mitigate the impacts of climate change?

There are well-established practices that all cities can take to minimize their impact on climate change. Having buildings that are as energy efficient as possible is a key step. Minimizing solid waste (garbage) and maximizing recycling programs are also incredibly important, why we don’t yet have a green bin program is a question we should ask ourselves. Using renewable energy whenever possible, the implementation of electric vehicles in our fleet is a good start and this should continue wherever practical. Minimizing sprawl as we attempt to expand the city's housing should be kept in mind, many parts of the city are not “walkable”. We’ve done a poor job at planning the layout of our city, and the planned developments on the books will increase our dependence on cars.

Do you support citizen involvement in the development of a local Climate Action Plan, and the hiring of a climate change coordinator?
I support citizen involvement in any shape or form. Our city has a large cohort of retired individuals, many of whom had extensive careers in many different fields, this is a resource that we should be mining for all it is worth. But, many people, and rightfully so, are reluctant to speak out because historically their concerns and input have been brushed aside in favour of a staff report or a study. Enough of that. Let's recruit those in our community who have the knowledge, real-world experience and passion about climate change and get a task force or committee together. A group such as outlined would be able to tackle this issue in a much more meaningful and intelligent way than council, city staff, or a single Climate Change Coordinator could.

6. There are far too many retail vacancies on most blocks of Owen Sound’s downtown core, and most stores are closed on Sunday. What can Council do, working with area landlords, to support social enterprises and innovative business ventures?
Should subsidies or rebates for business owners be an option?

No. We should immediately cancel any and all grant programs like the CIP that simply transfer taxpayer dollars to property investors. It might interest voters to know that over $165,000 of grants has been given out in the past two years to improve private investment properties.
Beneficiaries of your tax dollars include but are not limited to BG Wealth Management (who are proud investors in Owen Sound but only insofar as it can provide profits), the BCK property owners happily took $10,000 out of our pockets as if they needed it, and for some reason, we needed to give $20,000 to Rakson Hospitality Investments to help them create 8 income properties, and of course, the usual suspects made sure to put their hands out. These kinds of expenditures are dubious at best.
Amazingly the committee that oversees the CIP was so proud of their accomplishment that they wondered out loud how they could expand the program and give more of your tax dollars to the already wealthy.
Is this really what we want our tax dollars used for? To help out those who need it least while we ignore those who need it most? I’m not convinced.

7. Owen Sound has many long residential streets with 50 km/h speed limits that inadvertently encourage speeding. Should Council explore the possibility of reducing speed limits in residential areas to 40 km/h or less?
Though I think many would balk at the idea of 40km/h speed limits in the city, I’d be willing to bet when it comes to their own neighbourhoods they would welcome it. I think it would be worth it to first institute such speed limits in those neighbourhoods of the city that are used as “shortcuts” (we all know where they are) and see if it has the  intended effect before we take arbitrary actions across the entirety of the city.



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