North Bay’s po­ten­tial un­tapped - Gardiner

North Bay Nugget - - OPINION -

gary gardiner is one of four can­di­dates for North bay mayor. the po­si­tion is be­ing con­tested by Will bois­soin, Shel­don For­gette, gardiner and al mcdon­ald. mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil and school board elec­tions will take place on mon­day, oct. 22.

Why did you de­cide to seek elec­tion in 2018?

i de­cided to run for mayor and not coun­cil be­cause i be­lieve there is a des­per­ate need for change and that change must start at the top. North bay has so much po­ten­tial, but like a tal­ented athlete, you need the right coach and the right sup­port team to re­al­ize that po­ten­tial. North bay is blessed with a nat­u­ral beauty, a tal­ented work­force, co-lo­cated uni­ver­sity and col­lege, a 10,000-foot run­way, in­ex­pen­sive ser­viced in­dus­trial land and many other at­tributes that po­si­tion us well for planned and thought­ful growth. i be­lieve that i have the skill set, de­ter­mi­na­tion and pas­sion to turn this un­tapped po­ten­tial into mean­ing­ful jobs, in­creased as­sess­ment and a com­mu­nity where, once again, peo­ple are proud to say they live, work and play in the bay.

What unique qual­i­ties or ex­pe­ri­ence do you bring to the job?

af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Si­mon Fraser uni­ver­sity, i spent the next 15 years in the realm of high­per­for­mance sport. ul­ti­mately i was the na­tional team di­rec­tor for wrestling at the 1992 barcelona olympics where our heavy­weight won a sil­ver medal. in fact, the en­tire team had a great per­for­mance. i also served the next four years as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Judo Canada. more re­cently, as a cus­tom home builder, i took pride in my abil­ity to de­liver a high-qual­ity prod­uct on time and bud­get, al­ways aware that i was re­spon­si­ble for some­one else’s money. i think these ex­pe­ri­ences are pretty unique, but the com­mon theme in all of them is set­ting achiev­able goals and build­ing a team to de­liver re­sults. that’s what i do.

Vot­ers have iden­ti­fied trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity at city hall as a key elec­tion is­sue. do you agree? how do you pro­pose to ad­dress the is­sue?

i re­ally wasn’t pre­pared for the lack trans­parency at city hall when water me­ters were first in­tro­duced. in fact, i was in shock that the con­sult­ing firm was rec­om­mend­ing that res­i­den­tial users pay more…. a whole lot more for water than the in­dus­trial and com­mer­cial sec­tor. Nowhere in the doc­u­ment did it say that! you had to read be­tween the lines and do the math. in the end, the water ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee adopted all my rec­om­men­da­tions for a fair and eq­ui­table rate sys­tem. Wow i thought…. if you re­ally make an hon­est ef­fort, you can make a dif­fer­ence. So i was hooked. if elected, one of my pri­or­i­ties will be to en­sure that our res­i­dents have ac­cess to ac­cu­rate pub­lic in­for­ma­tion and that all rea­son­able re­quests and in­quiries will be re­sponded to in a timely fash­ion with es­tab­lished per­for­mance stan­dards.

Would a ward sys­tem im­prove coun­cil ac­count­abil­ity? do you be­lieve coun­cil­lors need to live in the ward they rep­re­sent?

think about this. if i was tasked with cre­at­ing an all-star hockey team, but was only al­lowed to se­lect one player from each ward would i have the best team? prob­a­bly not! We need to get the best of the best on coun­cil so a ward sys­tem doesn’t work. one idea i would like to ex­plore, once elected, is that each coun­cil­lor be as­signed to a “ward” in prin­ci­ple. this would al­low res­i­dents to know who to di­rect in­quiries to and im­prove ac­count­abil­ity. ef­fec­tively, the elected coun­cil­lors would act as con­duits to ap­pro­pri­ate staff and to en­sure that timely follow-up is pro­vided. in essence you get the best of the best and rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the same time.

the 2018 elec­tion has started off with a lot of job-cre­ation prom­ises. What types of sus­tain­able, well­pay­ing jobs can North bay hope to at­tract or cre­ate? how do you pro­pose go­ing about this?

this is the No. 1 elec­tion is­sue. We lost 2,083 peo­ple in the past six years. busi­nesses are clos­ing. there are no easy so­lu­tions, but the first step is ac­knowl­edg­ing the chal­lenge. the next step is to reach out to the com­mu­nity to de­ter­mine what it is that we can be. and once we know that we can act. make no mis­take…. the land­scape is chang­ing ex­po­nen­tially. equally im­por­tant, we also need to fo­cus some of our en­er­gies on re­tain­ing and grow­ing our ex­ist­ing busi­nesses. the new coun­cil needs to demon­strate, by both pol­icy and ac­tions that city hall is once again a wel­com­ing en­vi­ron­ment for busi­ness and de­vel­op­ment. i will have more to say on jobs as i con­tinue to con­sult with com­mu­nity lead­ers. i don’t have all the an­swers, but i know the ques­tions to ask.

What other is­sues do you see as most im­por­tant to North bay in 2018 and how would you act on them?

tax­a­tion migration is a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple de­cide to build or pur­chase homes in sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties be­cause the taxes are sub­stan­tially lower. even our own mayor doesn’t live in North bay. When it comes to sin­gle-fam­ily hous­ing starts we are see­ing the low­est numbers in a decade.

in the (Vic) Fedeli era, we were build­ing around 100 new homes an­nu­ally. in the last two years, we av­er­aged a measly 25.

but there is hope. re­cently, the plan­ning de­part­ment pre­sented a by­law to per­mit sec­ondary dwelling units within all res­i­den­tial classes. this is a big deal that needs to be pro­moted. Le­gal sec­ondary suites pro­vide rev­enue that al­lows pur­chasers to qual­ify for larger mort­gages. and, as a uni­ver­sity / col­lege town, we have renters for those sec­ondary suites. this is just one of the ad­van­tages for North bay homebuyers.

a sec­ond is­sue is com­mu­nity safety.

his­tor­i­cally, North bay has had a well-de­served rep­u­ta­tion as a safe com­mu­nity in which to live and raise our fam­i­lies. un­for­tu­nately, we have not been im­mune to the ef­fects of drug epi­demics and as­so­ci­ated crime that has be­come all too com­mon in Cana­dian cities. i in­tend to ac­tively en­gage in ad­dress­ing this con­cern and work­ing with com­mu­nity part­ners to do more to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion.

What would your top 3 pri­or­i­ties be for North bay coun­cil’s next four years? What steps do you pro­pose to take on each?

Short term:

• Call for a mayor’s task force on com­mu­nity safety.

• Cre­ate a co­he­sive team of coun­cil and ad­min­is­tra­tion that com­mu­ni­cates.

• Gain back the trust of in­vestors and de­vel­op­ers

Long term:

• Get back to the strate­gic plan­ning process and de­ter­mine what, as a com­mu­nity, we want to be.

• Follow through on the strate­gic plan and turn ideas into ac­tion

are you fa­mil­iar with the bay­lor re­port? do you agree with its rec­om­men­da­tions and is North bay tak­ing the rights steps to achieve them?

i was at the fi­nal pre­sen­ta­tion of bay­lor. For the first time in a long time, i felt the city was go­ing to go some­where. then we went nowhere. the bay­lor re­port is a tem­plate for build­ing a com­mu­nity. my com­mu­nity in­vest­ment fund and the task force on safety are ex­am­ples of cre­at­ing a sense of place. as a com­mu­nity, we need to de­cide what we want to be. What bay­lor re­ally tells us is that there is no magic bul­let. it tells us to build a com­mu­nity where peo­ple want to be­long first and fore­most.

What is an ac­cept­able tax in­crease in North bay and how can it be achieved?

No one wants to see taxes in­crease. but if you don’t grow your tax base, then the bur­den of in­creas­ing cost of ser­vices falls on the cur­rent ratepayer. So we need to grow our city and the bay­lor tem­plate is an im­por­tant step.

i also be­lieve cit­i­zens want to see value for money. For me a $15-mil­lion King’s Land­ing wharf re­de­vel­op­ment is a non-starter when the re­pair would be in the $4-mil­lion range. i op­posed the $6-mil­lion Cedar heights stand­pipe that is al­most com­plete, be­cause that money could have been spent to re­pair aging in­fra­struc­ture and solve sewer back­ups into peo­ple’s homes. Spend money on needs, not wants.

Gary Gardiner

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