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McCausland: Should the city be more decentralized?

Geoff McCausland, who is seeking re-election in Ward 4, says he’s heard a lot of talk about the need for Greater Sudbury to decentralize services, but the issue is a bit more complex than that
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Geoff McCausland is running to be re-elected to the Greater Sudbury city council seat in Ward 4.

My name is Geoff McCausland, and I am one of the two newer members of city council, elected in 2018. 

Since being elected, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the need to decentralize city services, and I’ve talked with constituents who feel frustrated that they no longer have services based out of their town or community within Greater Sudbury.
When people talk about service centralization versus decentralization, they often talk about it like it’s a black and white issue, like it’s a switch to be flipped. 

The truth is, as with most things, centralization is a spectrum. The real question is whether a service could be more centralized for efficiencies – like accounting, information technology or development approvals – or more decentralized to be in reach of as many residents as possible – like parks, fire services, or libraries. 

It’s easy to think that more localized services are always better, but there is a point of diminishing returns where you start paying a lot more for small increases in service. I believe that for each service we need to work together as city council, staff and community members to find the best balance between service quality and service affordability. 

With all today’s pressures on household finances, affordability and keeping taxes low is more important than ever. 

Plenty of services are already decentralized in Greater Sudbury. 

We have 23 fire stations and deploy paramedics out of 11 stations. We operate seven drinking water systems and 12 wastewater treatment facilities. We have five public works depots — on Black Lake Road in Lively, on Suez between Capreol and Hanmer, off of MR15 in Chelmsford, on Frobisher, and in the West End of Sudbury. There are also smaller stockpile depots in Levack and Whitefish. 

How many depots and at what locations will give us the best balance of service and cost? Each depot means the snow plow might have less distance to travel to fill up with sand, but also requires dedicated staff, equipment, and money to maintain the buildings and keep the lights on. 

I believe city council needs to explore opportunities to decentralize decision-making, and focus on initiatives that gather resident input to guide local investments. The city’s public consultation platform, Over To You (Overtoyou.greatersudbury.ca) is a place where all kinds of different plans and projects are shared to gather resident feedback. 

The information that you input can really make a difference, so please check it out and see if there is anything there that’s important to you. 

I also think we need to further leverage technology to get more people involved. We need to try things like direct democracy, like the “Neighbourhood Decision Making” program in London, Ont., that saw nearly 10,000 people vote on how to invest $250,000 across five areas in town. 

That’s a great way to empower people to be part of the process, and help us to make the choice people want when there are multiple comparable options to choose from. I also believe the Community Action Networks could be given a direct role in supporting neighbourhood decision-making, provide critical local guidance, and help determine what investments and amenities are important to families and residents today.

My name is Geoff McCausland and I am running for re-election to city council representing Ward 4 (Azilda, the Donovan, Elm-West, and Rayside). 

If elected, I will continue working to improve public consultation, empower community volunteers, and encourage neighbourhood decision-making. 

I will also work with council and constituents to find a balance of service quality and service affordability that works for the people and families that make up our community of communities.

Geoff McCausland is running to be re-elected to the Greater Sudbury city council seat in Ward 4.