People. Policy. Purpose.
I am asking for your vote on Oct. 24. My pledge is to listen and learn from you. As I meet and greet as many of you as I can in the coming weeks, I will do just that.
Your voice matters and with me your voice will be heard. In fact, I am counting on it to make me an effective councillor and to guide my decision-making. Here are some of my own ideas on how we move Ward 7 and our city forward together.
I believe lasting solutions and effective change comes from the ground up. This is why, as your councillor, I will create community advisory groups in Ward 7 and I will encourage all other councillors to do the same.
I believe these are four key areas we need to focus on. I will take the views and ideas that come out of these groups with me to the council chamber.
Local Community Initiatives and Support
In addition to working closely with all existing Community Action Networks , as your councillor I will also host monthly town-hall type meetings. Together we will work collaboratively to bring the improvements we want and need to our local communities.
I will also advocate for the return of Citizens on Patrol and for an increase in Healthy Community Initiative Funds that are made available annually to each ward. As councillor, I am committed to the fair allocation of this money on projects that are important to all of us throughout the ward.
Homelessness, Addiction and Mental Illness
No more turning away from the weak and the weary. Sudbury ranks No. 2 in opioid deaths in Ontario and our per capita death rates are almost triple the provincial average. Homelessness, opioid addiction and mental health issues are consuming our communities, destroying our families and plaguing our downtown core. We must find a long-term solution to the downward spiral we are on and as your Councillor this is one of my top priorities.
I have already had the great pleasure of speaking, for example, to a mental health and addiction professional who has walked with the homeless, addicted and mentally ill. She knows how they feel and has ideas about what they need. At the same time she feels voiceless as one failed policy after another comes down from above, yet these are the very voices we need to hear from.
Zoning, Building and Development
The process for zoning changes, building permits and development approvals is too long, too expensive and too intimidating. We hear the stories.
The most glaring example is our abandoned hospital. It has been 12 years and we need to find out why this problem still exists and what we can do to get it solved.
I also know a couple that simply wanted to divide their lot so their son could build a house. Sixty thousand dollars and two years was the estimate to get this done.
Then there is the $100,000 and two-year wait a developer faced just to put up 12 units on a vacant lot. The build did not proceed. This is all property tax dollars lost and this needs to change once and for all.
Long Term Infrastructure
Our roads are crumbling and our buildings are falling apart yet we have failed to develop a long-term, comprehensive plan to deal with our multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficit. We know the problem exists yet we keep our head in the sand while always playing catch up.
The solution, however, is not just higher taxes. We need to get serious about this problem by first imposing a two year non-essential spending freeze including a pause on large projects (Junction East, arena), while we sort out the mess left over from the KED nightmare.
During this time, I will also advocate for the implementation of zero-based budgeting at city hall and a line-by-line review of current program and department spending. We need to relearn that a dollar saved is still a dollar earned.
Sudbury is a wonderful city with much to offer and much to celebrate. I have lived here all of my life. Everyday wonderful people are doing wonderful things in their community. Everyday staff and hourly workers at city hall do their best to deliver the services we want and implement the policies we have in place.
At the same time, too much is broken and there has been too much division. It is council that sets the tone; it is council that determines the priorities, and; it is council that makes the policies.
What we need is a new council that has the courage to face the problems, the leadership to seek the solutions and the will to implement the changes.
It takes councillors who every day lead with common sense, common decency and common purpose.
I will be such a councillor for Ward 7.
Mark McKillop is running to the councillor for Ward 7 in the City of Greater Sudbury in the October municipal election.