This is the third in a nine-part series in which OrilliaMatters asked city councillors to reflect on the first half of their mandate, look ahead to the second half and let citizens know if they intend to see re-election.
Today, we provide the answers from Ward 2 Councillor Ralph Cipolla.
Question 1. What are you most proud of, personally as a councillor, that you/council have been able to accomplish in the first half of your mandate?
This council worked really hard during this pandemic to limit community spread. It has been an unprecedented year and no one could have expected this.
It is a difficult question as there are many aspects of our mandate I am proud of such as the opening of the recreation centre, which I have been waiting 42 years to open. Although, I have to say that protecting the health and safety of our city and the people in it is what I am most proud of.
Question 2. What is your biggest disappointment as it relates to a council decision/direction or issue?
The biggest disappointment of this term is the delay of the development of the Metro lands/waterfront. I would have liked for all stakeholders to cooperate to ensure that we have residential occupancy within our downtown and to create a tax base which helps keep taxes down.
Another area I think that would be something for us to work on going forward is to make sure that there is enough affordable housing in the downtown and surrounding areas.
Question 3. Nobody saw the pandemic coming. Specifically, as a councillor, what is the biggest challenge the pandemic has created and how have you tried to tackle that challenge?
The biggest challenge that I felt was to keep everyone safe and secondly is to ensure that the economy in Orillia survived this pandemic. We wanted to keep people working so they had food on their tables. We wanted to ensure that as a city council we educated everyone to ensure that the Orillia citizens were informed and stayed safe.
We have created an economic task force to specifically tackle the issues pertaining to business survival during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Question 4. As a result of the pandemic, many citizens are worried about the future and think council should have halted everything (ie. waterfront plan, Centennial Drive project etc.) to save money. What do you say to those people and what is your view of the future of the municipality amid the reality of a pandemic?
We have followed provincial guidelines to ensure safety for all citizens. I would say to the people that may be worried about the continuation of projects in the City of Orillia: “Pausing programming would cause havoc in terms of growth, in terms of provincial funding and it would take years to catch up.”
The future for Orillia looks bright and the projects that are in place, such as 144 Elgin, Waterfront Development, the Rexton Property, the new hospital and Hydro One coming to Orillia, will create jobs and increase the tax base to make it affordable to live in Orillia.
Question 5. The recent discussion about the waterfront plan spawned a lot of debate and, despite your efforts, many seem to think there wasn’t enough public input. Are you doing enough as a council to be transparent, to encourage public input and to listen? How so? How could that be improved during the second half of your mandate?
There can always be more public discussion in everything we do. I am sure there would have been more public discussion if COVID had not been a factor.
I fully support more public discussion in terms of the waterfront plan. I would like to see us have a survey to ensure everyone has a voice whether that is through social media or other outlets to ensure everyone has the opportunity to speak up.
As a council, we are constantly learning how to navigate through this pandemic and we can always do more, but we are thinking about ways of how to stay safe as well as to ensure the voice of our community is heard.
Question 6. What is the biggest challenge council faces in the second half of its mandate (ie. Staff retirements, promised tax freeze, capacity) and what are your top priorities?
Council’s biggest challenge is to keep the tax increase at 0% and to create employment in the city. My top priorities are 1) to ensure everyone is safe and healthy during these unprecedented times; 2) to create good paying jobs for the people of Orillia; 3) to make sure all roads are upgraded and repaired to a safe standard; and 4) Listen to what the people of Orillia want and I will work hard on behalf of the people in this community.
Question 7: Lastly, do you intend to seek re-election? Why or why not?
I would like to run again for City Council. Due to COVID-19, there were some projects that we started that we were unable to complete. I would like to have one last term as your city councilor in Ward 2 to ensure that I can make certain that these commitments are completed.
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