Part III: The challenges of being Mayor & Robin’s vision for the future

Robin answers the big questions on voters’ minds. She talks about the challenges she will face as Mayor, her vision of stability and sustainability and how she will achieve it.

Question One: What is motivating you to seek the Mayor’s office and what challenges and opportunities do you foresee?

 

Answer: There are three significant challenges.

The first is obviously our debt.  We already have several loans, three of which are due in the next three years. We carried a negative surplus, which is an accountants way of saying we carried a deficit in our consolidated budget of $240,204 into 2014. Or, more simply, we spent $240,000 more than we brought in. As of last Monday, our bill for this years issues at the lagoons was $395,000–just shy of $400.000.

The second challenge is rebuilding trust between the public and Town Hall.  As a member of Council, I had expected to be able to resolve many of the issues that you had brought to my attention.  Issues such as getting the snow removal issue resolved; ensuring that public money was spent fairly and wisely; that staff were held responsible to do their job; that planning occurred to repair and replace infrastructure; that environmental concerns were taken seriously; and that we could hear suggestions how to fix our waste water system from the very people who engineered and installed it.  Despite asking to have those discussions, the discussions that would give full disclosure on who knew what when in regard to our former Waste Water System operator, Town Hall told me no.  Despite pointing out  glaring faults in how contracts are awarded or work is approved without any tender or contract, I got shoulder shrugs. When I suggested  a line item for sidewalk repair in this year’s budget, I was dismissed.  When kept in the dark this spring about the seriousness of the lagoons, day after day, event after event, that was when I decided to step up and run for mayor.  I am a strong proven leader, with equally strong management skills.  I have an honest respectful approach and powerful communications skills.  I face challenges squarely, in a timely manner, and consult with others.  As your mayor, I assure you that Town Hall will be run like a business, with integrity, transparency and accountability.

“When kept in the dark this spring about the seriousness of the lagoons, day after day, event after event, that was when I decided to step up and run for mayor.” 

 

The third major challenge is rebuilding the Village’s image.  It is clear to every one of us that the image of our village has been tarnished this year.  From articles in national newspapers that have headlines such as Village dumps thousands of litres of sewage into the lake” to Lake Associations voicing their very strong concerns.  In fact, the mayor has a statutory responsibility to participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the Village and its residents.  I see this as an important role for the mayor and as your mayor I will work tirelessly to turn things around. Immediately. On December 2.  To rebuild the Village’s image there is a lot of work to do … for all of  us. Each one of you have a role.  I know my role.  And when on a hot summer’s afternoon, when there are two different events calling my name, I promise you – I will get my priorities right.

I want our Town Hall to be like Dr Sean Rodgers office.  Somebody said to me the other day that they had advised Sean to offer coffee for sale in his waiting room and he would likely make more money than from the treatments! Why do we hang out there?  Because it is inviting, we feel respected and valued. Because we matter. That is what Town Hall in our Village should be.  As your mayor, I will carry out my duties professionally and respectfully, with the confidence that comes from years in leadership roles and with the humility that comes with knowing how to be a public servantBecause you all matter.

Question Two: What is your vision for the Village?

The vision
My vision for Westport is based on stability and sustainability.

 

My vision brings stability and sustainability to the Village and consists of several key parts.
Seniors:  This means continued access to existing services and additional services for all seniors in the village.  It means sidewalks that are safe to walk on in all seasons.  It means affordable housing that is appropriate and comfortable.
Youth: We need to keep the need for employment and career opportunities for youth in our minds and discussions.
Business: Town Hall needs to show support to business owners to retain and attract other businesses and create an environment conducive to small business development. Our economic future depends on businesses staying in business in Westport.  It is time to be “Open For Business” in Westport.
Tourism &  Recreation:  Lockwood Park is a gem nestled right in our Village although it is extremely under utilized.  My vision has that green space rejuvenated and a place where we meet, play sports, watch live theatre, host family picnics. Thanks to Malcolm and Debbie Bird for making the old benches in the shuffleboard area beautiful once again.
Tourism & Culture – I want Westport to solidify its position as a major destination for arts and culture. Every metric indicates that a strong presence of arts and culture benefits the economic stability of the community. Think how Prince Edward County began…with artists and a winery. We need a winery in the Village.

Tourism & the Rideau: Our lake… Continue to work with Rideau Heritage Route and other groups who focus on customizing the experience of the Rideau to suit the individual tourists.  And let’s be clear: no more by-passes of effluent into the Lake. Period.

Infrastructure: Our infrastructure is falling apart.  The roads, the sidewalks , the waste water system. There needs to be a plan to replace, repair and maintain. We cannot be a tourism destination when cars are bottoming out on roads and pedestrians are tripping on the sidewalks.

Town Hall: I want a Town Hall that is customer focused.  Who adopts the attitude of “yes, we can”;  who are helpful and supportive to the public that it serves.

To achieve these goals, I will ensure…

A. Council has all of the information required to make decisions on the future of the Waste Water System. The information from Northern Watertek, the company that engineered and installed the current Snowfluent system, will be considered in all discussions. Any decision reached will NOT include another bypass of effluent into the Upper Rideau Lake.

B. Responsible Financial Leadership: A process will be established for ensuring financial transparency and proper, deliberate stewardship over public funds.

C. Mayor and Council will will work together as a team and make decisions together.  There will be shared responsibility with full transparency.

D. Public trust is the underlying principle upon which public office is based.  Those elected are servants of the public with a duty to be worthy of that public trust.  I believe that government and elected officials are obligated to advance the public interests, not private interests. Under my leadership, Council will implement a plan that will raise the bar for the Mayor, Councillors and all Village staff that meets the need for transparency and the expectations of community, businesses operators and visitors to Westport.

 

Your village. Our village. Let's work together.
Your village. Our village. Let’s work together.

Question Three: What will be your first steps for the realization of this vision?

1. Evaluation and Verification of the Financial Situation: I want an independent audit of our books so that I and the Councillors have a clear understanding of our debt.

2.Strategic Plan: A framework to develop a coherent and shared set of objectives, goals and values that will help Council to plan and organize over the next 4 years. Early stages of developing a strategic plan include in depth consultation with community and businesses to assist in developing the mission and vision and to set priorities and goals. Long term capital planning and sound fiscal management will be part of the strategic plan.

3. Accountability Framework: To make Town Hall more transparent and accountable. For the mayor, councillors and all staff, expectations will be understood, criticism embraced, responsibility accepted and continuous improvement expected. We need people to do their job.  We need to look at other tasks (i.e. bylaw enforcement). A business process will be put in place so that Council members are well informed prior to Council meetings about the issues. The framework will be a consistent, dependable template that will improve our decision making.

4. Forming Committees:

A.Committee of the Whole: council will meet twice a month.

B. Audit and Finance Committee: The primary function of the Audit and Finance Standing Committee is to assist Council in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities.

C. Public Utilities Committee: The primary function is to assist Council in fulfilling its statutory and fiduciary responsibilities.

D. Business Committee: The primary function is to be a conduit to business for meaningful consultation.

E. Affordable Housing for Seniors:  If we are not talking about it, it won’t be done. Town Hall will encourage investors and work with a developer.

F. Lockwood Park: Time to take it to the next step.

G. Economic Development and Tourism (existing): Working with two project teams to address the residential requirements of the village. In all matters, communicate communicate communicate and be inclusive.

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Committed to community. Dedicated to progress.

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