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Outgoing councillors cite frustrations with bureaucracy and time commitment

While one Kingston city councillor has been acclaimed and another five are seeking re-election, half of the city’s sitting councillors have decided not to run in this month’s municipal election.

Many of those choosing not to run pointed to similar difficulties leading to them stepping away from their role, namely the overall time commitment and frustration caused by other levels of government.

Each of the councillors who have chosen not to run reflected on their time in council, and identified some priorities they hope the new round of councillors will push for.

Below is a brief Q&A with all six councillors who have chosen not to run.

Simon Chapelle: Loyalist-Cataraqui

Why have you decided not to run?

Chapelle is the Chair of the Ontario Parole Board, and said the time commitment of a city council position is just too much to be balanced with another full time job, and he felt somewhere the quality of work in one area could suffer if he stretched himself too thin.

In his opinion, there should be less councillors and they should all be considered full time.

“I really do think council should reduce the number of members from twelve members to six and a mayor, so seven in total, and make them full time,” Chapelle said.

“The information and the size of the corporation is just too large, we’re beyond the scope of a small town anymore… the amount of time I was spending, 25, 30 hours a week on top of my regular job you’re looking at now 70 to 75 hours a week… the work life balance was never there.”

He said he was prepared to run again but after receiving his fall schedule with the Parole Board thought it would be unreasonable to do so and withdrew his name.

Chapelle says with feedback from constituents, he’s confident he would have been elected for a second term.

“Quite frankly I’m quite confident that I would have been successful which is what makes it really disheartening to walk away,” Chapelle said.

Was there anything accomplished as a member of city council that you were particularly proud of? Anything you’re disappointed in falling short on?

Chapelle said he’d sum up the things he’s most proud of with four ‘Ts’: Turtles, Trees, Taxes and Taxis.

Turtle fencing has been added at Collins Bay Creek to help protect a precarious population of turtles in an area that historically experienced the largest destruction of turtles on an annual basis.

Chapelle says he’s pushed back against developments that look to clear cut a large number of trees and pointed specifically towards a collection of trees in the Cataraqui Woods area that was preserved as a woodland rather than being developed for commercial usage.

He said he’s pushed against every tax increase proposed by the city, and tried to maintain a fiscal lens on a council that “really wanted to spend money”.

Chapelle said particularly, the city’s tendency to want to use consultants on projects became a point of frustration.

“I have an absolute disdain for paying for consultants,” Chapelle said.

“If we don’t have staff with the skills they need we should be investing heavily in staff to train them up so they have the skills to do the work in house… How many 50,000 dollar, 49,995 dollar consulting fees can you go and give your buddies?”

Finally with taxis, Chappelle sat on the Taxi Commission and says he worked hard to bring “common sense, good governance and structure to that organization which was the wild west before we started”.

That said, just this year fare amendments brought forward caused outrage among the city’s taxi drivers before the Commission eventually relented on changes.

Chapelle says he was disappointed he couldn’t successfully bring a sidewalk to Westbrook Road, an area he says has been largely neglected, and that badly needed repairs on a number of roads in the west end fell short of what was needed.

“This fall what the city staff did was basically ‘eff you Chapelle, eff you, we’re just going to put a chip and tar like they did at the same standard they had back in the 1950s and so this road is going to start just falling apart…’ how embarrassing is that?”

Is there anyone running who you would endorse?

Chappelle said he believes Joseph Dowser, who he has worked with on the Taxi Commission, would be a great representative of Kingscourt-Rideau.

He also said Zachary Typhair in Portsmouth, who is a young, hard worker and not “tainted with any big lobbyists” would be a welcome addition.

Bridget Doherty: Portsmouth

Why have you decided not to run?

Health concerns within Doherty’s family have been forced to become her priority for the time being, making running for council impossible at this time.

Between that and balancing her other job as Executive Director of the Providence Centre for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Doherty says there simply wouldn’t be enough time to dedicate to the position.

Was there anything accomplished as a member of city council that you were particularly proud of? Anything you’re disappointed in falling short on?

Doherty advocated for the Climate Change Action Plan and said she’s also proud of the expansion of truly affordable housing in the city during her term.

Despite both those making positive strides, she says it’s far from adequate for what’s needed.

“I really hope the next council will continue at the same pace on both those two key items,” Doherty said.

“But it’s not enough is the reality.”

In general, she says she’s impressed by how council and city staff didn’t let COVID halt progress on important items, and council members complemented each other while in spite of their differing opinions.

“We didn’t stop moving forward on these major files, I think that’s a huge accomplishment,” Doherty said.

“I also think that this term of council… we were actually a good team, we didn’t necessarily agree with each other or vote the same way but we worked together and respected each other’s differences in opinion and I think we came up with some pretty good policies.”

Doherty said the biggest disappointment was discovering the restrictions that can be created by different levels of government, both provincial and federal.

“Federal government is still stepping away from social housing and the province is putting more pressure on us to use municipal taxpayers for healthcare,” Doherty said.

“To tell you the truth, they were my biggest frustrations… they just need to step into their responsibilities of health care including mental health and the opioid crisis that we’re seeing in Kingston, the homelessness that almost every community in Ontario is struggling with. We need the province to step up to their responsibility.”

She said people should be really upset about the continual “downloading of responsibility” exhibited by the province, and pointed towards their insistence on Kingston footing 10% of the bill to expand KGH under threat of pulling the project entirely.

Is there anyone running who you would endorse?

Doherty didn’t want to endorse anyone in particular, but said as a voter she is looking for candidates with strong platforms on affordable housing, climate action, and climate change preparedness.

Robert Kiley: Trillum

Why have you decided not to run?

Like others stepping back from council, Kiley says the time commitment is too much for a “part-time” position.

“I cannot manage full time work as a teacher with a young family and 35 hours a week as a councillor,” Kiley said in an email.

“I love my municipal duties but it’s impossible for me to do them at this stage of my family and other professional life in education.”

Was there anything accomplished as a member of city council that you were particularly proud of? Anything you’re disappointed in falling short on?

Kiley said he’s proud of infill developments approved by the city, saying they’re good for both the city and planet.

He also said he pushed for having the Raptors title run in 2019 projected on the big screen in Market Square.

“It was the idea of a constituent in my district who reached out to me and I partnered with city staff to make it happen,” Kiley said.

“Community was built on a common cause, people came together, and the municipality worked as it should: strong relationships across residents, elected officials, and the bureaucracy.”

He says if there’s one thing he wishes he could have brought to the city it’s a fair taxation rate for all incomes.

“I wish I would have been able to get progressive property taxation where people pay a set portion of their income in property tax,” Kiley said.

“The current system is a problem because it hurts fixed and low income people who may pay a larger share of their money to it than the rich.”

Is there anyone running who you would endorse?

Kiley provided an report card highlighting all the candidates running in the Trillium District, he also threw his support behind Brandon Tozzo who is running in Kingscourt-Rideau.

Mary Rita Holland: Kingscourt-Rideau

Why have you decided not to run?

Holland recently ran in the provincial election as the MPP candidate for the NDP, and felt that was the political role where she could really help spark the policy changes she wants to see.

“I really would have enjoyed getting to work in a capacity where I had a bit more of an ability to make change in areas of social policy and health policy,” Holland said.

“Being a municipal representative, it’s very rewarding but some of the structural challenges that I have been dedicated to for the last while in trying to help people who are vulnerable and marginalized… it’s challenging in the role as a municipal councillor when you don’t have some of the levers at your disposal that would make those changes.”

Holland added that while she considered running again, she has maintained that two terms is adequate for a city councillor and it’s time to make room for someone else to get a start in politics.

Was there anything accomplished as a member of city council that you were particularly proud of? Anything you’re disappointed in falling short on?

Holland noted that it’s always a group effort, but that she pushed for changes that have made Kingston Transit more accessible.

In particular she noted free transit for those on social assistance and free transit for high school students.

Climate action is an area she feels the city took great strides, though they still have a long way to go.

Holland added that she has had a focus on promoting equity, diversity and inclusion throughout all ranks of the city.

“I’ve tried really hard to ensure that we have better representation on our committees and boards throughout the city,” Holland said.

“We’re a little bit behind there so it’s great to make some progress.”

Holland said she’s disappointed that the city still hasn’t adopted water fluoridation.

Public Health is very in favour of that happening, but she says unfortunately even with dentists noting an uptick in dental problems for youth, somehow the initiative that the majority of municipalities in the province have adopted has become politicized.

“It’s just such an equalizer in terms of ensuring that kids who live in low income circumstances have the same access to really vital, in this case I would say it’s a form of health care,” Holland said.

“We were close… it was controversial in a way for some.”

She acknowledged that even with the work accomplished on affordable housing, it wasn’t near enough and council will have to prioritize that going forward.

Is there anyone running who you would endorse?

Holland says she’s closely connected with Brandon Tozzo and feels he would be a great candidate to fill her seat.

She noted that he understands the issues at a provincial level which is vital to doing the job effectively.

Jim Neill: Williamsville

Why have you decided not to run?

Neill is running for school board trustee in Countryside, Kingscourt-Rideau & Williamsville rather than trying to remain in the role of city councillor.

He is otherwise retired and says he wants to be able to travel more, and working as a councillor is a “full time/part time job” that allows for less freedom than he’d like.

Neill says the trustee position he’s running for will be overall less time consuming and more manageable, but added that he feels his thorough background in education could actually bring more to that position than his current role as a councillor.

“I’ve got a certain skill set that doesn’t get utilized to its full potential I think on council but would be on school board,” Neill said.

Was there anything accomplished as a member of city council that you were particularly proud of? Anything you’re disappointed in falling short on?

Neill said he received pushback when he advocated for bike lanes through the Williamsville corridor but eventually even those against it saw that it “wasn’t the end of the world.”

He said he’s also proud of voting against a staff recommendation not to host a farmer’s market at the Memorial Centre, a Sunday tradition that has become very popular in the summer months.

Neill says council and staff are working hard to try to address homelessness, but has been disappointed at the number of times lack of cooperation from upper levels of government has gotten in the way of solutions.

He pointed towards co-operative housing from the 90s that saw costs split between all three levels of government as a good idea that hasn’t benefited from the support it used to.

“We always seem to have one government that isn’t in favour of that,” Neill said.

“Whether it was when we had a Conservative federal government or now that we have a Conservative provincial government… there isn’t the same level of cooperation for affordable housing.” 

Is there anyone running who you would endorse?

Like two other outgoing councillors, Neill said Brandon Tozzo in Kingscourt-Rideau is a good candidate.

“He’s a strong candidate and would do a really good job,”

“He’s been a community activist for some time.”

Rob Hutchison: King’s Town

Why have you decided not to run?

Hutchison has been a councillor for sixteen years and said he and his spouse have decided that is plenty, and it’s time to step down and reorient family priorities.

Was there anything accomplished as a member of city council that you were particularly proud of? Anything you’re disappointed in falling short on?

Hutchison pointed specifically towards his motion to build 90 units of affordable and supportive housing at 1316 Princess Street, a project which the city broke ground on in July.

He added however that he’s proposed similar housing developments on various occasions throughout his time on council, only to see them be outvoted.

“In each of my four terms, I made similar affordable housing motions which were defeated by a majority at Council,” Hutchison said in an email.

“In the context of failing senior governments, this is an important part of why we are currently facing so much homelessness and high housing costs.”

Hutchison said going forward council needs to make affordable housing a serious priority, believing that only government and not-for-profit projects can really tackle the crisis at hand.

He added continuing to offer and enhancing accessible services and continuing to fight hard against climate change as additional priorities.

Is there anyone running who you would endorse?

Hutchison says based on his discussions with Greg Ridge, he’d pick him as the next councillor for King’s Town.

“I was approached by Greg Ridge who is running in King’s Town,” Hutchison said.

“He was raised in the area and has a good appreciation of local and City issues as well as considerable experience through his employment with dealing with public concerns large and small.”

Online voting for the municipal election is open now, with official voting day taking place on October 24.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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