Ward 1 and 2 - Regional - Shaun Collier - 2010 Election (Ward 1 incumbent)

1) Are you a resident of the Ward you are running in? No, I reside in Ward 4.
If No why do you feel you deserve the support of the Ward  Residents ? I have worked hard for the residents that I represent and where I live does not have any bearing on me doing my job as a Councillor. I did not live in Ward 1 in 2006 and this was not an issue for the residents. As a 41 year resident of Ajax, a 7 year Councillor, a local business owner, a taxpayer and a parent, I have a vested interest in this comunity as a whole. It was this reason that I ran for Council in the first place in 2003. People should vote for me based on my experience and track record.

2) What are the top 3 issues you feel are the most important for the Residents of your Ward ?
With your response please provide a statement about how you would address these issues.
54% of Ajax resident’s property taxes go to the Region and we pay approximately 20% of the Regional budget. Ajax only has 3 members on Regional Council or 10.7% of the vote. We are underrepresented at the Region and we do not get our proportional share of resources. Most of our Regional issues can be solved simply by examining the distribution of Regional Councillors and Ajax being allocated the 5-6 members that we should have. Ajax Council attempted unsuccessfully to have this reviewed this term and will continue up the line to the Province if required. 

a) Policing - we do not have a police station in Ajax and we certainly do not receive the 20% of the police budget that we pay for.
b) Transit - as above, we are severely underserviced
c) Incineration - all of the gas tax dollars at the Region have been committed to this project until 2017. This leaves no money for other projects. There are many problems with the business plan and the chosen technology. First, there is better technology available and the selection committee knew of this. Newer technology would produce 1/3 of the emmissions, 1/7 of the ash and produce 5 times the power as that chosen currently. Second, the contract with Coventa calls for a fixed amount to be burned per year. As we continue to reduce through recycling, the contract still needs to be maintained. This means that as we reduce our solid waste, the difference will have to come from other municipalities making us the future Michigan. Third,  if the Ministry decides to mandate better technology, we, the taxpayers, will bear this cost not Coventa. Fourth, after 35 years at the end of the contract, an old, obselete plant will be turned over to the Region for us to deal with. My solution is to build a much smaller plant, one that is only large enough to service the Region at grow out. Use the best technology and produce 5 times the electricity making it profitable rather than relying on volume. Apply for P3 funding to help cover 25% of the costs and maintain control at the Regional level. This would free up millions of dollars to fix our police and transit issues.

3) What can you do for the Sporting Associations in this town in terms of the
climbing Permit Fees ?  ASMBA Baseball pays the highest permit fees in Ontario to the Town of Ajax. 
This is a user pay Town but what could you do to ensure we don’t price everyone out of the game?
The Town charges based on actual costs to maintain the fields. These costs are determined by our Operations Department. We provide better quality fields than most other municipalities and there is a higher cost to do this. The permit fees are based on a cost recovery but are still only approx 70% of the actual costs incurred. Permit fees for youth use are lower. The trade off for lower user fees would be higher property taxes for all.

4) With Local Council Terms now set at 4 years and Provincial Elections set every 4 years , the next Provincial election is in 2011, one year following this Local Election in 2010.
Would you run in 2010 Local election with thoughts of running in a 2011 Provincial Election? 
No, I will not be running in the Provincial election in 2011 regardless of whether I am successfull or not in my campaign for Regional Council this election.

5) What are your feelings on Growth and Sprawl and what would you do to help Ajax really become a leader in Planning?  How can you fix the mistakes of the past in terms of bad planning?
Ajax has a fixed urban boundary and a very good Official Plan. Our OP has been revised this year to conform to the Region and the Province to include higher density. We were to first municipality in the Region to build LEED certified municipal buildings and we are far ahead of the curve in many other ways. I think that in order to fix many of the problems you need to remove the nearly automatic appeal process to the Ontario Municipal Board by developers. This takes the decision making out of our hands.

6) How much priority should the Town give to the interest of existing residents when deliberating over development designs advanced via the Planning Dept?
As an elected official, I am there to make decisions on behalf of the residents that I represent. I try to wiegh a residents concerns with those of the Town but even if I agree with the resident, often my hands are tied because the building is allowed in our OP and the builder will win at appeal. Unfortunately, many residents do not exercise due diligence when buying their homes. Many look at the vague maps in the builder’s sales offices and believe that empty lots will remain open space. 
7) How will you communicate with your constituents and how often?
Council has no assigned budget for communication other than paying $50 per month towards my cel phone bill. I have free incoming calls and I rely on residents calling me or emailing if there is a problem. I attend nearly every public meeting, open house, community bbq, and function available and interact with residents there. The Town puts out several publications on behalf of Council has a whole. We have a great web site and a full page spread in the local newspaper to let residents know of current events. The Town also uses message boards around town and banners on light posts.  The Town holds annual public meetings for input on issues like our OP and Strategic Plan which I attend. Residents have all of these opportunities to interact with me and to have me address their issues. I have knocked on thousands of doors across both wards 1&2 and not once have I had a resident say that I was not accessible.

8- What can you do to increase Voter turnout ?
The Town has initiated a very aggressive program to try and increase voter turnout. I think the the Regional issues that I am running on are important to most and should be enough to have an impact.
a) What do you feel is the biggest contributor to low voter turnout? Apathy. Some do not vote for religous reasons but I find that many just don’t care. Some will not even accept voter literature at the door, not because they don’t like me as a candidate but because they simply won’t get involved. The Town’s Economic Development team is working very hard to attract new industry to our Town. I hope that by having more residents live and work here in Town rather than commute to Toronto will get them more involved in our community.
9) Development Charges are paid to the Town when new growth occurs. For the benefit of readers cash-in-lieu means the developer is giving the Town of Ajax money instead of land for Parkland. In your opinion have these funds been allocated equitably throughout the Town?
No. Funds have been spent mostly in south Ajax. One reason for this is that much of the development is in north Ajax so parkland is available. It is usually smaller in-fill projects in already developed communities where cash-in -lieu occurs.
10) How best can you balance the needs of Business with the needs of Residents ? The Official Plan and protecting the designations.  Council has spent nearly a million dollars fighting land conversion applications at the OMB and we have been successfull. Our employment lands have been protected and the precedent has been set. Our Economic Development Team is now working hard to market our employment lands across North America and we are slowly seeing results. Our OP does a good job of balancing business and residential.
11) What is your Vision for Ajax ?  I want to see responsible growth in Ajax. As a 41 year resident, I have seen a lot of change in our Town. I agree with the changes that we made to the OP this year regarding increasing density.  I want us to continue the green inititives with the Town fleet of vehicles, buildings, trails, parks and future developments. Ajax is known for our environmental stance and we are setting the bar high for other Municipalities. I intend to be here when we reach grow out and I want to be living in a clean, vibrant, safe community.
12) The Town of Ajax has a population of 90,000 or so according to the signs.  Why do you feel we should still call ourselves a Town instead of a City ?  The word Town inplies a smaller, more intimate community. I want to retain this image of our Town. Toronto is a city, Ajax is not.
Does retaining the designation of Town hinder acceptance of Higher Density housing in your opinion? No.

13) The purchase of St. Francis Church has had some financial surprises,  how would you ensure that Residents are not surprised with the actual cost versus the budgeted cost of large capital projects ?  The outdoor pool has also exceeded initial estimates.   I have opposed the St. Francis purchase since day one and I still do. We have other community theatre/art type facilities that we have already invested in (J.Clarke auditorium and the Old Post Inn) that are underutilized. The Archdiocise had the good sense to walk away and build a new facility at a fraction of the cost and we could have done the same at another location. The Town will never be able to charge user fees anywhere near what they need to be in relation to the cost of this renovation. In fairness, the budgeted cost that you referred to was a broad estimate for the purposes of obtaining government funding and did not take in the full scope of either project. As the government funding was obtained for both projects, the actual out of pocket expense for us ended up being lower for both projects even though the budget ended up higher.

14) The maintenance of Parks has gone down over the years.   As a Councillor how can you ensure the front line services citizens expect can be effectively delivered while keeping a line on costs?
I do not agree that the quality of maintenance has decreased. Council has no control over wear and tear of equipment, nor the price of fuel, insurance, labour etc… Town costs increase much more than tax increases ever reflect and we are often able to do this without cutting services. The fact is that costs for everything increase every year and it is not realistic to not expect taxes to do the same to keep pace.

15) Taxes will never go down, what can you do to have residents not see increases every year ?   The Province downloaded costs to Municipalities years ago that are at the Region Level.   What can you do at the Local or Regional Level to help keep a line on increases?
As I said in the previous question, unless costs remain level there is no way to avoid tax increases. In Ajax, we have not ’stolen the tax room.’ What I mean by this is uploading services like garbage and transit to the Region while keeping our tax rate the same. If the Regional taxes went up then the Ajax portion went down the exact same amount and the result to the taxpayer was zero. Ajax is lucky enough to have alternative revenue streams from the Picov Slots and Veridian Corporation. This income could be used to reduce taxes but what we have decided to do is use these funds for infrastructure projects like the new fire hall, operations centre and the new Audley Rd community centre. By doing this we are able to avoid issuing debenture debt/incurring debt to build these much needed projects. The savings from not paying interest is much greater that the tax savings that could have been realized so Council decided that the long term gain was better than a short term tax cut.
16) Have you ever been convicted of a crime for which you have not been pardoned? 
17)  What can you do to better educate residents on the Budget process ?
This is like voting, we want more residents to participate but, despite our efforts, turn out is very limited. Residents know that they pay taxes, we don’t need to remind them. If a resident was interested, it would be very easy for them to find out all about the budget. The Town runs many advertisements in the local paper, we put up message boards around town telling people about the public budget meetings ( maybe 2 people attend), we have a dedicated section of the town web site and even a dedicated budget phone line. Copies of the budget are available at town hall for any resident to pick up and often it is only Mr. Baker that does. If all those fail then call your Councillor. Showing up on budget night is not the way to have items changed. The budget process has started already and now is the time to get involved.
For everyone:  Any closing comments you would like the Citizens of Ajax to know about you and your beliefs ? 
I am a full time Councillor, this is what I do. I’m involved because, as a long term resident,  I feel a responsibility to help shape our Town. If someone feels that they can do a better job then they are free to step up as I did in 2003 and am now doing at the Regional level. Those that know me know that I am very active in our community and am easily accessible. I do what I say I will do and I stand by my decisions. I have proudly represented our Town for 7 years and am very pleased with our accomplishments.

Thank you for participating.
Karem Allen
Voices of Ajax