Six Questions for Rick Downes

Rick Downes, 2014 municipal election, mayor, Kingston, OntarioOur final mayoral candidate interview features the current councillor for Cataraqui district, Rick Downes. Downes’ record on the municipal stage includes past stints as the school trustee for the former Frontenac County Board, numerous terms as the councillor for King’s Town district, and two unsuccessful bids to become Mayor of Kingston in 2006 and 2010 respectfully.  He’s served on Board of Health, the Children’s Aid Society and the Cataraqui Conservation Authority, and championed various initiatives including the city’s “smoke free” bylaw.

1. Why do you think you are the best candidate to become Kingston’s next mayor? What unique skills, experience and insight sets you apart from other candidates and makes you the most logical choice for voters in the upcoming municipal election?

I think I would make a great mayor because I have a strong track record as a City Councilor on balancing issues of development, economic progress and helping the less well off in our community. I was a strong advocate in 1999 the 1% infrastructure tax. Since then, our city has gone from being a basket case to the envy of the rest of the province. We have invested in capacity, which promotes our local business, but also keeps our existing businesses growing. I can also bring people together, as I did working on a by-law to helped usher in the city’s no-smoking bylaw and develop a policy to bring new family doctors to Kingston. I worked together with Council to get these in place, and I will bring together council if elected mayor.

2. When Kingstonians vote on October 27th, they will be asked if they are in favour of a casino being located in the City of Kingston? What is your position regarding this transformative ballot question?

I voted no on the casino, personally I am against the casino, and I believe the economic and social costs outweigh the benefits by any measure. However, I recognize this is an emotional issues for the people of Kingston and encourage people to vote in the referendum, so that we can follow the wishes of the people. So get out and vote!

3. According to a report by the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area (CFKA), many Kingstonians feel that “local government programs and services have not made a difference”. As mayor, how would you work to address this sentiment and otherwise ensure that members of the community see the value provided by municipal programs.

It’s unfortunate people feel that way about city services. I have long been an advocate for efficient and effective city services. I have lobbies to increase the amount of bike lanes, where it makes sense, to ease traffic, and I’ve been a supporter of express buses so people can get around the city easier. If elected, I plan on doing a review of cities services to lower bureaucratic walls between departments. I think we can do better.

4. Do you consider KEDCO’s mandate sufficient with respect to the attraction and development of local area businesses? What changes, if any, would like to see made at KEDCO as well as within city policies and strategies to help stimulate new and exciting economic development?

If elected, I plan to appoint a Council-led review of the KEDCO mandate and governance model to better integrate its activities with the City of Kingston and Kingston Utilities. I also see potentially an expanded role for KEDCO, not just in trying to entice new businesses here but providing support for existing companies. I think it can do more for the city.

5. Kingston tends to struggle with respect to striking the right balance of transportation options and infrastructure. Many residents argue that a third crossing is long overdue, while others see this project as being financially irresponsible. Are you in favour of investing in the development of a third crossing, or do you feel that city funds would be better spent in other areas of improving our transit system?

I have been in favour of a transit strategy that promotes bike lanes and express busing. If we can get people to take transit, it will ease congestion at peak times. I am in favour of the third crossing if we can get the province and the federal government to cover a third of the costs each. I have a good working relationship with my federal and provincial counterparts, and I believe as mayor I could get this done.

6. If you are elected Kingston’s next mayor, what immediate challenges will you focus your (and council’s) attention on? Further, what do you assess as being your top local priority, and how you propose to ensure it is successfully realized/managed during your first term as mayor?

I think first we need to unite council and make sure that the new council works for everyone. We’ve seen a divided council over the past several years and I think the people of Kingston deserve better. Before we tackle our transit, sustainability and economic issues, we need to ensure we have a city government that works for everyone in Kingston. My door will always be open to city councilors. By working together, we can help grow our economy, address poverty, and make Kingston a more livable city. I believe I have the experience, the leadership skills, and the track record to do this. So on October 27th, please vote Rick Downes as Kingston’s mayor

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