Nick Dominelli Talks Toronto

With less than a month until this city's municipal elections, it's not hard to miss the deluge of campaign signs that are littering neighbourhood lawns. With 275 people running across Toronto for the position of City Councillor, finding out about each and every single candidate (even out of the few running in your own ward) can get daunting.

In an effort to learn more about the people trying to run the future of this city, I sent out dozens of emails to candidates trying to learn about their motivations and aspirations. A few responded, many didn't. Over the next few days, I'm going to take a look at the few that did.

Today's candidate: Nick Dominelli, Ward 12.

Why did you decide to run for city council?
It was after receiving strong encouragement from many constituents that I made the decision to apply my 10 years work experience(at Toronto City Hall) and community outreach to make a difference for Ward 12. At 34 years of age I have decided to enter the race as I know I have the necessary leadership and knowledge to make a significant contribution to the well being of our community and the City of Toronto.

For the past 25 yrs I have lived and worked Politics. From my early days when I would recruit my 10 yr old friends to help me hand out flyers and put up election signs for the likes of Provincial Minister of Economic Development and Trade Joseph Cordiano, Member of Parliament Judy Sgro, former councilor Mario Gentile, to name but a few. I was so intrigued by politics that I attended York University as a Political Science major. My passion only grew as I took to the political arena working for Councillor Paul Valenti, Giorgio Mammoliti and Peter LiPreti. Having experienced the politicians perspective, I honed my skills working with the Economic Development Department over the last 3 years. Combined this would give me a total of 10 yrs direct experience at City Hall.

It was through my experiences, learning and studying the nuances of City Hall that I came to realize that there is a need for improvement, as I was able to see first hand the flaws and inefficiencies in our current system.

What are the significant issues that people in your ward are facing, and what do you plan to do to address those issues?
Our community is not faced with one gripping issue that will attract media attention. Yet the lack of strong representation mean there are many issues affecting our community. Ward 12 is the forgotten Ward. Our elected official does little to raise attention to the needs of our community. Our community is not engaged or consulted on ward issue or City Issues. I have written some of my ideas as per the following (as found on my website).

- Jobs and Quality of Life
We need to keep jobs and businesses in our community. Job growth is booming in the cities surrounding Toronto, but is in serious decline within the City. In fact, while the Toronto region is the 2nd fastest employment growth centre in all of North America, over the past 5 years alone Toronto has lost about 1,000 business establishment and 23,600 jobs. A July 2005 report from the City's Chief Financial Officer states that "the total number of jobs in the City today is roughly 100,000 less than it was at the previous peak in 1989. During the same time, the number of jobs in the 905 area has grown by over 700,000."

We continue to see jobs and businesses leave the City as industrial and commercial lands are converted to residential uses. As a taxpayer, you should know that although business properties account for only about 20% of the total assessed property value in the City, they contribute over 40% of the City's property tax revenue. This means that as businesses leave the City, not only do we lose jobs in our community - we also lose tax revenue. A lot of tax revenue - revenue the City desperately needs. More residential development also means higher costs since there are more people to provide services to. If we do not reverse this trend of reducing revenues and increasing costs, the inevitable result will be much higher taxes for everyone and reduced services. Maybe this is what the City means by 'more for less', you pay more taxes and get less services). We are the ones who feel the effects as our industries move away, yet our community is not consulted and made aware of the impact of new development . This is currently taking place in our community. We must be very concerned about the future development of the Kodak site located at Eglinton and Black Creek. Our community needs to be consulted before it is too late. We can not allow another problem like the Ingram Transfer Station to take place. Our community was informed too late to provide constructive input on the proposed Ingram Expansion. Ward 12 needs to be consulted. Ward 12 needs to keep jobs and businesses in our community. Ward 12 needs a Councillor who will fight to re-establish a thriving, vibrant community.

- Taxes and Services
The current budget model used at City Hall will never find tax savings, in fact it encourages waste. Departments that overspend a given more money, departments that find savings have their budget reduced. We need a system that rewards efficiencies rather than penalizes them. Under our current system no City of Toronto Department will find true efficiencies out of fear of reduced budgets. If we continue at our current pace services will continue to decrease, while taxes continue to increase (projected to be $750 million deficit year).

It is important that we keep the amount of money we pay in taxes in check, especially in a time when the cost of living keeps going up. We need a better system, one in which our tax monies are used more efficiently and one that will ensure our programs and funds are dispersed fairly amongst all communities. A system that will reward efficiencies and foster a productive way of delivering services. We deserve a strong voice that will stand up for those most affected by tax increases. Someone who will demand equality amongst our communities. My tenure at City Hall gives him an understanding of what's wrong with the current system and what needs to be done to fix it. We can build a system that will finally stabilize taxes and increase services. I have the experience and tools to affect the positive change Ward 12 and the City need.

- Crime and Guns
Although our community was once a safe and secure place for our residence to thrive, it has fallen victim to record levels of crime and gun violence. Our streets are no longer safe, and our once prosperous and envied community is tainted with crimes similar to that of New York, Chicago and LA. Our community has the opportunity to move away from this trend by making safety and law enforcement a greater priority.

We deserve to have safe streets and neighborhoods, but over the last few years, safety and crime prevention have fallen by the wayside. Our present Councillor has done little to address the concerns of increased crime and gun violence in our community. This is unacceptable and we should demand more from our elected representatives. Our community has the right to feel safe and secure in our surroundings, without fear of crime and gun violence becoming a common occurrence on our streets. We must all do our part by taking responsibility for the safety of our community. IT IS ONLY TOGETHER THAT WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. But, we are entitled to and deserve leadership from our elected representatives. Leadership that will unite our community in the fight against crime and guns and give us the tools to be successful. Make the choice towards a safer living environment for our citizens and our children.

- Youth Outreach
The future of our City and our community lies in our youth. If we give youth a sense of belonging and facilities where they can make positive use of their energy they will reward our City with safer communities. The Community Safety Task Force report listed 'cuts to community resources to children, youth and families' as one of the most important root causes of crime. Yet, at present, Ward 12 has only one adequate functional community center to service the needs of all our youth. This does not send a positive message to our youth - the people we rely on to be the leaders of tomorrow.

I am dedicated to making youth and youth services a priority. The future of our City and our community lies in the hands of youth, and for this reason they deserve our respect and our attention. I will demand a Parks and Recreation audit to ensure necessary funding is dedicated to our youth. We don't need to add new budget pressures and burden our already excessive tax base, but rather prioritize and revamp the programs already being offered to find savings. It is time for vital, positive, pro-active programs and projects that are created in co-operation with our youth. I understands the importance of youth and community and the positive productive results of an active youth.

What is your larger vision for Toronto in the next few years?
It is time for everyone to do their part. We must engage each other. We must find our sense of pride of community again. We must input to what is taking place around us. We must take responsibility for the current state of our City. It is by doing so that we can affect positive change.

Together we must embrace fresh new ideas to solve the existing problems. As a brilliant person once said: "We can not solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created the problems" (Albert Einstein). 2005 was the Year of Creativity. It is time we embrace this idea instead of just paying it lip service!

blogTO does not necessarily endorse any of the candidates profiled. Candidates were selected based on the ease of finding their contact information on the web, their willingness to reply to my first email, and a bit of random serendipity.

The Toronto municipal elections take place on November 13, 2006. To find out more on how to vote or how to get involved, visit the city elections website.

(Image: Payam Rajabi)

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