Waterloo Region Votes: 5 Questions for Kitchener's James Rhodes

CBC Kitchener-Waterloo asked every mayoral candidate in the region five questions. Today we hear from James Rhodes, running for mayor of Kitchener.
James Rhodes is running for mayor of Kitchener. (James Rhodes)

NOTE: On October 14, James Rhodes decided to withdraw from the race for mayor in Kitchener, and endorse Dan Glenn-Graham instead. 

Municipal elections in Waterloo Region will be held on October 27. CBC Kitchener-Waterloo has reached out to every mayoral candidate in the region who has officially filed to run. 

Each candidate has answered the same five questions, and their replies will be reproduced. Today we speak to James Rhodes, who is running for mayor of Kitchener.

To see the other mayoral candidates click here: 

​​1. What's the most important issue in your city for the next council term?

The most important issue our City will face in the next term is whether it can maintain its growth and current service level without causing explosive property tax increases year after year. Spending by the Region on the LRT, along with increased budgeting for the Waterloo Region Police Services (WRPS), means that the residents of Kitchener already face a mounting property tax bill. 

Further, as described by the Waterloo Record, Kitchener city council seems to have ‘hit the gas’ on increasing property taxes to a rate almost double the rate of inflation. In our uncertain economic climate, the next Mayor of Kitchener should be promoting spending restraint and not advocating a spending spree. To have the City continue its trend of growth and improvement, a policy of sustainable development must be embraced which does not put those with fixed incomes or low incomes at financial risk. While the City’s property tax might rank low compared to other cities in Ontario, this will quickly change if the City continues to keep its foot on the pedal.

In the next term, the City’s leadership have to hold the line on property tax increase. The City’s leadership must remain steadfast on distinguishing what this City needs as opposed to what council thinks it wants. This City’s leadership will be challenged to establish funding for its existing and future projects in ways that do not involve increasing property taxes or user fees. Part of this challenge will involve council finding greater efficiencies in what the City does, along with creating an open budget process to allow residents to assist in their own analysis to find efficiencies and cost savings. Lastly, the City’s leadership will be called upon to have a long term action plan that involves sustainable development.

2. Voter turnout is notoriously low, especially in municipal politics. How will you engage voters?

I think too many people believe they cannot create a change in the outcome of an election. Without belief of change, they miss out on the power to vote. I want to empower voters by giving them more than just ideas on change. I want to empower voters by giving them solutions that they see can cause change. My hope is that by empowering and enabling voters to see the future they want, it will engage them and motivate them to vote for that future. As the saying goes, every waterfall starts with a single drop of water. 

3. What would you say is your biggest weakness?

Having grown up in a household at a time where every dollar counted, savings came from such things as having my hair cut by my mother using a bowl. The unfortunate result is that in my junior school years where image is celebrated over intelligence, I developed shyness towards meeting new people. And I say this is unfortunate as I like learning about people, and hearing their thoughts and ideas. My biggest weakness comes from being shy at just introducing myself to people, and my hope is that voters will understand that and take the initiative to let me know them better.

4. Who is your political role model, and why?

My political role model would be retired Chief Matt Torigian. I viewed him as a politician because I saw him balancing what was needed by his police service to do their jobs effectively against the needs of the Region to control costs without comprising the service and protection given to residents. What I most admired was that he pursued strategies that were game changers. The one game changer I saw was in the research undertaken by the WRPS to data mine its own reports for efficiencies. While other police forces just file their reports into storage, he engaged in analyzing it. One of the results was that the police districts were rezoned to increase the efficiency and speed of police officers responding to 911 calls. Chief Torigian showed that by engaging in data analysis he could obtain increased service and protection without engaging in the traditional thinking that more police officers needed to be hired.

5. 40 years from now, how do you picture your municipality?

I picture Kitchener as being a city that is envied by our neighbours for its robust economy, low unemployment, vibrant downtown commercial core, and abundant green space. I picture it making headlines across Canada as it continues to be a leader in innovative thinking and products. I see the LRT supporting a strong downtown commercial core along with condominium developments. I also see the same core creating a strong tax base that supports the development of community centres and neighbourhood initiatives outside the core. I see a City where people want to live not only because of its vibrant arts and culture, but because of its low cost of living. It would also be good to see Bear4Mayor piloting the flying LRT system.