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MEET WARD 2 CANDIDATE ... Rodrigo Goller

In their own words, candidates tell us a little bit about themselves and where they stand on the issues
007 Goller
Rodrigo Goller

In their own words, candidates tell us a little bit about themselves and where they stand on the issues. A different ward will be featured each evening this week.

Name: Rodrigo Goller 

Occupation: I'm a community engagement professional, an experienced public servant and a former downtown Guelph small business owner.

How long have you lived in Guelph? I've lived in Guelph since 1996. I went to St. James high school and later graduated from the University of Guelph.

Do you reside in the ward you are running in? Yes. I live in Ward 2 with my partner and our 3 1/2-year-old toddler.

Why are you running in this election? I love Guelph. My first term as a city councillor was both challenging and rewarding, and I would be honoured to earn your vote in this election. 

Since being elected as Ward 2 councillor in 2018, my focus has been on listening to my constituents, understanding your needs and concerns, and advocating for the issues you most care about. While it is important for councillors to do our homework and understand staff and consultant’s reports, it is equally important for Councillors to speak with Guelph residents and business owners, and consider your thoughts and feedback on all important decisions that will impact our community.

Over the last four years I have enjoyed connecting with my constituents over coffee, on the phone, via email or at in-person or virtual town-halls, to understand your thoughts and priorities on all important issues coming to Guelph City Council. If re-elected, I will continue to provide accessible and accountable leadership in our Ward.   

What qualifies you to represent your ward? 

I'm a long-time Guelphite, a husband, father and home owner in Ward 2. I understand the pressures that everyday Guelph residents face as we see rising food costs at the grocery stores, and work hard to balance the pressures of raising a family while paying our rent/mortgages. 

I also have an extensive background in community service, having volunteered on the boards of directors of Transition Guelph, the Wellington Water Watchers, the Guelph-Wellington Volunteer Centre (now called the People Information Network - PIN), and more recently, on the boards of the Grand River Conservation Authority, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and the Downtown Guelph Business Association. 

I have been a Rotarian, a Community Engagement Coordinator at the City of Guelph, and I've owned a small business in downtown Guelph. 

These diverse experiences inform my approach to engage my constituents, listen first, and make sure the decisions we make today will support our shared vision for Guelph as an inclusive, connected, prosperous city where we look after each other and our environment.

Why should people vote for you?

I prioritize listening to my constituents and representing everyone in my Ward. I keep an open mind as each issue comes forward to Guelph City Council, and I take the time to understand how those decisions will impact Guelph residents and businesses in the short and long-term. 

I read every letter and listen to every delegation before making up my mind on city council votes. I also send out monthly newsletters to my constituents alerting you of important issues coming to city council and I ask for your input. 

I am an accessible and accountable city councillor and I always take the time to listen first, and advocate for my constituents.  

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward? 

(1) Community safety: It's now common for people to walk around Guelph each night checking for unlocked cars and each day looking for packages on front porches. We also have a growing number of community members who experience homelessness and they are constantly in danger of being assaulted while they camp out on our river banks and our parks. While this symptom of the broader problems of poverty, mental health and addictions present throughout Guelph, it is highly concentrated in Ward 2, between our downtown core and the hospital, as well as the neighbourhoods along the Speed and Eramosa rivers. 

(2) Road maintenance: Extended road closures along York Road and Metcalfe are having an impact on local businesses and residents in those neighbourhoods. There are also many roads in Ward 2 that are in desperate need of attention.

(3) Traffic management: As we have more cars on our roads and congestion on main roads, drivers are taking shortcuts across residential neighbourhoods and travelling above the speed limit. We need to improve our traffic flows, and introduce more traffic calming and enforcement measures.  

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Guelph on a broader scale? 

(1) Housing affordability: Given the current inflation and the upcoming recession, Guelph City Council needs to revisit our future budgets and reduce the forecast property tax increases. We also need to support more gentle infill within our existing neighbourhoods and allow high density housing to be built in our growth corridors.

(2) Protecting our Parks: In February 2022 a city staff report suggested that council would need to reduce the parkland targets in our Official Plan. The plan calls for 3.3 hectares of land per thousand residents and we are currently only meeting 3.1 hectares of parkland per thousand residents. We need to exhaust every possibility to meet our current parkland targets before we consider reducing them.

(3) Paramedic services: Over the last few months, we have been experiencing 'code-red' situations, which happen when someone calls 911 and there are no ambulances available locally. Our ambulances are being held up waiting to unload patients in the Emergency Room, while hospitals are not able to receive those patients. This happens because of staffing shortages in our hospitals and because patients are taking up hospital beds waiting for long-term care beds to become available. 

What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Guelph? 

I want to see an increase in the housing stock across Guelph, as well as rental and home ownership options that are truly affordable. It is not acceptable for rental prices to be as high in Guelph as they are in Toronto. While we are currently meeting our target for ‘affordable housing’, the City defines ‘affordable housing’ as housing that costs 80 per cent of market value. Unfortunately even 80 per cent of market value rent is not affordable for community members who live on minimum wage income.

One key way for Guelph City Council to support housing affordability is to ease restrictions on rental housing, and allow triplex and fourplex homes to be built in Guelph. 

Another way to support truly affordable housing in Guelph is to allow non-profit affordable housing to be built as-of-right in all zones. This would, for example, allow churches to build affordable housing in their properties without requiring a zoning change. 

What services need to be improved in Guelph? 

(1) Public Transit connectivity: We need a better connected and more frequent public transit system that takes people where they need to go and that is more convenient than driving cars. 

(2) Access to a well maintained active transportation network: We need to continue growing our active transportation network, focusing on building a year-round maintained bicycling spine that prioritizes separated bicycle lanes. Our cyclists should not be made to compete with cars and transport trucks for space on roads.

(3) Road maintenance and snow removal: We need to do a better job repairing and resurfacing our road network. We also need to improve winter road maintenance, particularly on main streets and preventing driveways from being covered by snow plows.

(4) Support for community members experiencing homelessness: The City of Guelph needs to work closely with Wellington County to end homelessness in Guelph. This will require funding social housing in Guelph and supporting local faith and community organizations to continue to provide services for community members experiencing homelessness.

Is Guelph growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough? 

I am not so concerned with the pace of growth, as I am with the size we must grow to. We currently have about 145,000 people in Guelph and the Province requires Guelph to reach a population of 208,000 residents by 2051. If that happens, whenever we experience drought conditions, Guelph would be short by as much as 20,000 cubic metres of water per day. 

We need to advocate to the province to change our growth targets to what our underground water supply can reasonably sustain. 

Another issue is that growth does not pay for itself. Whenever new developments are built, development charges, parkland dedication and community benefit charges only cover a portion of the cost of the municipal services that will be required to serve our growing City. This means that Guelph residents continue to subsidize the cost of our growth. We need to better understand how much it will cost Guelph tax payers to meet the provincial growth targets and make informed decisions moving forward.

What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing? 

City council can allow more high density housing to be built in our downtown and the other strategic nodes and growth corridors. 

Higher density housing generates proportionally more tax revenue, which alleviates the tax burden for other Guelph residents. It's also more cost effective to deliver municipal services to higher density housing, and if done right, higher density housing would allow us to protect more green space, which contributes both to our water table recharge rates and our tree canopy targets. 

The City can also alleviate the rising cost of housing in Guelph by changing our Zoning Bylaw to allow for more gentle infill density. This could include making it easy for people to rent apartments in their primary residences, as well as allowing triplex and fourplex multi-family homes to be built.

What can be done locally about the homelessness issue? 

We need to work with Wellington County to build new government subsidized housing in Guelph. We also need to support our local non-profit organizations to build permanent supportive housing.

At present Bylaw and Police officers move people along from encampments on our river banks, parks and cemetery. However, we don't have anywhere for those community members to go, so we are effectively treating people like geese, chasing them from one side of the City to another. 

We have 32 permanent supportive housing units being built at Grace Gardens on Marilyn Drive, at the former Parkview Motel. There are another 32 units under construction at 10 Shelldale Crescent, another 28 temporary supportive housing units planned for 65 Delhi Street, and another 8 permanent supportive housing units planned for the youth shelter on Bellevue Street. 

In all, Guelph could have as many as 100 supportive units in the next couple of years, so when our Bylaw or Police officers have to ask someone to move out of an encampment, they will be able to offer them the option to access a room in a supportive facility that would also provide addictions and mental health supports.

How do we make Guelph an even better city to live in? 

I love that Guelph is a caring community. We have amazing parks and green spaces, we are taking action on climate change, and we are working with Wellington County to end homelessness in our region.

We can make Guelph an even better city by continuing to focus on ending homelessness, and by investing in our public spaces, green infrastructure and our active transportation network.

We need to support Guelph residents, particularly seniors on fixed incomes and families struggling with rising food prices. We also need to encourage housing affordability by increasing our housing stock, and by supporting non-profit organizations to build truly affordable housing options in Guelph.

Great neighbours make for great cities. Our parks, playgrounds, sports fields and other outdoor recreation spaces like splash pads and disc-golf courses, allow Guelph residents to meet, spend time outdoors and get to know their neighbours. These connected green outdoor spaces become the heart of Guelph, and allow us to provide much needed recreation activities for residents of all ages. 

As Guelph continues to change and grow, we must stay focused on these priorities while making sure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly.

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