Lehman sets sights on growth
By IAN MCINROY BARRIE EXAMINER September 16 2010
Barrie’s growth will be the most important issue when residents go the polls on Oct. 25, says mayoral candidate Jeff Lehman.
“This election should be about where you want to see Barrie in 10 years and choose among competitive visions for the city,” Lehman said. “(The next) council will have to make a whole range of decisions on how the city will grow that will shape the city for decades to come.”
Lehman, 35, made his first foray into municipal politics in 2006, winning Ward 2, which includes the downtown area and the waterfront from the east end of Kempenfelt Drive to Tiffin Street and west to Highway 400. He has been the finance committee chair during his four years on council, and helped form the original committee.
“I have a different vision of the city than my opponents,” Lehman said, adding his career has given him valuable experience in assessing planning and growth issues. He has consulted for cities such as Waterloo, Burlington, Regina and Ottawa with the economic advisory firm MKI, which he launched in 2002.
“One of the reasons I’m running for mayor is that I’ve done this work for 12 years across the country,” he said. “I’ve helped (cities) make decisions about growth and helped them attract jobs.”
Changing the way the city grows, controlling taxes and spending, creating jobs and bolstering the city’s economy are all priorities, Lehman said, adding residents need someone as mayor who is going to do the job differently.
“You need a mayor who understands these issues and can lead council in making better decisions about growth,” he said. “Residents want someone who can work with the rest of council to get things done.”
Lehman said he wants to give residents more opportunity to have a say in municipal affairs.
“It’s about how you do the job as mayor. We have to open up city hall and involve the public in everything the city does,” Lehman said. “We would go to the public, who live in different parts of the city, and ask them what they want it to look like in 10 years and what needs to change.
“The city needs to do more than just put ads in the newspaper and invite the public to meetings. Instead of consultants and staff coming up with the vision of the future of Barrie, it should be the residents,” he added.
Lehman says he would have an open mic segment at council meetings and create advisory panels of seniors, youth and cult u ra l communities reporting directly to council.
Lehman has been knocking on doors since May.
“The issues are different in different neighbourhoods. Barrie is big enough now that we should be thinking of the city in terms of neighbourhoods and their individual needs,” he said.
Some of those needs include a new firehall in the southwest part of the city and dealing with gridlock in southeast and southwest areas of the city. Another bridge over Highway 400 between Essa Road and Mapleview Drive (at Harvie and Big Bay Point roads) should be built, he said, adding similar bridges already cross the busy expressway connecting older parts of the city.
The future of the 5,664 acres of land annexed from Innisfil will be in the hands of the next mayor and council, Lehman added.
“We have the opportunity there to do things differently and perhaps learn from some of our mistakes in the past. We need to get service — parks, roads a recreation centre — at the same times the neighbourhoods are built,” he said.
“It’s a process and it’s already beginning,” Lehman said. “We need to consult with the public, the landowners and the business community. We have an opportunity to have a more open process than in the past and involve more public input.”
Previous councils haven’t had a handle on proper growth, he added.
“There has not been enough vision. We have the opportunity to be less of a bedroom community than we are. We need to get it right,” he said. “The city has been growing too fast and we haven’t been able to keep up with the demand for services. We need to grow jobs faster, but, maybe need to slow down on retail and residential.”
Lehman would also like to make public transit more accessible to the people who need it and to continue the work of creating environmental initiatives to build a greener Barrie.
He’d also like to expand the city’s current traffic calming project to include more roads where speeding is a problem.
With eight candidates vying for the mayor’s job, Lehman hopes more residents will vote.
“It’s a good thing that so many people are interested and a sign of a healthy democracy. It speaks to the need for change,” he said.