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Cipola gets the vote at college

In Orillia
Oct 12th, 2010

If it were up to local Georgian College students, Ralph Cipolla would the mayor of Orillia.
Students unofficially voted foll ow i n g a two-hour mayoral debate hosted by the college in a lecture hall on Friday.
Out of the 146 people who voted — four faculty, six community members and the rest students — 73 voted for Cipolla, 41 for Angelo Orsi and 32 for Tim Lauer.
After each candidate addressed the student body with their vision and expressed the hope that the audience would take part in the 2010 municipal election, an open question-and-answer period followed.
A common question posed to the candidates was what they planned to do to combat Orillia’s drug problem. One student raised the concern that teenagers often choose to experiment with drugs because they can’t find anything else to do in Orillia.
“There are drug problems all over the world and in every community and certainly the solution starts at home and (through) education,” Lauer said. “(Council) managed to be successful and we increased the budget from $6 million to $7 million for police services. We are already seeing results. We have more men on the streets (and) we’ve been proactive.”
Lauer said he thinks the municipality is heading in the right direction in providing more opportunities for teenagers in Orillia by upgrading and building new sports facilities. But he would like to see council think “outside of the box” and get “creative” in developing recreation opportunities other than hockey, such as mountain bike trails and another skateboard park.
Orsi said he thinks education is “key” to solving Orillia’s drug problem.
“It’s not a simple fix. It’s a very emotional issue and I hope everyone here can be advocates to stop this. It’s not right and it is painful to talk about it,” he said.
Orsi offered numerous solutions to solve the “nothing to do” in Orillia claim. He suggested providing youth with a space and a stage where they could get up and perform, developing an art school as an outlet for expression and creativity, and making sports more affordable through local business sponsorship deals.
“I challenge all of you to make a list. Submit it. And be part of the solution,” he said.
Cipolla would like to have a community policing station in the heart of downtown Orillia with officers patrolling the streets more frequently, he said.
He added that a new aquatic centre would be a great and inexpensive place for youth to spend time and also suggested reviving something like “Teen Town,” a common place where youth hung out, listened to music and had dances when he grew up in Orillia.
One student hammered Orsi with a question on whether he planned to cease all of his development in Orillia if elected as mayor because it would be a “conflict of interest.”
“Am I going to cease development? Absolutely not. We need to expand our tax base,” Orsi said. “The laws are there in place. I just follow the letter of the law. It’s more of a perception than it is a reality. A lot of people think that because I’m a developer, I can’t function as a mayor. If it affects my property directly, absolutely (I would declare a conflict of interest.) If it doesn’t affect my property, then I can (vote.)”
Homelessness in Orillia, especially among Orillia’s youth, was also raised as a concern by a student during the debate.
All three candidates recognized there is a growing problem with homelessness in Orillia, but each offered a different way of dealing with it.
Lauer said homelessness has been a bee in his bonnet for a long time.
“It’s one of those issues people continually talk about and continually plan about… but in the case of Orillia, I feel a lot hasn’t been done. I believe it’s time the municipality take that issue and deal with it,” he said.
Orsi said he would like to tackle the reasons behind homelessness before speculating on a solution.
“Its not a simple answer, but I would definitely work with the community at large to find out what are the systemic reasons why we have the problem. Providing housing doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a Band-Aid approach and I’m not a Band-Aid approach guy,” he said.
Cipolla said there are some people, through no fault of their own, that are homeless and he would like to follow through with council’s recently adopted affordable-housing action plan.
Candidates were also asked if they would support the construction of a residence for Georgian College students and all three mayor hopefuls said yes.
Lauer said he is “on record as saying Georgian College is our future opportunity,” and if elected as mayor, he would immediately begin discussions between the city and the college on building the residence.
Cipolla said for Georgian College to become more successful than it already is in Orillia, it needs a residence. If elected as mayor, he is prepared to provide funds for the project.
Orsi said building a new residence is a “matter of capital” and where that capital will come from.
“The question is, we need to find the ingredients to success,” he said.
In January 2010, plans to build a student residence consisting of 50 town-homes on land adjacent to the Memorial Avenue campus owned by Orsi’s family collapsed. At the time, Orillia campus dean Mary O’Farrell Bowers said the plan was not financially viable for the college or Mark Rich Homes.
Other issues raised by students and other attendees included the construction of a central bus terminal, supporting the Orillia Museum of Art and History, expanding Orillia’s city limits and providing free parking downtown during the summer months.

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