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Candidates tout their experience

In Orillia
Oct 21st, 2010

Orillia’s three mayoral candidates had the chance Tuesday to address a group of people who know a lot about serving their community.
The Kiwanis and Rotary clubs of Orillia once again partnered to host the hopefuls during a meeting at the Highwayman Inn and Conference Centre.
Ralph Cipolla, Tim Lauer and Angelo Orsi read their responses to three questions they were given in advance.
Firstly, they were asked to describe their commu n i t y service, outside of their duties as politicians, and how they felt it would help them in the role of mayor.
Lauer listed his volunteer experience with sports, culture and social services, including folk festivals, fundraisers and curling events.
Through his own experience, Lauer said he can understand the kind of assistance service clubs need from the city when they’re organizing community events.
Orsi detailed his experience as a past president of the Orillia and District Construction Association and the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce, as well as his time volunteering as a soccer coach and with Habitat for Humanity and other local organizations.
Cipolla noted he was once chosen as the city’s citizen of the year, was given an Ontario Medical Association award for community service, initiated festivals and was once president of the Rotary Club.
“My volunteer life has given me a deep understanding of this community,” he said.
Next, candidates were asked what they feel deters manufacturing companies from setting up in Orillia and what can be done to turn the downward trend around.
Analysts expect that trend to continue in the province and country, Cipolla said. At the same time, he added, “knowledge industries” are growing and are expected to continue to grow.
“We need to embrace it or be left behind,” Cipolla said of a knowledge-based economy, adding Orillia needs to “get with the times” when it comes to an economic development strategy.
Lauer said the city needs a more competitive level of taxation. He also reiterated his plan to put a two-year moratorium on industrial development charges.
“Economic development left to chance does not work,” he said.
While campaigning, Orsi said a common concern has been that “encouragement and support from the city is lacking” when it comes to new business.
Orsi wants to establish the “Orillia investment fund” to garner capital investment from within the city. It would be invested in start-up business incubators.
He said affordable industrial land is also key to addressing the issue.
Finally, the three contenders were asked what the new council’s No. 1 priority would be and how the mayor would measure the progress and success of addressing that priority.
Orsi talked about unity on council, saying there is currently a “fractured council and fractured results.”
There is a need for “team building and a team approach,” he added.
Orsi indicated his desire to immediately complete a strategic plan, setting out short-and long-term plans.
Cipolla said “the people” are the top priority.
“It sounds like a cliché and rhetoric,” he said, but noted the people are the city’s greatest asset.
He said a “manageable” tax burden is needed. Cipolla also restated his desire to invest in a knowledge-based economy, which could include a green industrial park.
Identifying one top priority is “a tough thing to do,” Lauer said. However, one would be to “take full advantage of the opportunities that are now staring us straight in the face.” That includes working with Georgian College and Lakehead University, he said.
With Lakehead’s enrolment expected to grow by thousands, the city can’t become “complacent” and content simply with the fact it secured a campus here, Lauer said. He would like to reform the taskforce that brought the university to town to help deal with the needs associated with the planned growth.
The local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs hosted a similar meeting during the last municipal election.
“The more we know about the candidates and what their positions are on the issues in town, the more insightful our decisions will be on election day,” said Cliff Whitfield, president of the Rotary Club of Orillia.


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