In order to get to know the candidates that are running in the October 27th Municipal Election, the Newmarket Free Press is publishing the responses to questions asked to all the registered candidates. We hope that this will help voters to understand where candidates stand on current issues that will affect Newmarket and assist in making an informed decision when voting. Ray Luff is running in Ward 4
NFP: What are the top 3 major issues Newmarket needs to address?
RL: 1) The planned population growth of our town. We seem to have no choice in the rapid growth that is anticipated as it is seemingly forced upon us by the region. The rate of growth is not a natural needs based growth it represents the kind of growth that involves importing a large population to our town rather rapidly. The town council must ensure that the infrastructure of community services is made available to the newcomers and existing population in a timely manner. Ward 4 will be the most affected ward by this. I personally as a religious person would like to see provision made by the developers for another house of worship in the ward. I would also like to encourage the salvation army to have some space in our ward. Other youth program and community spaces are also needed. Our streets could be flooded with children looking for recreation space if we do not carefully plan.
2) Taxes. Really this is number one, but because it could be affected by rapid growth I am quite concerned. I studied Urban Planning at Ryerson but it is not the career I pursued (I was a consultant most of my career). However i recall learning that the promise of lower taxes is often given because the tax base will increase with more taxpayers when urban development occurs but for many years perhaps a decade or more it turns out that infrastructure costs outstrip the benefit and tax payers often must foot the bill for the growth that promises a reduction. This is my concern. However much of the cost is being footed by the region, not the town for the growth we are going to see. We much watch our budget for the incidental costs that will rise and ensure to the best of our ability that taxes do not rise. Associated with this is the increased land values in our region which sounds good but it must not result in a tax grab to up our taxes. Both increased land value and taxes will eventual trickle down and hurt the poorest of our community as well as they struggle to find affordable housing. We have a mix of citizens in Ward 4. We must care and be concerned about all of our citizens and those that will come to join us.
3) It might be relatively a minor concern, but I would like to foster more of a sense of community for the Newmarket Heights portion of ward 4. I think a plaque should be placed at Davis as you enter Longford avenue which announces that you are now entering Newmarket Heights which recognizes the history of this area of the ward and the fact that it was originally called East Gwillimbury Heights. This should be paid for by donation and a door to door campaign to raise its funds and the town should approve its placement.
NFP: How should Newmarket resolve the ongoing traffic problem – volume of traffic & increased growth? RL: To deal with traffic problems there must be Speed bumps. Perhaps some roads will need to be cut off to through traffic. Lots of things need to be thought and planned well.
NFP: How should Newmarket move forward on higher density residential & commercial building – ie: mid & high rise buildings? RL: Newmarket should insist on space provided in the main level of buildings be made available at reduced or no cost for recreational and community services and related organizations including to provide another place of worship.
NFP: What are the top 3 things that make Newmarket a great place to live or work? RL:
1) Its a great place to raise a family that provides plenty of amenities and those initial first jobs to our youth. Traditionally it has been a bedroom community that exports our workers to Toronto for the big bucks jobs. I personally exported myself all over North America and it was a weekend community to come back to for many years. But what i loved about this community was it was the kind of place to have my kids raised. I hope that, this continues. If our community is to become like mississaugua eventually I hope its not at the expense of our kids having a great place to be raised.
2) Community sports, green spaces, places to shop, many things make our town a great place. The feeling that you are moments from the countryside surrounding us is great as well. I believe we enjoy currently one of the best lifestyles for the common person in North America. I say common because i imagine the super rich live somewhere else but for most of us this is a great place to be.
3) Toronto over the years has had waves of immigration with wards that have had differing ethnic backgrounds. Newmarket has been vanila with no such distinctions that I am aware of. I like that about our town and it is my hope that a high degree of integration will continue to keep our town vanila. I don’t know that there is anything any town councilor can do to ensure such a continued high degree of integration with the rapidly planed growth but if we are not concerned we may miss opportunities for this. I believe that special events and things that raise the level of community participation will encourage us all to be continue to reach this goal. A sense of belonging must continually be fostered.
NFP: What are the top 3 things that make Newmarket a place where people would NOT want to live or work? How would you change them? RL: Newmarket would no longer be as great a place if we stopped caring for all members of our community. Ward 4 would no longer be a great community if it became a business office ghetto and all Newmarket became was a hub to support other bedroom communities from further away that commute to our town for the jobs but are not involved otherwise in our community. Newmarket would no longer be a great place if it became a city. Most of use who came to this town came here to escape the city. Newmarket would no longer be a great place if we lost our sense of community.
NFP: Do you feel that Newmarket can successfully oppose provincial mandated plans for growth and density? RL: Regarding regional driven expansion I believe we could complain in the local papers and try to attract the attention of Toronto papers to our plight of forced growth. I personally would like to see some of the planned growth moved to outside our boundaries in further annexing land around Newmarket. I would prefer that we stuck with the original plan for 6 story buildings not the current 20 story being forced on us along the Davis corridor. But I do not think we can directly stop the region. We could however lobby hard and get some attention to our plight in the media. We need a balsy town council headed up with a mayor who also wants to be heard on behalf of the citizens. I am not complaining about the current mayor. IF the counsel had more ernst to get behind the mayor in that direction I am sure he would come up to the occasion of attracting the attention of the media. A little salt affects the whole of society according to Jesus. I hope that my little bit of salt can help toward addressing the concerns of Newmarket’s citizens in this regard.
NFP: How can the Davis Drive / Yonge Street VivaNext projects that focus on public transit align with Newmarket’s single family home / car culture? RL: I think it is great to allow access to the town via the public transportation and its improved features that are coming. But for those that drive a car I wish to see provision of free parking. I fear that parking spaces in our town will begin to be highly priced. I do not wish to see the lifestyle of our citizens impeded. I am all for electric cars if they are cheaper and better for the environment. Things that encourage that and encourage public transportation are great but must be an attractive option that competes with the other options available and not forced on us by restricting access to parking around town. I have travelled in my consulting career far and wide in the US and in Canada and have seen places that accommodate both cars and public transportation quite well. We can do this as well..
NFP: What are your Ward 4 residents or business owners specific issues? How will you address them? RL: I addressed the concerns of Mr. Sub and Cynthias fish and chips by trying to get them to speak to town council and i arranged for the regional representative John Taylor to meet with them. But it seems to have been too little too late and they went out of business. Mr. Taylor seemed willing to help but I cannot speak for whether he was able to help them or if they were unable to fight for their case with the region even with John’s assistance. I think its a shame that they fell victim to the development along Davis Drive. I am very concerned about our retailers and I want to here about any retail concerns in Ward 4 or elsewhere in Newmarket. We might not have a say in what the region is doing but it is our responsibility on Town council to act as advocates for our citizens. We must do all we can to shake the trees to support our citizens.
NFP: Do you support a grade separation (overpass) at the GO train tracks at Green Lane? RL: I would trust the advice of reading over an engineer report on the topic. I do not have an informed opinion right now but I having produced advisory reports in the past believe that we must put stock in what we are being told by the experts. I certainly will wade into such a study to form my opinion on this topic. For now I must say I am uninformed regarding this topic and cannot offer an informed opinion.
NFP: Please provide a brief recap of your background, experience and platform. RL: I retired early after a twenty four year career in computer followed by management consulting to the Banking, municipal government sectors in Ontario. Clients included CIBC, Ministry of Revenue, Treasury, Government services, Labour, Workers Comp to name a few. I travelled the USA for several years as well working for clients such as FEDEX, NEC, IBM, EDS, CIGNA I produced many proposals. I hope that on town council I will be on the other side of the equation to scrutinize such proposals that are submitted to the town. I worked as a volunteer with Yonge Street mission for 12 years and learned to help people better themselves. There are some I helped literally to move from the back alley into good paid jobs and to be able to be contributing members of society. I learned to listen and to respect all people of all walks of life through this valuable experience. I believe I have a mix of abilities and learned disciplines that will be useful in helping to make important decisions on town council and in acting as an advocate for the citizens in ward 4. I have written more about my platform at my campaign website.More information: www.rayluff.com