By Doug Hallett
Mayor Karen Farbridge says she’s not “superwoman,” but she’s planning to seek a fourth term as mayor to continue to lead Guelph where it needs to go.
“I stand before you not with vague promises, but a record,” she said, “a record of delivering an exceptional city – not as superwoman, but with full recognition that I am part of a team – a member of council, a member of our local government and a member of this community.
“With four more years, I will continue to lead where it matters most to us,” she told scores of cheering supporters gathered Wednesday morning in city hall’s foyer to hear her.
Farbridge’s announcement came six days after Coun. Cam Guthrie filed his papers to run for mayor after one term as a Ward 4 councillor. Mayoral candidate Guthrie, who has worked on behalf of Conservative candidates in provincial and federal elections, described himself last week as “a centrist.”
“It’s just that so much of what has been done in this city has been controlled by the left that the centre looks too far right,” Guthrie said in a Tribune interview.
Asked Wednesday what she had to say about Guthrie’s statement, Farbridge said one of the reasons she likes municipal politics is the “lack of partisan politics.”
She said her leadership style is to “build coalitions” and “build consensus” across the political spectrum and also among citizens who don’t have definite political leanings. When ideology gets involved in municipal politics, it gets “very expensive” for the city, she told reporters.
“I believe in decision making that is evidence-based and data-driven,” and this sort of decision making “goes out the window” when ideology enters municipal politics, she said.
Asked Wednesday how she would defend herself against accusations of city hall overspending, Farbridge said that “we have continued to push down our costs . . . our debt is down, our reserves are up, and so is our credit rating.”
Guthrie painted himself last week as someone who “can break the status quo and do things differently.”
Farbridge also mentioned the status quo in her speech, but gave it her own twist.
“We haven’t settled for the status quo or the lowest common denominator,” she said in her prepared speech, which was to be posted Wednesday on her personal blog – karenfarbridge.com. “We have been making change – change where it matters most to us,” she added.
Farbridge told reporters that her election platform will be announced later. “There are a lot of months to go” before the Oct. 27 civic elections, she noted.
Her prepared speech sought to show why she’s the best person to continue to lead Guelph after a total of about 10 years as mayor over three terms since 2000.
“I have dedicated my life to city building – the bricks and mortar – and to community building – what happens in the spaces we create,” she said. “We need to get cities right, and Guelph is getting it right. We have made great strides over the past several years, despite challenging times.”
Guelph, Farbridge said, has “developed a winning formula – one that balances a commitment to the economic, environmental, social and cultural health of our community . . . I am firmly committed to the successful path we have forged.”
She said her “focus has always been to do more with less – to remain affordable while delivering better outcomes for individuals, families and the community. That takes vision. It takes hard work and experience. And, not least of all, it takes persistence.”
Addressing economic matters, she said that “great cities focus on their best opportunities for economic growth – and that is what we are doing in Guelph. Diversity has always been our strength, so we are actively supporting business development in several key sectors.
“I will continue to implement strategies to attract the best possible investment and jobs to Guelph,” she said.
Great cities also “create vibrant spaces for people,” Farbridge said. “We are transforming our downtown into a Central Business District – a truly urban neighbourhood that is an engine of the economy for the entire city.
“Guelph’s downtown is widely acknowledged as one of the healthiest in the province,” she added. “Thanks to solid planning, strategic investments have leveraged over $85 million in private sector projects in the past couple of years. And there’s more on the way.”
Great cities “also take care of one another,” Farbridge said, lauding the Guelph Community Wellbeing Initiative that she has pursued in recent years. “We are finding new ways for people to help themselves, to connect with one another and to build a safe and prosperous community.”
Great cities also “continuously improve,” she said, and “today we are doing business differently at city hall . . . We are increasing efficiency, reducing bureaucracy and supporting our constituents with high quality services.”
Farbridge said that it is critical for Guelph to “continue to provide a dynamic platform for change in areas that play to our strengths . . . Now is not the time to falter on this.”
Before reading her speech, Farbridge said she wanted to explain why she was making her announcement at city hall. She said that it’s “a public space that belongs to all of us” and that she has made similar announcements there in the past.
And, she added with a smile, “on a practical level, it allows me to get back to work” quickly.
By Doug Hallett