Who is Liam Fitzgerald?

Who is Liam Fitzgerald and Why am I Running for Mayor?

Since I moved to Chelsea in 1995 I have come to appreciate more and more living in such a peaceful environment endowed with so many natural opportunities. Yet In the past few years it is with some bewilderment that I have seen Council, some ‘public interest groups’ and developers push for changes that I believe aren’t suited for Chelsea. I have seen our taxes and debt increase dramatically and I have become concerned that we will lose what most Chelsea residents have come to love if we continue on this course. I feel that by maintaining what we have, and if needed, developing things slowly and thoughtfully will offer more for present and future generations than the changes that have been proposed.

I am a software professional managing the Quality Assurance department for a small company in Ottawa. Although this is a highly rewarding career I believe that, at this time in my life, offering Chelsea residents a choice as to who and what philosophy would help lead them through the next four years is more important. I could not sit back and watch another mayor be acclaimed.

Prior to my present career I was a small engine mechanic, working on everyday problems with people from all walks of life.  This hands-on experience gives me an understanding of real problems and solutions while being trained in Quality Assurance provides me with a background to manage complex issues efficiently.

I care about this community and feel that it would be a shame to turn it into suburbia with high debt and taxes.  I think we are at a turning point in the future of Chelsea and if I believe what I say it’s time for me to stand up and try to help.

My Platform

My platform is pretty straightforward and can be summarized in four main points, which I will expand upon later:

1) We need to bring back financially responsible management to reduce the debt and tax burden so all Chelsea residents can continue to live here

2) Chelsea must remain a rural community

3) Essential services are the core of what the municipality should deliver (roads, fire safety, waste management)

4) Our vision includes the whole community not just the centre village

What will I Do to Manage Finances Responsibly and Why Must This be Done

In the past four years Chelsea debt and taxes have increased at an extremely fast rate.  As a municipality we are now in debt for a minimum of $11 Million and will be carrying a debt of $30 Million with potential of having some of that paid off through grants if all goes according to plans.  I don’t think it will though, as all major projects that were proposed in the 10-year financial plan are coming in double to what was proposed.  Examples are the Farm Point sewage system and the recreation and community centre.  If this continues then the 45% increase in taxes proposed over the next 10 years will be a gross underestimation.  People on fixed incomes and seniors are already having trouble coping with the 40% to 60% increase in taxes that have occurred in the last 6 years. To make Chelsea more affordable to all its residents I believe that a comprehensive review of proposed projects and programs and services are needed.  We need to ensure that proposed projects are properly priced (construction, operations and maintenance) and that we examine programs and services to improve how they are managed to provide the best value for our residents.

Do We Want to Retain a Rural Chelsea?

I believe overwhelmingly that Chelsea residents like our ‘rural’ nature.  We have a gift here, which we should keep. I believe we should model any development more along the lines of Stowe Vermont, which has retained its ‘quaint ‘ nature yet thrived economically as a tourist destination. This would be preferable to the Gatineau style with high density and strip malls that have been proposed by past council and some of the current candidates who would continue with this approach. Additionally it does not make environmental sense to build high-density housing on risk sensitive leda clays that cannot support in-house septic systems and whose water capacity is questionable. We need to rethink what type of development – if any- is suited best for this environment.  We must live within the carrying capacity of our lands

What are Essential Services and is that all I Would Provide?

Essential services are the core of what a municipality should provide for its residents.  They include things like ensuring adequate water, keeping roads safe, plowed and useable, making sure that waste is properly dealt with without harming the environment, and ensuring that you and your properties are safe through policing and fire protection services.  We need to ensure that these essential services are delivered in a cost efficient manner. We should also look at providing other services and programs in effectively, I believe that we can provide what the community wants for less than what it currently costs us.

What do I mean by Our Vision Includes the Whole Community Not Just the Centre Village?

In the past couple of years there has been a lot of focus on the Chelsea ‘village centre’, and perhaps even more when you look at what is presently proposed.  I believe that all of Chelsea requires equal attention. Present proposals such as pipelines and treatment plants for water and sewage to facilitate development in the village centre and costly beautification proposals are beyond what we can presently afford.  The pipeline proposal costs in particular are not yet factored into future debt and taxes. Certainly the issue of adequate sewage for the village centre needs to be addressed but there are more cost effective ways that fit into a rural Chelsea that would be more sustainable. And retain a rural community.

So what does this mean with respect to the Meredith Centre proposal? I do believe that Chelsea needs a new community and cultural centre and that this can be done without incurring any additional debt. However, a community centre is not something that should divide a community, a community centre is something that should be embraced by all residents. I believe that we can build a community centre that provides what all the people of Chelsea want at a cost that is affordable to everyone. We need to look at the proposed facility and see if it really provides things that the community will use? There are several other proposals for the Meredith Centre that do not include an arena. We should take a good hard look at these proposals. I think we can do better, and I would propose that we properly survey the community with various options to determine what residents want and are willing to pay for. Once the centre is built it’s here to stay so let’s make sure we build what we want.

And in the end…

So I hope that you will share my vision for Chelsea, one that is living within our means and within the carrying capacity of the environment.  I believe that voting for me in this election will be a change from the status quo and provide an opportunity for all residents to continue living in a quiet, yet vibrant community that others have come to envy.