Jill Raycroft has worked in education for more than 20 years, including teaching online and in-class courses at St. Lawrence College for the past three years.
Raycroft says she has a mind that loves business and a heart that believes in civic duty and giving back. She also loves being in a leadership role. That’s why she’s decided to run for mayor.
Your Voice, Your Vote – The QNetNews Municipal Election Project sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates for mayor and council. Here are Jill Raycroft’s unedited responses.
What role do you see city council playing to help bring new jobs to Belleville?
The city has the responsibility of marketing itself as a preferred location for new business and industry and therefore, it would be in part the responsibility of the council to constantly seek out these opportunities in addition to retaining the businesses we do already have and assisting in their growth.
What kind of jobs do you envision in Belleville’s future?
I would prefer to see jobs that offer long term employment and advancement through stable industries but the opportunities for self-employment and small business should not be ignored. I see an ongoing issue with underemployment/multiple part-time jobs and very little “hope” for the future in some areas.
How does council help make that happen?
Council can support small business where possible; developing an innovation/incubator hub that gives small business’ access to shared resources such as bookkeeping, business strategy/marketing services would be in line with what other municipalities are doing.
Council can also connect with the employment agencies in the area to establish some idea of what skills our unemployed population hold… seeking jobs/industry that can get them the jobs they’ve trained for is important as well.
Finally, if we are recruiting new industry we need to connect with Loyalist to ensure they are developing and delivering programs so our local graduates can apply to these types of jobs.
2. We’ve also heard from a number of people who say, with regards to young people in Belleville, that there’s not enough for them to do here, and there’s not enough to keep them here after they graduate, whether that’s from high school or from Loyalist College. For the purposes of these questions, we’re defining young people as being between 12 and 24.
What role does the city play in providing interesting things for young people to do?
The city maintains a responsibility to provide recreational and cultural activities for our youth. The Sports Centre, Waterfront trail system and soccer fields are some examples of how it tries to meet these needs. This may need further consultation to identify specific activities that youth might find interesting – and whether or not the city could accommodate interests better or more holistically.
How does the city keep more of its young population here after they leave school?
The easy answer would be to say “jobs” but sometimes the choice to leave has more to do with a young person’s desire to explore what else might be out there. I’m not sure the city can change that but we can work on appealing to be a place they want to come back to when they’re ready to settle down and start a family.
How do you envision the city working with Loyalist College to do just that?
An ongoing partnership/collaboration with regard to industry recruitment and program development will be critical to creating post-graduate workplace environments that can support young families.
3.We also heard a lot of concern about poverty in Belleville, especially child poverty. There are two main concerns tied to the discussion of poverty in this community – food and shelter.
One in three children in this community face food insecurity issues. What can council do to address that?
It would appear that nearly 10 million of our budget (2012) goes to support health and social initiatives but the support to Gleaners (as an example) is at arm’s length (through United Way).
There are a number of services available but perhaps the communication to the community is lacking or we could further support collaboration between those agencies/groups trying to help. Funding is always an issue so Council would need to constantly scan for any provincial or federal opportunities to support these causes as well (farmers are being offered tax deductions for donations); community gardens offer another piece to the solution.
What role does council have in providing more affordable accommodation for more people in this city?
The city can encourage development from private investors or public service interest groups so parents aren’t trying to choose between paying for food and shelter; the conversion of residential units to accommodate individuals or small families in transition may be another way the council can help. In the meantime, there was a recent announcement that federal money (approximately 118K annually) would be directed to a few local agencies to help with the issue.
Does Belleville need a men’s shelter for those who are temporarily homeless?
It isn’t clear from the question here if the real issue is abuse or homelessness. A shelter implies “safety” not just from the street but also an abusive situation that does not allow for temporary stays with friends or relatives. I can see that the current situation does not appear equal. I know this has been the subject of discussion in the past. Continuously reviewing the need is important and finding a temporary solution may be critical.
4. Council recently passed a Transportation Master Plan.
What are your thoughts on that plan?
It is an ambitious plan that addresses many of the needs for getting around the city but it doesn’t really extend beyond the city limits. It does not present any apparent extension of services into Thurlow which is disappointing. I think it is also important to pay close attention to the estimated growth rate used to support the plan. Those numbers seem quite optimistic.
How would you characterize the existing public transit system in Belleville?
While the buses are nice and clean, the service/routes may require some review. I am hearing about the restricted hours that do not support the shift workers/students around the city. As well, I live in Thurlow so there is no transit available to me or my children.
What would you do to improve it?
This does require a full review of usage. I appreciate that ridership at certain hours is minimal, so knowing how to make the best use of existing resources is important. We should be matching the transportation needs of those who use it – they are the first stakeholders to be consulted.
What can the city do to improve cycling infrastructure in this city?
There has been some concern about the increase in funding allocated to support bike lanes. While the extension through to Loyalist might build on the original plan to extend Bridge St. to the college, I’m not sure it is sufficient to provide a safe way for students to travel. I would be concerned that a path in this area that is meant primarily for young adults may present a danger to their safety especially at night. It might be just as useful to create a “complete street” through that area to accommodate both buses and bikes.
5. Sometimes it seems the future of downtown Belleville is a more popular topic of conversation than the weather is.
How do you see downtown Belleville being revitalized?
First of all, I think it is unfortunate that the media continues to dwell on the negative aspects of our downtown area. Our morale as a city is seemingly tied to one area, ignoring some of the great things we have – the Sports & Wellness Centre or the Waterfront Trail as examples. This focus also ignores the other areas of need within our city and surrounding area of Thurlow.
In response to your question, the vision for downtown revitalization is cloudy. I support the idea that more people/residential space will bring the area to life – but I’m not convinced that an area of small shops alone is sustainable within our current economic climate.
I believe the next step is to sit down with the property owners and discover what the issues are with them developing their own spaces first. I’ve heard a variety of reasons but without their support of any plan any effort by the city will be wasted.
6. What role does council play in supporting a vibrant arts community in Belleville?
I’ve been asked by a number of different groups to participate in events and increase my awareness in their stake in our community. I was very surprised to find they don’t seem to join in promoting together a well-rounded variety of music, art and theatre (to mention a few).
If Belleville were to get on board with the Bay of Quinte Region proposal/marketing plan – I can see this is one way to support the arts community at large.
Of course, sitting down with all groups at one table would be the first step.
7. Many people pointed to tourism as an important economic driver in this city. What role can the city play in both bringing more tourists to the city, and keeping them here longer?
From a marketing perspective we have to review the different target markets Belleville attracts already and then identify whether we can interest them in alternate activities once they are here… for example, if a hockey team comes in for a tournament – they will stay at a hotel near the 401, eat at a restaurant close by, hit the mall and never venture further into the city. How would we keep them here longer or convince them to return in the summer (when we really have more to offer?)
Realistically, there is little in Belleville to keep them here for more than a day – but supporting Bay of Quinte Region and Belleville as the place to stay when you come to visit may be a start. I would also suggest that some local entrepreneurs consider guiding wine/beach tours out of Belleville so people can leave their vehicle here – but that’s not really the role of the city.
Should there be a better connection between the Bay of Quinte waterfront and Belleville’s downtown?
Right now there isn’t much at either place to require a connection. I’m not sure what you might support between the two and what the purpose might be… unless you’re talking about the boaters at Meyer’s Pier needing to walk up South Front to the downtown area (but for what?)
And at this time, what might take someone from downtown to the water? Unless you’re walking the trail – which means there is already a connection – what reason would you have for going from A to B?
How does the city make that happen?
The city should encourage business owners to meet the boating community’s needs… I’m not sure that’s even an option or feasible? Both areas will need to see significant growth and private investment before there is any value in connecting the two. If the Crates development is approved – this could generate the activity we need to start getting things moving (but it won’t be an easy place for boaters from Meyer’s Pier to get to)…
8. What are your thoughts on a casino in Belleville? Why/Why not?
This question is often emotionally charged with concern for the health and welfare of those at risk of becoming problem gamblers. We have a significant population here living at the poverty line and if they were attracted to the idea of gambling, their living conditions could deteriorate further. While a portion of the revenue is committed to the health and welfare of the community in which the casino is placed it would be most important to ensure that the support is also ready and available. A comparison study between other communities with casinos should be conducted to assess the impact. We should take full advantage of other communities’ experience to make this decision.
9. Who should pay for upgrades to the Yardmen Arena?
Ideally private investment would pay for this or at least a portion of them. A partner would be ideal; alternatively, finding a way to fund the upgrades so those who value the Bulls as a part of our community are the ones who support the costs would be another option (rather than all taxpayers at large).
How important do you think it is that the Bulls remain in Belleville?
The Bulls are a part of our community and it would be difficult to imagine the city without the OHL franchise… it is important that we find a way to keep them without overburdening the taxpayers; they should provide some value to the business community as well and we should know what this is.
10. We heard complaints from people in Thurlow that it’s the forgotten part of this city, especially when it comes to city services.
How do you respond to those complaints?
I am a Thurlow resident and can testify to the complaints.
Few have water or sewer service yet we pay similar tax rates and saw a higher tax increase than other areas of the city in the last budget. We do not get leaf waste or large garbage pickup either. Roads are atrocious and after last winter, they are even worse. Pothole avoidance leads to some dangerous driving situations as well. Internet access is also limited in some areas with no fibre/DSL service available and we must rely on either satellite or tower signals for online connectivity.
In response, I believe it is the responsibility of the council to identify how much of the revenue from taxes should be going to the Thurlow residents and their needs and this should be clearly communicated to them. It may be that a fair portion is covering the costs (as most other areas in Belleville are also dealing with bad roads and their water/sewer requires maintenance) but in the meantime, we are left feeling somewhat forgotten.