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Mayoral candidate says she will not ignore residents' concerns

Jan Liggett, is the current Ward 4 councillor running for mayor
Jan Liggett is running for mayor of Cambridge.

Jan Liggett

Occupation: Business owner, Ward 4 councillor


Why are you running in this election?

Having spent the last eight years as a member of Cambridge council representing you, I feel it is time to apply my acquired knowledge of this community and your needs to the next level; that being your mayor.

During those eight years, many good things have been accomplished and I want to continue to build on those. We have a lot of growing to do and the potential of great prosperity.

I have a deep concern though, with the pattern of ignoring resident and taxpayer voices when decisions are being made by council. Community engagement must be re-established as a normal, expected, and healthy function of public discourse through the municipal decision making process. We together must re-discover the spirit and substance of listening to and hearing from each other, the satisfaction and joy of acting as a unified and informed community. You need to be assured that someone cares and not feel disillusioned by the current political climate.

I want you to feel excited about living in Cambridge and its future while we get things done. Under my leadership, civic participation will be invited and welcome, I offer that promise. I want to hear about the thoughtful, insightful ideas you may have for your and my community.

What qualifies you to represent the city as mayor?

I have been immersed for the past eight years serving the citizens of Cambridge as an elected Councillor, as well as serving on numerous committees of city and regional council during those two terms. For decades, I have contributed as a volunteer on a variety of committees of council.

I know this community intimately having dedicated my time and energies to raising a family here, volunteering across a wide spectrum of organizations and causes, while running a successful nationally known business. As a business owner I know what a business looks for in a community in order to grow and/or invest. As a resident I know what it takes to feel secure.

Like you I know how it feels to pay taxes and entrust my elected city officials to spend it wisely. I bring the voice of business to council as the only business person currently elected and with that a full understanding of budget priorities and the mutual concerns of business and residents.

I believe in being prepped for the negative and then being wowed by the positive. I am well prepared to confront the challenges ahead as your Mayor.

Why should people vote for you?

I live in Cambridge, I’m invested in Cambridge, and my life’s work has been dedicated to making this community a place for everyone to call home. When one, such as mayor or councillor, has the privileged position of setting taxes yet not having to endure those same taxes, and still reaping the service and a paycheque paid for by us, I have a problem with that. As one who pays full residential and industrial municipal taxes by residing and having a business in Cambridge, I endure equally the same taxes and repercussions as you do and in the same manner.

I seek input on civic decision making, especially from those who are most affected by council’s decisions, I personally read all of my material, I research the issues before council deliberates, and I base my vote on the greater good. As Mayor my role will be to solicit and welcome public discourse from the entire community as I have always done.

My role is also to empower my council and encourage open, honest debate as chair. Imagine if our community elects officials who bring a real sense of enthusiasm and passion to decision making? Who aren’t bogged down in old ways of dealing with things? We’d all benefit from that ‘reset’ button.

I’m offering voters an opportunity to achieve the satisfaction of knowing they’re a vital part of this community, and it’s why I’m asking you to vote for me as Mayor of Cambridge. You are not just picking a Mayor, you are choosing between candidates who may have directions on where they want this city to go, how to go about getting there and how to spend your money.

If you're lucky, you get to borrow this planet for 75 years or so. While here, you must weigh-in on how it's run; vote, our co-joined destiny is in your hands.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents across the city?

Ten years ago parking tickets, road construction, playground equipment, dog parks, snow plowing……maybe. And then WHAM it hit us and boy, we didn’t see it coming. People are living on the streets, injecting, dealers in every part of our community, human defecation, needles in the alleyways, parks, school grounds and crime throughout. Tragically, mentally affected souls wander our downtowns and our neighbourhoods, stand at the grocery stores yelling at no one, smash shop windows.

Few of us have been immune to the deaths. I believe we can all agree that people are dying at an alarming rate from poison laced drugs. The argument for or against having a SIS/CTS in a community started long before fentanyl became the bigger problem.

As an elected official I have had to determine first whether they are what they are advertised to be or whether there needs to be something better in place. By better I mean something that will not put the greater community at risk and at the same time stop, slow down and possibly place the addiction of drugs in remission.

By locating a CTS anywhere in a community, we have to realize that no matter where it is we will be creating a centre of wretched despair and suffering. Therefore the question needs to be asked, ”where are we willing for this to be created, which neighbourhood are we willing to destroy?”

There are many who would be aghast at that statement but you need look no further than Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco. Those living with addictions need free, repeated if necessary, long term for both genders, rapid access to rehab and detox treatment, something that doesn’t exist. That is where money is best spent. Mental health facilities and their staffing are like mythical creatures.

Our legal systems have been turned upside down, our municipal budgets have been thrown out the window, people are afraid to walk out onto the streets. There is an urgent need to wrap our heads around mandatory rehab and mental health treatment through the courts. Without them we will never be able to restore human dignity let alone law and order. We will continue to engage in philosophical circular conversations and arguments out of which policies are created and yet which never seem to address the crisis; we need to get beyond this as time is running out.

If we don’t make sure our community remains healthy while trying to come to grips with this tragic misery then anything we do will only make matters worse and people will continue to die.

What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Cambridge on a broader scale?

The main issue is ensuring Cambridge is a community where people choose to play, live, work, raise a family, and prosper, not just now but for the foreseeable future. I believe it’s vital that our municipal, judicial, health care, and commercial services are resolving today’s overlapping demands and are receiving the staffing and financial support from every level of government.

As mayor, it would be my duty to ensure your requirements are acknowledged and met. Cambridge residents are looking to council to make good decisions. This can mean different things within different neighbourhoods. In one, it might mean more visible policing to heighten a sense of safety and security. In another, it may mean attention to planning and zoning. Lack of availability of affordable rental housing and the building of high-end developments should concern all of us.

Residents rightly expect responsible spending of their tax dollars and expect municipal services to be efficient. The biggest of all though is our province and federal government have to cough up money or none of the necessities can be achieved and we will have a city debt on the ledger rather than the exciting, prosperous city we are all working hard for.

What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Cambridge?

Voter turn out. Ensuring we live in a safe community through increased policing, dealing with those living in encampments for various reasons, working to help provide mental health and rehabilitation facilities for those who need it. In order to achieve these goals and others, increased voter participation is a must in order for the sentiments and needs of this community to be reflected in subsequent recommendations from city staff and decision making by elected officials.

I intend to demonstrate to you that your concerns have been heard and carefully considered. The outcomes of some votes or decisions will inevitably disappoint some of you, but I am committed to ensuring that a wide range of viewpoints have been heard and understood by all of council.

What services need to be improved in Cambridge?

Like you, I believe there is always room for improvement. My priorities are community wellbeing, health, safety and security, and a liveable city. Municipal services affect each resident differently. For young families, it may be playgrounds, libraries, trails, river recreation and sports facilities. For homeowners having the attractiveness of our public parks, boulevards and streets held to a higher standard than we expect of residents, or it may be utilities, snow plowing, neighbourhood property standards, majestic tress and property taxes. For retirees, it may be transportation, housing options, and cultural facilities, safe downtowns with restaurants. For young people starting out they want all of the above.

All of these can be improved upon. What level of municipal services and their cost to deliver, and what priority is given to each depends on budget deliberations. I welcome the public’s involvement in the process, I respect taxpayers’ dollars, and together, we can decide what’s working, and what needs improvement. Remember your vote counts so cast it.

Is Cambridge growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough?

This is a trick question isn’t it? Development in Cambridge is increasing at break-neck speed at the moment but yet not fast enough for some. Great care must be taken to not overwhelm our existing community. Rather than state something is growing too fast or too slow, a continued careful analysis of our own infrastructure, concerns of our residents and business community have to all be weighted equally to facilitate a balanced rate of growth while respecting our heritage
and cultural attributes. This is an exciting time in our city’s history.

What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing?

Though the cost of housing is not governed by municipalities but by market demands, the city can advance ways of providing affordable housing.

This housing crisis is now impacting not only low income residents, but also middle-income residents and in response, there are policies and programs in place to
encourage the construction of housing types considered more affordable to both low-income and middle-income residents. Official Plan policies encourage the development of a wide range of housing unit types to accommodate the needs, preferences and economic resources of the city’s households.

Secondary units are permitted as a way to provide affordable units in existing neighbourhoods, but we are unable to control the rent level that a homeowner chooses
to charge for a rental apartment. The city encourages development of affordable housing and provides opportunities for the development of affordable housing by permitting mixed-use development in many different areas as well as promoting the inclusion of a residential component in commercial development and encouraging the development of community housing and affordable private sector housing.

The new Official Plan will be coming out with specific targets in new residential development requiring a minimum number of affordable housing units. The Affordable Housing Community Improvement Plan (CIP) provides financial incentives, not-for-profits are exempt from municipal taxes, the Tax Increment Grant
(TIG) is available to private developers. The Affordable Housing Reserve fund in 2019 provides city funding to non-profit and/or private sector organizations toward the provision of affordable rental housing.  

During the next term we need to look at how those funds can be increased through developer contributions.

The allowance of Inclusionary Zoning as an optional land use tool by the province to require affordable housing units in new residential developments anywhere in the city not just within Major Transit Station Areas is needed. Partnerships are key to the successful construction of new affordable residential units.

Projects along Hespeler Road are good examples of partnerships between a not-for-profit and private developers resulting in the inclusion of market and affordable rent units on one property. Staff, at all levels of government, is learning through experience how best to facilitate these partnerships. Each of these tools will, by themselves, see a modest increase in the number of affordable units. It is in combination that these tools will be most impactful.

What can be done locally about the homelessness issue?

Decades of underinvestment in affordable housing have created a significant infrastructure deficit of one of our most important needs. We have gone from 3,000 households on the waiting list in 2014 for affordable housing to a wait list of over 8,000. This has also increased the wait times drastically. These increases in numbers can be attributed to remains of the last recession, COVID, past closing of mental health facilities, demolition of lower cost housing stock, and unpreparedness for retirement, fluctuating housing prices, and renovictions among other reasons.

Not all but much of the social ills we see on the streets, such as the tent cities and addicts, can be led back to lack of housing, supportive or otherwise. Children and seniors cannot feel safe without living in dignity, in a safe, comfortable and healthy home.

One solution is in government led housing, partnering with not-for-profit and private developers, and major funding from the province and federal government. When I hear funding is being applied to create 17,000 or 10,000 homes for the entire country, I become concerned that won’t come close to what is needed right here locally .When the funds and the land are made available it will take some time before construction companies are able to put the shovel in the ground to
completion ready for habitation.

As mayor I will join with the region to put forward our joint petitioning of neediness to the higher level governments as Cambridge alone cannot properly address this issue. The ability of our tax payers to pay must be taken in consideration at all times.

How do we make Cambridge an even better city to live in?

Livability is critical to the establishment of a sustainable community. A livable community should focus on the residents and environment, be walkable (with essential services for all types of residents nearby), public spaces that are sensually green, not only recreational and cultural, mixed use buildings that include commercial enterprises, schools within walking distance, clean, industrial/commercial employment near residential areas, affordable for all, safe streets, and transit that takes you where you want/need to go in an efficient manner.

I believe elected officials working with city planners must effectively develop urban landscapes based on quality of life and sustainable development with the needs of all in mind. I also understand that competing sectors create different challenges.

In Cambridge our challenges for sustainability include, but are not limited to geography for transportation links, the ecological capacity of the watershed, lack of political will, bad past planning practices, and infrastructure debt. Connecting equity to transit-oriented development can mitigate traffic and pollution, generate
demand for transit, catalyze the development of affordable housing, and bring new businesses and quality jobs to our community. Without oversight and community engagement however, transit development may channel public investment into private profits and facilitate rapid and large scale displacement of low-income communities. It is going to be very difficult to make all of these things happen in an existing city.

All too often changes are superficial and non-sustainable but I want to be part of a team, where each member, understands the importance of the above and is willing to spend money to correct past errors and make take actions that ARE sustainable.

To find out more about Jan and to connect with her, visit the following links:
Phone: 1-877-856-7371
Email: [email protected]