Helen E. Shwery
Current occupation: Managing director of Teeth First Dental Network, former auditor and fraud investigator
How long have you lived in Cambridge?
I previously lived on a farm in Cambridge from 1970 to 1981 and came back. I just love living here and specifically in my ward. There is so much to do and see and I am still discovering. I love its history, all its little rivers and the natural habitat we have for animals.
Do you reside in the ward/city you are running in?
I absolutely do and I love my ward. It is a mixture of old and new, rivers, natural habitat, farm and city life, I get to wake up many mornings to deer roaming around in the green space behind where I live.
Why are you running in this election?
I am a concerned resident and the current mayor and many of the councillors seems out of touch with the residents that voted them in. As a councillor I will work to change that and work closer with the people of the City of Cambridge and listen to them. I am frustrated with the amount of taxes we pay and have little input on how it is spent. Again, more engagement is required with the people of Cambridge.
What qualifies you to represent your ward?
As a homeowner and business owner, that pays taxes I have learned to live within my means and how to budget. As an auditor, investigator and department builder I always loved to find efficiencies which saved both time and money.
I know as a councillor I can not only serve the people, but also engage with other councillors and our mayor so together we can create a city all residents will be proud to call home. With my skills I know I can be a great asset to our mayor and council so we can set an example of how a city council should operate.
Why should people vote for you?
I will actually work for the people and fight for what they want and keep my word. As a public servant, I will remember, that I am the servant of and not the residents'
master of their tax dollars. I believe in making sure our taxpayers' dollars are spent on what they need and not what politicians think will get them more favorable attention. Their frustrations and concerns will be my frustrations and concerns.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of the ward?
The main issue facing Ward 1 and all of the City of Cambridge is money. Gas, food, housing, and utilities have all increased and because of that more taxes. It is time for the government to be better stewards of the money entrusted to them. We need more transparency and honesty from our municipal governments. Increasing taxes
on people that are already tax-saturated is wrong.
What do you see as the main issues facing residents of Cambridge on a broader scale?
We need to find more efficiencies, so the tax money goes further. Many businesses and residents in Cambridge could not survive the pandemic mandates so burdening them with additional taxes and fees is cruel. People today are working harder for less.
We also have to make it easier for businesses to open and provide jobs in our city, by reducing red tape and fees. I will be collaborating with both businesses, residents and the city council and mayor to find more efficiencies.
What is the most important thing you want to see changed in Cambridge?
I would like to see property taxes frozen for the next three years.
What services need to be improved in Cambridge?
We need better services for the elderly and disabled. Many live below poverty and some barely have money for groceries or needed medical treatments. We need to show more compassion and care for those in need. It is the right thing to do. They should NEVER have to choose between getting medication and treatments or buying food. The current services need to be more efficient, and I know I can accomplish this.
Is Cambridge growing too fast, just the right amount, or not fast enough?
I love it when things happen organically and that is how a city should grow and expand. That way the growth can be monitored to accommodate both new businesses and the residents. It is always important to leverage all our resources to support both. It will be my job as a city councillor to make sure that happens.
What can be done at the local level about the rising cost of housing?
It is an issue of supply and demand. To increase supply we must cut the red tape and costs for both the builders and developers and encourage more people to work in construction.
Land developers tell me they have wait years for a city to approve the development due to endless studies and many seem to duplicate or make no sense to them. There are too many costly engineer reports which all of course is passed on to the homeowner thus increasing the price of homes. I can make sure there is more efficiencies in the process that will save both builders, developers, and homeowners money.
What can be done locally about the homelessness issue?
First, we need to show compassion. Homelessness occurs for many reasons, and each is different. Winter is coming and this needs to be done quickly.
Yes, we need to get homeless people from living on the streets or in tents, but to do so we need to get more information to understand how each can best be helped. We cannot bundle them all together. First, we find out why they are homeless.
a. Is it because of mental illness?
b. Is it because they cannot find a job to afford a place to live in?
Second, are all the current homeless people from Cambridge or have they come from surrounding cities and provinces? If so, Why did they come to Cambridge?
These are our fellow people, and we need to help them. It would be a crime against humanity not to.
How do we make Cambridge an even better city to live in?
I love the historic city of Cambridge. it has beautiful rivers, trails, farms, neat little restaurants, and a mixture of old and new. We can help businesses grow to create job opportunities for families to work and raise a family.
To keep Cambridge the city we all love is to be more engaged with our taxpayers and allow them to have a say on major projects and financial matters, so they feel pride and ownership of the city they live in.
I will listen and respect the concerns and expectations of Cambridge residents and together with them find solutions. Cambridge residents are the eyes, ears and heart of Cambridge and by working together we can make it a place we will always want to come home to.