I’ve been busy getting the word out giving residents reasons to elect me for Ward 1 Woolwich Township. I’ve been making a few headlines, and filling out plenty of questionnaires. Posted below are my responses to the various questions posed. If you have any questions feel free to reach out and connect with me using the form on the website. Happy reading! Thanks for making an informed decision on October 27, 2014.

THE OBSERVER

Personal Info:

Name: Patrick Merlihan
Address: 34 Second St., Elmira
DOB: November 3, 1972
Occupation: Print/Web Manager The Observer, Vice-President Cathedral Communications Inc.

Related Experience:

Tell voters about yourself: (400wrds)

I’m a lifelong resident of Elmira. I attended school here. I launched a business here. And I’m happy to be raising my family here.  My two decades in the local media makes me naturally skeptical,  inquisitive and informed about our Township. I’ve been involved in the community in a variety of ways through my 41 years. You may have heard of The Great Pumpkin Party. It was the largest free Halloween party in the region for about 13 years. My brother and I created, sponsored and hosted that event at EDSS. It was something we started for the kids, strictly for the fun of it. Currently I am a Canada Coach certified for basketball with the Waterloo Wildhawks. In recent years I have been involved with Woolwich Minor Hockey, South Woolwich softball, and was a Cub leader for three years with the 1st Elmira Scouts. I get my hands dirty washing dishes and serving food at the House of Friendship a couple times a year as well. I’m quick to lend a hand when needed – it’s the Woolwich way. Building on my community involvement, I am someone who will listen and present your concerns at Council. I will strongly encourage meaningful discussion and support motions that put our residents  first. I will endeavour to ‘do the right thing.” That is the job as I see it.

What is likely to be the most pressing issue on council’s agenda in the next four years?

Managing the pressures of growth on infrastructure and services in Elmira and Breslau. Making choices to  pay for infrastructure within our means and without adding more burden on taxpayers. Putting our residents first and letting them experience the benefit of this new growth.

 What issue would you like to make a priority on that agenda?

Almost half of  the annual township budget is spent on compensating staff. Positions with little benefit to residents are created without justification or scrutiny and this trend is completely unsustainable. Council needs to focus on our essential needs and find the right people to deliver responsive, quality customer-focused service. With talk of finding funds for our $68 million infrastructure deficit, it amazes me that a serious review of staffing levels hasn’t taken place. Every position needs justification when we are spending the public’s money.

If you had the chance to make one change to make life better in the municipality, what would it be?

Encourage more kids and adults to be involved in sports and physical activity. There are numerous benefits to keeping children active and engaged in the community. More opportunities for physical fitness, socializing, and self-esteem boosting encourages happy, healthy citizens. As a parent of kids in sports I benefit too. It’s another opportunity to engage with neighbours and use our Township facilities.

Our township managers are quick to raise user fees  making sports and recreation beyond reach for many kids and families. Programming opportunities for adults are fewer and require monthly memberships to participate forcing  adults to find recreation outlets in Kitchener and Waterloo. I think that’s a gigantic missed opportunity. Far from capacity, encouraging more use is why we built these facilities in the first place.

 In the tradeoff between controlling spending and hiking taxes, where do you position yourself?

Taxes pay for services, infrastructure and programs that are essential in maintaining the high quality of life that we enjoy. We have a decent industrial tax base which helps Woolwich maintain the second lowest tax rates in the Region. It could easily be the lowest. Council needs to start controlling spending, removing duplication, finding efficiencies and start reviewing legacy programs and services that provide little benefit to the public.

What is the most important spending priority for the municipality?

Addressing our roads is paramount. Increased traffic in areas throughout Elmira have made unsafe conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. Once quiet streets have been turned into bypass arteries for speeding vehicles navigating through town . Twenty years of talking about a truck bypass is long enough. Let’s start putting a made-in-Woolwich plan in motion.

Voter turnout is historically low for municipal elections. Why should people care? Why should they get involved, if only just to show up to cast a vote?

People want to be heard. They want to know that their concerns are considered and validated at some point with a response. That is not happening. When the Regional government reduced service with a plan to close our transfer station people get upset and they look to their representative on Council. Council has an opportunity to be creative and find a solution to what the community clearly sees value in. Local government has more influence on your everyday lives, and you have a say. I will be a phone call, email or bike ride away should you wish to voice your concern.

Growth and development will put pressure on local municipalities as demand for infrastructure and services grow. We’re told growth is not only a good thing, but that it’s essential. However, politicians never say why that is despite the many negatives. What’s the best way to manage/control/prevent growth from harming the quality of life here?

It is important to manage growth so that our area doesn’t lose the attributes that attract residents to it. Our kids can safely walk to school and ride their bikes through town to visit one of our great parks. That’s one of the things I like about Woolwich. The best way to manage growth is through smart planning. Making sure that residents can still walk to services and businesses if they choose to encourages environmentally friendly and healthy behaviors.  Planning neighbourhoods with a community feeling and avoiding “cookie-cutter” developments keeps Woolwich attractive. Ensuring a variety of housing densities in our neighbourhoods attracts residents of all ages. Making smart decisions about traffic patterns means growth can happen while maintaining road safety. These measures can maintain the character of the Township we’ve chosen as our home.

Does the current municipal culture serve the public good, or could it be improved (e.g. too self-serving)?

The municipal culture can be improved.  I’ve said it before, but the administration of our Township is too large. No members of the administration reside locally, and it just seems like they aren’t invested in the public good. There is a push to be considered “professionals” that has seen once-volunteer jobs become paid positions. People want to give back to the community, and the opportunities seem to be dwindling in the current environment. Residents and organizations that try to communicate with township officials about their concerns are feeling ignored and discouraged.

Our municipal government should lead by example putting residents first.

Link to September 12, 2014 story

http://observerxtra.com/and-then-there-were-six-in-woolwich-ward-1-race/

THE RECORD

Tell Us About Yourself.

I’m a lifelong resident of Elmira. I attended school here. I launched The Observer here. And I’m happy to be raising my family here.  My two decades in the local media makes me naturally skeptical,  inquisitive and informed about our Township. I am someone who will listen and present your concerns at Council. I will strongly encourage meaningful discussion and support motions that put our residents  first. I will endeavour to ‘do the right thing.” That is the job as I see it.

Three issues and what you intend to do.

  1. Pushback on Taxes: more than half of tax is spent on an expanding administration at an unsustainable rate. A complete review of staffing including an organizational restructuring with the goal of creating an environment to better serve the public.
  2. Public Interest First: The trust between resident and Township is at an all-time low. Saying you are transparent and accountable doesn’t make it so. You must be transparent and accountable. I will encourage open dialogue, listen to resident’s concerns and tell the truth.
  3. Pressure From Growth: Close to 2000 homes are on the books to be built. It will be vitally important for local government to be responsive. A plan for the increased pressure on infrastructure and services, social services, and already problematic traffic snarls need forethought.

Criminal Record: No.

http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4902280-patrick-merlihan/

ELMIRA INDEPENDENT

Candidate: Patrick Merlihan

Position: Councillor, Ward 1

Address:
34 Second St., Elmira
Contact:
Home: 519-669-3833
Cell: 226-789-3833
Website: www.merlihan.com
Twitter:@PatMerlihan

Occupation:
Print/Web Manager, The Observer
Vice-President of Cathedral Communications Inc.

Volunteer Work:

  • Co-created, co-sponsored, co-hosted The Great Pumpkin Party, a free community Halloween Party that attracted around 500 kids per year for 13 years.
    • Certified Basketball Coach with Waterloo Wildhawks – 3rd Season.
    • South Woolwich Baseball – Assistant Coach.
    • Woolwich Minor Hockey – Atom Hockey Manager.
    • 3 years as a cub leader with First Elmira Scouting.
    • Volunteer at House of Friendship – preparing food, serving food, washing dishes with team from Gale Presbyterian Church.

Priorities for Woolwich Township:

  • A top-down review of staffing
    • The creation of zero-based budgets
    • Real action on infrastructure deficit
    • More public information available to the public
    • Transportation – Hwy 85 is currently inadequate for commuter traffic, and soon there will be 2000 more homes using the road. We are no further ahead on a truck bypass since talk in last election.
  • Better customer service at all levels of Township business

Why I am running for election.

Four years ago we gave this council a mandate for change. Those elected failed to deliver on the most basic of principles: to serve the public. Inaction at the Council table has cost us all. Councillors’ lack of vision, failure to ask questions, and lack of fortitude to say “no” to an expanding administration is a disservice to democracy. Count me as one of the many Canadians disillusioned with politicians.

My occupation in the media makes me naturally skeptical and inquisitive. I am someone who will listen to your concerns. I’ll make sure there’s a balance to the ideas presented to Council and strongly encourage meaningful discussion. I will take the public’s concerns to the Council table, and endeavour to ‘do the right thing.” That is the job as I see it.

I’m a lifelong resident of Elmira. I attended school here. I launched a business here. And I’m happy to be raising my family here.  Building on my community involvement , my history within the township, and my knowledge of municipal politics, I’ve put my name forward as a candidate for Ward 1 in the October 27 municipal election.

SPEECH

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
WMC – Woolwich Community Centre

Introductory Speech for Ward 1 Panel Discussion

Elmira’s my home. I grew up here. Attended school here. Launched a business here. I’m happy to be raising my family here. And, I’m excited at the prospect of being a Ward 1 Councillor here.

On October 27 Elmira residents will have more choices for Ward 1 representation than ever before. Advance poll numbers indicate a significant increase in voter turnout this election. That’s exciting! It means people are engaged in their communities. Does it mean people want change? Or more of the same? We will all find out next week.

You’ve had about five weeks to see our names and faces on signs, read a website, perused ads or read profiles of the candidates in the local papers.  Hopefully there is someone on the list you can most identify with and think will represent Elmira residents best.

My job at the Observer has been a rewarding experience. For the past twenty years as the Production Manager and part-owner I have been part of a team that connects people to the communities in Woolwich. Every week The Observer stimulates the economy, promotes tourism and economic development, entertains and provides perspectives about the people and issues in our communities. It is community service delivered to your door.

I have enjoyed success at my job. I win national awards. I am an expert in my field. My newspaper  is judged best in class in Ontario and Canada by our peers. That is no easy feat. I work with super-talented co-workers.  I have mentored and continue to watch with pride former protégé’s excel in their field after moving on. It takes team work, long hours and a unwavering commitment  to serve in the public interest.

That’s what I bring to the table.

I endeavour to do the right thing. Put resident’s interests first. Earn your trust. That’s the job as I see it.

For the Friends of the Winterbourne Valley

We invite you to provide a statement concerning whether or not you would vote to approve a zone change application to go below the water table at this pit. Can you explain why you would vote that way, and how a yes or no vote would benefit the township?

There is so much talk of the necessity of preserving our prime agricultural lands, which Woolwich just happens to have plenty of, that it is frustrating for residents to have the constant threat of a gravel pit looming over them. Equally important is our ground water sources that we must protect at all costs.

Although there isn’t an application before Council I have read the information you presented and know where you stand. The information on your website is very persuasive. From what you present I can’t see how below water table pits are in anyway a benefit to the environment, our citizens, or economy.

With my background in the media, I prefer having both sides of the story prior to casting any final verdict. That being said, if an application comes before Council then Preston Sand and Gravel should be prepared to present compelling information. They need to support how the  revenue forecast from this site for themselves is justification for creating waste land for our citizens. Like other issues that will arise, I will listen to both arguments and make decisions that have greater benefit to our citizens.

Waterloo Region Rainbow Coalition

Do you have any experience or previous involvement with LGBTQ community, or any other community that has been marginalized?

I have no direct experience or involvement with LGBTQ community. That is a product of where I live, and opportunity rather than a product of any beliefs I hold.

My experience is one I share with my wife raising two boys in Elmira. They are now ten and twelve. We have shared with them our values that all people should be afforded the right to be treated with respect and dignity. Our values for marriage extend to all those who choose to marry. I know that the conversations with our children translate to the schoolyard and their community, because they refuse to be silent when they hear close-minded comments.

If elected, how might you promote inclusion and belonging for the LGBTQ community?

I would support initiatives in the community. Our youth centre doesn’t currently have a LGBTQ representation. That is one possible area to promote inclusion.

If elected, how might you address issues of concern to the LGBTQ community, such as the following: Hate crimes and bullying – LGBTQ youth homelessness – Workplace and employment barriers – Barriers to adoption and assisted reproduction – Access to long-term care and retirement housing – Access to healthcare and social services overall.

Many of these issues would be dealt with at a Regional or Provincial body. There is no place in any community  for hate crimes and bullying and as a small municipality we could lobby upper tiers of government to address concerns. Thanks for the opportunity to take your survey.

http://yourwrrc.ca/wp-wrrcstuff/uploads/2014/10/2014-Municipal-Election-Townships-Candidates-Survey-Results-WRRC.pdf

Heritage Preservation Questionnaire

What value to our community is preservation of heritage properties? What have you done to save built heritage in your municipality?

Heritage properties add character to the community, and along with them hold stories about the people and times of our shared past. Heritage properties are worth preserving. I have no experience saving a heritage property in Woolwich Township. I like that the Gore Park Bandstand in Elmira was preserved.

How will you balance land development pressures against the need to preserve significant landscapes, heritage structures and older neighbourhoods?

The Official plan at both the Region and Township have staging for new development areas. To the best of my knowledge there are very few areas in Woolwich deemed historically significant. I supported the stand on a gravel pit situated next to the West Montrose Covered Bridge.

Would you encourage the adaptive reuse of your community’s built heritage? How?

Absolutely. Preserving heritage buildings through repurposing sites for modern use can be aesthetically appealing adding character and preserving a piece of the past.

What two additional heritage landscapes/properties/districts would like to see protected through listing designation?

Farmland. Areas where gravel pits threaten workable land, water table, and landscape. Covered bridge area which already designated.

Will you support a grant to those who seek to conserve and restore their heritage properties? How large a grant would you offer to property owners to preserve a heritage building? Are financial incentives important to encourage home owners to invest in heritage properties?

I would support having staff help those seeking grants to restore heritage properties. I don’t believe the Township is in a position to offer financial incentives for heritage properties. However, it would be worth examining if there are Regional, Provincial or Federal grants the Township could be applying for to assist. The Township could definitely fill a support role to helping preserve heritage properties.

 Do you agree that a municipal council should act if necessary to designate a heritage property even when the owner disagrees. Under what circumstances would you vote against the recommendation of the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee to designate a building as a heritage landmark?

I suppose it would really depend on the property’s historical significance. Just because there is a policy doesn’t always mean it should apply in every case. Common sense and a pros and cons should be examined in each case that is presented. If the home-owner was adamantly opposed to the designation the Township should be prepared to purchase the property and resell it.