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Ward 9: Morales, the only acclaimed councillor, reflects on last term and looks ahead

'I've learned that you need to continually interact with your residents'
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Just because he’s the only uncontested member of city council seeking re-election doesn’t mean Sergio Morales will lay low until late October.

The 25-year-old representative for Ward 9 -- which is located in the Painswick area of Barrie’s south end as well as the Barrie South GO station before stretching south into prime, developable land -- says it’s a feather in his cap to be acclaimed, because the district has never elected the same councillor in back-to-back terms since the ward was created.

“They don’t settle,” said Morales, who was 21 years old last election. “I got the sense at the doors that Ward 9 was ready to entrust someone who, regardless of age, was passionate and relentless, and would work everyday to live up to that expectation.”

Morales says he’s “humble and thankful … that no one felt the need to run against me, but I don’t take it for granted.”

And despite the acclamation and lack of a formal campaign, Morales says he has no plans to “phone it in... because residents do not put up with a sense of entitlement.”

With one term under his belt and insight into how things work down at city hall, Morales says he still has the passion and energy that won him a municipal seat in 2014.

“I've learned that you need to continually interact with your residents,” Morales tells BarrieToday. “They are the ones that put you at city hall by entrusting you with their vote, and councillors owe that to their residents.”

The first term didn’t come without some growing pains, however. Morales says he “quickly realized that politicians have egos,” and managing those personalities is also key to affecting change.

“While you may want to give someone a mouthful for decision you disagree with at present, it is often wise to pick your battles so that you build bridges with those people for a future issue that you need their support on,” he said. “A person can come to Barrie City Hall as a populist, but if they keep that mentality and implement a combative approach, instead of developing rapport and inspiring respect, they won't get anything done.”

Morales say a councillor who can keep their thumb on the pulse of the city can better shape policy and be more effective in their job. From plow drivers to bus drivers, that includes talking to city staff about issues and getting their “off-the-record opinions” on projects.

Morales ran in 2014 on a platform that included repairs to city’s “crumbling infrastructure,” and he says was pleased to see main roads such as Mapleview, Lockhart, Huronia and Madelaine widened and repaired.

“Taxpayers appreciate seeing their taxes put to work,” he said, noting the extension of Route 11 bus service to Country Club Estates was also a success story.

“Creating the new route, by working with a city staff member who lives in Ward 9, to reroute it through Park Place so that we can make it sustainable is exactly the kind of hustle that residents expect from us at city hall,” Morales said.

Morales also helped implement the universal bus pass, or U-Pass, at Georgian College and the revenue it will generate was “the cherry on the cake,” because it means better bus service for Ward 9 residents as well as an overall break on their taxes from the revenue it creates.

Looking forward to the next term, Morales says the Harvie Road overpass and continued repairs to Ward 9 roads are priorities. That also means further investment in infrastructure to accommodate growth.

For the city as a whole, he says “well-designed, sustainable, smart-growth development in our annexed lands will be critical to the future of our city.

“You know all the speeding that happens on subdivision roads that are wide and designed like a racetrack? That's one example of how poor planning can affect a family for decades. It is vital this is done right,” Morales said.

He also wants to see ways to address mental-health and addiction problems downtown, “which lately are surging and impacting those affected, but also making downtown patrons feel unsafe.”

The municipal election is Oct. 22.




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