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Cipolla proud of accomplishments, seeks more progress in 'final' term

Orillia businessman one of four candidates running in Ward 2; 'I am about progress, not negativism'
2018-07-19 cipolla runs again.jpg
Ralph Cipolla, standing in front of the recreation centre being built on West Street, is seeking re-election in Ward 2. Dave Dawson/OrilliaMatters

Ralph Cipolla has been “waiting 40 years” for Orillia to open a new multi-use recreation centre. That wait is almost over.

“I want to finish the rec centre and see it open,” said the veteran city politician, who is seeking re-election in Ward 2. (There are four people running for the two available seats) “There are quite a few other things that I also want to see happen.”

Cipolla, a downtown merchant who has started several long-running festivals and community events over more than four decades of volunteering and public service, says he is also looking forward to seeing the ambitious waterfront plans realized.

“It is a priority for me to include something down there that creates jobs,” said Cipolla, who envisions a 300-400-seat conference centre and hotel at the redeveloped lakeshore. “Whether it’s a conference centre of something else, I think we need some form of employment. We can’t just build houses down there that ... only the rich can afford.”

Cipolla, who was chair of the affordable housing committee that developed an ambitious action plan that was later shelved, said he would also like to see “some concept of affordable housing” included in the waterfront plan.

Orillia, he said, would also be an ideal place to build tiny homes. That is a concept, Cipolla explains, that has become popular in larger U.S. cities.

“These are one-bedroom tiny homes that you can build for $55,000 to $65,000 and people can rent them for $400 to $600 a month in a rent-to-own program,” said Cipolla.

He believes the city could play a key role, through zoning changes or grants, to help such a project take off. Ultimately, he hopes the private sector would then take up the cause.

Cipolla is also pushing the creation of a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse that would have retail space and a place for training that would allow youths and others to learn first-hand how to grow food.

“When I was a kid, my dad grew enough potatoes and vegetables to get us through the winter,” said Cipolla. “You don’t see that much anymore.”

Cipolla has cultivated support for his greenhouse plan and is currently looking to find a location for the project.

While there is much he hopes to accomplish in the next four years, he says he is proud of what this council has done.

“As I’ve been knocking on doors, everybody has been very positive about what this council has done. We’ve accomplished quite a bit,” said the 72-year-old, who recently celebrated the birth of his second grandchild.

Cipolla cited the opening of Costco, the revamping of the city’s economic development department, the creation of a new municipal logo, the imminent opening of the new aquatic centre, the potential Hydro One deal, the waterfront plans and investment in Smart Cities initiatives – including the commitment from Bell to provide “true fibre Internet connectivity” – as positive moves.

To help Orillia continue to grow, he says, the next council will have to explore options related to expanding its borders as the city is “all but tapped out for development lands.”

He also wants to see the downtown, which he says was last updated in the 1980s, “refreshed.”

“I don’t do this for personal gain,” he says of politics. “I love Orillia. I think my passion for Orillia goes a long way and I want to finish my political career by finishing these projects. I am about progress not negativism because without progress, you have nothing; you don’t have a community that grows … that’s what I’m all about.”

Editor's Note: All candidates in Orillia's municipal election will be profiled in the days ahead. They will be published daily, by ward, in alphabetical order; the mayoralty candidates will also be profiled.