The race is heating up in Brandon’s Rosser ward, as the number of candidates has jumped from one to three.
Incumbent Coun. Corey Roberts announced he will seek re-election on Thursday, the same day former Brandon Sun managing editor James O’Connor announced he wants to represent the ward in which he has worked for 15 years.
"I’m just sick and tired of watching Rosser ward slowly decay — especially the downtown area," O’Connor said. "I don’t think enough has been done. I think we’ve had poor representation on council … and I think Rosser ward needs a much stronger voice moving forward."
O’Connor, 54, spent the past 10 years as editor of the Brandon Sun. In the mid-1980s, he worked at the Brandon Sun for five years as a photographer and entertainment columnist.
O’Connor said his experience working in the journalism industry for some 30 years will lend itself well to the role of city councillor.
"It certainly has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of people, especially in my role as editor," he said. "I met with a lot of people behind closed doors, and you get to develop a real sense of the true nature of Brandon ... I think I have a pretty good grasp of the issues. Also, journalists tend to not shy away from asking the tough questions."
O’Connor is not a member of a political party, but calls himself a "Red Tory."
"I believe in fiscal responsibility, but I have compassion and believe in strong social safety nets," he said.
Back in the mid-’90s, O’Connor worked as a press secretary at the Manitoba legislature when Progressive Conservative Premier Gary Filmon was in power.
O’Connor previously lived in Rosser ward, but currently resides in the neighbouring University ward.
Downtown development would be a top priority for O’Connor.
"The McKenzie Seeds building is sitting there, there are people waiting to develop it, but for some reason it’s just not happening," he said. "I think the city has to step up, has to get other levels of government in line and get the project moving."
O’Connor said he plans to do a lot of door-knocking to hear the concerns of constituents, and hopes to get some "fantastic and positive ideas" on how to move Rosser ward forward.
Meanwhile, Roberts confirmed he will file his papers by the end of the week. The married father of five was elected in 2010.
"I think Rosser ward is the most dynamic both from a business standpoint — from the commercial HUB downtown— to social dynamics," said Roberts, 44.
Roberts, who is executive director of Sokol Manor and Sokol Supportive Housing, says affordable housing initiatives are a priority, as well as repairing old infrastructure and preserving the ward’s heritage.
"One of the other things that I want to put on the agenda ... is really enforcing the absentee landlord policies," he said.
Roberts says he does not bring party politics to the council table because as a municipality "we need to work with any party" that is in power at the provincial and federal level.
Policing issues in the downtown ward is also a key issue. Roberts would like to see a Neighbourhood Watch program be reinstated.
"Getting neighbours to watch out for other neighbours and add another set of eyes to the neighbourhood," he said. "Reporting issues when they happen."
When asked about challenges and highlights of his four years on council, Roberts pointed to Renaissance Brandon for both.
"There was a great period of time where we were able to get new infrastructure things downtown, like the internet connectivity, working towards making Princess Park a more vibrant location, funding multiple projects," he said. "But in the same breath the next challenges are … changing the scope of how the organization is formed and funded, moving forward will be some of the biggest hurdles."
The third candidate in Rosser is Miles Crossman, who was the first to file his papers back in June. Crossman is a private contractor, father and lifelong resident of Rosser ward.
Rosser is the only ward with three candidates. Six wards have only one candidate — Assiniboine (Jeff Fawcett); Victoria (Barry Cullen); University (Jeff Harwood); Meadows-Waverly (John LoRegio); Linden Lanes (Shawn Berry) and Green Acres (Jan Chaboyer).
Three wards have two candidates — South Centre (Kim Longstreet and Lonnie Patterson); Richmond (Ray Berthelette and Ron Brown); and Riverview (Vanessa Hamilton and Tyson Tame).
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Crossman launching online survey for voters
Garbage pickup, safety concerns and vandalism are a few of the common complaints in Rosser ward, according to candidate Miles Crossman.
"I’ve heard … a lot of complaints about basically trying to improve our neighbourhood," he said.
Crossman has been busy talking to constituents, and is launching an online survey for Rosser residents.
"I felt the need to have another venue, just another outlet for people to communicate with us," he said. "I think it’s really important for that type of inclusion to happen, to be able to address people on all levels."
Crossman is a lifelong resident of Rosser ward. He pledges to make Brandon a "safer, cleaner and better place to live."
The online survey will be launched today. Residents will be asked to rate aspects of the ward, including access to entertainment and recreation, affordable housing, health care and food services. There are also questions on the role a city councillor should play, and how to improve quality of life.
"There is an open section for their comments and an opportunity for them to explain the concerns they might have," he said.
Crossman said he plans to compile the data and use it to form a mandate for his campaign.
Visit surveymonkey.com/s/XB3DMHZ to fill out the survey.
» Brandon Sun
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 22, 2014