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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

SDH makes radio waves

Mayoral candidate Shari Decter Hirst speaks in September 2010 at the opening of her campaign office in her basement headquarters located below the Rosser Medical Clinic at 841 Rosser Ave. — a space which she owns, but told the media she was renting from herself in the form of a personal campaign contribution. It’s one of the properties that was on the recent tax arrears list. For trivia fans, you’ll recall that the day after the campaign headquarters opening, a city building inspector showed up. Seems the space wasn't up to code in a few areas and didn’t have an occupancy permit. Then, the day after that, a fire inspector rolled up and went through the place. The medical office on the main floor of the building — where Shari's husband, Dr. Derry Decter, has worked for years — also needed a few touch-ups to be up to code. The campaign office was then moved to the south end of the city, to a strip mall next to Forman Honda.

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Mayoral candidate Shari Decter Hirst speaks in September 2010 at the opening of her campaign office in her basement headquarters located below the Rosser Medical Clinic at 841 Rosser Ave. — a space which she owns, but told the media she was renting from herself in the form of a personal campaign contribution. It’s one of the properties that was on the recent tax arrears list. For trivia fans, you’ll recall that the day after the campaign headquarters opening, a city building inspector showed up. Seems the space wasn't up to code in a few areas and didn’t have an occupancy permit. Then, the day after that, a fire inspector rolled up and went through the place. The medical office on the main floor of the building — where Shari's husband, Dr. Derry Decter, has worked for years — also needed a few touch-ups to be up to code. The campaign office was then moved to the south end of the city, to a strip mall next to Forman Honda.

"I know no one likes to pay taxes — myself included."

— Mayor Shari Decter Hirst on CKLQ 880 this week.

What a difference a week can make in an outsider’s view of Mayor Shari Decter Hirst.

As Winnipeg was scraping its way through a controversy surrounding poor snow removal, CJOB 680 acerbic talkmeister Charles Adler praised the mayor of the Wheat City to contrast his view that Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz isn’t doing a very good job.

This after Adler and a Winnipeg councillor — both praising SDH — figured out her name. Really.

Here are some comments the veteran broadcaster made during the week of Jan. 6, including during an interview with Decter Hirst:

• "Brandon has a boss, and Winnipeg has something else."

• "Shari, I’m glad that you’re doing a great job and respecting the people who are electing you."

Then, something changed Adler’s view of our mayor this week.

During an interview with Brandon-based Winnipeg Free Press columnist Deveryn Ross, the topic of the mayor’s unpaid property taxes on two properties co-owned with her husband came up:

• Adler: "Last week ... we were giving the mayor of Brandon a lot of credit."

• Adler: "Some people were tweeting us and emailing us ... please stop giving her credit because in some ways she’s a bag of hammers."

• Ross: "This has been a four-year gong show, Chuck ... There has been an ongoing problem for embarrassments to the city and this is just the latest."

• Adler: "I guess this sort of takes her out of contention to run for the NDP leadership if and when they drag (Premier) Greg Selinger out of there kicking and screaming."

• Ross: "I think there are some people in Brandon who would happily drive her to Winnipeg for free. When you talk about a tax-and-spend New Democrat, Shari Decter Hirst is at the top of the list."

As for SDH’s quote at the top of this column from the CKLQ Feedback show, she was referring to the marathon city budget deliberations last weekend, which resulted in a proposed tax increase of 1.42 per cent.

But when it was made public across the province the day after the CKLQ interview that the mayor was for the second consecutive year on the tax arrears list for the same two downtown properties, her words took on a more ominous tone.

And for the record, Her Worship and her hubby, Dr. Derry Decter, have now paid off just enough of the outstanding taxes to get them off the city’s tax arrears list.

Yup, nobody really likes paying taxes. However the mayor is really setting a bad example for the rest of us.

•••

City manager Scott Hildebrand doesn’t seem to be all that interested right now in digging too deeply into the question of whether Brandon could save a ton of cash by switching to RCMP for local policing.

In a pre-budget briefing to council on Jan. 10, his speaking notes indicate he has done some cursory research, but is still bringing forth some information that has to be questioned.

Hildebrand told council that Brandon would have to shoulder 100 per cent of the cost of contracting police services.

However, I was provided with information from a couple of sources that contradicts that statement.

My understanding is that a city the size of Brandon would pay 90 per cent and the federal government would chip in 10 per cent. And the level of policing service provided would be decided by council.

The RCMP is actually rather interested in expanding its contacted policing services as it provides the force with some benefits, such as sharing infrastructure costs with other contracted jurisdictions — such as the Province of Manitoba — and having more Mounties available in any given region to be deployed for short periods of time for high-security events.

And I’m told there’s no immediate reason the province would stop its ongoing funding of extra officers for Brandon, although of course the situation would be reviewed should we switch to the federal force.

Now I have to stress again that none of the columnists who have been writing on this topic lately have suggested there is anything wrong with the Brandon Police Service.

However, policing forms the largest piece of the city budget’s pie. So it only makes sense that the folks who tell us how much we have to pay in taxes would continually look for ways to help us keep more coins in our pockets.

If it doesn’t make financial sense to switch to the RCMP, then we’ll keep the BPS and keep pressuring it to keep costs down.

However, I have a feeling we’ll have to wait until after the October municipal election before this issue gets any serious attention.

The city has already alienated the Brandon Fire and Emergency Services rank and file, so I’m sure there is no appetite now to rankle the men and women of the Brandon Police Service.

One indication is Hildebrand’s fawning over the city force, in these excerpts from his speaking notes:

• "The BPS has faithfully, loyally and with dedication served the citizens of this community since July 12, 1882."

• "BPS members and employees have established deep roots in the community and are involved in many aspects of it, giving back to it and in general being great ambassadors of the community."

Cry me a river.

•••

Speaking of the municipal election, Richmond ward Coun. Stephen Montague is inching toward making an announcement that he’s going to run for mayor.

And while Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell isn’t ready to publicly throw his hat into the ring, behind the scenes he’s taking a hard look at his options.

Before Christmas, the veteran ’90s-era Brandon city councillor and MLA since 1999 wasn’t so sure he was ready to make a run for the mayor’s chair — something he has always thought about doing.

But a surge of public support since I challenged him in the Dec. 14 Editor’s Notebook column to either stop criticizing the current mayor and senior administration or step up to the plate has had a profound effect on the man whose longtime motto is "Working for Brandon."

Not to mention his party is tanking in the polls — especially in some key constituencies in Winnipeg. And Caldwell’s boss, Premier Greg Selinger, is personally ranked near the bottom of the list in popularity polls of Canadian first ministers.

So there’s that for Caldwell to consider. He might be in opposition or even out of a job after the provincial election, expected to be called in 2016. As for any other candidates for Brandon mayor, nobody is really talking turkey.

Perhaps the results of an exclusive Brandon Sun/Probe Research poll expected at the end of the month asking respondents who they would vote for from a list of seven names will result in some movement.

And just so everyone is clear, since I have been friends with Caldwell for about 30 years, I will not be writing anything about the municipal election until the ballots are being counted the night of Oct. 28, should he declare his candidacy.

•••

Attention bands and arts groups! Our Thursday "Let’s Do Something" arts and entertainment calendar has expanded thanks to it being sponsored by a couple of local advertisers — The Keg and Smitty’s — who realized how well-read the long-running feature is.

But we’re always looking for photographs to have on hand to run with the calendar — especially of local bands, club DJs and solo performers who could be performing at some time in and around Brandon.

You don’t have to have a show booked, just send us a JPEG photo of decent size and quality for publication. Include the names of people in the photo for a caption and we’ll keep it on file for use in the future.

We do have a sizable electronic library of images from over the years, but band members change, and often we are publishing a photo from a summer festival when the group is performing in a bar in the middle of winter.

Just send your photos to: opinion@brandonsun.com and type PHOTO FOR LDS FILE in the subject line.

Hey, there’s nothing better than free publicity.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 17, 2014

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"I know no one likes to pay taxes — myself included."

— Mayor Shari Decter Hirst on CKLQ 880 this week.

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"I know no one likes to pay taxes — myself included."

— Mayor Shari Decter Hirst on CKLQ 880 this week.

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