Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/8/2018 (845 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As a strong believer in civic engagement, it is incumbent upon this columnist to thank local community activist Kim Longstreet for kicking off this municipal election season in fine style by organizing a community debate focused on important issues which she identified as addictions, mental health, poverty, crime and bigotry.
The debate will occur on Oct. 3, and sounds like it will follow a town hall format.
Given the low rates of voter turnout — sub-50 per cent in the last few municipal elections — are we doing a very good job in our community discussing important issues? Even tougher question — do we care?
Longstreet is betting that the citizens of Brandon do care, and I certainly hope she is correct. My fear is that she is wrong in her estimation.
Consider our last municipal election. One would think that four years of former mayor Shari Decter Hirst and her council would have been enough and that voters would be clamouring for an opportunity to make changes at city hall. While voters overwhelmingly elected Rick Chrest to fill the mayor’s chair, it is important to note that less than half of the eligible voters actually turned up.
In other words, for all of the people who complained about potholes and wild spending hikes, about unnecessary retention payments and excessive payrolls, less than half actually voted.
Furthermore, as per the usual, a number of council seats were uncontested. Acclamation ruled the day as several councillors found themselves running unopposed. Another fear of mine is that a similar situation may occur again in 2018.
As of this writing, it appears as though there will be a number of contested races, including Richmond, Assiniboine, and Riverview. This is healthy and I certainly thank the candidates who are engaged in the process and want to make a difference in their community.
Along Longstreet’s thoughts, there must be issues that Brandonites want their politicians to discuss prior to the upcoming Oct. 24 election. Here are a few that are worth contemplating:
• Taxes — Canadians are over-taxed at all levels, including municipally. Taxes inhibit small business while making it harder for all Canadians to live today and save for the future. Can you as a candidate identify either unnecessary taxes or unnecessary spending and outline for voters the steps you would take to alleviate this burden.
• Infrastructure spending — Council recently discussed a replacement for the Eighth Street Bridge. It had an accompanying price tag in the range of $8 million. Do you believe that this is money well spent? Is this bridge a priority for Brandon or should council invest our tax dollars serving larger issues?
•Crime — We are all familiar with the twin scourges of crime and drug addiction that appear to have overtaken our community, changing it in to a city many of us don’t recognize. Do you believe our council has done enough to fight these twin issues? If so, can you give Brandonites a real sense of when these troubling trends will end? If not, can you tell voters of the steps you recommend to fight back?
• Emergency services — In many North American cities, including Brandon, the cost of emergency services is fast-outstripping our ability to fund these services. Do you believe we have sufficient emergency services personnel at this time? Too few? Too many? Further, how do you see our community being able to fund this growing workforce in a time of fiscal restraint?
• Staffing — City staffing has continued to grow for decades. Do you believe that our city has a sufficient civil service, or either too large or insufficient for a community our size? If insufficient, what remedies do you have to build capacity? If too large, can you identify specific areas you would right-size.
• Downtown vision — For decades, politicians in Brandon have outlined their visions for our community. While we have recently enjoyed some progress in our community, do you believe we have progressed enough for the monies invested? Are we doing enough to encourage downtown development? If not, can you share two ideas you have to stimulate growth downtown?
These are just a few sample questions I have to foster engagement between voters and those who seek our votes. What are your questions? What is important to you? The time has come for Brandonites to speak out and make their voices heard.