Tonight is a special night for Ward 4 and Ward 5 residents, as it will be your first opportunity to meet the candidates in the same location, and grill us with the questions that you've been dying to ask us. In preparation for this evening, I thought I would share with you a (not so) brief questionnaire that Newstalk 980 CJME sent to all candidates last month that they should be publishing soon.
I also want to remind you that there is so much more to follow on my Facebook page that I don't get to publish on here, and it is a great opportunity for you to interact with me as well!
Why should voters hire you?
I am passionate about improving the quality of life for all residents of Regina. I have demonstrated my dedication to doing just that through my continued appearances at City Hall on a number of different issues over the past few years, and feel that should show residents that I am not just about words, I am a man of action. Our City is a great place to call home for some, but for others, they dread living here for a number of reasons, including crime, gangs, unemployment, housing costs, and so much more. City Hall can do so much to affect those issues and until we directly address them, and pretend they are not a serious problem, we are going to have a set portion of the population dreading living here.
Who should we call for a reference?
Pat Fiacco - Not saying he will give me a glowing reference, but he does know how passionate I am about this City.
What is your greatest strength?
Obviously, my ability with numbers. I'm about far more than a financial accountant who can tell you how much your business made last year, though, I can also tell you what things you can improve upon, how to improve, and lay out a detailed road map to get you there. Translating this to City Council, I've analyzed the numbers that get reported to residents each year through the budgetary process, and I am very confident that we have a lot of room to make all of the changes I've included in my platform and so much more, with absolutely no impact to residential property taxes. (Other than them going down as in my platform)
What is your greatest weakness?
I am a little too trusting in people that I have just met. It caused me to falsely believe the rumour of Pat Fiacco's father-in-law back in 2012, and I've put trust in some during the 2012 election that ended up burning me in the end.
What would be your priorities at city hall?
Improving the quality of life for all residents of Regina. This includes focusing on reducing water bills, reconfiguring residential and business property taxes, improved downtown and hospital parking, improved transit, increased recreational opportunities and so much more!
Where do you stand on city taxes?
I feel that residential property taxes are far too high, and an independent report by CFIB confirms this. For every dollar that residents pay, businesses only pay $2.12, compared to the national average of $2.83. This needs to change. Businesses should be subsidizing residential taxes, not the other way around. This can be done through a variety of means, including raising business taxes, lowering residential taxes, or a combination thereof.
Where do you stand on city debt?
Debt can be a good thing if it is managed properly, and used for essential infrastructure items. No, the stadium was not an essential infrastructure item. However, it is done and we can do nothing more than try to maximize the utilization of the facility now that it's been built. Thankfully, we have quite a bit of room to our current maximum debt limit, so if we did need to use it, it is there. However, we do have a significant amount of financial reserves, with nowhere to use it. As an accountant, it bothers me that we would rather borrow money than use money we already have, since you are going to pay for borrowed money, than the interest you would lose on reserves.
Where do you stand on downtown development?
I think the Regina Revitalization Initiative is an amazing opportunity and that should be the key focus of City Hall over the next four years. The Railyard Renewal Project is an opportunity that should not be squandered, and it needs to be done right. I don't believe any of the current alternatives that the City has considered are the right path. I have a plan that I have shared on my website that I feel residents would be more supportive of if they were given the option.
Where do you stand on downtown parking?
Downtown parking is horrendous. I can't tell you how many times I hear of people from out of town who avoid downtown like the plague, for fear of parking 0.1 metres too far from the curb, or outstaying their welcome at their meter by five minutes and getting a hefty parking ticket. This is the wrong way to encourage people to visit our downtown, and sadly, the Regina Downtown BID doesn't quite get it. I plan to address this issue by adding off-street parking options, including at least one major parkade, which will take the 9-5'ers off the streets. The Cornwall Centre has a 12 month waiting list for long-term parking, and this is completely unacceptable and well within the City's ability to address. Once the off-street parking options are addressed, then we need to reconsider the rates we charge and the time limits we have in force.
Where do you stand on roads and infrastructure?
I feel our roads and infrastructure are being horribly neglected, and the current Council just doesn't have a realistic plan to address this anytime soon. We have a situation where City Hall is paying $10 Million of taxpayer money on the Victoria Avenue overpass, while they missed out on the Federal and Provincial Government's funding any of it, as they had thought they would be able to obtain. The Provincial Government was apparently supposed to hand that over to the City about six years ago in "as new" condition, but apparently someone at City Hall screwed up and now it's basically a lost cause, at least per Mayor Fougere (if you watch the City Council video from September 26, 2016, you can confirm this). He "makes no apologies" for doing this, however, because apparently the overpass was now in such dire shape that it might have been risking lives to delay it any longer. Yet, this wasn't the #1 priority item in January 2015.
At the end of the day, we need a better plan to address this and without a City Council willing to focus on a realistic 5, 10 and 20 year plan, this will never happen.
Where do you stand on photo radar?
To me, photo radar is nothing but a cash grab. Mailing someone a photo of an offense they allegedly committed weeks, if not months prior, does absolutely nothing to curb that offense as it occurred. Maybe it might deter them from speeding in that area again in the future, but we need a system that punishes offenders as the offense is happening to have a real impact. When you add the fact that the photo radar has had major issues with its technology and the fact that only a portion of those offenders actually get a ticket, it really makes one question the validity of the enforcement process. Thankfully, touch wood, I have never been ticketed for speeding, either through photo radar or otherwise, but even if I had, that wouldn't change my opinion on this matter.
Where do you stand on environmental issues?
I'm not really a big environmentalist by any means, but I do believe that the City should do everything it can to minimize it's negative impact on the environment. One such item that I supported was the implementation of electric or hybrid vehicles into the City's fleet of vehicles. This would have a two-fold impact, as it would require charging stations to be placed at locations around our City which would help those that have electric vehicles and currently do not have a great selection of charging locations in our City.
There is absolutely no reason why we should have Parking Enforcement officers driving to the suburbs in GMC Terrain SUV's. This is a perfect example of what the City is currently failing miserably at.
Who inspires you and why?
A current person that inspires me is Senator Bernie Sanders in the United States. I feel he is a prime example of what a politician should be and we should all aspire to be like him. He doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. I feel the US would have been so much better off with him as a candidate, but sadly, the two left are an example of what is wrong with the format of the United States electoral system.