The Star Phoenix continues profiling the ward candidates with a stop here in Ward 9.
The article sheds light on the issues that are top of mind for residents. Grab a coffee and give it a read to get a better understanding of who I am.
Unedited from the Star Phoenix:
Ward 9 encompasses Nutana Suburban Centre, Wildwood, Lakeview, Lakeridge, Lakewood Suburban Centre and Rosewood. Nutana Suburban Centre was added to this ward as part of a riding redistribution process. This ward was previously represented by Tiffany Paulsen, who opted not to seek re-election. Seven candidates are running in this ward.
The Saskatoon StarPhoenix emailed all ward candidates with seven questions. Candidates were asked to keep responses to 175 words. Below are their responses, edited for spelling and grammar. When responses exceeded 175 words, only the first 175 words were included.
Occupation: Small Business Owner (IT Specialist)
Neighbourhood of residence: Lakewood
Occupation: Retired mining electrician
Neighbourhood of residence: Wildwood
Age: Age, sex, and color does not matter in politics
Occupation: Business woman
Neighbourhood of residence: Erindale
Thomas W. Hrynuik
Occupation: Non Profit Financial Administrator
Neighbourhood of residence: Wildwood
Occupation: Commercial Manager with an international engineering and project management firm
Neighbourhood of residence: Stonebridge
No information provided
Occupation: Investigator (Human Rights Commission)
Neighbourhood of residence: Wildwood
SP: What is one big idea that could transform Saskatoon?
Jackson: Utilize the ward boundaries for Saskatoon to provide more accountability around service delivery. Have City Council inventory services like snow removal and infrastructure maintenance to create teams for those services and dedicate the teams to wards accordingly. Having those departments dedicate teams of staff to each ward could create better accountability. Splitting the city into smaller pieces would allow ward councillors and residents a better sense of who to work with on problems like snow clearing, sanding and potholes. Splitting the city in this manner doesn’t mean splitting the budget for each department equally. It just means delivery of service is split and more accountable. For example in some cases pothole maintenance could be done for multiple wards by one team. But a single team for other wards with more needs. Accountability, engagement with the ward councillor and transparency should always be the ultimate goal.
Cook: With todays emphasis on protecting the environment and with the belief that the city will continue to grow I think that we need to implement a light rail transport system . This would reduce the use of vehicles, connect all parts of the city ,and alleviate the parking problems downtown. This would of course be a long term project which would integrate with the transit system.
Dubois: Re-routing of trains outside city limits.
Hrynuik: I don’t believe there is one big idea sitting out there right now that could transform Saskatoon immediately. I feel there are a lot of things that need to be fixed before any one big idea would do any good. Things that need to be addressed include: crime, homelessness, and taxes. Something like the idea of a downtown arena could be a catalyst for transformation and as much of an economic impact as this would have, we need to address these other issues before this should be a priority.
Kaminski: Use a P3 partnership to refine, enhance and grow our transit services in Saskatoon. In this way we can benefit from the experts in the private transportation industry, share the costs and risks of the program and work together to better meet the needs of the citizens of Saskatoon. This concept has the potential to further maximize our tax dollars. As we look toward a Bus Rapid Transit system this could be an ideal option. We have an opportunity to learn from the P3 LRT program in Edmonton and its ATU 569 members.
Mowat: I don’t subscribe to utopian thinking. Rarely will one idea, policy or decision have a radical affect on a city. That being said, I believe that security and prosperity go hand-in-hand. A safer Saskatoon will be more successful, and more prosperity will lower our crime rate.
SP: A preliminary budget update is forecasting a property tax increase of 3.89 per cent, not including police or growth. Is that too high? If so, what do you believe should be cut to drop that number?
Jackson: Anytime City Council increases property taxes the first question asked must be “is value being provided”. What I’m hearing on the doorsteps of Ward 9 is that they want the basics done right and done right the first time. Delivering services in different ways than we have done it in the past is something council should investigate. Where it makes sense, City Council needs to be open to better value for taxpayers and better customer service to clients (taxpayers).
Cook: I do believe that it is too high, but I do not think that cuts need to be made in services. I feel that city hall should find innovated ways to save money. For example the vast amount of overtime the administration and services worked last year could be reduced. Perhaps a more streamlined maintenance city wide program implemented . I am sure that these and similar innovations could reduce the proposed tax increases.
Dubois: It is very difficult to tell without access to the city administration’s recommendations, department by department.
Hrynuik: I feel 3.89% is a high increase; however, without seeing the details of the budget it is tough to give exact details on what should be cut or amounts of what should be cut. Like any budget when you take a fine tooth comb to it, you will always find corners to cut, or fat to trim off. Taxes behind crime I believe are the biggest issues that need to be addressed and the current configuration of the administration is behind that state of things and that is why as citizens Saskatoon needs to have their voices heard and incite change.
Kaminski: A forecasted increase of almost 4% will likely result in another tax increase of close to 6% which is too high. Saskatoon has experienced several years of high property tax increases. We need to control these increases and focus on efficiencies and effectiveness in managing our capital projects and in how we do things as a City. As a commercial manager for an international engineering and project management firm I manage contracts and provide support to the project teams to ensure that projects are run efficiently and effectively – on time and on budget.
Mowat: As a one-off increase, it would be affordable. But this is representative of the annual tax increases we have seen over the past couple of terms of City Council. This growth in city expenses is the direct result of years of decision-making by our previous City Councils. By deferring discretionary spending to subsequent years while simultaneously working to find efficiencies and increase revenues through user fees and by growing the tax base, I believe there are long-term solutions to the high rate of tax increases.
SP: Would you advocate for building a downtown arena?
Cook: I am opposed to an arena downtown at this time , I feel that we are over extended on major projects some of which not completed these need to be addressed.
Dubois: It is not logical to comment on this until after the study that is underway comparing feasibility of building a new downtown facility versus updating SaskTel Centre has been completed and made available.
Hrynuik: I believe as an economic growth plan for the downtown core this is a great idea; however, as I mentioned previously I think there are a number of other issues that need to be addressed short term before we should look at moving ahead with this.
Jackson: My vision for a thriving downtown with easy access in and out of it includes an arena. But there are many questions that need to be answered before I would actively advocate for a downtown arena. The #1 priority I would support is creating an arena that becomes the centerpiece of the downtown. Having a long term plan that addresses needs for the downtown like creating proper capacity for public transit, increasing new business options and producing an amazing downtown nightlife experience is vital. Job creation is also key.
Kaminski: I am open to the concept of a downtown arena or multi-use facility. Support or advocacy of such a project is dependent upon if the project is feasible from a financial, space and infrastructure perspective and if it meets the wants and needs of the citizens of Saskatoon. I look forward to reviewing the reports to be tabled by each of the TCU and SaskTel Centre Boards. I will be particularly interested in receiving information on proposed CAPEX, OPEX and the infrastructure design and development that would be required for each of the downtown and SaskTel Centre options.
Mowat: I’m not convinced that now is the time to embark on another major capital project. I will remain open to the idea, but I’m skeptical that the potential positive economic spin-offs would be worth the costs.
SP: Should Saskatoon hire more police officers?
Jackson: The Saskatoon Police Service needs to have the resources to investigate, apprehend and deter crime. Chief Weighill will create a budget to support those priorities. If that includes more officers I will ask how the new officers will support decreasing crime in Saskatoon and support the above priorities. If the business case can be made at that time I will support it.
Cook: On the question of more police officers, when put to Chief Weighill I understand he felt additional police officers were not necessary . I can only go by his assessment.
Dubois: Not necessarily. The new council along with the Police Commission needs to analyze the number of officers we have now and the areas that require more attention.
Hrynuik: We definitely need a larger police force but the first step would be to insure that the SPD is spending the money allocated to them efficiently before hiring more officers, to determine the needs of the SPD financially. Getting citizens back on the board of police commission, to give citizen oversight to the operations of the SPD will be a big step in the right direction to turning the crime rate around.
Kaminski: Crime and safety continue to be an issue in Saskatoon, but it is important to focus on other areas besides hiring more police officers. Another option is to work with the Saskatoon Police Service and the Ministry of Justice on community safety programming and crime prevention. We also need to work to address the root of the problems that result in increased criminal behavior – such as poverty, homelessness, addictions.
Mowat: Yes, a full response to our too-high crime rate will require more police officers. I’m eager to work with the Saskatoon Police Service and others to develop innovative ideas to reduce crime. It is time for a long-term strategy to reduce the incidence of crime that includes a full spectrum of municipal, provincial and federal actions.
SP: What should the City of Saskatoon do to prepare for the legalization of marijuana?
Jackson: City Council needs to direct the City Solicitor to provide a report on how to responsibly regulate retail dispensaries & compassion clubs within city limits. The City can draw on it’s previous experience with the Adult Services Licensing Bylaw back in 2013 which can provide a path to where dispensaries & compassion clubs will be located. Thus providing better safety for our families and residential areas.
Cook: The question on marijuana. I will need more information on how this legalization will affect the city and what regulations the Province may impose. I would think that any outlets would be licenced and regulated like any business .
Dubois: The legalization of marijuana is strictly a federal matter and under federal jurisdiction. Both the city and the province must wait until the federal government actually legalizes, or is very close to legalizing, marijuana before determining any possible course of action.
Hrynuik: This is something we know is going to happen and I personally believe that it is in the hands of the federal government to make sure the transition and controls are handled correctly. As for the city we need to ensure that all steps are follow and rule of law is maintained to ensure the sale of marijuana and marijuana products as done legally and responsibly.
Kaminski: City Council needs to become engaged with both the federal and provincial governments on this issue as it is evolving in order to have input in the changes as well as be proactive in its preparation for the legalization of marijuana. We will need to ensure that our zoning regulations incorporate this change, including where it can be smoked, consumed, sold, etc. The City needs to work collaboratively with the Saskatoon Police Service and the province to ensure safety concerns are met and the public is educated on the changes and regulations surrounding it.
Mowat: We need to complete a thorough review of our bylaws and business licensing processes to ensure that Saskatoon has a robust legal regime for managing legal marijuana commerce and use, in collaboration with the federal and provincial Ministries of Justice. The City of Saskatoon, in collaboration with the Saskatoon Police Service and other levels of government, should embark on a public awareness campaign about these rules.
SP: How should city council regulate ride-sharing companies such as Uber?
Jackson: Technology is moving fast and cities need to address this. City Council needs to look at how to move to less regulation in the taxi industry so it can compete and also legitimize ride-sharing companies for Saskatoon. The only regulations City Council should address is around safety for drivers & passengers, uniformity of service and standards for driver training.
Cook: In regulating ride -sharing companies such as Uber, operators must have a clean driving record , vehicles inspections, as well as adequate insurance .They should also have a criminal background check. The city could charge a service fee to allow them to operate.
Dubois: The jury seems to still be out as far as Uber versus traditional taxi services is concerned. I would need to study all information, made available to Councillors before passing judgement as to how ride sharing companies such as Uber should be regulated. This would include what other municipalities have done and the pros and cons they came up with.
Hrynuik: Uber has had an issue of safety linked to it with recent events around the world. I think as long as the company is invested in putting stricter guide lines in place when it come to hiring its employees then there may be an opportunity for the city to move ahead with letting them operate here.
Kaminski: The City needs to be proactive in researching regulations and practices of other cities, in particular Canadian cities, in their regulation of ride-sharing companies. See what works and what is not working. Within that, ride-sharing companies should be permitted by the City and be governed by regulations. To obtain an annual permit, companies should need to provide evidence of acceptable criminal background checks on drivers/vehicle owners, vehicle inspections, minimum insurance coverage of drivers and the company, real time tracking systems in the vehicles and security measures to protect data and information of users.
Mowat: The city should engage with the Province of Saskatchewan and SGI to ensure that ride-share licenses are simple and straight-forward to obtain. The city and ride-share companies should work together with SGI on ensuring an adequate insurance scheme is in place for ride-share drivers. The city should also provide clear guidance to ride-sharing companies and their employees on how they can legally operate. I believe the City of Edmonton’s ride-share policies are an example for Saskatoon to follow. I’d also like to see a system put in place that recognizes the potential devaluation of taxi licenses. Moreover, we need to be vigilant to protect consumers from potentially awful rideshare experiences, but I believe we can do so while making these changes to the taxi/rideshare industry.
SP: Does Saskatoon have an urban sprawl problem? If so, what are your solutions?
Jackson: Saskatoon has numerous needs for growth, transportation and maintenance. It is not lost on me that paying for that growth is the issue we need to get right in the coming years. Return on investment to taxpayers must be the main objective for public transit service increases, overall service delivery and growing to 500K people. Interim growth objectives at populations of 300K and 400K need to be better communicated to keep the entire community engaged. Proper infill objectives should always be priority.
Cook: Yes we are reaching that point . The farther out we expand the more infrastructure has to be maintained. The solution would be to infill and build up, particularly in the downtown area.
Dubois: New neighbourhoods were designed and built to accommodate the rapid growth of the city in the past ten years. These neighbourhoods have a mix of single family homes, townhouses and apartment condos plus retail stores and services such as medi-clinics, dentists, grocery stores, drug stores, fast-food outlets, etc.. There has been a slowdown in the economy recently meaning council along with the city administration needs to try and make sure existing subdivisions are completed and full before pushing out even further with new development.
Hrynuik: I think the city’s continued outward growth does need to be decelerated, and we need to focus on growth within our core and downtown neighborhoods along with rejuvenating these areas. We are getting to the point where the existing infrastructure is falling behind so much so that we are having to play catch up, which is more costly to tax payers. Abating this outward growth and developing a strategy for balanced growth involving core neighborhoods is a route that needs to be looked at, to reduce the tax burden due to infrastructure necessities to handle the current outward growth.
Kaminski: If it’s not a problem yet it could easily become a problem if we do not better manage the process and find the balance between infill and core neighbourhood development and developing new land. We are fortunate to have a growing population and need to keep striving to create a city that will attract new residents; however, high taxes are not attractive to new or existing residents. We need to develop new neighbourhoods within our financial means and ability to pay for the infrastructure required of the neighbourhoods. Let’s complete the neighbourhoods we have started and ensure we are supporting our City infrastructure needs as a whole, bring ourselves back to centre, then look to see what we need next to continue growing.
Mowat: The problem is that the growth of Saskatoon’s expenses exceeds its revenue growth. We are adding thousands of new residents in a way that is not cost effective. I think a mix of approaches will be needed. Seeking to capture more revenue from new developments will be required. For instance, in the past, although permitted by provincial legislation, Saskatoon has not included as part of its development levy an amount for water and wastewater plant capacity. It may be time to pursue this.
The original article can be viewed here.