Letter: Re Upcoming Election

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As the upcoming Municipal Election rapidly approaches my thoughts turn to the type of person I would like to see on council. Some important traits for me are:

  • Focus and Leadership
  • Commitment
  • Integrity
  • Commitment to Communication
  • Action-Oriented Highly Efficient

In most work places, at the beginning of the year, a work plan is clearly identified and specific goals are set. At some point during the year, a performance appraisal is done to see how someone is doing in meeting their goals and work plan. Do we do this as a citizen with our politicians – no of course not! This is not part of the process in any of the Government levels.
As individuals, we can sit back and do our own evaluation of the current Councillors who are seeking re-election and form our own opinions.

Another thought that crosses my mind are what type of questions would I like all councillors to answer (both those seeking re-election and any who are putting their name forward for this election)? Some of the questions would be:

  • What specific steps would each candidate undertake to ensure that Morinvillians are receiving the best value for each tax dollar spent?
  • What are your thoughts on assigning a ward to each Councillor for 2 years and then switching for the last two years?
  • Last, but not least, my thoughts turn to the residents of the Town of Morinville themselves. I would love to see everyone turn out to the various Open Houses, participate in the budget process and most importantly. vote!

    I hope that there is a huge turnout for the Open All Candidate Forum meeting that is being arranged. Put some thought into what you want to see in Morinville and bring out your thoughts and questions. Most importantly, VOTE, VOTE VOTE on October 21st 2013.

    Linda Lyons
    Motinville

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5 Comments

  1. Linda,

    You mention some good points, but I would add to Communication – A commitment to Open, Honest and Timely communications. There were times I learned about town decisions either after the fact or through the rumour mill. That is not the way to communicate with taxpayers.

    The new Mayor and Council needs to be effective and get things done, not in order to get elected, re-elected or be popular. Recent actions, such as using $798,844 from the town financial reserves to keep tax increases low is not a commitment to the long term financial health of the town. Money taken from reserves made up 7.2% of this fiscal year’s budget. Where will that money come from next year? You guessed it – increased taxes. This will put the new Council in a hole and bad light right from the start. People need to know that.

    Finally, one thing that I, and many others I have talked to, really hope is that the election doesn’t turn into a popularity contest. We shouldn’t elect people based upon who had the most and biggest signs, most campaign donations or greatest number of corporate sponsors. We shouldn’t elect someone based solely on how long they have lived here, have a business here or because they have been on Council before. We need to elect a Mayor and Councillors who can work together. If they have any or all the above, great. But they need to be able to put aside their egos, personal causes and agendas and do what is best for the town as a whole, for now and years down the road.

    See you at the Forum.

    Brent Henry

  2. Linda,

    Thank you for your letter !
    I agree with you on many points, particularly your point on action orientated Councillors. It was the opinion of a resident I spoke with that council tends to be reactive rather than proactive. He said, “Council wait’s for the call or concern to be brought up but rarely do we see council making those calls themselves or dealing with issues until they simply must.” A huge part of my platform is Active Representation. This means that it’s my mission to actively engage with residents by physically meeting with them, one on one, and taking steps to increase access to me as a councillor. Active representation means we’ll have not only more results that have been directly influenced by the will of the people.

    Another concern is that past councils have been slow to make progress when they choose to move forward at all! I think Morinville’s heading in a very positive direction, but it isn’t a bad thing to admit that there’s lots to be done. It’s vital that we elect councillors who are willing to devote the time and energy into the job that it truly deserves. If elected, I will work hard at inspiring forward movement by taking the initiative to make those calls, ask those questions, and search for positive results.

    I think introducing a ward system is worth looking into. It would add an increased system of checks and balances within our local government by holding our elected officials accountable. Inaction would be more difficult if there were constant pressures from residents. As for taxes, it starts with council. If council is doing the job right, taxes will be spent appropriately and effectively.

    It’s important to have all the voices of the community represented on council. We need the business voice, the cultural voice, the youth voice… A diverse council will be a community minded council. I hope to see a wide array of talents on council and I especially hope to see a council of action and forward thinking.

    -Brennan

  3. Linda,

    Thank you for taking the time to send a letter into the paper. I hope that my responses answer your questions and that you are doing well.

    I want to start by agreeing completely with the traits that you want to see in your Council. I could not agree more with them. They all fit well into the person that we think of when we take a moment to consider those who have helped make the community better. That is what a Councillor and Mayor are supposed to do and that is what I want to do. Help make Morinville an even better place to live.

    Before I answer the two questions that you’ve asked, I want to second your final sentiment. I genuinely hope that people will come out to not only the budget meetings and open houses but also to the events that we have here in the Town.

    You’ve asked for specific things that each of us will do if elected. The first part of this answer is that the list I provide are things that I will work with Council to see happen. Council is not about one person’s commitments but about the commitments of seven people who must work together to build on the great foundation that we have to work with. On to my list;

    1. At present when Council goes to create a budget, they are approached by Administration and asked what kind of a budget they would like to see. I want to see no increase. In fact, my goal for next year is to trim the budget so that we see no increase in the municipal tax portion of your tax bill. This means finding inefficiencies and fixing them, trimming programming that we do not need and making sure that we manage your dollars with respect.

    2. If elected, I will propose that Council take a 5% pay reduction in annual salary. I won’t just propose it, I will move the motion during the annual review of Council’s salary. If we are going to expect Administration to run a tighter budget then we have to lead the way.

    3. I will work very hard to usher in a new era for our Town where we stop paying money out to consultants. This has worked very successfully for the Town of Peace River and it can and will work in Morinville. We have people who are experts in various fields on staff and I am confident that they can do the work that we pay consultants to do.

    4. I will work with Council to develop a short term economic strategy to attract new business to Morinville and will do so within twelve months of being sworn in. I believe that quickly identifying and zoning new industrial land is key to this and will push hard to see this done.

    These four steps are specifics, not platforms or platitudes and some of them give guidelines that I can be questioned on. I hope that these answers show you that I have put a lot of thought into the specifics and that I can be counted on to manage your hard earned tax dollars.

    As for a ward system, my fear is limiting access to Councillors. In large cities, I can appreciate the reasoning behind it. It limits the potential work load that each Councillor can take on. Here, I feel as though it would limit Councillors from helping people outside of their Ward. Each of us brings something unique to Council. Yes, many of us share similar traits and ability, but there are things that together we can use to be a strong team. I would rather see us work as a team and help each other. I believe this also translates into us better serving the community.

    Thank you,
    Rob Ladouceur, Candidate for Morinville Town Councillor

  4. Thank you for the letter, Linda. I’ve chosen to respond to this later than I might because I own the site the letter is published on. But as a candidate, I’d like to respond.

    The five qualities of a Council member you identify are important. This election we need to make sure we elect proven community leaders or leaders in the community who possess these and other skills. We must not elect a Council based on their position on specific issues, but leaders who will make fair and decisive decisions, knowing they will make the best decisions for the community and its residents.

    Question 1/ What specific steps would each candidate undertake to ensure that Morinvillians are receiving the best value for each tax dollar spent?

    First and foremost we need to stop looking at $70,000 in revenue or budget cuts as a one per cent tax cut or increase. Instead, we need to start viewing $3,000 or $4,000 in spending as someone’s tax bill for an entire year. If we are spending $300,000 – that’s an entire neighbourhood’s tax bill for an entire year. People work hard for that money and Council must never forget that.

    Though it may seem silly to some, I believe when Council considers spending in terms of people’s tax bills instead of how much of an increase people will accept, running a good budget is off to a good start.

    As Chair of the Library Board I have been proud to work with a team that takes your tax dollars very seriously and asked for less in 2012 than we asked for in 2011. I am proud to say that group once again worked hard over the summer to do a budget that provided excellent and increased services to the community while always keeping the ratepayer in mind and looking at other areas to find money, including rolling up our own sleeves. I wish to bring that type of effort to the table should I earn the voter’s trust.

    Additionally, I support the idea of a full operational review of the Town operation, but believe Council operations must be looked into as well.

    But here is the reality of that:

    1/ It would need a majority vote of the elected members of Council.

    2/ It would need to be demonstrated such a review would likely pay for itself in savings.

    3/ It is unlikely to have any effect this budget because the new Council will commence budget work after being sworn in the end of October. It would not be possible to conduct a proper review prior to the completion of the 2014 budget. Dealing with this year’s budget and the taxpayer’s pocket book will take a line-by-line assessment of what we must have Vs. what we might like to have.

    My campaign site has a short and long version of my thoughts on taxes and spending. I invite people to look there and choose the version that fits their available time.

    http://www.votedafoe.com/property-taxes-and-spending/

    Question 2/ What are your thoughts on assigning a ward to each Councillor for 2 years and then switching for the last two years?
    Back in February of this year when Mr. O’Brien (now Candidate O’Brien) proposed this, I did an editorial on the idea, offering an alternative solution whereby our current number of Council members would each be assigned a ward or division of Town at the annual organizational meeting.

    Doing so would allow Council to really understand the dynamics of the different parts of Town, and rotating the sections over four years would allow greater understanding. And it would give each area a liaison to whom they could bring their concerns, and whom could bring issues and advantages to Council Chambers.

    It would not preclude individual Council members’ expertise from being used. Cooperation among Council is essential in all they do and more of it is needed than less.

    AT THE VERY LEAST, I would like to be part of a Council team that holds regular public meetings on the normal matters of taxes, public consultations and the like, but also specific district meetings. The issues and concerns in South Glens will be different than the Lakes or Old Morinville. Let’s talk to our neighbourhoods on their turf and terms when we can and come together as an overall community on the stuff we share common issues on.

  5. Prior to answering your questions I would like to address one of the comments you made regarding performance appraisals … I think there is a way to do an annual evaluation of your council. While doing my due diligence in running for mayor I have spent a great deal of time doing my homework, digging a little deeper than what surface information is available. I’ve found it cumbersome and time consuming.

    As a resident of Morinville I find it frustrating that so much information is written in legal-ise, rather than plain English. I wanted to see what other municipalities offer their residents, to see how open government really looks and I really like some of the ‘check lists’ the Town of Beaumont has in place.

    On the town’s website anybody can go see council’s performance review. They have a complete breakdown of actions council has taken in accordance with the planning they have done. It’s awesome to see exactly how much money comes in, where the revenue is generated, where it’s spent, how it is spent, and if the expenditures are in accordance with their Municipal Development Plan, Area Structure Plans, etc. This information is presented as a package, with plain English and shows an open government in action. If elected I would encourage council to adopt a similar policy. I think this would help residents to see where their dollars are going, and to hold all members of council accountable for the promises they make.

    Question 1)
    When I think of the town budget, I think of my household budget. When my household budget is stretched to the max and I’m determining how to resolve it, my first thought is how to cut my spending. I’m sure most people have had an emergency come up that requires you move money around, cut spending for a couple months, do what is necessary to straighten things out.

    I believe the best way to ensure that Morinvillians are receiving the best value for each tax dollar is by looking more closely at our outlay, and devising plans to cut some of the disbursements without cutting into the services the town offers. We need to be creative in our approach so we can continue our growth, provide services to our residents but be a bit more frugal in our habits.

    I believe we need to utilize the resources we have available rather than outsourcing and hiring so many contractors to do the work we could use our employees to do. We need to review administrative costs, programming costs, and public work costs to ensure we are spending our dollar wisely. Working together with other municipalities to develop programs and initiatives could alleviate some overhead while still providing us with the services we expect.

    Question 2)
    Linda, I see the pros and cons to doing something like that. I would hope by doing something like that there would be an increase in communication between the residents and council. That is something we need. However, I can also see people feeling a sense of disconnect between the wards and the feeling of being a city rather than that small town feeling.

    As all members of council are elected to serve the entire town, individual wards do not pick who will represent them. I can see this being a potential issue. If one ward doesn’t feel their ‘council rep’ is working hard enough for them, they would have little recourse to request another.

    I would like to see our new council be a cohesive group who work with residents throughout Morinville so every area of town has the opportunity to know each council member on a more personal level. For the time being I think we have to look at council as a whole, with unique talents and traits individually, but (my hope) is a strong group collectively. A group that will provide the residents with the voice they want heard, no matter what area of town they reside.

    Due to Morinville’s size, and the election process at present, I think this should be an area for future consideration but not something that should be implemented too quickly.

    In closing, Linda, I applaud your interest in the actions and commitments of our civil servants. Asking the questions, participating in the open houses, and actively working so your voice is heard by council make you an asset to our community.

    Thank you,

    Carrie Foss,
    Fostering our Future
    Candidate for Mayor

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