Editor’s note: Candidate answers have been arranged in the order received.
Q: In your discussions with voters during the campaign what is the most common concern and how would you address it as a Morinville councillor?
Candidate Kevin Wedick
For almost three years I personally have been inundated with calls and emails about the photo radar program in Morinville. These calls have been from a large cross section of Morinville residents from young to old. At first I didn’t think much of the concerns until several of my neighbours with over 45 years of safe driving had been issued their first of many tickets by the ITS contractor. I started observing the contractors at work. It quickly became apparent that a number of the practices and locations used by ITS defied the training standards I had been taught as a trained police officer during my 27 year career. I have no problem supporting photo radar programs that follow the Alberta Provincial Automated Enforcement Guidelines, but it has been clear from my observations that the guidelines are being ignored here in Morinville. I have written several articles on the lack of accountability on the part of those involved in the process and have researched how the other municipalities conduct photo radar enforcement. Many residents have taken time to file complaints to the town manager responsible for overseeing the ITS contract. Historically, I found out that no statistics have been kept by the town on the complaints generated by the public which is a requirement under the guidelines. Residents who complain to the town are diverted to the RCMP who in turn divert residents back to the town office. There is no ownership and people are left shaking their heads. I personally experienced the frustration when I questioned the improper signage at three of the locations the ITS contractor was enforcing. Again thousands of dollars were taken from area residents at these three improperly marked speed zones. Every other municipality pays for their contracted services which enables enforcement to be conducted in areas identified by public complaints. “It is not about money; It is about public safety”. I have been in contact with the managers of the other three area contractors and advised that their municipalities still generate revenue to cover the enforcement costs. I feel our contractor at ITS should be paid an hourly rate to provide his service as all other contracts are structured in Alberta. No tickets equals no revenue. How does ITS pay its staff if no one speeds? This accounts for the enforcement I have seen in the many questionable areas. Of the 20 selected locations for radar identified by the town’s traffic study in conjunction with the RCMP, ITS only works where they prosper. Other identified problem locations are ignored. This method of enforcement is unethical.
Since I started writing articles to the Solicitor General and meeting with the town and council some progress has been made. Three of the zones have had the posted speed signs re positioned. The transition zone leaving town on 642 has been pulled back. If I am elected I would continue to ensure enforcement is conducted in a fair and accountable manner for the residents of Morinville.
Candidate James O’Brien
I, and a couple of supporters, have been hand-delivering my one-page poster door-to-door throughout Morinville. Interestingly enough, there appears to be NO ONE common concern or burning issue plaguing our citizens.
Two issues have been raised more frequently than others, but at about roughly similar levels:
a. spending and higher taxes; and
b. (believe it or not) photo radar and policing in general.
On the subject of spending and taxes, most of the folks I’ve spoken with certainly understand the requirement to maintain our infrastructure. However, a number of questions do arise when discussing the wants or desires of Council and Administration versus the actual needs of the Town in general. My perception of at least part of that issue is a breakdown in communication between the Town Council and/or Administration and your average Joe Morinville.
With respect to the second concern, a high degree of mistrust in the manner in which photo radar has been handled has been more prevalent than I would have thought. While some citizens have been somewhat appeased by recent changes to the modus operandi of our photo radar, NOT ONE PERSON with whom I have spoken considers photo radar to be anything but the cash cow it is. In other words, safety has obviously taken a distant back seat in this question. Unfortunately, more than a few individuals with whom I have spoken have also expressed reduced levels of confidence in the ability of the Morinville RCMP and our Town CPOs to really protect the community, a sentiment which I believe has also been expressed in comments published in this medium.
So, if elected, what would I do to address these concerns?
I have already been told, in no uncertain terms, that the only control we have on spending is via the annual budget process. From that it would appear that the only thing I could do would be to ask those questions of our Administration which would entail a detailed examination of their wish list. For openers, I would suggest a 10 per cent, across-the-board reduction in our budget, and require our Administration to consider possible staffing reductions before, yet again, raising taxes.
The photo radar and policing issues are perhaps more difficult to come to grips with.
I do believe that our Town Administration, via the Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Review, is well en route to resolving most of our photo radar issues. Regrettably, the same cannot be said about our policing concern. In matters of trust… once it’s gone, it is almost impossible to regain. Quite frankly, at this time about all one could do would be to sit down with Administration, the RCMP, our CPOs and all of Council to try and work out how we might restore public confidence in our local law enforcement organization.
As this is the final Candidate’s Question for this by-election, I would thank Stephen Dafoe, editor of Morinvillenews.com and The Morinville News print edition for the opportunity to share my views on the topics presented over the past three weeks. This whole process has been (and continues to be) a whole new experience; both enjoyable as well as nerve-wracking!
To the Citizens of Morinville – On September 20th – Get Out and VOTE!
Candidate Bonnie Moerike
After going to a town council meeting last night [Sept. 11] I believe that the council is working very hard on the present concerns for the people of Morinville.
One of the concerns from the people is spending and taxes and I felt they are doing a good job and I would like to be part of this process.
More people should go to these meetings and find out what is taking place. I did.
It seems everywhere you go the talk always centres on a pool but this is not going to be possible until we get a better tax base. This means more businesses and more industry and these need to be met with an economic development plan which I would like to be part of if I am elected or not.
Candidate Joseph Trapani
Morinville’s residents are like any other resident in the world; they agree or disagree on issues however; their bottom line is “Are we getting our MONEY’S worth”.
Everything that is requested or wanted in this community comes with a price. Some items are at a low cost however most are at a much higher cost. Their worries are how much taxes “I” will have to pay to get this type of service or services.
The issue is not to have a swimming pool or not, but can we afford to build it and maintain it. Are we still going to go over budget or are we doing due diligence and getting our monies worth.
We all want toys or stuff, some more than others. These are some of the items that came up: swimming pool, new arena, in-door soccer field, new youth centre, more sweeping of roads, more policing of properties, photo radar in school zone, council reducing spending, smell of our town, more stores, just to name a few.
Provincial matters/jurisdiction: Cardiff Corner, Highway 643, and new schools.
Bottom line – the people of Morinville want to know if they are “GETTING THEIR MONEY’S WORTH”.
No more, No less.
Candidate Jakie Luker
In speaking with community members around town I most often heard complaints or concerns about photo radar and town spending. The majority of people do not have an issue with increasing safety in our community by deterring speeders with photo radar. The community concerns come from the tickets received so many months after the offense and the fact that the vehicle is hidden from view. If safety is the focus then hiding where we can’t see isn’t dealing with that issue. It seems obvious to me that a review of why we have photo radar needs to be done and discussions with the company about the town’s expectations needs to be reiterated. We might want to consider bringing the costs of photo radar in-house rather than contracting them out. Maybe this is something our Citizens on Patrol could manage if it falls under their mandate, they have a vested interest in keeping our community safe. It wouldn’t just be about making money for them.
The other issue I heard most often was about fiscal responsibility. The perception with town spending is that money is being spent but there is little to see as a result. That the decisions made have not been done so in a clear and concise manner so that community members have a thorough understanding of why those choices have been made. I, like you, am a taxpayer here in Morinville and I want council to be responsible with my money. I believe the best thing I can do as a council member is work to keep council decisions transparent. When the flow of communication works two ways it results in an open and trusting relationship which is what I want from my town council.
Candidate Sheldon Fingler
I have heard from both the businesses and residents during this campaign. Iwould like to provide an answer for each.
From the business community the top two concerns I heard were:
The need for commercial recycling: This is a very important issue and must be addressed. When the town closed the recycling facility at public works businesses lost the opportunity to recycle their items. Businesses in our community are taxpayers as well and should have the opportunity to be “green” citizens. Recycling will extend the life of our landfill, reduces pollution and creates jobs just to name a few benefits. It’s a simple fix.
The need for a clear process for new businesses in our community: Morinville is an expanding community and with that comes new businesses. The process to get a development permit and business license should be clear and guided. The policies are in place however we need to make it easier for businesses to come to Morinville. The conversation came up at the forum for the business community as well as in conversation with residents that we need more diversity in our business community. Let’s make it easier for businesses to come into our community and we may get more of the businesses we want.
From the residents I hear the following top two concerns:
Financial responsibility: It’s such a broad item but came up quite often while talking to our community members. The first major item that will come up as a new councillor would be budget meetings. As a business owner myself I would want to run the budget as if the money as if each and every dollar was my own. I believe that responsible spending and clear and open budget items will be a priority. Sometimes we question the spending but don’t have all of the answers. My goal would be to understand every budget item possible and the impact it would make on our community. It truly is about the best return on investment. We need to see a value for every dollar.
Community programs services and infrastructure: Again a very open item. We have many great programs in place that could be expanded upon first before we look at spending money on new items. This includes the ever talked about pool. We need to focus on our successes and expand on them. The pool will come when the time is right for our community. Let’s take advantage of what we have, expand on it and keep the programs vibrant. In the short term it may be as simple as using our community bus and doing a special weekly swim night in St. Albert. It’s not a perfect solution but may be a great opportunity to gauge interest and get the ball rolling.
The most important thing about the upcoming election is your voice. Let your voice be heard by going to the polls on the 20th of this month. I know and understand how busy everyone is but please take a moment out of your schedule and vote.