Morinville – A retired 68-year-old former army officer who ran in the 2012 by-election is taking another crack at a seat on the Morinville Town Council.
James O’Brien and his wife have owned their home in the Sunshine District of Morinville since 1997 and the candidate said he has no intention of ever moving away from this neighbourhood.
O’Brien admits to being tenacious and passionate about many of the issues he believes are affecting the community. He credits his age and more than 37 years in the military for his passion and demeanour. “I tend to speak my mind and will occasionally engage my mouth before putting my brain into gear,” he said. “Although I will do my best to think before I speak, please be prepared for some fireworks when I become passionate about a topic.”
Though he considers himself a candidate, he says he is not a politician nor does he intend to become one. “I simply have a few issues, which I know from speaking with ordinary folks, concern more than a few of us,” he said, adding his three key issues are communication, financial reality, and an inflated and unsustainable administration within the Town.
Issues at hand
O’Brien said he senses there is a reluctance by some members of both Council and Administration to connect with all members of the community. “This in turn implies an inherent ignorance of what the ordinary citizen might really want for Morinville,” he said. “In addition, the Town often ignores citizen communication of actual problems, such as sinkholes and prohibited noxious weeds, until they become a larger problem that is more costly to repair.”
The candidate is also concerned about what he calls the financial reality of the Town. “I may not be an accountant, nor do I necessarily understand accountant terminology, but it is becoming quite clear that a comprehensive review of all expenditures and the consequent hard decisions on what projects should be approved or not, must be undertaken,” he said. “I also fear that the Provincial Government will be reducing the Municipal Sustainability Initiative Funding (MSI) and I see no plans to accommodate such reductions. Unfortunately, it would also appear that Morinville no longer has a ‘Rainy Day Fund’”.
He wants a complete review of town expenditures and is calling for a 10 per cent reduction in spending and a concerted push to pay off existing debt
One of O’Brien’s biggest issues is with the size and cost of Town staff, a cost which O’Brien said gobbles up half of the annual operating budget. “In the current 2013 budget, Salaries and Wages (some $5,548,712.00) make up 50 per cent of our total Operating Budget,” he said. “Factoring in contracted services, the policing contract and the financial costs only increases our total to 74.35 per cent of the entire Operating Budget.”
O’Brien said the costs will only continue to rise with each increase in Town staffing. He believes it is time to have an independent operational review that could provide some clarity and focus on where the Town is going. “There is a tremendous difference between having sufficient folks to do the job and what I would call empire building,” he said.
Skills on the table
O’Brien said he believes the next four years are crucial for the community and that the community needs to elect a Council who will do what is right for Morinville.
“I firmly believe that I am one of the candidates who has the time, energy and determination to make a real difference for all of us,” he said, adding he is looking forward to talking with voters about what concerns them.