Meet Castlegar’s by-election candidates

Castlegar’s by-election for a new city councillor is fast approaching and Castlegar News wanted to get to know the four candidates better.

  • Wed Oct 12th, 2016 6:00am
  • News

Castlegar’s by-election for a new city councillor is fast approaching and so Castlegar News wanted to take the time to get to know the four candidates better.

We sent a list of five questions to all four candidates and gave them time to write and submit their responses. Below you’ll find a brief bio from each candidate and answers from each candidate to our five questions. The bios and answers have been edited for spelling and small grammar mistakes, but otherwise have not been altered.

Advanced polling for the by-election will take place Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 18 and 19, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the Castlegar Community Forum. Election day is Saturday, Oct. 29 and polls will be open at the Castlegar Community Complex from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

CANDIDATE BIOS

Arry Dhillon

I hope to earn the right to be your voice on city council. I have to date knocked on over 1,500 doors and have received hundreds of people’s input on what they think are important topics and issues. I was born and raised in Castlegar. Upon finishing my education, I turned down what I was told would be a six figure job (within a few years) and instead took an on-call job with Selkirk College and moved back immediately. I love this city that much. Please visit my website for more information on my campaign: arrydhillon.ca.

Cherryl MacLeod

I have been proud to call Castlegar my home for more than 40 years. I worked hard to raise a family that now includes four grown children, and five grandchildren. I have worked in the Castlegar school system for the last 25 years, currently at Stanley Humphries School. I love Castlegar. I have had no desire to live anywhere else, and I have always needed to give back to the community that has given me so much. I been on the Executive of the Robson Recreation Society for over 30 years, volunteered for the Pass Creek Fall Fair Society and I am a trained Community Justice Facilitator.

Tyler Maddocks

Having been a part of three other elections now, I do hope most have an idea of who I am as this is something I’m in for the long run. At 29 years old, and a soon to be first time father, I am proud to say that I was born and raised here in Castlegar. I’d like to think of myself as someone who is dedicated and will not give up on anything that I set my sights on. I’d love to invite everyone to check out my Facebook page (facebook.com/maddockscouncil) to join the conversation.

Janna Sylvest

Origins: Castlegar. Education: arts & sciences, business, law, taxation. Background: rural government economic development, entrepreneur (three companies, law, web, activist retail, and property management partnership). Experience: meeting tight time frames and managed risk, negotiating business and government partnerships, finance and tax, community planning, big industry (resort, hydro, lumber, tourism) and small neighbourhood businesses, social justice, housing, family support services, non-profit governance, arts and culture, media. I like to hike and am obsessive about restoration and renovations. One of my hobbies is Spelunking. Volunteer Efforts: grass roots housing policy, parks & transportation, local food, community policing, business revitalization, social welfare. Details: www.janna.solutions.

Q&A WITH CANDIDATES

1. What would you like to see change at City Hall?

AD: Castlegar City Hall needs a greater capacity to address issues raised by its citizens. The number of residents I’ve heard who have either considered or have started to take legal action with the city is far too high. There seem to be issues in nearly every neighbourhood and a common comment is that city managers have shown up to assess the situation, but have not followed up since. I understand that the City Works department has been made “as lean as possible” and I propose increasing staffing in this department to help follow up on issues raised by citizens.

CM: I would like more accountability and transparency, and I would really like the council meetings to be streamed online. I’d also like to amend the October 2015 bylaw that, in effect, stifled democracy by making it impossible to get a motion recorded if it isn’t seconded. Democracy only happens when all voices can be heard. I believe that any suggestion merits a second so that all opinions and thoughts can be heard, ultimately ending up with an informed decision.

TM: I think there are many things that our council is doing well, however there are certainly areas where I see improvements can be made. It’s crucial that whoever is successful in this by-election can and will work well with our current council. I strongly believe that I can do just that with also adding diversity to our council as being someone from a different generation. We are seeing spending increase in a time where a new tax has been introduced? Public consultation/involvement numbers are very low, with many residents feeling that their opinions don’t matter as the decisions have already been made.

JS: An end to economic development that misses the mark because of a stubborn adherence to decade-old plans ill-suited to a global economic shift. “Happily Every After” is meaningless in the face of an absence of transportation and housing policy in a zero vacancy market with an aging population on fixed income in a negative return economy. Resident retention is everything. LESS: telling, photo ops, Facebook, dogma, closed meetings, and careless spending. MORE: asking, forthright communication, public participation and transparency in procurement and planning, balance of interests, diversity of opinion, exchange of ideas, and experience in managing complexity.

2. What qualities would make you a good city councillor for Castlegar?

AD: My background and experience as a Chartered Professional Accountant, Certified Management Accountant provides me with the tools to make financial decisions on budgets and spending, to the benefit of the tax payer. I’m also very open. Whenever I run for office, I carry out a consultation to understand what the community I’m serving wants, and constantly assess their needs while serving. This is why I’ve knocked on over 1,500 doors, trying to solicit as much input from residents as possible. I’m also holding weekly coffee meetings at Dawn’s Café from 9-10 a.m. every Saturday.

CM: My volunteer work and my current role in the school system concentrating on solution focused negotiations has prepared me for working with many different types of people and personalities. My excellent inter-personal skills coupled with my problem solving skills will allow me to make informed decisions, taking all perspectives and opinions into account. I have made it a priority to be an advocate of the people and have shown this by attending council meetings regularly for the last two and a half years.

TM: Participating in my fourth election has really shown me a lot. Taking the last five-plus years to watch ongoing and most importantly engage with the citizens of Castlegar. Understanding their valuable viewpoints on key issues is what any councilor should strive for. I have a business administration diploma, I volunteer in the community, and as a Territory Account Manager, a lot of what I do, along with the many experiences I have had, would be a beneficial addition to council. I’m not afraid to aggressively and continually go after whatever it is that would benefit our community and keep us moving forward.

JS: I’m pretty sure I’m the only candidate who’s written a by-law. Not bragging! It’s about learning curve on the job and ability to manage stacks of reports to get things done. I’m reasonably easy going, well traveled, enjoy learning from others, good with money, even-keeled under pressure, kind, patient, smart, an alliance builder, yet don’t suffer foolish behaviour. I pick up litter, respect our elders, and embrace diversity. I’m able to put forward sensible solutions while clearly defining the problem, have a family history of 62 years of community involvement in Castlegar, and I’m independent, not beholden to select interest groups.

3. In brief, what is your proposed approach to balancing city services with taxes?

AD: The balance between city services and taxes should be based on what direction the community wants the city to go in. A tax plan should be developed accordingly. For example, if the community decides it only wants the city to operate on a bare bones basis (maintaining roads and essential services) then taxes should be minimal. If the community decides it wants a greater number of parks, marketing initiatives, tourism, etc. then the tax plan should take these into account. I encourage holding referendums on strategic initiatives and following their results (the complex, water meters, parcel tax, etc.).

CM: With the 2017 budget cycle about to begin, I think we have to balance infrastructure upgrades with recreational and beautification upgrades. I’d like for us not to increase taxes because of recreational expenditures but instead try to obtain more funding from grants.

TM: It’s the council’s responsibility to make sure this city continues to run smoothly. Projects that are a necessity need to be prioritized, and if the budget allows so, then we should look at what the citizens would like to see. Social media can and should be a better and fun interaction tool for the city to use to communicate with, and involve the citizens. We also know that when bids come in for contracts, sometime the rewarded contractors are bidding significantly higher than others. No. Also, local contractors should get precedence.

JS: Every service and tax must be good for resident retention — that’s our economic foundation. Sustaining population demands superior services in town (so people don’t go out of town) at competitive prices (taxes, fees). Revise, audit and maintain systems, only adopt cost neutral improvements, partner for facility and cost sharing (i.e. sewage treatment, park stewardship, roadways, transit, Health), expand our tax base with mixed-use zoning, mid-rise density, supportive housing, and housing mix attractive to community minded development. Micro manage expenditures, macro manage the principle (resident retention). Work the pros (crossroads, central). Avoid cons (providing regional benefits on the town’s dime).

4. If elected would you make a motion to amend the parcel tax bylaw and rescind the tax? If yes, how would you propose to pay for storm sewer improvements?

AD: At this point I would not rescind the Parcel Tax. I propose that council set up a committee with a separate fund for citizens who believe they have a right to reimbursement (particularly low income families, seniors on fixed income, and strata residents). My understanding is that Provincial By-laws prevent the City from deciding who they can and cannot charge the parcel tax to. It’s an all or nothing tax for all parcels, mandated by the Province. Therefore this reimbursement fund, which would come from the operating budget, is the best opportunity to provide residents with a more fair solution.

CM: I think the storm water infrastructure upgrades are important, but I also think we could achieve our goal with other tax revenue funding — like the gas tax, for example. Another option would be to fund these upgrades with some of the revenue from the casino. I think that after two or three years, once there’s enough money in the account, the parcel tax could be rescinded or heavily reduced.

TM: I would like to see this tax eliminated. With an introduction of a new tax, it shows something is very wrong. There was much conversation regarding Millennium Park upgrades that perhaps shouldn’t have happened or have been put on hold. Castlegar has a history of fantastic financials. A new tax or raising any taxes should be the absolute LAST option. This should be a time to really dive in and look at where money could be saved as a whole. Including projects from those that aren’t a necessity, to staff expenses. Then avoiding this tax with adjusted budget allocations.

JS: Yes. “Special purpose” taxes that disproportionately burden households on fixed income are unfair, and inherently untrustworthy. Municipal finance best practices earmark reserve funds for known or predicted capital upgrades and major repairs. I’d assess why Castlegar has to introduce a new tax (when it should have reserves) and the state of repair of our capital works, while decreasing spending inefficiencies (contract services, travel, meals, advertising, discretionary funding, low collection rates, cost of debt), expanding our tax and revenue base (mixed-use zoning, secondary suites, cost neutral admin. fees, cost-sharing), and aggressively pursue senior government for funding related to climate change.

5. Given that maintaining functional infrastructure is such a challenge for Canadian municipalities, how do you propose to approach infrastructure planning in Castlegar?

AD: Early in the campaign I met with Chris Barlow to understand this issue. He is currently working on an Asset Management Plan for the City. I believe this is a long-term plan to address maintaining the City’s infrastructure as it comes due, without the need for Provincial or Federal grants. All grants available will still be applied for (which is what I will heavily push for), however the city will not be dependent on them. The City will be asked to set aside funds from each year to maintain the plan. I fully support Mr. Barlow on this initiative.

CM: I’ve done a thorough review of the City of Castlegar Water Management Plan (2009), which shows a $60 million deficit in our city. After the new Asset Management Plan is released, we’ll have a better idea of where our weaknesses are and will be able to make a long term plan for them.

TM: We are lucky to have a great team of city employees who do take great care of this community. It’s been no secret that our aging infrastructure needs attention. I see some pros and many cons to what has gone on. I think again here, money could have been managed better throughout the years to prepare. Also, do remember during the labour dispute between the city and the workers, we saw what could have been the single biggest safety concern in recent memory. When the snow came, city management plowing our roads could simple not keep up. A horrible and unacceptable situation.

JS: Integrate infrastructure, environmental, land use and financial planning; impose transparent development conditions, acknowledge there’s no perfect model, even user-pay systems (water meters) provide diminishing returns once over-users change behaviour. Infrastructure challenges following growth through amalgamation (spread-out, single-family homes) versus through density (up, contained) require discarding proven failures, denouncing politically driven projects and never building what we can’t afford. Work with the UBCM for a National infrastructure funding strategy to buffer climate change. Federal taxation (GST, income tax) offers efficient, non-regressive funding for municipalities. Our federal Constitutional framework recognizes this…. Cities cannot borrow, beg, and regressively tax to maintain infrastructure.