Recap: OCL/DECL Ward 6 Candidate Forum

Tonight the Oliver Community League and Downtown Edmonton Community League co-hosted a candidate forum for Ward 6. Held at Oliver School, the forum was moderated by Beth Sanders. Along with a couple of other volunteers, she did a good job of keeping the eleven candidates in attendance on track (there are 13 on Dave’s list, but Bryan Kapitza and Javed Sommers did not take part). The turnout was pretty good for a Tuesday evening in mid-September, with approximately 125 people in attendance.

OCL/DECL Ward 6 Forum

From left to right, here are the candidates who participated tonight: Taz Bouchier, Kyle Brown, Candas Jane Dorsey, Derrick Forsythe, Melinda Hollis, Heather MacKenzie, Scott McKeen, Erin Northey, Adil Pirbhai, Alfie White, and Dexx Williams.

After opening statements in that order, Beth asked five questions from the organizers of the forum, then opened the floor to questions from those in attendance. There was time for five of those before candidates gave their closing remarks (in reverse order).

Here are the five questions asked by the organizers:

  1. If elected to Council, how would you continue the momentum of building Downtown as a centre of commerce and culture and a destination for all citizens of the city?
  2. Do you feel that the decision on the redevelopment of the Molson Crosstown site was the correct one? What would you do as Councillor to improve the City’s engagement process?
  3. As Councillor, how would you work to address the spike in violent crimes in recent months in the Oliver/Downtown neighbourhoods?
  4. Is there an adequate balance of housing options in the Oliver/Downtown core? If not, what deficiencies do you see and how would you work to address them as Councillor?
  5. If elected to Council, what important issue facing Oliver/Downtown would you give the most attention to and what would you do to ensure that it’s adequately addressed?

Each candidate had one minute to answer the question. The order was random – names were drawn from a hat. For the most part, the candidates kept to the time allotted and stayed on track with their answers. The five questions asked by citizens in attendance included one about the need for public washrooms in the core, one about supporting the arts, one about P3s, and one about regional cooperation. The only question that every candidate had the opportunity to answer was the one that received applause from the crowd: How will you make yourself more accessible?

On the question of improving the City’s engagement process, there were far too many non-answers along the lines of “I believe citizens need to have their voices heard.” This is an important issue that I’m confident will be repeatedly asked throughout the election, so I hope all of the candidates give it due consideration. Adil’s answer was that he’d hold numerous Town Halls, which isn’t a bad idea if you went about it the right way (hello technology!).

I was a little surprised at how many candidates were happy with the Molson Crosstown decision. More than a couple mentioned that they were happy to see the development going forward so that something could be done with the parking lots. Scott probably gave the answer the Oliver Community League members were looking for, saying  that “developers too often plan for Edmonton’s past.”

Far too many candidates completely bombed on the housing options question. Some, like Taz, took it to be a question about homelessness. Others offered nothing beyond saying diversity is good. Drawing on her own experience, Heather made a strong case for more diverse housing options in the core.

It was really interesting to hear what candidates felt the most important issue was. Dexx mentioned the issue of parking being unavailable for residents because non-residents use it all. Melinda claimed that the Municipal Development Plan isn’t actually a plan, and said she’d want to do something about that. Candas talked about the need for consultation. Scott mentioned the arena. Some mentioned housing, others mentioned tackling crime.

The vast majority of the answers tonight were “I believe” or “I think” answers, lacking substance or concrete ideas for action. I suppose it’s difficult to go much beyond that with just a minute to answer, but it still would have been nice to hear some specifics. I did not feel a great deal of confidence that the candidates up at the front of the room tonight have a solid understanding of what being a Councillor would entail.

OCL/DECL Ward 6 Forum

Here are my notes on the closing remarks:

  • Dexx highlighted his passion for the ward and reiterated that he’d work hard to ensure residents’ concerns were addressed.
  • Alfie admitted that this was all a new experience for him, but that he hoped to be able to represent the ward.
  • Adil expressed his distaste for projects like the arena, Indy, and EXPO 2017, and then went on to suggest that Council hadn’t said anything about the post secondary cuts. I guess he missed the State of the City Address.
  • Erin also admitted that this was a new experience and suggested that she’d be happy to just learn and make connections.
  • Scott praised the strong field of candidates, and said that Ward 6 could become the ward that slows urban sprawl.
  • Heather said responsiveness to the community and attracting more people to the core are both priorities.
  • Melinda said she’s passionate about the ward, and that city must grow responsibly, taking care to maintain the uniqueness of each neighbourhood.
  • Derrick focused his closing remarks on improving public consultation, and said a commitment to work with communities is needed.
  • Candas said that cities need to have big dreams, but also need to know how to pay for them.
  • Kyle said the ward needs someone who can represent the diversity you’ll find within it.
  • Taz highlighted her experience in community development, and said she’s familiar with legislation, bylaws, and the orders of government.

There were an awful lot of repetitive answers tonight, which is no surprise given the large number of candidates running (already there are five more declared than officially ran in the last election). I have no doubt the field will narrow in the weeks ahead (or at the very least some clear frontrunners will emerge).

Instead of picking “a winner” for tonight, let me simply mention the candidates that I thought did well. The two names most often mentioned as frontrunners are Scott and Heather, and I thought both did well. Scott only mentioned his journalism background a couple times, and had strong answers for all the questions. Heather cited her experience as a school board trustee a few times, and though she generally read from her notes, gave strong answers as well. Candas did well and had some of the more thoughtful answers of the evening. I think Dexx impressed me most tonight – he delivered a good amount of passion and was articulate in his answers.

Monday is nomination day, after which we’ll know exactly who’s running. The official Ward 6 forum will take place on October 9, so mark your calendars.

Thanks to the organizers of tonight’s event and to all the candidates who participated!

Edmonton Election 2010: Final Mayoral Forum Recap

Last night was the second and final mayoral forum, held at Eastglen School. It was extremely well-attended, so much so that the overflow seating was all gone shortly after the event began at 7pm (estimates put the total attendance at around 600). Dozens of people stood at the back of the theatre and in the lobby throughout the entire evening. There were large sections of supporters in the audience, most wearing t-shirts for their respective candidates.

Mayoral Forum

It was an evening full of surprises, heated discussion, and some comedy (perhaps unintentional). When Stephen Mandel delivered his opening remarks, he was greeted with boos and jeers from people in the audience who support his rivals. It would happen throughout the night. Probably the biggest surprise came when Andrew Lineker stood up to deliver his opening remarks. He accused David Dorward of stealing his platform, said Daryl Bonar had no platform, and finished with “this forum for myself is done” before he stormed out. Bob Ligertwood delivered a meandering and off-topic opening address, while Dave Dowling talked about democracy. Dan Dromarsky was strong all evening, and made a good impression with his opening statement. Daryl Bonar presented himself as the alternative to Dorward and Mandel, saying he was “beholden to no one but voters”.

Here are some of the more memorable quotes from the forum:

  • “Vote for the future of Edmonton.” – Mandel
  • “I’m Dan Dromarsky and I can count to seven.” – Dromarsky in response to Dowling suggesting there were only four viable candidates
  • “Being your mayor will be a tremendous challenge, no doubt.” – Dorward
  • “I would definitely support an inquiry, if not a criminal investigation.” – Dowling on EPCOR
  • “That’s a lot of plebiscites.” – Dromarsky commenting on Dowling’s love of direct democracy
  • “Closing the City Centre Airport was a vote against your democratic rights.” – Ligertwood
  • “I grew up in social housing. It doesn’t work.” – Bonar
  • “Our city is at a crossroads, make no mistake about it.” – Bonar
  • “The winds of change are upon us.” – Dorward
  • “We should be experts at snow removal, but the sad thing is, we’re not.” – Dromarsky
  • “We need to place needs before wants.” – Dromarsky
  • “It would be the biggest mistake we’ll make in our lifetimes.” – Ligertwood on the Downtown Arena
  • “We’ve found creative solutions and we’ve moved forward – all of us.” – Mandel
  • “I Dave Dowling…” – Dowling

There wasn’t much time for questions, which was unfortunate. I also thought it was odd that the first question came from Ward 6 candidate Adil Pirbhai. The candidates were surprisingly brief with most of their answers.

Mayoral ForumMayoral Forum

As is so often the case nowadays, Twitter played a role in the event. From 6pm to 10pm last night, there were 1225 tweets posted using the #yegvote hashtag or one of the candidates’ names. There has been consistent chatter on Twitter over the last couple of weeks, but the forum really stood out:

Here’s a wordle of those tweets, with only the #yegvote hashtag removed:

And here’s a wordle with the candidates, #yegvote, and Twitter names removed:

It doesn’t come out as clearly as I thought it might, but the key issues last night included the City Centre Airport, the EPCOR deal, LRT expansion, and transparency.

Here are all the tweets, from oldest to newest:

Hopefully that’s useful as you prepare to vote on Monday. You can read the Edmonton Journal’s recap here. Here’s the CBC’s recap. The recorded webcast will be available here shortly. Stay tuned to the Election centre on ShareEdmonton for updates, including live results on election night!

Edmonton Election 2010: Ward 2 Forum Recap

Tonight I attended the Ward 2 candidates forum at Rosslyn School. There were over 200 people in attendance, and without question the City Centre Airport was one of the major reasons for that. Both Kim Krushell and Don Koziak had large cheering sections on hand, and there were a number of familiar faces in the crowd, such as mayoral candidate David Dorward (who left after the opening statements) and former city councillor Patricia McKenzie. All of the candidates were present, except for Michael Waddy.

I thought both Krushell and Thomas Hinderks did the best job of fielding questions tonight. Hinderks in particular sounded confident and knowledgeable. Roxie Malone-Richards was also confident, but couldn’t seem to answer a question without referencing her support for the City Centre Airport, or her catchphrase: “overhaul city hall this fall.” Shelley Tupper didn’t have much to say, and frequently she simply agreed with what Krushell had said.

Ward 2 Forum

Here are my notes. My commentary is in italics. First, the opening statements:

  • Hinderks said the biggest issue facing Ward 2 is the creation of new jobs.
  • Koziak started off by questioning Krushell’s record and saying “we can do better”. He talked about the airport and its relation to business, saying that “business depends on customers”. He also said that if anyone on council is going to support the airport, it should be the Ward 2 councillor. First of all, retiring Ward 2 councillor Ron Hayter was one of the more vocal supporters of the airport. And secondly, you shouldn’t have to support something simply because of where it is located.
  • Krushell started by thanking Ward 2 residents, and said it is important to have a voice with experience representing them on council. Her commitment going forward is on results. She mentioned being in favor of decommissioning the trolley buses (which earned her a few jeers from the audience) and that she wholly supports LRT expansion (which earned her loud applause). She closed by stating that any discussion on the airport must be “guided by facts, not rhetoric or emotion.”
  • Malone-Richards said the big issue facing Ward 2 is the airport, and she is firmly in favor of keeping it open. She felt that there was a lack of democracy in council’s decision. She also promised to donate her 5.5% salary increase to charity if elected, and said she would increase the snow removal budget and frequency.
  • Tupper talked about her community experience, and mentioned a couple times that she has been a resident of Kensington for more than 20 years.

Second, questions:

  • When asked about whether or not they would take direction from city administration, both Koziak and Hinderks agreed they would give direction instead. Tupper said she’d listen to constituents, administration, and others, and then make a decision.
  • In response to a question about where the funding for LRT expansion will come from, Koziak replied that he is “extremely concerned” with the city’s debt levels. He otherwise avoided the question, and asked the same thing in response, where are we going to get the money?
  • Hinderks said that while LRT is important, “I wish we’d start calling it transit.” I like his overall point, that LRT is just a part of the public transit system.
  • In response to a question about an overpass at 127 Street and Yellowhead Trail, Malone-Richards said that she’s in favor of removing the lights on Yellowhead. All the candidates agreed that the overpass is needed, and Koziak went so far as to say the overpass would be his key transportation issue.
  • Koziak then took the opportunity to ask the audience for a show of hands if they took the LRT to get to the event. No hands went up. I thought this was one of the funniest things of the evening. I’m sure the room was divided into two. Those who support Koziak’s skepticism on LRT expansion were probably quite satisfied with the lack of hands. Those of us who support LRT expansion were probably thinking, ‘what a silly question, there’s no LRT station even close to here’. The nearest station, Belvedere is still two buses or a one an a quarter hour walk away from Rosslyn School.
  • When asked how we can ensure the redevelopment of the City Centre Airport lands results in affordable housing, Malone-Richards said “I’m not ready to give it up yet.” Krushell said the lands need to have a mix of housing options, and noted that any development would still have to go through the zoning process.
  • When asked about the bicycle plan, Koziak said he learned as an engineer that “one big truck causes more damage to a roadway than a million bicycles.”
  • On redevelopment and curbing urban sprawl, Malone-Richards say she supports incentives or penalties to encourage land and building owners to redevelop empty lots or derelict buildings. Except when it comes to the airport, of course.
  • Hinderks said a few times that if he’s elected, he expects constituents to call him daily to ensure he is keeping is promises.
  • One of the best questions of the evening was how we can retain talent in Edmonton, and diversify our economy. Malone-Richards said she wasn’t sure how to answer. Hinderks said that to make Edmonton more than an oil town, we need to focus on the City Centre Airport. Krushell finally answered the question, citing Next Gen and open data as two successful examples of the right approach, and said that closing the City Centre Airport will result in NAIT expansion and lots of new jobs. Koziak disagreed.
  • Hinderks also talked a lot about focusing on “advanced technology” in relation to the City Centre Airport, but never elaborated on what he meant.
  • In response to a question about social housing throughout the city, Hinderks said it “is a load that must be shared by everyone” and then quickly clarified that social housing is not a load but is “our friends and neighbours”.
  • At this point in my Twitter stream, Tupper once again agreed with one of the candidates. Woman of few words? Also of few thoughts/opinions?
  • There were a couple of questions about EPCOR. Koziak said that he thinks the goal of creating Capital Power was simply to create a new highly-paid CEO in Edmonton. And I’m quite certain he wasn’t joking. Krushell stood up for the decision, saying that by creating two companies, city council was actually helping to grow EPCOR.
  • The final question asked candidates for their vision of Edmonton as a whole. Malone-Richards said EXPO 2017 is “a colossal waste of money”. Tupper said she sees a city in which people care for one another. Hinderks picked up on the EXPO 2017 reference and said “we’re already on the map” and also “we don’t need to be on anyone’s map”. Koziak said “we have it pretty good here” and listed a bunch of negative things we don’t have, such as earthquakes. The only vision he referred to was infrastructure. Krushell responded by citing the success of Next Gen and similar initiatives, by pointing out that we’ve had a net increase in migration and that we’re creating more jobs.

And finally, closing statements:

  • Tupper didn’t say much, but encouraged everyone to vote.
  • Malone-Richards said “I’m the gal that talks the talk, walks the walk, and gets things done.”
  • Krushell said she has delivered over the last six years, citing some key accomplishments, and asked for continued support.
  • Koziak used the first half of his one minute to talk about where he and Krushell first met. He eventually got around to saying that he hopes to stop talking about the airport and that he wants to bring fresh ideas to council. Yes, in the same sentence.
  • Hinderks lectured: “Don’t just vote!” and be done, but after the election is over, “start riding your selection’s butt.”

My hat is off to the Toastmasters who moderate these forums. Without fail, someone will get to the microphone and talk for an hour if you let them. And without fail, the person at the front of the question line complains once the time for questions is over. Tonight’s moderator handled both situations expertly.

Ward 2 ForumWard 2 Forum

You can learn more about Ward 2 at ShareEdmonton. Election day is Monday!