The doors to the Wetaskiwin Memorial Centre were advertised to be open at 6:30 pm on October 8th, 2013 for the City of Wetaskiwin candidate forum hosted by the Wetaskiwin and District Chamber of Commerce. Interest in the event was quickly evidenced by people arriving soon after 6:00 pm for the 7:00 pm event and it wasn’t long before there was standing room, only.
The first segment of the forum saw Mayoral candidates, Bill Elliot and Mark McFaul deliver their platforms in a 5 minute opening address. For the next 20 minutes the candidates responded to the following questions delivered by Chamber President, Randy Plant and Pipestone Flyer reporter, Barry McDonald:
(1) City debt is reported to be approximately $30M and the annual City budget is just over $27M. How are we going to afford to operate our existing assets and also afford to continue developing new asserts moving our city forward?
(2) It has been bantered around that increases in taxes will take a significant jump as a result of the two major projects; the Manluk Aquatic Centre and Main Street Revitalization. There is no turning the clock back. Both projects will be completed and are here to stay, so how do we lever them into revenue? What would you see as the business strategy, and what would you see as the communication strategy to attract businesses to Main Street and Wetaskiwin in general?
(3) We are not Camrose. We are not Leduc. We are not South Edmonton Common. We are a small city that is trying to play catch-up and establish ourselves as something ‘important’ so other people and businesses will find us attractive and want to become part of our community. What would be the statement you would use to describe the vision for Wetaskiwin that would attract those people and businesses to Wetaskiwin?
(5) During the past 3 years Council has been divided and dysfunctional As the Mayor of a new Council, how will you avoid a similar situation? And if it appears to be evolving, how will you manage it?
(6) What are the long range planning and budgetary issues the City needs to address?
(7) Council is responsible for a $27M budget (or roughly $120M over the next 4 years). What 2-3 things would you do to ensure Council is well prepared to make decisions about the financial affairs of the City?
(8) Economic development is not one person, one department but everyone in the community. However, the City Economic Development Department must take the lead with creating economic progress by attracting businesses through unique characteristics such as economic sanctions, lifestyle, location, healthcare, safety or education opportunities. Wetaskiwin has lots of these but we need to do a better job of convincing others of that. What is currently happening in that regard and what should happen in the future?
Missed the forum but want to know more
If you were unable to attend the forum and would like to hear what Elliot and McFaul have to say about these and other issues you can contact them directly at: Elliot – firstname.lastname@example.org<email@example.com>; McFaul – firstname.lastname@example.org
The aldermen hopefuls make promises
The second segment of the evening had each of the fourteen aldermen hopefuls deliver a 2 minute platform. Some described what they thought were the merits of the past while others were adamant that although they may not agree with what transpired in the past, ‘we have to work together to move into the future’. Some provided examples of ‘poor business decisions by financing expenditures which have not brought any economic value to the City’. Others promised they would be looking for’ cultural and economic opportunities for the City’.
But many of the new guys on the block came equipped with new messages. “Council must commit to working together as a team to make decisions that are best for Wetaskiwin; We need to get our fiscal operation under control; Operate within our means; Create a larger tax base; revisit the debt load and develop a debt reduction plan; support local businesses to avoid losing any more”….and the list went on.
As the evening wore on, it appeared that two distinct points of views were evolving with two distinct groups of candidates aligning with those views; (1) borrowing and spending is going to move the City forward, vs. (2) we need to spend and manage finances in a responsible manner.
I have covered City Hall meetings for the Pipestone Flyer for more than 3 years. That’s 2 hours of my life, every second week. I observed the performance of the Council prior to the 2010 elections and then a new team elected in October, 2010. I have also attended a multitude of special events, presentations, interviews and public consultations. I have conducted research and analyzed what I have seen and heard, to create the column, City of Wetaskiwin Highlights and other articles about the City.
What did I learn? The biggest challenge for the Mayor and new Council will be to understand the importance of working together as a team or Wetaskiwin will continue to be stagnated. The new pool won’t do it. Revitalized Main Street won’t do it. It will require a Council with a business vision supported by business sense. A Council that is unified and working towards common goals. A Council that is a team.
Council and Mayor like a horse pulling competition
As I explained in an earlier editorial, several years ago I watched a horse pulling competition that my friend Gene was competing in. The competition starts with a load, or weights being placed on a special sleigh-like unit. Each team is hitched to the unit and is expected to pull it for a designated distance. If the team cannot pull the weight the designated distance, they are eliminated and cannot continue to the next round. The contest continues by adding weights or distances until only one team remains.
It was very evident Gene had spent considerable time training his team. You could tell by the way they moved their heads, glanced around at all their surroundings and eagerly pranced to the sleigh, they were anxious to compete. At the same time they were well mannered and responsive to his every command and gesture. The team turned into place in front of the weighted sleigh in a composed fashion, stood still and patiently waited to be hooked up knowing in a couple minutes at the command of Gene, they will be expected to haunch down deep in their harness, dig their hooves into the soil and provide a 100+% pulling effort. I watched Gene’s team win another competition.
Following the competition, I asked Gene what the key was to his success and how he was winning so many competitions, often pulling against larger horses in the same class. His response was pretty straight forward. There are many good horses but the team that leans into the harness at the same time and pulls together as a team for the entire pull will be the winner. Not necessarily the biggest or the best two horses will win, but the best two horses working together will win.
So what does this have to do with City Hall, Administration and Council? Lots! To be a winner it’s all about planning, preparing, and consistently pulling together as a team for a common cause.
On October 21st, pick your team from the following list. And pick carefully because you will have to live with that team for the next 4 years.