Vy­ing views

St. John’s may­oral and deputy may­oral can­di­dates ex­plain how they will cre­ate a world-class city

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KENN OLIVER kenn.oliver@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: ken­no­liver79

Fri­day morn­ing in a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion fo­rum the can­di­dates for mayor and deputy mayor were asked what they would do, if elected, to make

St. John’s a world-class city.

All res­i­dents of St. John’s likely have their own thoughts and ideas as to how the prov­ince’s cap­i­tal can be­come a world-class city.

It could be through eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the down­town core, a greater fo­cus on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, the need for more proac­tive re­la­tion­ships with other lev­els of gov­ern­ment or im­prov­ing ac­cess to ser­vices.

Fri­day morn­ing in a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion fo­rum at Easter Seals House spon­sored by The Tele­gram, the St. John’s Board of Trade and the pro­vin­cial chap­ter of the Cana­dian Home Builders As­so­ci­a­tion, the can­di­dates for mayor and deputy mayor were asked what they would do, if elected, to make St. John’s a world-class city.

May­oral can­di­dates Cur­rent Ward 1 coun­cil­lor Danny Breen said that while the city al­ready has a rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing world-class, more can be done to strengthen that.

Breen says in ad­dress­ing the is­sue it needs to be asked how coun­cil can do more of what makes St. John’s a world-class city, how that can be pro­moted and clearly iden­ti­fy­ing the city’s role.

Do­ing more, he says, starts with achiev­ing greater eco­nomic gains and a bet­ter rep­u­ta­tion. “First, I will drive the cre­ation of the St. John’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion,” says Breen, who prom­ises an eco­nomic sum­mit within his first 100 days in of­fice. “From this I will forge the cre­ation of a ded­i­cated eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion cre­ated with ex­ist­ing re­sources which will bring to­gether en­trepreneurs and busi­ness lead­ers to help achieve more of both growth and tra­di­tional sec­tors.”

Breen also sug­gests less­en­ing the bur­den on all tax­pay­ers, re­vi­tal­iz­ing the down­town through a new de­vel­op­ment strat­egy that fo­cuses on min­i­mum prop­erty stan­dards and liv­abil­ity to make it more at­trac­tive to all stake­hold­ers and res­i­dents, and stream­lin­ing the city’s plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment de­part­ment to bet­ter sup­port busi­ness and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Key to pro­mo­tion, he be­lieves, is youth re­ten­tion and at­trac­tion, re­spect­ful and pro­duc­tive co-op­er­a­tion with arts, cul­ture and her­itage com­mu­ni­ties, and a switch from mu­nic­i­pal plan­ning to sus­tain­able plan­ning. “We need to move from a sin­gle-source re­source-based econ­omy to a di­ver­si­fied one, and one that has cul­tural sus­tain­abil­ity, in­clud­ing her­itage built right in. One that rec­og­nizes the de­mo­graphic chal­lenges that we have be­fore us and the plan to deal with those chal­lenges in the fu­ture.”

The city’s role, Breen says, is to be a leader in all of the afore­men­tioned ini­tia­tives and to de­velop mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ships with neigh­bour­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and other lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

May­oral can­di­date Re­nee Sharpe said all the tools to make St. John’s a world-class city al­ready ex­ist and, if elected, she would lead an ef­fort to work col­lab­o­ra­tively to make the most of those tools.

“We have all the ex­per­tise. We have the com­mu­ni­ties work­ing to­wards mak­ing the place safer, more vi­brant, fo­cus­ing on arts and com­mu­nity. We have the ur­ban plan­ners that are smart and ready to be used.” Sharpe says she has vis­ited world-class cities that have fo­cused on live­able and green spa­ces, af­ford­able hous­ing, food sus­tain­abil­ity, and “a down­town core that’s ex­cit­ing and vi­brant and brings all walks of life to­gether.”

“Let’s move for­ward from just over­priced restau­rants and tourist bou­tiques that are not ac­tu­ally for us,” Sharpe says. “Let’s cre­ate a space that is vi­brant for youth, for se­niors, for new­com­ers, for in­dige­nous peo­ple.”

Sharpe also ad­vo­cates for more spend­ing on the arts, a solid poverty-re­duc­tion plan, and a safer city for all through harm-re­duc­tion strate­gies for peo­ple with men­tal-health and ad­dic­tion is­sues, in­clud­ing safe boxes for the dis­posal of used nee­dles and the es­tab­lish­ment of a safe-in­jec­tion site.

“Let’s move to­wards all peo­ple’s voices be­ing in­cluded be­cause we can be the best city in the world if we make sure ev­ery­one’s safe and peo­ple have a dig­nity to life,” Sharpe said.

Andy Wells, a for­mer St. John’s mayor, says through­out the cam­paign he has found that cit­i­zens want a bet­ter deal from their city coun­cil, and that starts with the fun­da­men­tals of gov­er­nance. “Rea­son­able tax­a­tion, rea­son­able reg­u­la­tions and an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to de­velop their own ca­pac­i­ties to build their own lives and make a con­tri­bu­tion,” Wells said.

He says the cur­rent coun­cil and that of the last eight years has been “bank­rupt” of these fun­da­men­tals and points to the re­cent east end vs. west end de­bate play­ing out in the me­dia between large-scale de­vel­op­ers as a prime ex­am­ple of how the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment sys­tem is flawed.

“It’s coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, it’s zero-sum eco­nom­ics and it adds noth­ing to the value of the econ­omy. We should be stat­ing clearly what the rules of de­vel­op­ment are so the game is un­der­stood.”

Along the same lines, Wells be­lieves the cur­rent coun­cil has failed to in­sti­tute eas­ierto-nav­i­gate reg­u­la­tory pro­cesses for de­vel­op­ments. “There will be a shakeup at city hall,” he vows. “The process will be re­formed so peo­ple can get on with im­prov­ing their lot and im­prov­ing their lives.”

Low lev­els of tax­a­tion, how­ever, are key to his plat­form and his com­mit­ment to the cit­i­zens.

“The art of tax­a­tion con­sists of pluck­ing the goose to get the most feathers with the least amount of squawk­ing,” Well says.

“But go­ing around this city dur­ing this cam­paign, I’ve heard a lot of cit­i­zens squawk­ing that the city is tak­ing too many feathers from them and we’ve got to get tax­a­tion back to where it is rea­son­able.”

Deputy may­oral can­di­dates

Sheilagh O’leary, cur­rently the coun­cil­lor for Ward 4, iden­ti­fies plan­ning, busi­ness growth, built her­itage, en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship, trans­porta­tion and multi-level gov­ern­ment co-op­er­a­tion as keys to mak­ing St. John’s a world-class city.

In terms of the busi­ness com­mu­nity, O’leary says more needs to hap­pen to es­tab­lish clear reg­u­la­tions for busi­ness, a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with the city, and how more can be gen­er­ated from cul­tural as­sets. “To the thou­sands of vis­i­tors who flock to our city ev­ery year, arts and cul­ture are a ma­jor at­trac­tion. While non-re­new­able re­sources such as the oil in­dus­try are no doubt a huge eco­nomic ben­e­fit to St. John’s in the short term, we need to set sights on re­new­able re­sources for the fu­ture and for the long term.

“I be­lieve that we need to turn our fo­cus to sup­port­ing sus­tain­able in­dus­tries such as the lo­cal food and agri­cul­ture in­dus­try, cul­tural pro­duc­tion and ex­pe­ri­en­tial eco-tourism.

O’leary sup­ports af­ford­able hous­ing ini­tia­tives such as cre­at­ing new mod­els of smaller projects and co-hous­ing con­cepts to ad­dress the city’s grow­ing se­nior de­mo­graphic.

Com­peti­tor Michelle Worth­man also has some ideas around ad­dress­ing the needs of the city’s ag­ing baby boomer pop­u­la­tion.

“When it comes to the baby boomers, we can be the first to make sure that their ser­vices are in place and mak­ing sure those se­niors are go­ing to re­con­nect with our youth,” she says.

Worth­man be­lieves the city can be made world-class by fo­cus­ing is­sues on the in­di­vid­ual per­son.

“Mak­ing sure we can reach each in­di­vid­ual and that we are keep­ing them en­gaged and we’re ad­dress­ing what their needs are, and that’s go­ing to hap­pen through the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“It’s not dif­fi­cult deal­ing with the in­di­vid­ual. It’s not dif­fi­cult at all. We’ve been liv­ing in re­peated mes­sages and mantras for so long that we’ve lost our fight­ing New­found­lan­der men­tal­ity, and that men­tal­ity is the way we’re go­ing to get back to a first class so­ci­ety.”

The Tele­gram, Board of Trade and the Home Builders As­so­ci­a­tion will con­vene another mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion fo­rum on Tues­day at 8:30 a.m., at the Com­fort Inn Air­port, where the ward and coun­cil­lor-at-large can­di­dates will present their plat­forms.

JOE GIB­BONS/THE TELE­GRAM

For­mer St. John’s mayor Andy Wells speaks Fri­day at the may­oral and deputy may­oral can­di­dates’ open mic ses­sion at the Easter Seals House on Mount Scio Road. Seated (from left) are may­oral can­di­date Danny Breen, deputy may­oral can­di­dates Michelle Worth­man and Sheilagh O’leary, and may­oral can­di­date Re­nee Sharpe.

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