As one would expect, the completion of the southwest berm is a priority for each candidate, with only Jamie Kinghorn suggesting the delay may mean a different plan may be necessary. But some similar themes emerged elsewhere in these responses, including accessibility for everyone including those with mobility issues must be maintained, and patience with the construction. However what we find in these questions about flood recovery, Downtown, secondary suites and community-led initiatives is that there are now far more differences between the candidates.
"Walkable" High River is a large target for the current Council, and each candidate supports it. Michael Nychyk rightly points out that the construction Downtown is not because we wanted to make town more "walkable", but rather that infrastructure required repairs following the flood; upgrading the look and feel of Downtown is simply taking advantage of the timing of the rebuild to reimagine a vibrant Downtown. Jamie Kinghorn, Sandra Wiebe and Terry Coleman focused on the economic impacts of the Downtown design, with Coleman being specific about not wanting the Downtown to be "a medical center". Wiebe and Nychyk also discussed the healthy-living and community components of a "walkable" High River.
The issue of parking shows the most significant contrasts between candidates so far. Kinghorn suggests that the vast majority of residents are disappointed with parking and is worried about problems amplifying with the completion of the provincial building. Wiebe and Nychyk, on the other hand, indicated they felt the issue of parking has been exaggerated, and encourage the physical activity of walking. Both Coleman and Nychyk indicated that communities are dynamic, and review would be necessary, with Coleman being quite specific about how that might look. Kinghorn, Nychyk and Coleman offered some ideas for solutions, but each referred to consultation to get to the best solution.
Where the issue of secondary suites is concerned, once again there is a clear difference amongst candidates. Kinghorn demonstrated a strong understanding of many of the various sides of the issue, and suggests that the solution can't be found in High River alone, but must be done in collaboration with other communities. Wiebe was interested in supporting the existence of secondary suites to deal with affordable housing issues.
Each candidate points out that economic recovery for the community should encourage the rebuild of empty houses in "swiss cheese" communities, but the assessments of "the real problem" are what sets candidates apart. Kinghorn states a solution must be found because empty non-taxpaying houses impact everyone else's taxes, but solutions must be approached on an individual basis. Nychyk offers that the best solution is to keep the public areas around these properties in good repair, and that attractiveness will help. Each candidate suggests incentives are required.
Improved marketing and communications are the orders of the day according to Kinghorn and Wiebe when it comes to community-led activities. Coleman instead wants to get rid of reducing red tape and barriers to success, while also helping people to be stronger community supporters.
Many of my readers (and my students) have asked questions that did not get covered by candidates' responses in my original questions. As a result, I sent out another request for responses to candidates over the Thanksgiving weekend (and told them not to answer until they had turkey). So you will see a "Bonus Round" blog later this week to cover the questions you have raised.
In the meantime, on Tuesday night (October 11) from 7:00 to 9:00 PM you will find me at the Highwood Memorial Centre for the All Candidates Forum hosted by the High River and District Chamber of Commerce. It leads into my next blog in this series, the "Post-Forum Mashup".
Candidate Responses Part 2
The southwest berm has not yet been completed, and other flood mitigation projects are underway. Which of these projects do you deem most important, and how do you intend to approach these projects if elected?
Downtown is constantly under construction moving towards a vision of a "walkable High River". What, in your opinion, is the value of a "walkable High River"? If you support it, how exactly will you do so. If you do not support it, how will you see that issue addressed?
Another issue in the Downtown region is parking, or a perceived lack thereof. If you see it as a significant issue, do you intend during your term to address this issue? If you do not believe it to be an issue, how do you intend to address the fact that many have such concerns?
The Land-Use Bylaw, particularly with attention to secondary suites, seems to be an ongoing issue. What solutions are you hoping to achieve with respect to secondary suites, and how will you work toward those solutions?
Following the flood, there remains "swiss cheese" communities and business areas, where vacancies exist. What role will you take as Councillor in addressing these vacancies to help rebuild these communities?
Community-minded people build a sense of community. How will you, as Councillor, encourage the continued development of community through citizen-led initiatives? Are there any initiatives you envision that must instead be Town-led to achieve prosperity?