With time ticking down until the Oct. 22 municipal vote, 17 of the 19 individuals seeking one of eight councillor seats in St. Thomas strutted their stuff Oct. 11 in front of approximately 100 in attendance at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
Sandwiched between a meet-and-greet before and after the event, the candidates were given a mere two minutes to pitch their case.
With a random selection process, the proceedings stumbled out of the gate when the first candidate drawn – James Murray – proved a no-show.
The task of opening up proceedings fell to Coun. Mark Tinlin, who vows to “continue working on your behalf.” His vision is to transform the city into “a tourist magnet.”
However St. Thomas also needs to invest in infrastructure, the transit system and increase the supply of affordable housing.
Tinlin’s mandate is to listen, to be accountable and to be informed.
Wearing it almost as a badge of honour, Rose Gibson is back seeking success after four failed attempts at a seat on council.
Referring to herself as a team player, Gibson wants to take aim at the city’s transit system, noting it has been her biggest thorn since 1992.
Noting her 29 years of community service, Gibson stresses she knows how to organize and plan.
Taking aim at the legalization of cannabis, Greg Graham points out the province is stacking the deck in favour of communities who want to opt into the retail sale of marijuana.
Graham warns “we have already been hit hard by drugs and addiction. What message are we sending to young people?”
Lori Baldwin-Sands, a member of city council from 2006 through 2014, stresses she has committed herself to this community.
She is seeking a new recreational facility and the expansion of Valleyview Home.
Bemoaning cuts to arts and culture in the city, Tim Hedden wants to see yearly stable funding for the St. Thomas Elgin Public Arts Centre and the Talbot Teen Centre.
“We need to look at the whole budget pie,” he points out.
Other priorities include mental health and addiction issues plus the transit system
“Let’s scrap the way we currently do things.”
Jim Herbert makes it clear he is the only newcomer who has attended every council meeting since June.
Priorities centre on homelessness and the city’s drug problems, including the need for more safe disposal locations for used needles.
And, adds Herbert, the need for an MRI machine for St. Thomas.
Michael Manary says he is frustrated with council dealing with too many issues behind closed doors.
“I would like to see our community hit above its weight, as it has in the past.”
Topping his list of issues needing attention are poverty, affordable housing and more programs for seniors.
While the city faces no one overwhelming problem, John Laverty says council must address several major issues which do not have a common solution.
These include affordable housing, jobs and mental health concerns.
His call to action, “Together we are better.”
Seeking re-election, Coun. Linda Stevenson notes “city council is a good fit for me.”
She adds, “I’m very proud of this council.”
Referring to the city as a “doors open community,” Stevenson stresses the need for job creation to keep young people in St. Thomas. Partnerships with Fanshawe and Western are one way to accomplish this, she says.
She closed her presentation stressing “I’m a team player.”
Petrusia Hontar made note of her two master’s degrees and a degree in engineering to open her dialogue.
It is important, she adds, to consult with people before counsel makes decisions.
Without referencing any priorities, she notes 20 per cent of our youth live in poverty.
“You need to understand where you have been to know where you are going.”
Dave Mathers points out he “brings a business sense to city council.”
He is pushing for a hotel in the city as London businesses are now getting all the patronage when visitors travel to St. Thomas.
Mathers also wants to see development on the Alma College property completed.
As is the case with many of the candidates, he notes poverty issues are an important agenda item.
For Coun. Joan Rymal, there is a need to “ensure we are a healthy and safe community . . . where businesses can thrive.”
She points out the need for affordable housing incentives and the city should develop a downtown railway park and invest in the airport.
There is also a need to hire more bylaw officers for after hours duty, something that should not be delegated to police officers.
Classifying herself as “a no BS-type of person,” Lesley Buchanan notes this is her first time in what she refers to as “a public popularity contest.”
She maintains the city is a business and should be operated as such.
Joining James Murray in the no-show category was Kevin Smith and that brought Coun. Jeff Kohler to the podium.
He put forward the necessity of “securing our future,” which can be accomplished by promoting local economic development.
Kohler warns the city is in need of more industrial land and promotes the sharing of an industrial park at the airport with Central Elgin.
And, in what has become a universal theme, there needs to be improvements to the transit system.
Documenting his heavy involvement within the community, Serge Lavoie admits a driving force for him is “our wonderful heritage.”
He adds, “I would like to see our community hit above its weight, as it has in the past.”
Priorities for Lavoie include housing and transit with a need to “keep investing in our community.”
Steve Peters opened his comments with, “You need to understand where you have been to know where you are going.”
As such, he adds, “We need to work as a team to move forward.”
Throughout the campaign he has promoted the need to work closer with neighbouring municipalities.
“I want to make St. Thomas an even better place to live.”
Closing out the formal portion of the evening, Coun. Gary Clarke stresses “We have a lot of good things going on as a council.”
He adds the city “is a happening place.”
The new council must invest in infrastructure renewal and affordable housing, Clarke notes.
“We have to partner with service clubs and other levels of government,” he stresses. “We can’t do it alone.”
Casting your vote for St. Thomas city council: The ideal candidate “is someone who is amenable to working with others to try and get things done.”
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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