|You’re not imagining things if it seems like we were just at the ballot box. It’s been only 20 months since the last municipal election when a mayor and seven councillors were chosen to represent our city. The do-over is needed, however, because first-time councillor Gilles Prefontaine resigned his seat in late April to take a newly created position as Chief Community Development Officer with the City of St. Albert.|
The move is not without controversy. Politicians and citizens alike are questioning the ethics of Prefontaine’s quick departure from council for a high-level position with the City of St. Albert. And then there’s the cost of a by-election, which at over $100,000 is nearly as much as the entire general election in 2013. Still, the vacant seat must be filled within 90 days of a resignation, and Mayor Nolan Crouse and current council have chosen to have the vote in late June rather than July to accommodate residents who might be away on summer holidays.
To date, three candidates have declared intentions to run for council: Bob Russell, Tash Taylor and Natalie Mikus, though more are expected to throw their hats in the ring before nomination day, May 27.
A quick survey on the Community of St. Albert Facebook page offers many hot-button issues that weigh on voters minds, from congested roads and no-left-turn-without-an-arrow backups on St. Albert Trail to high utility bills, new school sites and downtown development.
“There’s an urgent need to twin Ray Gibbon Drive. Why was a major road built with only one lane in each direction?” asked resident Mary Ann Denis.
Long time St. Albert and Sturgeon County businessman Jim Hole concurs with voters who put cooperative regional development as a priority. Hole said development around the Enjoy Centre has progressed more slowly than he had anticipated, so he’d like to see council work more efficiently with city neighbours in the decision-making process.
“I’d like to see a game plan and get-it-done attitude—regional thinking—there is so much opportunity in the Edmonton area. I don’t want to see us work in parallel or let opportunities slip by,” he said.
Planning another run after a defeat in the 2013 election is four-term-former-councillor Bob Russell. The self-described ‘legislative person’ said utility bill add-ons and a much-needed twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive are top issues. “I also want to create a police committee to deal with the local crime crisis, and I’d halt St. Anne Street redevelopment. It’s a multi-million-dollar boondoggle,” said Russell.
Tash Taylor, a mom, military wife and management consultant with St. Albert Housing, said traffic congestion and a need to expand park-and-ride facilities are key issues. “Seniors’ housing is important too—I want St. Albert to be a leader for seniors to age in place with affordable accommodation and the supports they need,” Taylor said.
Photographer Natalie Mikus said she’s not your standard candidate. Growing up in St. Albert, Mikus said she’s in love with the city and names accountability and transparency as her aim for council if she is elected. “There’s a lot of exciting stuff going on—downtown development, the Grandin Mall site—I want everyone’s voices to be heard,” Mikus said. “We’re good at building community too, from block parties to the children’s festival.”
Mayor Crouse said election issues will be what they are—from public art to potholes—but he has only one wish for whoever wins the by-election. “I hope the person has a high degree of integrity and professionalism, whether in chambers, on email or in tweets. This council doesn’t need any crap or fist-pounding,” he said.
Those interested in running for the part-time councillor position must be at least 18, a Canadian citizen, an Alberta resident for 6 months prior to the election and a St. Albert resident on election day. t8n
Voting stations are open election day, June 24, from 10 am to 8 pm at the following locations around the city: St. Albert Centre, King of Kings Church, St. Albert Alliance Church, Kinsmen Korral, Servus Place and the Salvation Army.
Advance votes can be cast June 15, 17 and 20 from 10 am to 8 pm at St. Albert Centre.