T8N: If you were to change one thing specific to the City of St. Albert itself, what would that be? And if you were to change one thing within the community itself, what would that be?
TT: AFFORDABILITY – Simply put, it can be costly to live and do business in St. Albert. Affordability (or lack of), directly affects being an attractive, competitive and sustainable municipality. In the greater context, affordability levels involve and impact everything from property taxes, housing, family planning, business growth, resident retention, inclusion, levels of public participation, and retirement.
And it’s not simply a matter of halting all spending. Sometimes it’s in the way we’re doing things not what we’re doing, that can make the difference. Bureaucracy, time, redundancy, duplication, waste, and outdated methods along the value chain all affect cost. For instance, outdated and redundant engineering standards increase the cost of development, consequently impacting housing costs right from the beginning. I feel strongly about working to improve affordability in new ways that won’t compromise the suburban lifestyle we all love about St. Albert Simply put, it can be costly to live and do business in St. Albert. Affordability (or lack of), directly affects being an attractive, competitive and sustainable municipality. In the greater context, affordability levels involve and impact everything from property taxes, housing, family planning, business growth, resident retention, inclusion, levels of public participation, and retirement.
T8N: What will be the first item that you plan to bring forward for council debate immediately after the election?
TT: Upon being elected, I think the focus needs to be on getting informed about the current state of affairs, on boarding effectively and tending to the budget. When people come right out of the gate with personal agendas and no consideration for the whole of what is already going on, this has the potential to entangle process and get everyone off to a tough start.
The budget itself will present ample opportunities for Council members to bring up changes and directions through that process.
Once things settle, I absolutely want the City to update and modernize St. Albert’s Affordable Housing Strategy to be current at minimum, and leading out at best. This is something that I will be in conversation about with the new Mayor, and something for strategic planning in January.
T8N: What governance or policy change that council operates under today needs to be changed immediately?
TT: I hesitate walking in and directing an immediate change to policy without having first had time to have strategic planning and a full presentation of the current state of affairs from the City Manager.What I will say is that I currently have a hard time with Council getting into Area Structure Plans (ASP) and directing throughout the process. This adds time, money, and confusion while reducing competitiveness and efficiency. If Council feels there are issues with what
What I will say is that I currently have a hard time with Council getting into Area Structure Plans (ASP) and directing throughout the process. This adds time, money, and confusion while reducing competitiveness and efficiency. If Council feels there are issues with what its receiving from the engineering department, then that is a conversation with the City Manager, along with a potential policy level change to set parameters of what is desired in advance. Managing the process along the way is not governance.
Questions provided by David Climenhaga (edited by T8N)
T8N: Never mind the question of a branch library or the location of services. What is your view of the long-term viability of library services in our community? Are you prepared to continue funding library services at a level that permits continuation of present levels of service while accounting for increases in population?
TT: I think that libraries of today look different than those of past. As such, I expect the library in 20 years to look different. I don’t have an issue with funding library services provided they evolve with the times and continue to serve an important function for our residents. This doesn’t come for free.
T8N: Alberta law requires a legal separation between city councillors and city employees: Employees report to the city manager; the city manager reports to council. What is your view of the proper working relationship between front-line employees and city councillors?
TT: Although the City Manager is Council’s sole direct report, City Council has a fiduciary responsibility as the municipality’s overall employer. “Tone is set from the top” as they say, and I believe Council plays an important role in organizational culture, employee morale, and engagement. In my view, City employees are essential stakeholders in implementing Council’s visions and directions, and are the ones on the frontline serving our residents. In my experience, St. Albert employees are among the most professionally talented I’ve worked with, and Council should be proud of this.
I am fully prepared to join forces with the City Manager, and his staff as appropriate, to get things done in partnership. This is not to say that employees aren’t to be held accountable, but I don’t view the Administration as the “Opposition Party”. It is essential in creating high performing teams that the City Manager feels safe bringing difficult challenges to Council for open and constructive dialogue, and joint problem-solving.
It’s important to me that St. Albert has an organizational culture where employees feel excited to share achievements, and feel safe in bringing up new ideas or reporting on failed attempts – from which we can learn and grow from.
T8N: What can and should be done to ensure the continued viability of St. Albert’s downtown Perron Street District?
TT: Few candidates have spoken to the importance of our downtown. I still support the essence of the Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan (DARP) to encourage walkability, enhance traffic flow, invigorate small businesses, showcase our artistic and environmental assets, and help reduce the use of motor vehicles and their effects.
I remain concerned about the tenant vacancy and turnover rates of our small businesses downtown. Pedestrian traffic will help once the new condominiums are built, but overhead costs also impact viability and profitability. Parking continues to be gripe from visitors. We have one of the most beautiful downtown cores in Alberta and each empty window sends a message. These are things I am watching, and not opposed to the idea of incentives to attract business and investment in our downtown
T8N: Never mind the sequencing of traffic lights on St. Albert Trail. Where do you stand on the calls by some residents for a 40 kilometre-per-hour speed limit in residential neighbourhoods?
TT: I don’t oppose the idea, but this is often ineffective and practically impossible to enforce. Following a model in Sherwood Park, I propose assigning “family friendly neighbourhood” designations to high traffic neighbourhood roads. This includes incorporating special signage, speed bumps and radar speed signs. An assessment would need to be conducted on the “where, when and how”, but I have often admired the model in Sherwood Park as a wise and astute strategy.
T8N: There are many savings and benefits that could be realized by being part of a regional transit system. Are you prepared to work toward the participation or inclusion of St. Albert Transit in a regional transit system?
TT: Without question. I grew up in Ottawa, a city where they actually have a dedicated “transit system” and one operation that includes all suburbs. This was the case even before that city amalgamated its suburban cities.
T8N: What is your position on the extension of a regionally financed LRT system from downtown Edmonton to St. Albert?
TT: Edmonton’s focus is on extension to the South, so I’m not convinced this is even on the table. By the time regionally financed LRT discussion come back into serious focus for St. Albert, automated transportation will be on the horizon if not already integrated.
T8N: There are many savings and benefits that could be realized by being part of a regional policing system. Are you prepared to work toward the creation of a Capital Region Police Force in which St. Albert would participate?
TT: Not opposed, but not certain this is needed or wanted at this time.
T8N: As St. Albert grows, it is coming under pressure for increased recreation facilities, including additional ice sheets and swimming pools. Would you as councillor be prepared to work to create joint public projects for the development of recreational facilities involving any or all of the County of Parkland, Town of Morinville, County of Sturgeon and City of Edmonton?
TT: NO ANSWER
T8N: St. Albert citizens complain constantly about the cost of operating a city the size of St. Albert, including the costs of duplication of services and the heavy reliance of the municipal tax base on residential properties instead of businesses. If substantial tax savings for residents could be shown, are there circumstances in which you would agree to or support amalgamation of St. Albert with the city of Edmonton?
TT: I’m not opposed to the idea, but need to see the research before taking a definitive position. There are always benefits with trade-offs with amalgamations. In fact, this would be the type of decision I could see going to a plebiscite.
T8N: Parking at St. Albert Place and in the downtown district continues to be a problem for the city. What is your preferred solution to this situation: Leave it alone? Build a parkade? Paid street parking? Other?
TT: NO ANSWER
T8N: What is your vision for St. Albert’s role in the Capital Regional District?
TT: Better to be in the game than watching from the sideline. In terms of my vision, I think we have been fortunate to this point with our level of involvement in the CRB and hope that continues. It will always be a challenge to balance our
Questions provided by Tim Osborne (edited by T8N)
T8N: What do you believe is the role of a councillor?
TT: To me the role has numerous functions and responsibilities but one purpose. That purpose is to work on behalf of the residents in providing effective stewardship and investment of public resources to advance the greater good of the community/society.
I also believe that Council is the voice of the electorate, and has a responsibility to work in collaboration with them and bring forward concerns. Public engagement is crucial in this, albeit you can’t make everyone happy all the time.
T8N: How would you address the balance between doing what may be in the best interest of the community despite the act being unpopular?
TT: Political courage is tough and I think a key reason why decisions drag out and/or direction is compromised down to a place that people can live with.
Admittedly, this is the aspect I find most challenging, but I am geared up for that. Having been in management for 25 years, I have experience with having to make unpopular decisions that benefit the greater whole. This doesn’t make it any less difficult, but is what true leadership is about.
For me, when views are opposed I try to start from a place of commonality, and build from there to get to a good decision. And if things don’t advance naturally from there, then motions and decision must be made, and Council is to make the best of those decisions.
Specifically, to unpopularity, I feel fortunate that I am coming to the role mid-career. As such I don’t fear speaking up on issues candidly and openly as I’m not worried about the next election. If people like me in 4 years and I run again, great! If not, the electorate can choose someone else and I will return to my life.
T8N: Is there a role for third party or anonymous advertising / communication in municipal elections? Explain.
TT: I think anonymous advertising or anonymous anything raises serious questions for me. One can’t be promoting transparency and accountability while hiding behind a curtain.
T8N: What is your vision for increasing the housing options in our community?
TT: Through my current work in the affordable housing sector nationally and provincially, along with my previous experience at the St. Albert Housing Society, I know first-hand of the critical need of more affordable housing options for residents with modest and fixed incomes. I can say that in my current experience, you do not have to look too far to see other municipalities and Councils that are far more engaged and advanced on the affordable housing file.
St. Albert needs both more diverse market-priced housing options, as well as more below-market rental options. This is not to suggest we eliminate single detached estate homes; it is a recognition that we require a better mix of housing to meet St. Albertan’s needs and wants.
The “right to housing” is the modern direction across the globe, and city councils have an important and direct role in helping provide housing options for the residents in their community.
Admittedly, St. Albert has been doing better in helping provide more diverse or different housing options, such as Riverside, Botanica and Ville Giroux, for example. And it is certainly positive that the City has agreed to advocate for more seniors affordable housing, as well as supporting the Rental Assistance Program (RAP); although I do think RAP is a band-aid measure and not sustainable.
Despite the City’s affordable housing strategy, we are still in dire shortage of below-market family rental housing.
Below-market and subsidized rental availability has been near 0% in St. Albert for many years. Big Lake Pointe has been at full capacity since opening in 2013. With fewer than 100 rental units below market rental rates in a City of 65,000 is not acceptable. This gap makes it difficult for single-parent families, young adults, or wage-earning employees to live here. Furthermore, residents in unhealthy relationships looking to leave cannot do so as household incomes would drop upon separation, and it is near impossible to obtain a below-market rental option in a timely manner.
With a new Federal Housing Strategy and a new Provincial Affordable Housing Strategy released June 26, new affordable housing is being approved across the province, and St. Albert needs to get its share.
We need a more robust and updated housing strategy developed that takes a longer-range view, and considers contemporary ideas such as voluntary inclusionary zoning and incentive-based options. Additionally, I would like to see eligibility criteria for RAP revisited to better assist those in the most difficult circumstances.Through my current work in the affordable housing sector nationally and provincially, along with my previous experience at the St. Albert Housing Society, I know of the critical need of more affordable housing options for residents with modest and fixed incomes. St. Albert needs both more diverse market-priced housing options, as well as more below-market rental options. This is not to suggest we eliminate single detached estate homes; it is a recognition that we require a better mix of housing to meet St. Albertan’s needs and wants.
T8N Magazine Questions
T8N: What would be your reasons for / against switching to a ward system in St.Albert?
TT: On the positive: For candidates, it would certainly lighten the load for campaigning and allow for a more concentrated focus on localized issues once elected. This could save time and money and perhaps encourage more people to run. I think wards are good from a logistical perspective.
On the downside, it can be extremely difficult for elected officials to take a city-wide approach on matters if people in their ward are opposed. Conversely, it can be difficult to have Council take a matter seriously if there is a localized situation in a specific ward that does not impact the others. Often elected officials become torn between the whole and the voice of those who put them in the seat to represent them. This was evidence regularly during my time as the executive advisor to the Board of Trustees with Edmonton Public Schools. I also find issues of discussion and contention tend to be far more topical than strategic or broad-reaching. I observe this in both Edmonton’s and Calgary’s current race.
T8N: Are there any actions / directives / projects undertaken by the previous council that you would like to stop / undo / dramatically change? Why?
TT: See question 2.
To see what the other candidates for council said, click below.
Sandyne Beach-McCutcheon http://www.t8nmagazine.com/sandyne-survey/
Nester Andrew Petriw http://www.t8nmagazine.com/nester-questionnaire/