February 17th, 2018

Council candidates list priorities at first forum

By Mabell, Dave on September 27, 2017.

City council candidate Jennifer Takahashi answers a question from the audience during an election forum hosted by SACPA Tuesday evening at the Fritz Sick Centre. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


Lethbridge needs a performing arts centre, new convention space at Exhibition Park and a more effective transit system.

Those were among the top priorities raised by candidates and citizens at the year’s first all-candidates forum for city council seats. The three mayoralty candidates will present their stands tonight, 7 p.m. at the Lethbridge Public Library’s Theatre Gallery.

Hundreds turned up at the Fritz Sick gym to hear 29 candidates highlight their campaign issues, and to raise pointed questions. Three of the candidates -Kevin Layton, David Mikuliak and Louise Marie Saloff – were unable to attend.

The forum, organized by the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs, also heard condemnation of the city police force’s “carding” program and the need to plan for a third bridge.

Most new candidates emphasized their previous experience. Craig Burrows-Johnson outlined his work with art galleries, stressing “the power of art” to beautify and enhance cities. Bruce Thurber cited his background as a professional engineer as an aid in council decision-making. Belinda Crowson pointed out the importance of history and research.

“I literally know where all the bodies are buried,” she said.

The importance of getting new blood on council was emphasized by others, with John Pogorzelski promising to bring the same energy to the city’s business as he has to starting his own business here. Aileen Burke said council needs more people under 35. Rena Woss called for more parity between women and men on council.

The role of transit and planning in a growing city – more than 100,000 in the next few years – was underlined by Stephnie Watson. Blaine Hyggen, seeking his second term on council, said council sent back its recently received Transit Master Plan for further consideration.

“We need more input from the community,” he explained.

Racism and other social issues were raised as well. Running for a second time, Joey Shackleford called for an end to “carding” or “street checks” by Lethbridge police.

“To me it’s nothing but racial profiling.”

Speaking from his experience at the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen and similar agencies, Bill Ginther said the city must provide more help to the poor and homeless. Shelby Macleod voiced the need for more mental health services, but told a questioner there’s little value in spending more money on the airport if airlines can’t serve it profitably.

“I’m a common-sense kind of gal,” she added.

Praising the city’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation process, Jeff Carlson reminded listeners progress on those and other issues take time.

“There is still a lot of work to be done.”

Running for his sixth term on council, Joe Mauro spent his time urging audience members to get more people to the polls on voting day. A 29 per cent turnout is disappointing, he said.

Liz Iwaskiw reminded voters of the importance of councillors doing their reading and research. Rob Miyashiro called for a “big picture” approach to governance.

Ryan Parker, another longtimer on council, told a questioner his views have changed over the years in step with the city’s growth.

“I shouldn’t be penalized for my years of service.”

Jeff Coffman somewhat agreed, emphasizing the voters’ need to elect people with knowledge and experience to do the job. Mark Campbellheld that his years of interviewing people would serve him well on council.

Most incumbents and challengers called for careful budgeting, while the city proceeds with its next capital plan. Harold Pereverseff was the only one calling for spending cuts and lower taxes.

Candidates Clint Gersheid, Zachary Gibb, Raymond Hoffarth, Ross Morrell, Nick Paladino and Davey Wiggers also took part in the forum.

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