By Tim Kalinowski on June 22, 2021.
Lifetime Lethbridge resident and former manager of planning and development at Lethbridge County, Nick Paladino, announced last week he would be running for city council in this fall’s municipal election.
Paladino, who also ran four years ago, believes he has something to offer a lot of other candidates don’t have: previous municipal governance experience.
“I am not going to say I know everything about everything,” explains Paladino, who spent 30 years in the planning department of Lethbridge County before retiring. “I am probably pretty weak on some of the social aspects of running a city. But from a land use, planning, rezoning and subdivisions, and that (perspective), I think I can help out and ask the right questions of staff. Sometimes I think staff has its own agenda it brings to council, and tries to direct the decision– which is fine and it is kind of what they are supposed to do. But I know the questions to ask to make sure it is the right path.”
Paladino, who does not claim to have any magic wand for the city’s ongoing homelessness, addiction and crime issues, says as a councillor he would bring a more pragmatic approach. He gives the example of rezoning for low income housing or transitional housing to illustrate his point of view.
“You’ve got various land uses and you are trying to shoehorn a use in there that some people find undesirable,” he says. “They don’t want it in their backyard, but sometimes you have to do the right thing and that’s where you have to weigh the argument: Do we want it? Or do we need it? Yeah, we probably need it. But where do we put it? So we have to look at some buildings that are underused and some locations that might work. I think if you find a location early enough, get it to the neighbourhood first. Don’t try to sneak it through the back door.”
Paladino says actually every spending decision council makes should be categorized and judged based on the same criteria: Is it a need? Or a want?
“The thing I always come to is it a need or is it a want?” he confirms. “If the sewer breaks down, it’s a need. Or if the roads crumble, it’s a need. There are certain groups in the city that are pressing council to approve capital projects that are maybe not needed just yet. Things that can wait for maybe five or 10 years.”
Falling into the category of “want” for Palidino is such expenditures as the green bin organics program, electric buses, a performing arts centre, and an Indigenous cultural centre. Falling under the category of “need,” in his mind, is a third bridge and airport modernization and improvement.
“I like the idea of pushing that,” he says, referring to airport enhancements. “There is 230,000 people in the region, and 105,000 in Lethbridge, 10,000 in (Lethbridge) County, Coaldale is 8,500, Pincher Creek is 3,500, and Cardston is probably in there also. You start putting those people together you got 200,000 in the trading area in a hurry that this airport is really under-utilized. We’re leaking passengers to Great Falls. It’s stupid.”
Paladino says if elected he would also commit himself to repairing frayed relations with the province, and helping to foster compromise and unity on city council, which has become very polarized in recent years.
“Your decisions (council) should be 8-1 or 9-0, I think. If there are too many 5-4 votes, you have a divided council, and then it spreads into the next application. A (bitter) decision from one subject, can spill into another decision even though they are totally different. People sort of get entrenched in their politics, and push the mute button on that one just because you didn’t side with me on the last one. If I have seen it happen, and I hate it.”
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