Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2014/ Candidate Chatter

Candidate Chatter

Why am I even writing this? All of my three readers are sick of me writing about the election. I have other things to be doing right now. What I write is not going to make a difference. Maybe most importantly, my right to keep my vote secret is enshrined in law; I am under no obligation to tell everybody on the Internet. But here you are (at least for the moment), and here I am, and here are my thoughts about some of the candidates running in this election.

Regional Chair

I have written a lot about this race already, and you know my opinion: Ken Seiling is the only feasible candidate in this race, even though Jay Aissa is well-funded and has a good campaign manager. I felt so strongly about this that I even donated two hours of my time dropping junk mail in people's mailboxes today, and if you know anything about my crippling social anxiety and revulsion about political campaigning you would know that this is a big, big thing.

Oz Cole-Arnal is articulate, but he is a soapbox candidate, he demonstrates poor numeracy, and he is a hypocrite: he talks about giving up his salary, but he still draws a pension and does not donate all of that money to the homeless. Why does he not reduce his salary to the poverty line? Who knows. Maybe he does. I have not seen evidence of this so far. He is not even willing to throw a penny of the money of his "comfortable salary" into his campaign, beyond the $2000 budget given to the Alliance Against Poverty.

During the Regional debate, Robert Milligan came up with one interesting idea -- paying drug addicts to return their needles -- but on second thought this is a dumb idea too (because then kids are incentivized to seek out abandoned needles for the refunds).

Ken Seiling has a good vision for the Region of Waterloo. He has a handle on the issues that the region is facing. None of his opponents are remotely qualified to take on the job he has been managing for decades. My vote is clear.

Regional Council - Kitchener

One distressing aspect of this race is that so many of the candidates (particularly the incumbents) march in lockstep.

I wrote about some of the peculiarities of this race in my block voting entry.

I am personally unhappy with former MPs and MPPs who "drop down" to municipal politics when they lose their main races, so I am not supporting Redman or Wettlaufer. I think both have a good chance of winning; neither will be a disaster, although if Wettlaufer wins then Aissa's camp gets a big boost.

I would like to see some new blood on Regional Council. But with all of the drama happening on the Regional Chair level, I think it would not be good for every face on Regional Council be new. So I am thinking of voting for the three new faces (Greg Burns, Cameron Dearlove, Elizabeth Clarke) and then working against my own interests by choosing Tom Galloway. Incumbents Tom Galloway and Geoff Lorentz are different people, but they don't seem to be dramatically different regional councillors.

I used to work with Cameron Dearlove, and I like him as a person, and he has certainly been working hard since January to get himself elected, but I have been less impressed by his campaign than I thought I would be. My main criticism is that his main goal of "triple bottom line thinking" is very abstract, and he rarely applies this thinking to concrete examples. Especially important is a sense of tradeoff: it is nice to think that every situation will be "win-win-win", but this will clearly not be the case, and some acknowledgement as to how Dearlove will handle the challenge of managing these tradeoffs would have been nice.

Elizabeth Clarke has been putting money into lawn signs, and as director of the YWCA I think she has experience that is fairly transferable to municipal government. I do not think she will be elected. She is a good example of somebody who does not have a lot of political experience, but who would probably do a good job in the role.

I am almost certain that Greg Burns will not be elected. He is the weakest candidate of the bunch, but even his election would not be a disaster: he listens, and I think he could grow into the job. Since there are four regional councillors for Kitchener, he would also have the opportunity to grow into the job.

Regional Council - Waterloo

If I was voting in this race then my choice would be clear: Jane Mitchell. I probably would not even use my second vote. Listen to this interview and listen to her concrete ideas, and the way that she refuses to agree with every demand made of her during the interview, but doing so in a thoughtful way.

Mitchell won't win, of course. I am unhappy that Telegdi is running, and unhappier that he will probably win a seat, but at least he has a brain and thinks critically. Ed Korschewitz is a one-note candidate, and he deliberately uses misleading statistics to make the tax situation seem much worse than it is. But I think he would do okay as well.

One of Strickland or Scian will probably win, and it will probably be okay.

I am probably being an ageist bigot in saying this, but Bob Oberholtzer would be a disaster.

Kitchener Mayor

This is the hardest race for me. Realistically speaking, there are only three candidates running, and only Berry Vrbanovic and Dan Glenn-Graham are credible.

On first glance this appears to be a George Bush/Al Gore situation: from the outside neither candidate appears different from the other. I think that either candidate would do okay as mayor, but there are tradeoffs. They are pretty different candidates.

Berry Vrbanovic is the safe candidate. He has a lot of experience, is making a bunch of promises that do not revolutionize much, and appears to be on a similar tack to Mayor Zehr. He has been around council long enough to know how it functions, and can probably transition easily into making council work relatively smoothly.

Dan Glenn-Graham only has four years of experience. He is an ideas machine. Some of his ideas are good -- such as showing up at the Kitchener Market to be accountable to his constituents. Some of his ideas are not so good, such as offering a free month (!) of LRT ridership once it opens. His campaign team got caught asking Wasai Rahimi to drop out of his Ward 2 race, and in my opinion Glenn-Graham has not been forthcoming about what happened. On the other hand, he is approachable, people get along with him, and he shows up for the community. That makes him a good local advocate, but it is not clear that he would be as effective in getting council to run smoothly. He has managed the feat of being endorsed by the (heavily NDP) Better Choices Waterloo Region people and by a bunch of Conservative candidates (Christine Elliot, Wayne Wettlaufer, and others). His political roots are with the Conservatives (he apparently was the campaign manager for Stephen Woodworth) but he sounds like a radical left-winger at times.

My head tells me that Vrbanovic is the right choice. My heart is still leaning towards Glenn-Graham, perhaps for stupid reasons. I remember feeling this same unease in 2010 when Glenn-Graham was running in Ward 10. But I voted for him and things turned out okay.

I think the deciding factor might be regional council. With Aissa's probable election it could matter a lot who gets elected to the Kitchener Mayor position. Glenn-Graham + Aissa could make Regional Council too tumultuous.

Waterloo Mayor

Again, I am not voting in this race, and I have only seen one debate and a bunch of online stuff from these candidates, but I must say that I am mostly underwhelmed. Up until a few days ago Dave Jaworsky had the momentum, but for all of his comprehensive campaigning, I don't see a lot of concrete plans in his campaign, and his responses during the debate I watched did not impress me. He was asked a question about the Municipal Land Transfer Tax, and he clearly did not know what the subject was. So he bluffed, and did not do a particularly good job of it.

I do not like Dave MacDonald's position on the LRT at all, but overall I think he would be an okay mayor.

My least favourite candidate was Erika Traub. I wanted to like her, but she appeared to have no sense of tradeoffs or consistency. She wants to spend a lot of money to protect the poor, but she also wants to freeze taxes because they are too burdensome on the middle class. I do not see how you can have it both ways. Maybe you can find new "revenue tools" (as the catchphrase goes) that is less regressive than property tax, but you still need money to make investments. Where does that money come from?

I think he is the least popular candidate overall, but I actually found young Rami Said the most impressive. He needs to learn how to take notes -- his repeated requests to have questions repeated got real tired real fast. But he seemed to understand that governments involve tradeoffs, and he was willing to call out other candidates on their inconsistencies. I liked that a lot.

Kitchener Ward 9

Again, I am not voting in this race, but I did help organize a Ward 9 all-candidates meeting. I think Frank Etherington is going to win, and I guess that's okay.

I appreciated that Steve Strohack was willing to engage his audience, asking followup questions of one person during the debate. That is a good instinct.

Of all the candidates, I was most impressed by Tessa Jennison. She was articulate and was able to reason through tradeoffs of proposed policies. The exchange that sticks out for me was when she was asked about backyard firepit laws. She admitted that she liked backyard fires, but was also able to understand why other people wouldn't, and then was able to distinguish the two situations effectively. If I was in her ward and thought she could win, then she would get my vote.

Kitchener Ward 10

I am voting in this race. It looks like this is a two-horse race between Sarah Marsh and James Howe, but Gabriele Korschewitz (who is pretty different from Ed) offered some really thoughtful replies during our all-candidates meeting.

It looks like Sarah Marsh is going to win, and that's fine. I won't be sad. Marsh is another one of these people I know personally and like. But my vote is going to James Howe, because he I really like the degree to which his campaign promises are concrete and achievable. He wants to slow down traffic on Lancaster Street, and he has some solid ideas for doing so. He wants to make that weird intersection where King, Krug and Lancaster meet less dangerous, and he has some achievable (and reasonably priced) mechanisms for achieving this. He is not a fantastic public speaker, and one might complain that his five priorities are too narrowly focused, but I prefer concrete ideas that solve problems to grand visions that make us feel nice but cannot be implemented. Howe provides the kind of in-depth investigation of issues that I really appreciate in an election campaign.

School Trustees

I actually attended a set of school trustee debates. They were held at the Queen Street Commons and were recorded, but sadly the recordings have not yet been released (and now it is basically too late). This may be the first time I have any sense of who to vote for.

There were four debates in a row. I attended three, and have comments about candidates in two.

I attended one meeting for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. Of the candidates, a young man named Anthony Piscitelli stood out. He is an incumbent (and so will probably be re-elected?), but he impressed me in two ways. Firstly, he had some concrete ideas about how to make school councils more transparent. Secondly, he was refreshingly honest about his expenses. Apparently there is some scandal over trustee expenses going on at the school trustee level, and Piscitelli apparently had the lowest expenses of any of the trustees on the board. But he used his question-answering time to explain that his expenses were lower than they should be, because other trustees sometimes used their credit card to pay for his expenses while on trips. I thought that was really classy; he could easily have parlayed his lower expenses into a political talking point, but he chose to be honest instead.

I also attended the Public School Board debate for Kitchener. Of the challengers, David Kuhn (who ran for Kitchener Ward 9 last time) is trying really hard to get elected. I see his lawn signs frequently. He'll be okay, but the candidate who impressed me the most has no chance of winning, because she is not even campaigning seriously: Fiona McAlister. She does not know much about the inner workings of school trustee positions, but her answers struck me as being thoughtful. She thought through situations and came up with good followup questions to scenarios. I felt she did a better job at the debate than some of the incumbents. She is getting one of my votes.

Ted Martin has been using the same lawn signs for over a decade. He is an established school trustee now, but he also struck me as being thoughtful. He also comes from my tribe, in the sense that he is a mathie as well. I think this is the first time I have ever seen the guy (for all I know, I may have even voted for him) but he seems like a reasonable trustee.