Paul's Internet Landfill/ lj/ Ward 1/Ward 6/Mayor Non-Incumbent Debate

Ward 1/Ward 6/Mayor Non-Incumbent Debate

Once again, I threw away an evening attending a debate for our municipal election campaign. This time I went to the new Faculty of Social Work campus on Duke Street, where I attended a Ward 1/Ward 6/Mayor debate. This debate was unfortunate in that none of the incumbents could make an appearance; they all had their hands tied attending a Council meeting about some contentious issue (which I believe involved a bingo hall). Stephen Cage (running for Regional Council) apparently spent his time running across the street from City Hall to this debate and back so that he could be in on all the action.

The absence of incumbents led for an interesting atmosphere: every candidate in the room wanted a clean slate of candidates, and they could bash the existing city council as much as they wanted without fear of retaliation. There was some bashing, but overall less than I had expected.

For Mayor both Jon Heumiller and Janis Hedrich showed up, with the mysterious fourth candidate remaining AWOL. Neither of them did much to change my opinion of them from the last mayor debate, although they both looked a little better without Carl Zehr around. Heumiller clowned around, and Hedrich continued to spout banalities and nonsense. After the debate one of the ward candidates tried to convince me that Hedrich would be worth voting for on account of Carl Zehr being too controlling on city council. I am not convinced. One interesting thing I learned was that Hedrich used to work for the library system, so maybe her reluctance to build a new Central Library is not totally misinformed.

From Ward 6 two of the four contenders showed up: Raj Gill and Scott Piatkowski. I am pretty interested in this race because I know Raj pretty well and I used to read Scott's columns in the ECHO, where as often as not his writing made some sense. This race is kind of frustrating, because both Gill and Piatkowski have similar political leanings (they are affiliated with the same NDP chapter, I think) and so it is inevitable that they will split the vote, allowing 22-year incumbent Chris Wylie to sneak up the middle. But both of them are campaigning pretty hard, and they are both pretty impressive candidates. I am particularly taken by Piatkowski's approach, which goes into great detail about good, concrete ideas that he thinks matters to the ward. It was clear from the debate that he has thought about many of the issues of this campaign, and that he could articulate them clearly. I don't think everyone appreciates his highly literary approach (his campaign brochure is a novel!) but I am liking it a lot.

It feels traitorous to support Piatkowski, though, because I have worked closely with Raj and run around in the same social/volunteer circles as she does -- and she's also a fairly strong thoughtful candidate. Probably if anybody discovers this blog entry I will be blacklisted from WPIRG, and rightfully so.

I would have liked to hear something from the fourth candidate (Leszek Jankowski), but he was nowhere to be found. It would also be interesting to hear how Wylie is defending herself from the ursurpers, but I don't think I am going to get a chance.

Alas, it really doesn't make a difference whom I support in Ward 6, because I am not in Ward 6 -- I am literally two houses away from the ward boundary. In Ward 1, the pickings look slim. Juliam Ichim is running (again), and he gave his usual spirited defence of poor people and the Spot, but he's not seriously looking to get elected. Among other things, he has no signs, no brochures, and I am fairly certain he has done very little campaigning. In addition to the mysterious John Smola (the incumbent I haven't yet heard one good thing about), I think there are another three people running, two of whom actually showed up for the debate: Glen Bender and Richard Maass.

Glen Bender is a quiet fellow; you could barely hear him speak. I wasn't that impressed by what he had to say during the debate, but looking at my notes now it looks like he said several sensible things. He criticised amalgamation on the basis that regional council has been getting very expensive. He also advocated scrapping the current transit layout and moving to a grid system with central hubs (which is a good idea, but not really supported by our road layout, and as previously noted, is not in city jurisdiction). He has some experience sitting on citizen's advisory committees for public funding, so he knows some of the frustrations of City Council.

The wildcard for me is Richard Maass. He is the only person I have seen actively campaigning for Ward 1, in the sense that I have seen only his lawn signs out on the street (That's not quite true -- I saw one sign for "Jack" Byrne, but Byrne didn't show up for the debate.)

I was fully prepared to dislike the guy after reading his profile. He mentions "European heritage" an awful lot on his profile, he runs a lawn care company (and is a spokesman for a lawn care commodities group opposing the pesticide bylaw!), he is pretty clearly coming from a conservative background, and he had at least a couple of clunkers in his platform: he thinks reviving the downtown is just a matter of branding, and that student voters stay away from the polls simply because it is "not cool". He also doesn't support the LRT, although he does seem to support improved public transportation (and he drives a Smart Car as his company car).

On the other hand, he's got a solid grasp about several aspects of City hall. He has sit on several committees -- including the one that allocated $30 million for a new library -- and has some knowledge about how City Hall works. He seems pretty fed up with the powerlessness citizens feel when dealing with the city. He has that polite Conservative friendliness when talking with people who don't share his views. He's all up for running city finances according to standards, and getting the city out of developing properties all by itself, which I think is sensible. Even his opposition to the LRT is based on some good observations: it will probably be over budget, and the region probably does not have the population density to support it. I think that those are somewhat short-sighted reasons, but he's thinking about the issues more than some other candidates. Unless Bender makes a comeback in the next debate (or one of the AWOL candidates shows up and blows me away) I think my vote is between him and Smola. Odd bedfellows, and all that.

Maass also has a cute tagline, albeit one that doesn't pass Grade 9 science class: "Richard Maass: because size does matter." (As we all know, size doesn't matter that much if you have sufficient density.)

Because the incumbents did not show up this time around, the organizers of this debate want to have a rematch next Monday at 6pm. As it turns out that conflicts with a Ward 6 debate that has already been scheduled, so maybe it will be only the mayoral candidates and Ward 1. That is probably for the better: with so many people debating we did not cover many questions.

The organizer seemed impressed with the turnout at this debate -- almost 70 people showed up, they said. I thought it was pretty sad, myself. I saw a lot of familiar faces, and many of the audience members were on the campaign team for some candidate.

Chatting with some candidates and organizers after the meeting, I confirmed some of the upcoming debates. I will list them even though I don't think it won't benefit anybody who is reading this:

There's also some meet-and-greet thing happening, and a bunch of City of Waterloo debates, but I have not been keeping track of those.

Also I found out about two more questionnaires submitted to candidates: one by the Record (which should be in print soon) and the other by the KW Chamber of Commerce.

Supposedly I am voting for some public school board trustees as well, but I haven't been keeping track of those races at all, which makes me an irresponsible citizen who doesn't have proper reverence for his voting privileges. Sigh.

Livejournal URL:

Mood: irresponsible