Alderman candidates field tough questions
The Airdrie Chamber of Commerce hosted an all candidates forum on Oct. 15 at the recently renovated Bert Church Theatre.
Fifteen aldermanic candidates took the stage and were given two minutes each to present their platforms, before fielding questions from the audience.
A total of 18 questions were asked, with topics ranging from what candidates would do to promote retail diversity in the city, to what would make them a useful councillor, to whether or not they were in favour of raising taxes to support growth in Airdrie.
In the interest of fairness and time management, four candidates were drawn at random to answer each question.
When asked if candidates were willing to raise taxes to increase service levels to support growth, incumbents Ron Chapman and Fred Burley agreed in their answers.
“We have been able to maintain service levels with just under a three per cent tax increase,” said Chapman. “As we grow, our tax base grows; I would be in favour of a minimal increase if it’s for something we absolutely need.”
Burley followed up by citing the need for the City to reduce its residential numbers.
“We have to work with our economic development department to increase our commercial property tax base; right now we’re at 87 per cent residential and that number needs to get down to about 75 per cent,” said Burley.
Darrell Belyk echoed Burley’s comments.
“We need more commercial businesses here in Airdrie to offset taxes on residential properties,” said Belyk.
Candidates were asked what would make them a useful member of council. When the names were drawn, three of four Team Airdrie United members were chosen to give answers.
“I’ve been running an events company and through that I’ve become familiar with the City’s processes,” said Angela Pitt. “I’m familiar with working with a budget.
Mike De Bokx made note of his close to 30 years of banking experience.
“I have strong fiscal responsibility and through my work on the board with the Chamber of Commerce I’ve gained a lot of insight to the business community.”
Kevin Hughes also made note of his work experience and 20 years of business management.
“I’ve learned how to develop things from bare bones into a five year plan and make sure that budgets are in place to carry them out,” said Hughes.
Incumbent Kelly Hegg closed out the question, noting his experience.
“I have a passion for this city, I’m a good listener and a problem solver,” said Hegg. “I also bring some experience to this position with three terms served already and I hope to make it a fourth.”
An audience member asked if candidates thought the Main Street Fire Hall should be closed in the future.
“I grew up in that area and I don’t think it should be without a firehall,” said Pitt.
“I’ve talked to firefighters and they think it should stay open.”
Candice Kolson followed by saying, “we need to make sure that if we are going to close down Main Street, that there is another station. From what I understand they (firefighters) have a hard time getting out of that station.”
Hegg ensured that public safety is a primary concern of council’s.
“The Fire Master Plan has been put forward and we will weigh all of the options,” said Hegg.
“It would be negligent of us to make a political decision over a safety decision.”
Other questions at the forum centred around parking in high-density neighbourhoods, the expansion of the Airdrie Public Library, business taxes and the City’s debt.
Candidates Richard Douglas Herdman, Jane Anderson, Mohamed Benini, Kevin Galley, Allan Hunter, Rob Jamieson and Ken Maines also attended the forum.