Residents looking for action, attention from new council
Okotoks: Mayor and councillors sworn in for 2017-2021 term Oct. 23
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017 06:00 am
Okotoks council was sworn in last week, and some say the experience at the table will be of benefit to the town, so long as council listens to its residents.
There was a full house in Okotoks council chambers on Oct. 23 as Mayor Bill Robertson and councillors Tanya Thorn, Ed Sands, Matt Rockley, Florence Christophers, Ray Watrin and Ken Heemeryck took their official oaths of office.
Susan Baxter, who has lived in town since 2005, said she’s fairly pleased with the 2017-2021 council.
“They’re a strong group of people and I think they’ll represent the Town of Okotoks well and all the residents,” said Baxter. “I look forward to seeing what they can do in the next four years.”
She said council needs to be attentive and listen to its residents in order to get to the heart of what matters to Okotokians.
The key is developing and growing so that the town remains an attractive place for newcomers and current residents, she said.
“What’s really important to me is that we come together as a community, that we promote business, that we really listen to what people are wanting in this community,” said Baxter. “As one of the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce I’m really excited to see what this council will do and how they’ll support each of us.”
Long-time resident Doug Raynor said he’s confident in council because with six returning faces it offers stability at the helm of the town.
He said mature experience, selfless devotion and well-trained minds are what he’s looking for in candidates when it comes to election time.
“I don’t vote on policy, I vote for the capability of the councillor to make good decisions,” said Raynor. “I think these people have shown, given the fact they’ve all served before, that they’ve got the experience to do the job.”
He’d like to see council resolve the water issue and make a decision on a new performing arts centre as soon as possible. In addition, he said council needs to look at how the town will expand in order to broaden the tax base.
More of an industrial and commercial tax base is necessary in order to make living in town more affordable, he said.
“Property taxes here are clearly a sensitive issue, and the reason for that is because we don’t have the industrial tax base to support it,” said Raynor.
His wife, Elida Raynor, said she feels encouraged by the people who were elected to office in Okotoks because there won’t be much of a learning curve. Though Florence Christophers is a fresh face on council, she served from 2010-2013 so she understands the role and responsibilities, said Elida.
She said she expects council will begin dealing with things immediately. Elida said the campaign trail opened their eyes and taught a few lessons along the way.
“I think they got a lot of feedback from the community during the election process and I think they heard a lot of people,” she said. “At least I know some of them did.”
For Elida, one of the main issues in town is affordable housing. As the president of the Okotoks and District Seniors Centre board she said she’s seen the issue come to a head.
“I would like to see housing opportunities for people – not just seniors, but people with lower incomes,” said Elida. “That to me is a big thing.”
She said council needs to move forward and have conversations with developers about future growth in Okotoks, perhaps going as far as making it condition of development to include a certain percentage of affordable housing in new neighbourhoods.
“We’re really determined to see something happen, and I hope this council is ready to tackle the issue,” said Elida. “I think there’s a way around this. It’s been a stumbling block, and I don’t think it needs to be one.”