Friday, November 14, 2008

The Daily had questions; the candidates for Mayor had answers…

It was like cramming for the final exam this past week for Don Scott and Jack Mussallem, with two public forums in less than a week and a quest for the issues from the Wednesday edition of the Daily News.

The paper picked four topics that they believe are key to this municipal election and asked the two candidates to share their thoughts on the issues.

The initial impression is that Mr. Scott will be hosting a lot of community forums in the three year term should he become Mayor, while Mr. Mussallem will be digging into the City Works library seeking out information on infrastructure from the sage advisors of yesteryear.

Those impressions and some background on their thoughts can be gleaned from the responses to the first of what appears to be a two part series. A session that will provide voters with just a little bit more detail on the platforms of the two candidates as the polls get set to open on Saturday.

Meet the Mayor
Don Scott, Jack Mussallem
Questions and Answers
The Daily News
Wednesday November 12, 2008
Page five

Question 1

Should we get police officers out of their cares and back on the streets?

Don Scott -- We need to review our approach to community policing. The problems that we currently have on the streets are related to social problems more than anything, and throwing people in jail will not resolve the issues that we face, including poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, racism and mental health issues. The community needs to work closely with the RCMP to delve into new ideas for dealing with street issues. I want to help find solutions that are sustainable for the long term. If elected, I pledge to hold a Social Issues Forum within six months, and include Community Policing on the Agenda.

Jack Mussallem --Yes. During my time as mayor, the council directed the RCMP to implement and use bicycle patrols as part of a community policing effort in the downtown core. The speedy and silent patrols were quick, quiet and efficient. It also succeeded in developing a friendly response with youth and keeping them moving through the area.

Question 2

What are your short– and long-term plans to shore up our aging infrastructure?

Don Scott -- According to the 2008 Five Year Financial Plan, capital works expenditures were 1.6 million for 2007. and for 2008 the city has budgeted $2 million. Utilities, such as sewer, water and solid waste, are legally mandated to be self-funding through fees and reserves for expenditure.

In the past, the federal and provincial governments have managed cost sharing programs, where they have provided funding for municipal infrastructure projects as long as the city matches those funds. I expect the city to take advantage of such programs in the future to help build and maintain the city’s infrastructure in a fiscally prudent manner.

Jack Mussallem-- The engineering and public works department has records concerning the city’s sewer, water, storm sewer and roads; the type of materials used, their expected life and when replacement is needed. City council needs to concentrate on aging infrastructure by reviewing these needs and allocating more funding on an annual basis for the short and long term provisions required. If not done, the city focus will be chasing infrastructure failures only and never keep up. The city asphalt road surfaces are failing; in some areas vehicles are travelling on asphalt patch upon asphalt patch. City council must concern itself with this problem now or it will compromise money later for quality of life programs and projects.

Some years ago, the city’s director of engineering wrote a report on the condition of city roads and what was needed on an annual basis to keep them in reasonable condition. That report is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in infrastructure.

Question 3

Can you clarify what you would do with Pillsbury House?

Don Scott -- Let me make this perfectly clear… I am not interested in selling our heritage. Pillsbury House is the first residential house in Prince Rupert, and has been managed through the Heritage Advisory Committee. I believe in a balanced approach, and I am of the opinion that the city’s financial situation is not so distressed that we need to ask our citizens to turn over control of Pillsbury House to a third party.

If elected, I pledge to hold a Culture, heritage and Tourism Forum within one year, one subject of which will be: Heritage Assets and their Value to our Community.

Jack Mussallem -- Request the city council direct the filing of restrictive covenants on the Pillsbury House land title protecting both the exterior look and materials used on the building, and on the design and look of the surrounding yard.

I would then request city council sell the property, allowing the money from the sale to be used to reduce debt. The effect is also to get more city lands on the roll and then tax those properties, thereby spreading the cost of operating the properties.

My initiative will preserve the heritage significance of Pillsbury House, and provide the city with much needed funds as already explained.

Question 4

Do we need a Downtown Business Association? Why or why not?

Don Scott-- A Downtown Business Association (DBA) could provide valuable input and assistance to our community in ways that may not have been considered. Aside from the need for communications between community leaders and businesses to determine what can be done about various issues such as zoning, construction and parking by-laws, street cleaning, snow removal, etc., a DBA can provide invaluable assistance, perhaps even financial help, to deal with social issues such as vandalism, crime and homelessness. For example, a DBA was key to in helping a not-for-profit society develop a $12 million drop-in centre/homeless shelter in Victoria.

If elected, I pledge to hold an Economic Development Forum within 18 months, on subject of which will be: Downtown Business Associations and their Benefit to the Community.

Jack Mussallem --The city should utilized a Downtown Business Association to represent and advocate on behalf of property owners when seeking changes regarding roads, sidewalks, auto parking, and beautification changes as well as community events in the downtown.

There have been, and are, various groups who do some of this in a partial way. One active group is the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce, which currently represents 22 per cent of the businesses, but there is not one group that is specific to the downtown core.

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