Post Election Reflections – by Ted Durham
Now that we are past the election and are settling in with a new council, I want to congratulate them for being elected. It was a campaign that was interesting and opened some eyes up. It opened mine up as a candidate. You see, I learned that the election wasn’t about the issues, but about how a person is perceived. Many of the winning candidates didn’t talk about issues at all. They talked about vision and why we shouldn’t worry about the direction our city is headed.
Here is the reality I now see. We have elected a council with the same vision as before. We are proceeding with an LRT study. The people I talked to while campaigning overwhelmingly said that while having an LRT would be nice, we cannot afford it and it isn’t practical in St. Albert. Some previous council members and some new ones didn’t hear that message and know more than we do. Their vision of the future is of the region and how we are going to transport people to Edmonton. They have a regional view and St. Albert is going to conform to it.
Here is the economic impact as I see it moving forward with this plan. We are going to transport people into Edmonton to work and play. It will be very expensive and the residential taxpayer is going to carry the burden. The reason being, that businesses will not have a need to locate here. The tax burden of the future will preclude any smart business person or corporation from opening in St. Albert. The regional view is based upon that of the CRB which is provincially mandated. Where does that provincial mandate come from? It comes from offices in provincial government that are located in the City of Edmonton. So, the capital region is all about Edmonton as we see they have veto power on everything the outlying communities want to do. This is why we see Edmonton expanding its boundaries and building many new business parks.
St. Albert has a vision that has been developed by previous councils and many of our new council along with our Mayor have been selling that vision. The vision is that of technology and green industry. Let’s look at where we are today with that. A certain family bought into that plan and built a facility called the Enjoy Centre. They were told that businesses were going to open around them and that it would be a great business corridor. As of today, they are still the only facility there and they are having financial difficulties and face them well into the future. Why are businesses not flocking to St. Albert? We have an economic department that was formed to grow our business base and increase taxation. In 2013 our total business taxation was around $14 million and in 2014 it is slated to be $14.3 million. The $300k increase is due to tax increases being imposed. The $4 – $5 million we are spending on our economic development department has produced none of the increase and is showing no return on the investment in them so far. So we have spent money on a department only to see an increase in business tax made by the city staffers to cover inflationary costs.
The future vision and the burden that it puts on our city is a deterrent for future business growth. The LRT is mean to transport people into Edmonton as the future is there for growth. It will not help St. Albert grow. It will increase our taxation which is already the highest of any community in Alberta per capita and is ever growing. That alone is a huge deterrent. We have an economic development department that is doomed because the regional plan is not based upon business growing in outlying communities as witnessed in past decisions by the CRB. Business park developments in outlying communities have been abandoned in the recent past because the CRB has voted them down. Edmonton does not want the outlying communities to take business opportunities away from them.
If we want to save some money, we should quietly downsize our economic development department or do away with it. It shows no real benefit, it costs us $4 to $5 million and shows no return on our investment in it. How many years will it take for the money invested in it to break even? Probably never! I asked council in a recent budget open house how we can justify this department, if there is any accountability, and the mayor answered first. He said that he didn’t want to dodge the question, but then proceeded to. A comment was made that residential growth was economic development. A certain new council member said that home based businesses were the future of St. Albert (home based businesses pay a $126 business license in St. Albert). Maybe economic development in St. Albert entails city workers also as 45% of our total budget goes toward wages and benefits. We definitely have seen the economic development department increasing that figure and is self fulfilling in growth. If we are to have an economic development department, it needs to translate into a very substantial increase in business taxation to reduce the residential tax burden. There has to be accountability and the department needs to have a clear understanding of its goals and be required to meet targets. Right now that doesn’t seem to exist. Unfortunately we have only seen in the last 5 years taxation increasing on the residential side of St. Albert and business growth not keeping pace.
Do I support our new council and mayor? I support some of them, maybe 2 or three. But unfortunately 5 of them do not represent me as a resident of St. Albert and two of them are facing a tough road ahead. They don’t represent me because they don’t represent my interests. My vision is that of retiring in the home we have paid for in St. Albert and living comfortably. But the ‘vision’ of the new council, of the future, hasn’t changed and they publicly show that they think they are smarter than the rest of us because of their ‘vision’ that we see is working so well here. They are leading us into greater debt in the future by their vision. My vision is of a St. Albert that has its autonomy into the future and is a community that develops its future to benefit residents and business owners by making sure we can afford to live and work here. Unfortunately my vision of retirement in St. Albert is diminishing because the future implication of taxation by the City of St. Albert on my future fixed income is reducing the perceived ability I am going to have to live here.
This council has vision and they are moving ahead with it. Our taxes are being spent at an alarming rate to proceed with that vision. Yes, green projects and technology are great. In reality, green business and technology has not flocked to St. Albert. The province of Alberta has been spared such hardships because our economy is robust in the oil and gas industry. That sector alone is the reason we have a stronger economy and we cannot forget that. But those sectors supposedly do not fit into St. Albert’s plans because we don’t want to be known for that kind of business. We look at the world and many countries are experiencing huge financial hardships with their spending practices and debt, luckily we are not based upon the important sectors in Alberta that drive it. St. Albert’s leadership seems to be the one that wants to buck that trend and show that green is better. Yes, our business sector is growing leaps and bounds because of this.
I have been asked by many if I plan to run for council again. I tell them that I don’t know. I was disheartened about the personal attacks that were made and the lies that were made up about not only me, but others. It was very distasteful. I was the recipient of some lies made up by a former council member and his blogger friends. They felt they had freedom to say anything they wanted in the cyber world, and there is no defense to their comments, as any questioning of them resulted in further bashing. I witnessed a vulgar tirade by a candidate to his opposition in the election, only to be denied publicly by that individual.
For now, I am trying to determine if this new council will actually represent the residents of St. Albert and assure us of a sound financial future and so far, I don’t see them doing that. You see, I have to be responsible and look at the future ability to support my family here. I have to determine if their vision aligns with the sound financial future I wish to have, and right now it doesn’t.
I am reminded of a certain political satirical picture that came out during the election. I can tell you that I understand some of it now. Green business in St. Albert is really the green $20 bills being flushed down the drain by people that believed in the vision that a certain ‘sitting’ politician has been touting for years. It has worked well for the Enjoy Centre and they have seen a lot of green go down the drain. It certainly hasn’t made them a lot of it.
If I remember correctly at the Inn forum, John Goldsmith presented various scenarios where commercial land was changed to residential (i.e. Heritage) instead of staying commercial. He continued on that this was a typical M.O. of council and that St. Albert is quickly losing sites that can be used for commercial. Suggesting that home based businesses will cover that is ludicrous at best. I’d like to hear how residential development is classified as economic development. Seems there’s some that have a vision of new definitions for Webster.
David Climenhaga: December 31, 2013 at 11:13 pm
Congratulations to Ted Durham for writing this excellent Nov. 20 article, and for having the courage to attach his name to it – unlike, I would note, the principal contributor to the Stabnow blog, who hides his identity, although I suspect most of us know exactly who he is.
In addition, good for Ted for adopting a civil and thoughtful tone throughout – again, unlike the same anonymous blogger and some other equally anonymous guest contributors.
I took from the recent civic election, and my similar lack of success in it, some of the same lessons as Ted. To wit: That one is much wiser to offer a vague “vision,” no details and avoid issues like the plague. Ted and I were on opposite sides of one key issue, but I do feel both our chances were hurt by our inability to fake, fudge and fib about what we would do if elected. I will ever after have a cynical attitude about voters who complain that politicians lie – well, that’s because they won’t elect politicians who tell the truth!
That said, I think both Ted and I have to admit that there were flaws with our campaigns – in my case, certainly, a late start and a resulting failure to knock on enough doors – as well as other factors. Specifically, for good or for ill, I think St. Albert voters decided it was time to try a new generation of politicians and that the likes of us may simply have been too long in the tooth. So be it, I say. Anyway, we’ll both have to get used to it – leastways, while I can’t speak for Ted, I’m not going to be any younger in four years. So that’s why I’m certain it would take a miracle to get me to run again. (Perhaps the endorsement of the St. Albert Think Tank – joke.)
As for the rest of his analysis, well, I have points of agreement and points of disagreement.
I strongly agree about the ineffectiveness of municipal economic development departments, St. Albert’s specifically and those in other places as well. Notwithstanding the good intentions of their employees, I think an honest cost-benefits accounting of such bodies would show they seldom pay for themselves. But they appeal to a special interest within the business community, so like NABI, we are likely to be stuck paying for them forever.
That said, it’s just silly to blame the city for the foolish decision of the proprietors’ of the Enjoy Centre for an expensive and elaborate relocation, and an ill-conceived rebranding, that, clearly, has done their business little good. Sorry, but they’re going to have to wear that one themselves.
I strongly disagree with Ted about LRT development. His apparent base assumption, that St. Albert would be building its part of a regional system alone, is a gross misinterpretation. I don’t doubt Ted’s honor and honesty, but I do believe there were people in this community who willfully misled voters about the LRT question. Certainly, I encountered people on their doorsteps who believed St. Albert planned to build an LRT from one end of the town to the other, with no connection to a regional system – and who clearly didn’t believe me when I told them no council would agree to such a thing.
Ted’s economic analysis is wrong too, especially his conclusion that an LRT connection to the region’s major city will result in business fleeing St. Albert. In fact, as it has in regions with efficient public transit systems throughout the world, a strong LRT link will create business opportunities, bring willing workers to local businesses and raise property values close to the line. It will be a huge boon to that significant portion of St. Albert’s population that will always work in Edmonton – and a lot of the money they save on transportation will be spent locally. In addition, it will save taxpayers money on other transportation infrastructure and benefit the environment.
While I agree the cost of the study was too high, this was a reflection of doing business in a petro-economy, not on the practices of St. Albert City Council. Moreover, councillors would have seriously misguided not to prepare the way for the LRT by doing the study. By refusing to plan for an LRT link, we would have been sending a clear message to senior governments they shouldn’t spend to build it here. We would have lost access to those funds and hurt the the community.
Finally, Ted fails to address the biggest practical economic problem facing St. Albert, and the principal reason for higher-than-average taxes in our community – the insane regional government structure the provincial government allows to persist in the Capital Region, which lets Sherwood Park pretend to be a hamlet and enjoy the benefits of its regional tax base and lavishes huge sums on rural municipalities, but denies the same access to funding to St. Albert and other discrete communities.
It is to be hoped our new city council – and more importantly, our two MLAs – will speak up about this.
David J. Climenhaga
Why I won’t be voting for Climenhaga or Osborne
Mr. Climenhaga and Mr. Osborne are both fine, upstanding, bright men. So why not vote for them?
Back in July & August, 2010, Mr Climenhaga led the charge by St. Albert Public Library (SAPL) staff and board yelling for a new library building in the parking lot across St. Anne Street from city hall. That never got support from the majority of citizens who spoke publicly about DARP. The new library was in a package of three buildings included in DARP; the others were a new home for the administration, and a parkade.
SAPL and Mr. Climenhaga continued tooting the flute for a year or more. SAPL did a customer survey.
That’s all I can give as fact; I now switch to “word on the street” assumption. The majority of customers said we love SAPL, but you’re becoming irritating campaigning for a new library; so quit it! And before long, they fell silent. That didn’t please the majority on council, for they were relying on the high approval of SAPL to get the whole package going. And SAPL was punished by council by at least the threat of grant reduction.
Back to fact. About a year ago, Mr. Osborne joined the board. Sometime in early summer, SAPL started up again on “We need a new building!” Shortly after, Climenhaga and Osborne announced they’d run for council seats. And over the last two months, SAPL has ramped up the clamor, drawing in everybody they could- Daveberta, Climenhaga’s work mate at United Nurses, for example. And a mess of other stray cats.
I have noticed at least four councillors (all fine, upstanding, bright people) who (over the last fifteen years) didn’t reveal their true motives until they were in their council seats: to get something nice (and very expensive) for their special interest group. They all accomplished their missions by voting with the majority when they were told to; their turn to get what they wanted came.
If our incumbent mayor is re-elected, and Climenhaga and Osborne elected, they need only one more co-operator to control council.
Mr. Climenhaga and Mr. Osborne clearly both have chubbies for a new library. I do not trust them not to go along with council’s harebrained schemes (like heavy spending on DARP) to get what they want.
That, fellow citizens, is why I won’t be voting for Climenhaga or Osborne.
I found nothing substantial in what they said at the forums. Good talkers, but that’s it. Having this info cements by decision.
Yup. DARP will be an expensive tax burden.
That would be a fair question to ask either candidate named rather than saying one was “yelling”, and talking about “tooting” and “chubbies” etc..I don’t know why these questions couldn’t be simply asked and maybe even asked of other candidates as well.I believe its easier to try to say positive things about candidates you support rather than denigrate other candidates and or their supposed positions.
Call Me A Young Professional – by Scott H.
As a young professional, it’s insulting that Crouse and company would even think I would attend a forum quickly tossed together to slight another group. Totally immature for a man just about double my age. As an intelligent adult who works hard in my field and has a small business outside of St. Albert, it’s offensive that this group believes they can buy votes with promises and visions. It’s also offending that if young professionals are truly the actual target that organizer Mr. Ramsden would not have had enough sense to set a date that would have accomodated all candidates. Instead it boiled down to candidates having to make a choice which forum to go to.
Even though the second forum is now officially cancelled, I still won’t be attending the Crouse/Ramsden forum. I don’t appreciate the format. Besides, after practicing their lines a few times I’ll wonder about the authenticity of the words. I learned enough about the candidatesat the SATA forum and will go to the Chamber forum to reaffirm my choices. I’ll leave the space for someone else. Hopefully the realists will be able to right what the visionaries will try to sell.
Speaking of – it was irritating to listen to most of the incumbents speak of their “vision” – sorry – “our” vision – no, make that “St. Albert’s” vision. In 50 years these people will be dead history and our children and grandchildren will have to deal with the debt these “visionaries” envisioned. That’s not something I want my descendants to deal with. The mayor’s six year track record of luring business to this city is there for all to see. So are the empty offices, the empty mall spaces, the empty buildings.
Even the well known Hole family business has run into financial difficulties, which I suspect is an indirect result of the promises that came from City Hall.
It is the here and now I’m interested in. That’s what affects my bottom line. It’s what affects my family. Envisioning twenty years down the road for a young professional is a lifetime. There are too many factors that come into play between now and then. The mayor and company should be well aware of that seeing they’ve travelled down life’s road already.
Living in this city with my young son and wife incurs enough expense. With yearly cost increases, I’m glad I went to listen to those who have actually dealt in business, deal in reality and don’t envision what they can do with my hard earned dollars 50 years into the future.
Call me a realist. Call me a young thinking professional. Just don’t call me to the Crouse/Ramsden forum.
For a guy who can’t even pull his head out of his notes to make eye contact with his audience, Mayor Crouse sure expects a whole lot! Then again, his demeanor makes me think he looks at as all as being wealthy empty headed fools who need to be sworn at every now and then.
Déjà Vu – by Alex S.
I came to Canada to avoid a government constantly interfering in my life and to give my family a life outside of serving a government’s demands. We settled in St. Albert to raise our family because at that time it was a friendly place and it did not cost as much as other communities in the area. We met a lot of nice, friendly people, even in local government.
In the last number of years this has changed. No longer are people really smiling here. Government gets involved in everything. Our bloc party seemed like an election campaign from the mayor. I thought bloc parties were for the neighbourhood not for the politicians. I felt uncomfortable with him there. I will not attend any more bloc parties, but will visit my neighbours privately. I am still free to do that.
People complain constantly in the paper. Neighbours call on other neighbours because they don’t like something about you. Being stopped and questioned by police because you are walking home from a neighbour’s in the late evening. This is what St. Albert’s social master plan is offering. Socialism. Getting government involved in every part of a person’s life. Do people not see this? Can people no longer do things for themselves? Tyranny.
Lies being told as truth is not a good thing. I laugh bitterly when I drive into St. Albert and see the sign botanical. Another politician once said tell a lie over and over again until the people believe it. Politicians haven’t changed since then. Maybe that is why botanical makes sense on the garbage bins.
Letting government do things that the ordinary citizen can not is not right. They speak of signage on St. Albert Trail. They speak of distracted driving and then build big t.v. signs in the middle of the road when you come into St. Albert. That is very distracting. We are not allowed to park on boulevards, but bylaw officers are. Why can they break the law to catch someone not doing the speed limit?
We managed very well with our children. We put them into a number of activities that were not sponsored by government. They are now at an age where they see how other communities live. I do not think that they will live in St. Albert. They will follow the Mayor’s advice and git out of town. I think it is better for them to find the freedom we looked for when we came to Canada. And they should spend their hard-earned money on themselves. Not on government. Money that goes to the government does not stimulate economy and offers little freedom. That is why St. Albert is dying. Too much growth in government.
Thank you for allowing me to write and thank you for reading.
stabnow says: October 12, 2013 at 5:35 pm
Realitycal says : October 15, 2013 at 6:04 pm – You’ve hit on a good point. Growth in government doesn’t allow people to support the private sector. No wonder St. Albert has problems attracting businesses. No money from the citizens to spend.
Waking Up – by Animo
It’s a love for animals and people – well more for animals – that made me speak up when the new animal bylaws were in the proposal stage. Logic wasn’t prominent then and seems to be a continuing pattern.
I am referring to incumbent Cathy Heron’s comment in her August 10th campaign announcement on how proud she is of the new animal bylaw draft. Hypocrisy was my first thought when I read previous articles in the Gazette where she denounced the draft. I realize it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but her now apparent enthusiasm about the bylaw is really more about seeking the votes of those who opposed her viewpoint at the time.
My first encounter with Cathy Heron was over this draft. Although she seemed supportive over the various issues I presented, I became wary when I mentioned another issue not related to the new draft. Because of the one piece of common ground, I ignored my sixth sense and figured I could full out support her in this upcoming election. That is until I started researching who represented my overall values the most.
I contacted other councillors and new individuals seeking office to find out their stance. Some didn’t respond at all which I will remember when I hit the voting booth. Others truly took the time to explain their viewpoints and some wanted to learn more about the issues this new draft presented.
About that time I found various sites on line that presented a different picture of the individuals presently holding office. I also found sites that discussed issues from new perspectives. Thank you to the owners of these sites and live chats for offering facts and different perspectives from the usual propaganda outlets. I continue to learn.
And then sites of new individuals seeking office started appearing. Although they do not touch the area that got me started in exploring St. Albert politics, their perspectives and goals for a new term have also been eye-opening and quite honestly, sometimes downright concerning.
Other new candidates seem to be grounded in reality and, let’s face it, that’s where most of us live. These will be worthwhile to watch and seriously consider if you are tired of having your rights and your pay cheque diminish.
The St. Albert I value allows us to live unencumbered from the numerous ever increasing hidden and open tax burdens, the ever increasing unsubstantiated bylaws, and the lack of honest, and I mean honest concern for its various residents.
We’re people. We are not a number, not a commodity and those who serve us should remember that you are serving us, not your own interests. You are our employees.
In closing, incumbent Heron, this voter is disappointed in you and my ballot form will reflect that.