Close to 600 people filled the Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Brighton Thursday night to hear what the municipal candidates had to say in their bid for a position on council.
The candidate meeting was live-streamed on the Brighton Fellowship Christian Reformed Church website and on YouTube.
Kristen Fletcher, president of the Brighton Cramahe Chamber of Commerce, introduced moderator York Bell-Smith.
Cyndi Dickson, a candidate for English public school board trustee, currently sits as trustee and has for the past 16 years.
Murray McCullough has put his hat in for the same position. McCullough has quite a few letters behind his name, and says he is truly interested in the education of young people.
The main event, questions for the councillor candidates, tackled affordable housing and public transportation, staff retention, economic development and jobs, and the big one focused on the divisiveness of the past two councils.
Respect was the common theme…for each other, for staff, and for members of the community. And communication between council and staff, and council and members of the public was also highlighted.
Steve Baker says the past four years have been fruitful…with Tim Hortons, and the new Subway at the 401 bringing jobs to the area, and five lots recently sold in the industrial park will also bring jobs.
Mark Bateman said micromanagement of staff has been an issue, and it needs to be addressed.
“We can’t drive economic development or tourism if we can’t retain staff,” he said.
Doug LeBlanc said we need a made in Brighton solution to jobs.
“We need the community and businesses to work together.”
He added that we should be taking care of Brighton with our own economic develop department.
“We’re here to govern…to set policy…not to micromanage.”
Natasha Huizinga said that everyone’s role is to treat things with respect, and listen to people around the table, that it’s not about egos or the best ideas. It’s about working together for what’s best for the community. Council makes policy and directs the CAO to follow through.
John Martinello said he prefers vigorous debate, and that every issue that comes before council should be vigorously debated.
Emily Rowley said that economic development is needed to relieve the burden on residential taxpayers. She said that as far as ED ‘we need to rebuild our partners, not only the C of C, but the DBIA. Community development in the downtown has been pushed aside. QEDC is more at arms-length. We need to market more of our own.
Vic Schukoff says he is concerned with high speed Internet, and he’s a big fan of mom and pop shops.
How to foster good staff relations is something Mary Tadman sees as an issue.
“We need to trust and respect staff.”
“Good work comes out of praise, not out of ridicule.”
She said that staff left because of being treated badly.
For Jeff Wheeldon, a local real estate salesperson, affordable housing is an issue. He said that the reality is people don’t make enough money to live, and that there are next to no rental units available in Brighton. Most housing is for families or retirees, with no transitional housing for retirees who want to move into an apartment. Supply is a really big issue.
With this term being the first for a full-time Deputy Mayor position, Tom Rittwage says he will chair meetings with respect. People want to be heard, have the opportunity to have their say, and you chair a meeting, you want to promote openness, and to remind folks that we want to be respectful. It doesn’t wear well with folks when people are misbehaving. Remind people to treat others with respect.
Laura Vink says the position is a leadership role requiring a calm analytical approach. Meeting conversations can become animated and overall it’s about allowing everyone to speak. She says you need to lead by example as it goes a long way when chair stays calm.
Brian Ostrander, who is running against the incumbent for the position of mayor, says the lack of strategic plan has hurt Brighton, so if he gets elected, he intends to works with his council to start the strategic planning on a Day 1.
Water/stormwater needs to looked at, and he’s heard many times that aquatics needs to come to Brighton.
Mark Walas, who views his current role as mayor as an ambassador for Brighton, says he’ll continue to lead by example, and that it’s imperative they all understand the rules.
He added that there is a strategic plan, but it hadn’t been updated since 2010.
With economic development being a big driver, Rittwage said he was rather concerned to hear from Vink that even though they terminated the economic development officer position early on in the term, that the budget still contained funds for that position…it’s just being used to assist business in the municipality.
Retail marijuana sales in Brighton is an issue that most agreed should be dealt with carefully, but the consensus is that there needs to be public consultation before opting to have a retail store downtown.
When asked what business wouldn’t they want in Brighton, a strip club was the general consensus
Mark – through 2010 start plan, borrowed and used reserves. Allow staff to apply for funding programs. Staff provide expertise.
Brian – transportation – look at by-pass to industrial park, recreation planning. Using an 8 yr-old plan is wrong-headed
Mark – 2010 plan. Current council did not follow through. It does need updating.
When asked about the dysfunctional council of the past two terms, Ostrander said it has always been his practice to encourage robust debate, but once a decision is made, he has always supported the will of council, regardless of which side he ended up in during the debate.
Walas said it comes back to the fact that every member should behave. Education available for all council members.
“The Mayor is elected to lead the council, not to babysit.”
Tadman, who has been on council the past two terms said that once council has made a decision they have to accept that and move forward and not bash each other.
Divisiveness is costly and it brings people down, money has been wasted on fines and legal/consulting fees when it could have been used elsewhere to help the community.
“Divisiveness is costly…we can’t keep going like this…we need to build a team,” said Rowley.
Chamber president Kristen Fletcher said she was pleased with the turnout and thought it was well-received by members of the public.
Brighton uses a vote by mail system, where voters can either fill out their ballots and mail them in, or drop them off at the municipal office at 35 Alice Street prior to the October 22 election.