Tag Archives: Dan Dromarsky

edmonton election 2010: why mayor stephen mandel gets my vote.

Mayor Stephen Mandel standing in front of his downtown campaign office.

Last Saturday morning, I woke up extra early (for me) and trekked over to Stephen Mandel‘s campaign office on 111th Street and 102nd Avenue for a sit down with the Mayor. Joined by Jeff and Mack in a sort of ‘bloggers editorial board’ we engaged Mayor Mandel is a good question and answer session about his six years as Mayor, the campaign, and his plans for the next three years if he is re-elected on Monday, October 18.

Over the course of an hour, we peppered the Mayor with a series of questions ranging from Open Data to cooperation in the capital region to homelessness to plans for making the urban core neighbourhoods more friendly for young families.

Sitting down and talking with Mayor Mandel reminded me what a different place Edmonton has become over the past six years. Looking outwards, our City is no longer fighting with our neighbours. Edmonton is now sitting down at the table and cooperating with the other over twenty municipalities in the region through the Capital Region Board. While the municipalities were somewhat strong-armed by the Provincial Government to make the process work, it has had positive results for regional cooperation.

Looking inside our City limits, we have seen serious investment in our crumbling infrastructure and public spaces for the first time in decades. Although some people will raise a red flag about increasing debt levels, Edmonton only has about half the debt level of Calgary and a repayment plan was in place before any funds were borrowed (a requirement under provincial law. See: Section 251(1) of the Municipal Government Act).

The creation of the Universal Bus Pass for students at the University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan University and the expansion of the LRT to Century Park has proven to be excellent investments that are paying off. While these advancements have been somewhat besmirched by the construction of the expensive and questionable 23rd Avenue interchange, they are important steps for our City.

Our downtown core neighbourhoods are about to blossom. When I first moved to Edmonton in the early 2000s, my apartment was located in a decrepit area of Oliver. I soon moved south across the North Saskatchewan River into the University enclave of Garneau. When I moved back into the Grandin area of Oliver two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how different the area had become. New condo and apartment buildings that had been constructed over the past five years had lead to new businesses and restaurants in the area. I was shocked to see people actually walking down Jasper Avenue at night!

While this new life has been breathed into the area between 109th Street and 124th Street and 104th Avenue, spill-over can be seen deeper into the downtown core. What was a decrepit and sketchy area down 104th Street even five years ago has transformed into a vibrant area of the downtown core. The City Market regularly draws over 10,000 people to 104th Street each Saturday and the construction of new condo towers on that street is starting the essential element to neighbourhood vitalization: people living there.

There are still challenges to bringing young people to the core. When I posed this question to Mayor Mandel, he replied that “the City needs to be far more creative” in facilitating the development of housing in the core neighbourhoods that will be friendly for young families. “We need to create a policy between the school board and the city to build attainable housing for young people in the core,” said Mayor Mandel. The City is already working in cooperation with the School Boards to set up first-time home buyers housing on surplus school sites around Edmonton, but with little surplus school land in the core, they need to look at other options.

As I wrote in my blog post about the first Mayoral candidates forum in September, I generally believe that Mayor Mandel has done a good job over the past six years, but it is not without reservation that I will give him my vote on October 18, 2010. I am skeptical about the Mayor’s support for the Expo 2017 bid and am weary of his close relationship with the Katz Group in light of their bid to build downtown area complex, but there has been too much positive movement forward over the past six years to stop now.

Under Mandel’s Mayorship, Edmonton has moved forward on a number of levels. After years of hum-drum leadership under his predecessor, Mayor Bill Smith, our City is now starting to feel like it is coming out of the doldrums of a decades-long inferiority complex. While I have respect for a number of his challengers, especially Dan Dromarsky and Daryl Bonar, I do not yet have confidence in their ability to keep Edmonton moving in the positive direction we are now on track towards.

The City of Edmonton will never be a “world-class” city like New York or even Toronto or Vancouver, but why should we aspire for that? As a medium-sized North American city, we have the opportunity to look at and learn from similar cities like Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon, who decided that their size compared to the bigger cities was a strength and not a weakness. Edmontonians should be proud of what our City could be, not in relation to Calgary or Toronto, but in terms of the quality of life and creative and smart ways that we can shape our City’s future growth.

At least for the next three years, I trust Mayor Stephen Mandel to help us get closer to that reality.

edmonton election 2010: surveys say.

Having been involved in a few election campaigns, I am fully aware of the influx of surveys and questionnaires that end up landing in a candidate’s email inbox over the course of the campaign. They can sometimes be annoyingly time consuming to respond to, but they are sometime an easy way to distill where candidate’s stand on specific issues. Sometimes they also reveal some gems. A question asked in the Edmonton Public Library’s questionnaire posed one of these gem questions to candidates standing in Edmonton’s municipal election:

What character from fiction do you most relate to/is most like you?

Jamie Post – Ward 1: Hard to say, at the moment I’d have to go with Dr. Watson.
Scott Robb – Ward 4: I generally don’t read fiction, but I usually relate to the conflicted hero type.
Thomas Roberts – Ward 6: Can not think of any that is close to me– would love being a combination of Captain Jack Sparrow and Sherlock Holmes, and avoid Dorian Grey(what little I know of the charactor)/Falstaff.
Scott McKeen – Ward 7: OK, that’s tough. I’ll pick Frodo from the Lord of the Rings. A reluctant hero who faces his constant fear to reach journey’s end.
Grant Pullishy – Ward 7: Stephen King- I love thrillers.
Lori Jeffery-Heaney – Ward 8: Hmm, hard to answer – I am more of a non-fiction reader.
Hana Razga – Ward 8: Margaret Laurence Stone Angel’s Hagar Shipley – in about 30 years.
Councillor Don Iveson – Ward 10: James T. Kirk
Al Slemko – Ward 10: Marko Ramius – Red October movie
Shane Bergdahl – Ward 11: That is difficult to say. Frodo from the Hobit and Lord of the Rings comes to mind. A normal person (of sorts) tasked with doing great things.
Roberto Maglalang – Ward 11: Tom Sawyer.
Chinwe Okelu – Ward 11: None.
Brent Schaffrick – Ward 11: Some days, Dilbert, most days I seem to walk a different path then characters in books.
Daryl Bonar – Mayor: I think Rocky Balboa. He perservered with brute force and ignorance as well as a never say quit attitude. He didn’t have all the natural talent and had to overcome many obstacles but his work ethic carried him. I try my best to emulate these traits.
Dan Dromarsky – Mayor: My favorite fictional character is James Bond but how we relate or are alike is also fiction.
Dave Dowling – Mayor: Frodo.
Stephen Mandel – Mayor: I don’t know that he’s like me but the Gene Hackman character as the coach in Hoosiers.

You can also read questionnaire responses from the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton, the Canadian Cancer Society, Cycle Edmonton, and the Realtors Association of Edmonton. If you have links to any other surveys and questionnaires, feel free to post a link in the comment section below.

edmonton election 2010: first mayoral debate.

Anytime I walk into an election candidates forum I almost immediately think of this great scene from Season 3 of the West Wing. Maybe I am a dreamer, but I hope that one day I will witness a debater who reaches the level of President Josiah Bartlett.

I was not sure what to expect when I ventured into the packed auditorium at Harry Ainlay High School on Edmonton’s south side. Walking the halls of the giant high school, I remembered the last time I had been in that building was for a Ward 5 (now Ward 9 and 10) all-candidates forum in 2007. I remember that auditorium three years ago being packed with skeptics of then-Councillor Mike Nickel and supporters of first-time challenger Don Iveson.

Last night, I entered the auditorium two minutes before the candidates took to the podium and I wedged myself into a seat in the back row next (which ended up being right next to City Clerk Alayne Sinclair and elections staff, who were overseeing the event and updating the @EdmontonClerk twitter account).

While last night was nothing comparable to the Bartlett-Ritchie debate in the video about, it was a raucous evening. Over the course of the evening, the boisterous crowd jeered, cheered, and heckled the candidates when different issues various pet issues mentioned (the City Centre Airport, the Art Gallery of Alberta, and… David Suzuki and climate change).

First time candidate Dan Dromarsky was the most likable among the candidates. While answering each question, Mr. Dromarsky beamed with genuine concern for Edmonton and demonstrated that he had also done his homework when it came to a lot of the issues. His performance last night made me wish that he would have decided to run for City Council, instead of a Mayoral position that he has no chance of being elected.

Although he did not have a huge impact on the debate, Daryl Bonar has positioned himself as the most aggressive alternative to Mayor Stephen Mandel. His “fight back” campaign and actual platform positions presented a contrast to the other challengers who appeared unprepared for their candidacies.

The most entertaining candidate of the evening turned out to be Bob Ligertwood, who used every opportunity to decry the Internet and Facebook (even stating at one point that the Oil City Roadhouse should be shut down so that the Police could monitor computers at the public libraries). Candidate Andrew Lineker touched on some fair points about the transition of EPCOR to Capital Power, and Dave Dowling was remarkably subdued in light of his previous runs for Mayor.

David Dorward seemed like a nice man who would probably be a great financial adviser, but his focus on repeating platitudes and grasping for political points left me wondering if had the leadership skills or vision to lead an entire City. His campaign has the backing of Envision Edmonton lobby group and the support of their wealthy financial backers, which puts him in a financial advantage over the other challengers. Mr. Dorward has only made one policy announcement (on seniors taxes yesterday) and his campaign has yet to show that he has the policy depth to be a successful Mayor.

It is unfortunate that his campaign feels like it was thrown together at the last hour. Had Mr. Dorward began preparing his bid earlier in the summer, rather than a week before the election period started, the Edmontonians in the room last night probably would have seen a more vigorous debate centered around ideas and vision, rather than platitudes and talking points.

Two-term Mayor Stephen Mandel was the most confident and answered questions with a confidence that none of the other candidates had. He fumbled a few questions, but gave the impression that of the three serious candidates (himself, Mr. Bonar, and Mr. Dorward), he was the only one who actually understood how governance works.

I voted for Mayor Mandel in 2004 and 2007, and I generally believe that he has done a good job over the past six years. I also support City Council’s decision to close the City Centre Airport over a phased period of time and redevelop the lands.

On some other issues, I have been less impressed with the Mayor. I am not comfortable with his cozy relationship with the Katz Group in light of their request for City funding of a downtown arena and I am skeptical about the City’s bid to host the 2017 World Expo. As a young Edmontonian, I also feel that the City should be more aggressive in promoting the construction of family-orinented densification and infill in the urban core, something that none of the candidates spoke about last night.

Most of Mayor Mandel’s challengers demonstrated a fairly evident lack of understanding of how our democratic process and representative democracy functions. Mr. Dorward’s supporters in the crowd jeered at the Mayor and the challengers charged that it was undemocratic for City Council to have rejected a plebiscite on the City Centre Airport redevelopment. None of the challengers thought to mention that the petition was ruled invalid under provincial law. If a candidate cannot demonstrate that they understand how a clearly laid out petition process works, then it is difficult for me to imagine them tackling the macro-level important issues facing the City.

Edmontonians deserved a better debate last night and Mayor Mandel deserved a more serious challenge in this election. Unless the challengers undergo a miraculous change between now and October 18, we may have to wait to see what October 2013 has to offer us.

edmonton election 2010: nomination day at city hall.

It was Christmas morning for political watchers this morning as candidates poured into City Hall to file their nomination papers. I have been to a lot of different political events in my time, but nothing has so far matched the euphoria of Nomination Day at City Hall.

Starting at 9am, bright eyed and well-intentioned candidates began to line up to submit their papers. As they moved down the line, candidates were peppered with questions and camera flashes by the media. For most candidates running in this election, this will be the closest they get to walking the red carpet.

After filing their nomination papers, candidates were scrummed and pressed by the media about who they were, where they were running, and what their positions were on pressing issues. Most of the media questions had to do with the decision to redevelop the City Centre Airport lands, but candidates also brought up their pet issues. Some candidates, like Councillor Jane Batty, came and left quickly. Others, like Ward 11 candidate Kerry Diotte, lingered to get as much media coverage as possible. Different styles for different candidates I suppose.

I was able to live-tweet this morning and you can see those tweets at @davecournoyer and others at #yegvote.

You might think that 30 days is a short time to reasonably campaign for election, and you would be right, but there were many candidates who came out of the woodwork to launch their campaign today. Most candidates came prepared and some, like Ward 11 candidate Vishal Luthra, came with campaign t-shirt toting entourages.

Almost Mayoral candidate Cheryl Ullah

One unfortunate Mayoral aspirant, Cheryl Ullah, came with her nomination papers signed, but forgot to bring her $500 deposit with her. In a bizarre scene, she started collecting donations from reporters and other candidates only 10 minutes before the nomination deadline. Although she was able to raise $90 in about 8 minutes (with a generous $60 donation from Ward A Public School Board Trustee Cheryl Johner), she was unable to make up the extra $410 and dropped out of the race. Don Koziak has now lost the record for shortest Mayoral candidacy.

Luckily for Edmontonians, Mayor Stephen Mandel and challengers Daryl Bonar, David Dorward, Dave Dowling, Dan Dromarsky, Bob Ligertwood, and Andrew Lineker remembered their $500 deposits.

Councillors Don Iveson and Bryan Anderson

Out of 114 candidates who submitted their nomination papers today, only two were acclaimed. Incumbent Public School Board Trustees Dave Colburn (Ward D) and Catherine Ripley (Ward H) will not face any challengers on October 18. There had been rumours that some City Councillors may also be acclaimed, but in the end a few last-minute candidates filed papers to run against Councillor Don Iveson (Ward 10) and Councillor Karen Leibovici (Ward 5).

There are new candidates and competitive races across the City, but there are three City Council Wards that at this point stick out in my mind as the hot races to watch. Curiously, they are in Wards with prime numbers.

Councillor Karen Leibovici is seeking re-election in Ward 5.

In the incumbentless Ward 3, Former Liberal candidate Kim Cassady filed his papers to run for City Council in Ward 3, taking on challengers Dave Loken and Terry Demers. This is Mr. Loken’s third time running for City Council and Ms. Demers second. As retiring Councillor Ron Hayter‘s Executive Assistant, Ms. Demers will have a special insight into the issues in this Ward. New entries into the Ward 3 contest are Shawn Philip Fairbridge, Hatem Naboulsi, John Oplanich, Greg Siver, Louis Sobolewski, and Michael Suess.

In Ward 7, former Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen put his name forward last week to run against Councillor Tony Caterina. Challenger Brendan Van Alstine has been pounding the pavement for over a year to unseat Councillor Caterina, so Mr. McKeen’s entry had added some extreme unpredictability to the race in this north east central Ward. Other candidates entering the contest in Ward 7 today are Terry Rolls and Grant David Pullishy.

Candidate Chinwe Okelu is standing for election in Ward 11.

In south east central Edmonton, the vacant Ward 11 has drawn four main challengers in Community League organizer Shane Bergdahl, many-time candidate Chinwe Okelu, former Edmonton Sun columnist Mr. Diotte, and the well-organized Mr. Luthra. There has been an intense sign and door-knocking war happening in this Ward since earlier this year, which leads me to believe that it could be any one’s race. New candidates entering the race this morning are Roberto Maglalang and Brent Schaffrick

It also appears that some of the most competitive contests in this year’s election might be at the School Board level. In south central Ward F, long-time Public School Board Trustee Don Fleming is not seeking re-election, leaving a three-way race between Michael Janz, Bev Sawyer, and Joanna Rozmus. In Ward G, incumbent Trustee George Rice is facing some serious competition from Sarah Hoffman.

Attending Nomination Day at City Hall was an interesting and worthwhile experience. At no other time during the next 30 days are all of the candidates going to be in the same room at the same time. This morning have me the opportunity to put the names (and websites, Facebook groups, and twitter accounts) to the faces and actually talk with some of the candidates. I hope that all the readers of this blog take the time to read up and try to meet with the candidates standing for election in your area. As the campaign begins in full (and the full list of candidates are released this afternoon), I will be taking a closer look at each Ward contest, the Mayoral election, and the races at the School Board level.

UPDATE: The full list of candidates has been released (h/t to TheEdmontonian.com)

the facebook campaign.

Earlier this week I joined Calgary blogger DJ Kelly on CBC Radio’s alberta@noon province-wide call-in show to talk about social media and the upcoming municipal elections. Over the course of the show we had a good discussion about how the Internet is changing how voters seek information about candidates and how social media tools are increasing the ability of candidates to communicate and engage with voters. As I have previously written, while social media tools are too important for a serious candidate to ignore, they do not replace the kind of human contact that is achieved through traditional campaigning, such as door-knocking.

DJ’s most recent blog post used Facebook followings to gauge the support for candidates in Calgary’s competitive Mayoral election. It might not be scientific but the analysis is curiously similar to a recently released poll. The race for Mayor of Edmonton has so far been a lot less exciting than the crowded field of 17 candidates in Calgary. On the Facebook front, Mayor Stephen Mandel is absent. Challengers Daryl Bonar‘s Facebook Page has 483 followers and Dan Dromarsky‘s page has attracted 349 (with a lofty goal of 75,000).

Looking at City Council races, Councillor Amarjeet Sohi appears to be leading the pack with 503 members in his Facebook group. Following Councillor Sohi’s lead are Ward 11 candidate Vishal Luthra‘s group with 503 members, Ward 7 candidate Brendan Van Alstine‘s group with 291 members, and Ward 11’s Kerry Diotte with 229 members.

Online and on the streets, the Public School Trustee elections are looking like they might be some of October’s most competitive races. The two leaders on the Facebook campaign appear to be Ward F candidate Michael Janz with 717 fans and Ward G candidate Sarah Hoffman‘s group with 769 members. If previous elections are an indicator, these numbers could signal an incredible jump in interest in the School Board elections. Links to more School Board candidates websites and Facebook Pages can be found on the ARTES website.

As the October 18 election day approaches, I will be following and writing more about how candidates are using social media in their campaigns.

This post was cross-posted at EdmontonPolitics.com.