Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: battle over the public school board reveals a nervous old guard.

A heated battle has been brewing over Edmonton’s Public School Board.  Although it was re-ignited by communities angry that their Public School Board Trustees were not responsive to their concerns about the closure of neighborhood schools earlier this year, this battle is not new. In many ways, it is a conflict between the “old guard” and a newly involved group of community members who believe that the school board should be more than a bureaucracy of education administrators. Experience is good, but for too long the board has been dominated by retired administrators and civil servants who refuse to see themselves act as leaders in our City.

Two elections ago, this battle raged between the old guard made up of long-time incumbent Trustees and members of the now-defunct provincial parent advocacy group APPEAL (Albertans Promoting Public Education and Learning). In that election, APPEAL did not run a slate of candidates, but many of their members decided to step up from years as education advocates to stand as Trustee candidates in their communities.

The day before election day in 2004, the Edmonton Journal published an op-ed from Leif Stolee, longtime educator and administrator of Edmonton public schools, who effectively claimed that unless you are an educator, former administrator or have served on the public school board for at least three or four terms, you are not competent to serve as a trustee. It is likely that this op-ed side-swiped many of the new challengers and helped boost many of the old guard incumbents over the top in closely contested races for Edmonton Public School Board.

Fast forward to 2010 and the same dynamic is in play as the old guard and their supporters are still trying to hang on to their positions. Are they running scared this time?

In Ward G, incumbent Trustee George Rice has refused to debate challenger Sarah Hoffman, who has been running an aggressive campaign against him. In Ward B, I am told that Trustee Ken Shipka has also refused to debate his opponents. Mr. Shipka has been an invisible Trustee after he was forced to apologize after calling aboriginal people “nocturnal” in 2008.

One of the more heated battles is in Ward F, which has drawn three candidates to replace five-term Trustee Don Fleming. This week, candidate Bev Sawyer chastized the media for focusing on the rift between the School Board and the larger community. In addition. Mrs. Sawyer (a retired Principal and administrator) used her best online Principal voice to scold fellow candidate Michael Janz for… being too young?

Mrs. Sawyer appears to have taken an issue with comments that Mr. Janz made during interviews with CBC last week:

“The reason we’re seeing more younger candidates, fewer of the retired administrators, and more community advocates is because there is this growing realization that decisions made at the school board level will effect all Edmontonians” – Michael Janz.

Mrs. Sawyer apologized after being caught having not done her homework when she posted the bizarre attack on her website accusing Mr. Janz of having attended a private school. In reality, Mr. Janz attended public schools from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

As the old guard and their supporters desperately try to keep their hold on Edmonton’s Public School Board, they are missing a larger point. Legislation expected to be introduced by Education Minister Dave Hancock in the Spring Session of the Alberta Legislature may further curtail the administrative powers of School Boards, potentially even replacing them with partially-appointed Boards.

When the time comes when School Boards are challenged to stand up and prove their relevance, who will be best fit to do this – an old guard who have allowed the role of Trustees to wither into glorified administrators or a new group of people who understand why School Trustees need to be relevant and responsible to the whole community?

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: deciding my vote in ward 6 & ward f.

There are now two weeks until Edmontonians have the opportunity to elect their Mayor, City Councillors, and School Board Trustees (either Public or Catholic). The polls will be open from 9:00am to 8:00pm on Monday, October 18. If you will not be able to vote on Election Day, you can take advantage of advanced voting until October 16 (open 11:30am to 5:00pm from Monday to Friday and from 9:00am to 4:00pm on Saturday).

If you have yet to decide who will get your vote, there are many online resources available to help you make an informed decision. You can also watch video recordings of the City of Edmonton all-candidates forums that have already been held and those that will be held this week.

Being a responsible citizen, I have been thinking a lot about the ballot choices I will make on election day.

Edmonton Public School Board Ward F

My vote for Public School Board Trustee was the easiest to decide. I will be voting for Ward F candidate Michael Janz. I have known Michael for a few years and know that if elected he will be a strong advocate for community involvement in the future of our public schools.

For too long, our Public School Board has acted as a pasture for retired school principals and school board administrators and because of this it has withered into insignificance among the general public. I know that Michael understands this and believe that if elected as a Trustee, he will work to increase the relevance of our Public School Board beyond teachers, parents, and children.

Marking an X beside Michael Janz was an easy decision for me, but do not let me stop you from reading more about Joanna Rozmus and Bev Sawyer.

City Council Ward 6

I am having a difficult time deciding what to do with my City Council ballot. I am feeling extremely underwhelmed about the candidates in the downtown Ward 6. I thought that tuning-in online to last week’s all-candidates forum might help me with my decision, instead it just increased my indecision.

Incumbent Councillor Jane Batty is a nice person and as a Councillor she appears invisible on the issues. I pay attention to municipal politics and still have little idea what Councillor Batty has achieved during her three terms on City Council. I have also seen little existence of her campaign in this ward and have only spotted her election signs in front of her campaign office on Jasper Avenue and 122nd Street.

Ward 6 challenger Bryan Kapitza’s ideas speak to me on paper, but that is not enough. After meeting the man in-person, I have serious questions about whether he has the personality to forge meaningful working relationships with other Councillors (which is essential if you want to achieve anything on City Council).

Cris Basualdo appears to be running a campaign focused on the neighbourhoods of McCauley and Central McDougall (these two neighbourhoods are the only ones mentioned on her website).

The other candidates all blend together. Wildrose Alliance caucus staffer James Johnson entered the contest late and has been running a fairly cookie-cutter conservative campaign. I honestly have very little to write about the other challengers, Carla Frost, Lee Permann, Adil Pirbhai, and Thomas Roberts.

Considering the challenges and opportunities facing our downtown core neighbourhoods, it is pretty disappointing that this Ward was not able to attract a more dynamic group of candidates. With the election only nine days away, the candidates in Ward 6 will need to do something pretty spectacular in order to convince me not to spoil the Councillor section of my ballot.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

edmonton election 2010: the people in your neighbourhood.


Depending on what part of Edmonton you live in, you have probably noticed the lawn signs beginning to line up on private front lawns and sprawled across City-owned boulevards. While I hear that the sign war is red hot in the closely contested Wards 3, 7, and 11, in my downtown Ward 6 I have only noticed signs from a handful of candidates (Michael Janz, Bev Sawyer, Brian Kaptiza, and Rudy Arcilla).

Thus far there is virtually no signage belonging to incumbent Councillor Jane Batty in my neighborhood. This is a stark contrast from the last time I lived in this neighborhood during a municipal election. Back in 2004, I remember the area being covered with signs belonging to Councillors Michael Phair, Mrs. Batty, and then-challenger Ben Henderson (who is now standing for election in the new Ward 8 on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River).

I spoke with Adam Rozenhart from The Unknown Studio earlier this week about my Nomination Day experience and shared some thoughts on the election candidates. You can listen to my conversation with Adam on The Unknown Studio website or download the podcast on iTunes. The conversation starts at the 11:36 mark and also includes a conversation about how my dog needed to be rushed to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic after getting his jaw stuck in his kennel door (he is fine now).

There have been three City of Edmonton sponsored all-candidates forums held since Nomination Day in Wards 3, 7, and 11. They were all live-streamed online and should be posted shortly afterwards on the City of Edmonton election website.

Jeff Samsonow wrote a thought-provoking article yesterday that raised some serious questions about how the media cover their colleagues who are jumping into politics. More specifically, Mr. Samsanow is referring to on-leave Edmonton Journal columnist Scott McKeen, who is standing for election in Ward 7. Journal columnist Todd Babiak shared some of his thoughts on the Edmonton Commons blog, but did not really address the issue that Mr. Samsonow was getting at.

Scanning some of the candidates websites over the past few days has revealed some interested gems. Who would have thought that the people in your neighbourhood were such a colourful bunch? For example, did you know that the guy living down the street believes that the relationship between North Edmonton and South Edmonton is similar to North Korea and South Korea? Ward 3 candidate John Oplanich says so on his website.

The Northside has been ignored for far too long at the expense of the Southside/Westend/Millwoods and City Council (Ron Hayter, Kim Krushell, Ed Gibbons, Tony Caterina) has allowed this to happen. The southside/westend /Millwoods continues to flourish, prosper and live in luxury as the northside is drowning in controversy – City Center Airport/CN Railway in Calder. For 80 years we have called this corridor a Wasteland-Dead Zone. Can we afford to wait another 40 years? We need a strong and clear voice on City Council. VOTE for CHANGE. I‘m starting to feel like I live in North Korea and on the opposite side of the river is beautiful South Korea.

Ward 4 candidate Scott Robb is the first open Satanist to stand for election in Edmonton. I do not wade into the topic of organized religion very often on this blog (for good reason) and I am not going to start now, so you can make your own judgments. Whether you agree with Mr. Robb’s religious beliefs or not, he deserves some credit for being so open with it (at least he’s not running for the Catholic School District). I asked Mr. Robb about an online campaign that has emerged against him:

“All I have to say about it is it is one man’s narrow-minded ignorant opinion of me in which he fabricated stories, took posts of mine out of context (and some were photoshopped, although he publicly denies it)…

I’m curious, is that where everyone is finding out my religious beliefs? Because Satanism is not a cult, it’s been recognized as a legit religion since the british repealed their witchcraft laws in 1951! Cults brainwash people and don’t let members leave, we urge people to learn on their own and allow them to leave our church simply with a notification that they wish to…”

Country music singer KD Lang has some kind words to say about Councillor Bryan Anderson, who is running for re-election in Ward 9.

Meanwhile, retiring Trustee Gerry Gibeault is sharing some advice from his fifteen years on the Edmonton Public School Board: School Board Secrets. One political watcher close to the public school board has told to me that the online presence of this normally low-profile Trustee in this campaign could signal Mr. Gibeault’s desire for more than just a quiet retirement. The source suggested that Mr. Gibeault could be interested in a return to provincial politics in the near future. He was the NDP MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods from 1986 to 1993.

Mayoral candidates targeted the vote rich communities of Senior citizens in the City today. Mayor Stephen Mandel announced plans today about Seniors Housing and Recreation. The Seniors Housing plan proposes more cooperation between the City, the Province, Builders, and Seniors Groups to expand the number of seniors housing units available in Edmonton.

Mayoral candidate David Dorward made his first non-City Centre Airport related policy announcement today focusing on seniors and taxes. It has not yet been posted online or emailed out to their media list, so I do not have link to refer to. Thanks to @OrganizerMike for providing a less than 140 character summary of Mr. Dorward’s announcement:

@davecournoyer i stopped by his Presser- tax caps, tax rebates to seniors, review LRT spending -basically #yegvote

The first Mayoral all-candidates forum will be held tonight at Harry Ainley School from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. I will be there live-tweeting (follow @davecournoyer and #yegvote) and will provide some reflections on the debate later tonight.

Categories
Edmonton Politics

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)

Categories
Alberta Politics

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.

Categories
Alberta Politics

alberta politics notes 5/29/2010

Naheed Nenshi is in the race for Mayor of Calgary. Mr. Nenshi joins MLA Kent Hehr, Alderman Ric McIver, Alderman Joe Connelly, and former MLA Jon Lord. Read CalgaryPolitics.com for up to the minute updates on the Calgary Municipal election.
– Ward F candidate for Public School Board Michael Janz is kicking off his campaign with a free BBQ on May 30 (tomorrow) at the McKernan Community Hall.
– Minister Dave Hancock is expected to soon release the “Inspiring Education” report. Edmonton Trustee Sue Huff shared her thoughts on the process conference last October.
– One day he is filing a $2.8 million lawsuit against his former employer, the Edmonton Sun, and the next day columnist Kerry Diotte is seeking election to City Council. Mr. Diotte’s campaign team is said to include Gordon Stamp (Campaign Manager to Edmonton-East MP Peter Goldring) and former Councillor and perennial Mayoral candidate Mike Nickel (who was defeated by Don Iveson in 2007).
– Alberta’s Resource Royalty structure has once again been changed as the Provincial Government gives up $1.5 billion in revenue. The changes made in 2007 were the chief criticisms made by the Wildrose Alliance of the governing Progressive Conservatives. They reacted with luke warm support of the changes.
Todd Hirsh, a senior analyst with ATB Financial, raises the question: could Greece become Alberta’s nightmare?.
– “Maybe we need a good recession or a depression.” Former Premier Ralph Klein said he did not know how small business owners could address the province’s extremely high wage expectations.
– Former Edmonton-Mill Woods Liberal MLA Weslyn Mather wrote a letter about her party in yesterday’s Edmonton Journal.
– Some people are starting to notice the “election-like campaigns” that politicians are engaging in this summer (Energy Minister Ron Liepert described the recent Cabinet Tour as an “election tour“) Is it a sign of an early 2011 election?
– While her party may have shunned cooperation in the next provincial election, NDP Research Director and Public School Board candidate Sarah Hoffman engaged a friendly crowd at a fundraiser for Edmonton-Gold Bar Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald this week.

Read more in the Alberta Politics Notes archive.

Categories
Uncategorized

alberta politics notes 5/06/2010

Calgary-Buffalo Liberal MLA Kent Hehr has announced that he is running for Mayor of Calgary. Mr. Hehr does not have to resign his seat in the Assembly unless he is elected in the October 2010 election. If he does resign, a by-election will be triggered within six months (a Facebook group has been created to draft Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith to seek candidacy in a Buffalo by-election).
– There had also been rumours that Lethbridge-East Liberal MLA Bridget Pastoor would run for Mayor in her city, she recently announced that she would not.
– The Liberal Party will be holding its annual convention in Edmonton – this year with a policy focus – and are slated to have political strategist and micro-celebrity Warren Kinsella as their keynote speaker.
– Community organizer Michael Janz has announced that he is running for the Edmonton Public School Board in Ward F. Over in Ward G, NDP Caucus Research Director Sarah Hoffman is running.
Deron Bilous was nominated as the NDP candidate in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview last night. Supporter Denny Holmwood blogged about Mr. Bilous’ candidacy.
Calgary-Northeast Conservative MP Devinder Shory has been named in a lawsuit alleging a $70-million mortgage scam at the Bank of Montreal.
Ihor Broda was disbarred from the Law Society of Alberta. Mr. Broda ran unsuccessfully as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Castle Downs in 1997 and placed third in the race for Mayor of Edmonton in 1998.
– Premier Ed Stelmach‘s decision to suspend the fall Senate elections this year is being criticized by Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling.
– While his cabinet tours the province, Premier Stelmach kicked off an overseas summer tour in Washington DC this week.
– The Pembina Institute is disputing Government of Alberta claims about provincial regulation of emissions generated from the oilsands.
– It is a bad week for private health care in Alberta. The Health Resources Centre (HRC) in Calgary and two private seniors homes in Red Deer have filed for bankruptcy protection. Alberta Health Services will pay the cost of the interim receiver for HRC, which could reach $250,000.
– And finally, in the “it’s about time” category: The city of Edmonton’s transportation committee approved a plan to fast-track the construction of three LRT lines.