Mayoral Debate Number One

Tonight, eight out of the nine mayoral candidates got together to discuss the Mosaic stadium proposal.* The event was put on by Regina’s Gyros Club at the Travelodge on Albert.**

As for where the candidates stand on the Mosaic Stadium replacement issue, there weren’t really any surprises. In short: there’s one candidate who’s a Yes on the current plan — councillor Michael Fougere — and arrayed against him are seven shades of No.

Some quick thoughts on each of the candidates (in alphabetical order):

Liz Brass: As a long-time member of the Muncipal Heritage Advisory Committee, she says she understands that some buildings eventually reach the end of their useable life. Still, she’s not a fan of the current deal, doesn’t think we have all the information and she would explore “all” the options.

Marian Donnelly: Started off her five minutes of opening comments with a personal story about growing up in Regina and her ties to the Roughriders. Shit… it was really good speech writing. She mentioned she was a fan of city hall’s earlier plan to build a covered stadium near downtown but doesn’t like the new plan so much. She doesn’t think it will be as beneficial to the city. In closing comments, she mentioned renovations for the old stadium may be the way to go.

Jim Elliott: He’s definitely in favour of renovating the current stadium, saying there’s still many years of life left in it. Brought up some sobering stats about concrete costs in Saskatchewan and how those will constrain any grand plans we may have for a new building.

Michael Fougere: As a sitting councillor, he’s not surprisingly in favour of the current stadium plan. He says that renovating the old stadium won’t work because then we won’t get any provincial support; plus, maintaining a renovated Mosaic would cost more than maintaining a new building. He also argued that the process has been completely transparent (all the documents he’s used to make his decision are online) and that the stadium project is an important first step in the Regina Revitalization Initiative, which includes housing for the downtown.

Chad Novak: An open letter to Chad Novak: Dear Chad, You know how when you’re given a minute to ask Michael Fougere a question — a question — and then boast about how you can talk really fast and proceed to cram like four different questions into your time? Well, back at the press table, we have to try to write all that down. It isn’t fun. You don’t want the press (read: me) to stop having fun. That said. Novak, as you probably know, is opposed to the stadium plan and is one of the people behind the referendum petition. He is running neck-and-neck with Danny Berehula (running for council in Ward 7) for best facial hair in the election.

Meka Okochi: He believes that, with Regina booming, now is the best time to build a stadium. But, he doesn’t like the current plan because it involves too little private investment. If it was a good deal, he says, then the private sector would come up with the money. He argued for finding creative ways to encourage private investment instead of sitting back and waiting for it to come.

Tim Siekawitch: He wants to put the stadium deal on hold for a year and put up a website calling for proposals to build one. While that is going on, he would initiate a forensic audit of the city’s books to find out exactly how much money we actually have and see if we can afford a stadium.

Charles Wiebe: He mistrusts the current deal and argues that there are other priorities that are more important — like housing. As a candidate he wants to give “a voice to the voiceless.” Personally, I like Charles Wiebe. I chatted with him before the event and he seems kind and genuine. But when he was up to speak he was extremely nervous (and he admitted as much) and seemed under-prepared (and he admitted as much). Still, he’s the kind of underdog I tend to like.

Some other thoughts on the evening:
• There was a question period where each candidate got to ask one other candidate a question. Not surprisingly, all the questions were directed at Michael Fougere (except Michael Fougere’s). He handled himself pretty well.

• Because he was facing so many questions, Fougere ended up with a lot of extra time to explain his position. So, while it may have looked like he was in the hotseat, it probably worked to his advantage.

• Fougere’s question was directed at Meka Okochi (asking him if he supported the current deal or not. Okochi said, no). I don’t know if that was significant.

• The most mayoral seeming candidates were, best I could tell, Marian Donnelly, Michael Fougere and Meka Okochi. All three seemed comfortable in front of the crowd, knew the issue well and staked out distinct positions.

• Several snarky comments I decided to leave out.

Okay, that’s the stadium debate for now.

As for me personally… don’t ask me where I stand on a $278 million football stadium on a day where I was getting around town by bus. The Golden Mile transit stop is a fucking outrage. If the city would invest the thousands of dollars it would take to turn that stop into something other than an embarrassment then maybe I’d look more kindly on the hundreds of millions they’re willing to drop on a home for a sport I don’t even like. But as it stands, just don’t talk to me about the stadium.

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FOOTNOTES
* The ninth candidate, Tom Brown, attended the event but didn’t participate in the debate.

** The Gyro Club, we were told, is a men-only social club that (according to Wikipedia) dates back to 1912. In an earlier draft I had a joke here that involved genetics, Snooki and Alpha Centauri but removed it because I think it would have only been funny to me and also the Gyro Club might have taken offense.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

32 thoughts on “Mayoral Debate Number One”

  1. Open letter to Paul Dechene: My sincerest apologies for the thousand questions in 60 seconds, I thought we were vying for the Guiness Book of World Records!

    Actually, I wasn’t even thinking about anyone recording the questions, my apologies. I had only intended to ask one question, but then when Meka went on with so many questions, I adjusted mine accordingly.

    Next time, I will be sure to keep the media in mind! And, maybe, I’ll bring some balloons to keep the fun going.

  2. #1 sez it all..

    Paul you are the 2nd blog on this, I’ve partially read. Lameposters’s was the other.
    Weren’t podcasts allowed ?

    I wanna hear/see the play by play!!

    Fok! whatever happenend to a video camera/ phone sorta video clip?
    E 1’s batteries dead?

  3. All things considered, I really like the new Sesquicentennial stadium design and I actually think it would boost civic pride, hopefully not arrogance, but innocent little-kid pride in the city. That said, my favourite feature of the new design, however, in reality looks about as resilient as that pretty, delicate overnight ice that forms over meltwater ponds on the road in early October and March, and I’m sure, in the end, will be replaced by the bean-counters by something spikey, steel, and concrete, a la Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, esp if to facilitate a dome:

    http://www.interserve.com/resources/visuals/about/case-studies/leisure/millenniumstadium.jpg

  4. My impression was that Fougere wanted to draw a clear delineation between himself and Meka, given they both have economic development background/professional experience. I might be reading too much into that though. Maybe it shows that he thinks Meka is his main competition and wanted to see how he’d respond to the “hot seat” so he knows what he’s up against in subsequent, more open debates.

    Who knows, I guess is what I’m saying.

  5. Thanks for this, Paul.
    Could you expand on your Golden Mile transit stop remarks? I used it frequently when processing books for the RSO sale (sigh).

  6. Meka Okochi made a really good point, but he probably knows the reason why private money isn’t going into it. Once the stadium is built, at our expense, the cost will be added to the city debt that will also be paid at our expense, and then they’ll hire lots of unnecessary maintenance people and a several tiers of administrators above them to make sure that maintenance costs for the stadium are too high to maintain, and then the private sector will be invited to step in and ‘rescue’ the stadium by buying it for far less than it cost to build, and it will immediately be profitable because they’ll lay off all the unnecessary people that were hired just to make it too expensive for the city to maintain, and all the Gormley’s and financial columnists will harp about how much better a job the ‘private sector’ does when stuff built at tax payers expense is given to them at a fraction of their original cost. I know, because that’s been the timeline for every major stadium project in North America for the last 30 or so years.

  7. Pat: I think you’re right about Meka seeming like his prime competition. Fougere is the only guy who is 100% pro stadium. And that’s a valuable piece of electoral real estate. Everyone else is striving for a piece of the stadium-hater pie.

    Meka, though, is the only other guy who seemed pro-ish stadium plan — he just wants the money side reworked.

    So, yeah, Fougere has to keep Okochi lumped in with the Novaks and Elliotts.

    I think, though, that the most worrying moments for the Fougere campaigns had to be when Marian and Meka were being all friendly with one another — and then when they hugged. I think those two teaming up some how would be a real problem for Fougere.

    That’s just my take though. And it’s early on in the campaign. Things may change dramatically.

  8. Marian Donnelly for Mayor! Marian is arguably the most community-minded candidate who sincerely cares about this city and the people who live here.

  9. Barb: I would love to expand on my issues with the Golden Mile transit stop. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves in the entire transit system.

    First of all, on the east side of the road, the sidewalk doesn’t run the length of the block. Sorry. Allow me to rephrase: THE SIDEWALK DOESN’T RUN THE LENGTH OF THE EFF-ING BLOCK!!

    So, if you’re coming from the south, say, and you’re trying to get to the transit stop, you have to climb a hill and cut through a really horribly laid out parking lot.

    Then, what sidewalk that is there is made of broken up, dilapidated paving stones. There’s usually garbage strewn around the transit maps — which admittedly isn’t transit’s fault but it is a sign that there aren’t enough trash bins and that the area is just so sketchy that no one gives a shit about keeping it nice.

    And of course the number of shelters is insufficient for the traffic and they aren’t heated — and again, they’re usually full of trash, covered in graffiti and smell of urine.

    Also, the area isn’t very well lit which just adds to the air of danger. I understand that they can’t have Klieg lights along there because there are apartments across the street but there has to be some compromise they could reach.

    And then there’s the whole question of why the station isn’t just integrated right into the mall itself. The Golden Mile benefits HUGE from having a major transit hub next to it. They should be figuring out how to expand the building so that it’s a real transit station with heated waiting areas for riders, a break room for drivers, and video boards with up-to-the-minute bus information.

    All of this stuff has been business-as-usual for transit systems in Europe and most cities in North America for decades. That we still haven’t sorted out how to handle our transit hubs in Regina is a sign of either incompetence or apathy or both.

  10. @10: You forgot one thing, Paul: the extreme lack of snow and ice clearing in winter, rendering the east sidewalk, which is sloped (though the drainage is not great) a walking hazard.
    I can live without heated shelters, but what shelters there are should be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. Oh, and have you seen the payphone there? Oh, maybe not; it’s covered in gang tags…

  11. Interesting idea Paul, but I don’t know why Meka and Marian would team up. Bringing Fougere down is obviously advantageous but in the end they’re also still direct competitors. I’m all for a friendly and respectful campaign but someone still has to come out on top.

    I’m interested in your thoughts on Marian’s “I’ll hire Meka” comment. Some of my colleagues thought it came across as rude or arrogant after reading it on Twitter.

  12. No, I don’t think they would team up. I don’t even know how they could seeing as there’s no vice-mayor position. It just seems Fougere is in a pretty good spot right now in the election and having all the serious opposition behind one ticket would be the one thing that would be really scary for him right now. It was more an idle thought than a serious idea.

    As for the “I’ll hire Meka” comment… yeah, I kind of shuddered when she said that. My impression was that it was a light-hearted, heat-of-the-moment kind of quip. Still, it was also a pretty obvious attempt to brand herself as the one legitimate contender and I don’t think she won a point for it.

    At the same time, Meka came off at times as extremely combative. Not sure that that would have played well with this crowd.

    Fougere meanwhile deflected all the blows sent his way with a lot of humour. After the schlmozzle at Monday’s council meeting, I thought things might get heated between him and Novak but even that didn’t seem to really happen. Fougere was firm — exasperated at times like, say, when Novak hammered him with a litany of questions — but Fougere seemed to roll with things well.

    Did you stick around and interview people after? Did you get a read off how they felt it went?

  13. It’s not as if this contest is a leadership convention, where a losing candidate can release his/her delegates to vote for someone else, so why the concern over 2 candidates hugging, for heaven’s sake? And in re: the “hire” remark, can’t people rib each other anymore?

  14. I mentioned heated bus stop shelters to the Regina transit group, that was at the Citizen Circle held at the Centre of the Arts. They’d be relativily inexpesive to construct, add a heater, tie them to the nearest natural gas line..
    Next to really poor routing& hours of service, un-heated shelters,( and a HUGE lack of them ), keeps me off the bus.

  15. Barb: Yeah. You’re right.

    Ron: Seema Goel, a Regina artist who has since moved to Ireland, told me how she developed a solar-power heating system for bus shelters and tested it successfully here in Regina. And yet, we don’t seem to have them anywhere….

  16. Bus shelters get vandalized a lot, so I’m wondering how much more expensive repairs to heated ones would be. And then, might the heat not encourage some trashers to stay longer and wreck more? If there’s a tie-in to a gas line, ayoi, another potential for disaster. I’d go for the solar heating option any day (with the same concerns about vandals).
    As to routes and service hours, riders need to take the time to learn routes and plan their trips. You can’t expect door-to-door service in a city this size, and most certainly not in a larger one. I took transit all over town for 9 years as a school board trustee, and I never had any problems because I planned my trips ahead of time, used a bus pass (on my own nickel, not the taxpayer’s), and took the trouble to learn the system. It’s part of city living.

  17. Followed Pat’s livetweet and have now read Paul’s blog. Fougere throwing his question to Okochi seemed an effort to bolster the idea of Okochi as a contender rather than acknowledge the actual contender: Donnelly. Fougere has nothing to by contrasting himself against Donnelly, who is a well-spoken, media-savvy urbanite with strong ties to both arts and business community.

  18. Emmet: Oh. I think you might have nailed it.

    Barb: I don’t expect door-to-door service. Far from it. Although I wouldn’t mind a bus system that makes some intuitive sense.

    Like how about buses that run up and down the main arteries? An Albert North and an Albert South, for example? Instead we have buses that identify themselves by the suburb they go to, like the Whitmore Park bus. Which is great if you know where where Whitmore Park is. But for newcomers and tourists a system like that is a serious pain in the butt.

    And no, I don’t accept the “learning the system is part of urban living” thing. I learned the compass in grade school because it’s a good way to indicate direction. It’s a universal, shared system. Pointing people towards landmarks or neighbourhoods isn’t.

    But, I concede there are times when maybe you want to have a route that doesn’t conform to a rough north-south, east-west orientation. In that case, you can solve that problem by putting up lots of easy-to-read transit maps. And I mean easier to read ones than we have here. (I managed the subway, bus, train and trolley systems in the Czech Republic fairly well, thank you very much, even though they were all written in a language I barely understood because the maps were everywhere and the schedules were designed really well. They understood the importance of having a transit system that’s easy to use for foreign tourists who can’t speak the language.)

    And even if all of that is impossible to implement for some bizarre reason I can’t comprehend, then how about at least putting the numbers of the buses that use each particular stop on the transit stop signs. Could we at least do that one little thing?

    And how about when a stop is not in service because of construction along the route somewhere, how about we put up a sign at the out-of-service bus stop saying “out of service”? How about that?

    No. We can’t do that. But we can put flat-screen tvs on half the buses to give us up-to-the-minute updates on where our bus is. Great! Except I’M ALREADY ON THE FREAKIN’ BUS!!! That’s the last place I need transit route information.

  19. Oh, and for the record, you know I’m not peeved at you, Barb?

    It seems like some kind of transit fury floodgate has opened and all my issues with Regina Transit are spilling out today.

  20. Bloody hell, I hit the wrong button and sent my brilliant response into the Inky Void, so here it is again, edited.
    @19 was a response to Ron, who actually mentioned routes and hours.
    Paul, you must not take or even look at the bus when you visit Edmonton or some other city, because, news flash, MANY IF NOT MOST have neighbourhood names, as well as “Express” or other titles, so bitch out other cities as well as Regina. Anyone, newcomer, tourist or resident can access maps, hard copy ones or online. Should we have more and better ones at stops? Yes. I liked the ones OC Transpo had in Ottawa, not only the big ones at major transfer points but also the mini ones at regular on-the-street stops, but it still helped to preplan a travel route, and that was best done online, I found.
    Should we have express north-south and east-west buses? Ohmyyes. Should we have route numbers on regular bus stop signs which are away from the transfer points? Yes. We used to, but we don’t any more. Perhaps that was because of the expense of replacing signs when there’s a route change; I don’t know. Oh, and to get back to newcomers, the Open Door Society must be doing a crackerjack job of teaching recent immigrants how to use the transit system, because from my observations, they are quick to pick up the info, and language barrier notwithstanding, they ask questions of the bus driver. They’re highly motivated to learn their way around, and they’re less given to complaining when they could actually take action.
    “Out of service” notices due to construction go up on the transit web page, but that’s no help to those who aren’t online, so there should be physical signs as well. Mind you, that would likely be the job of the folks who clean the bus shelters, so speed might be an issue. When there’s a short-notice detour because of an accident, as there was Monday for Albert and Sask Drive, there’s local radio; not perfect, but there it is.
    I know you weren’t peeved at me, Paul; I;m a grownup and I don’t take evry little thing personally.

  21. Barb: Bitch out other cities? Oh, I have. You think I got this cranky just from moving here? Oh nonononono… this level of cranky takes simmering over decades.

    Anonymusses: Yeah. I know about it and have fooled around with it a bit. It hasn’t really knocked me out.

    I mean, it’s keen. But as I don’t have an iPhone or similar device, it’s of limited use to me when I’m out and about and want to catch a bus to get home.

    Plus, it just seems like a way to make it so that the buses don’t have to run on time. If Regina Transit assumes you’ll know where all their buses are in real time, they have less incentive to stick to a schedule.

    In the end, I’d put transitlive into the “diminishing returns of technology” pile.

    But hey, if I’m doing something wrong with it and it really is the awesomest of awesome, convince me.

  22. Well, I dunno if it’s the awesomest of awesome, but I have used it online and on mobile, and it seems to work for what it purports to do. It’s certainly better than my old habit of phoning Regina Transit and asking them when the bus will show up at a particular locale, which I’ve done’a’plenty over the years.

    I think it is a fair question however to ask how much effort and cash Regina Transit is spending for those who have easy computer and mobile access. But I do think it would be great to have a screen with this info at the Golden Mile and Downtown hubs.

  23. I was at the debate sitting in the back. I heard something very different than was given due attention. The candidate Siekawitch said four things that made the back row noticed and liked. First he said that the missing Pension money was an intended administration plan and that council voted to intentionally keep it underfunded. This is true. Then he said an audit is needed to find-out where that money went to. Then he asked Fougere how much money is in the city’s account. Fougere didn’t know. Then only he correctly answered a question from the audience. I didn’t see him ask more than one question at a time. I didn’t hear him go off topic other than to say P3 deals would eventually cost us the sewage treatment plant. P3’s in the USA have all gone south and Siekawitch seemed the only candidate who was stern in his speech and focused not dwelling on his youth and education or experience to suck up support. What we heard in the back of the room was surely what you heard at the front of the room. Wasn’t it?

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