Ward3

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Personal Info

1. What special skills or expertise do you possess that may be relevant to voters?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am a mother, wife, former lawyer (I hold non-practising status with the Law Society of NL), community volunteer and advocate. While I did practice law, for the past ten years I have focussed my life on volunteerism and on being a full-time parent to my three children.

I worked for many years to have a new High School built here in the West End. This required collaboration with many groups and persistent advocacy to all levels of Government. It is gratifying to see this wonderful addition to our Community finally coming to fruition. As a result of this experience, I believe that City Council should act as a facilitator in the development and management of the city by using inclusive, frequent and consistent engagement of stakeholders, and by drawing on the expertise that already exists in our community

I will be an effective City Councillor because I am passionate about our community, I have the right mix of skills, experience, and education, and I have a demonstrated commitment to serve.

Walter Harding: Being raised by a very hard-working single parent who was raising 6 children on her own and working multiple jobs to do so, I realized at a very early age that the more I could do to contribute the easier it would be for my Mother. I have lived my entire life trying to do as much as I can to help others and make their lives a little easier. I have 30 years work experience with dealing with the public and my strong work ethic is exactly what I look for in a representative on council. I am a “people person” to say the least and I realize the importance of listening to others when they have opinions and concerns. Everything I have accomplished in my life has been accomplished because I did not look to someone else to do anything for me. I did it myself and I cherish a hard days work. The harder something is to do, the more it’s worth doing as far as I am concerned and if I am doing something I am doing it right the first time and to the absolute best of my abilities.

Bruce Tilley: Leadership skills, tremendous experience (35 years in the business community), tremendous organizational skills, financial management and budgeting, communication skills.

2. What community organizations are you or have you been a member of?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am active in numerous community groups and boards, including: West End High School Committee (spokesperson), Beaconsfield Junior High School Council (community representative), Bishops College School Council (Vice Chair) St. Matthews Elementary School Council (past parent rep and Chair), Federation of School Councils (past Vice President), Barachois Place Parents Association (Community rep), Cowan Heights Youth Basketball League (Uniform coordinator and fundraiser), Shallaway- NL Youth in Chorus (Board member), Seniors Resource Centre of NL (Board Member, Advocacy Committee-Chair, Communications Committee- member), The Rooms (Educational interpreter), Kiwanis Music Festival (volunteer), Community Editorial Board of The Telegram.

Walter Harding: I have volunteered my time and donated my hard-earned money to organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, Bridges To Hope the SPCA and others. When it comes to community organizations I support them financially and I’m very happy to use some of our disposable income to do so.

Bruce Tilley: St. John’s Jaycees (President), President of Canada Day Committee, Board of Directors of the CLB, St. Thomas Church (Planning and Stewardship), Past President of the Chambers of Commerce Executives of Canada, Past Director of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

3. When and where have you run for public office before, and what public offices have you held?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I have never run for public office before.

Walter Harding: My attempt to earn the Ward 3 council seat is my first attempt although I have been very  active in the process for over 20 years.

Bruce Tilley: Member of City Council 2009-Present; 1981-1989, 1992-1993.

4. What business or commercial operations have you or your family members engaged in within the last five years that may put you into a conflict of interest in matters of municipal governance?

Sarah Colborne Penney: None.

Walter Harding: None.

Bruce Tilley:  Absolutely nothing.

5. In which ward and neighbourhood is your principal residence located?

 Sarah Colborne Penney: I live in the West End of St. John’s. My home is actually located on the cusp between Wards 3 and 5, so I have chosen to run in Ward 3 because my life is most closely connected to that Ward. It is where I spend the majority of my time – where my children attend school, my husband works and we shop, volunteer, and recreate. Most of our friends and family live in Ward 3.

Walter Harding: I am very proud to say that my wife and I live in Ward 3 and have done so for a combined 70 years. I also do most of my work in Ward 3 and that is the ward that I am pleased and proud to hope to represent for at least the next four years starting October, 2013.

Bruce Tilley: I am running in Ward 3 and I live in Ward 3 for the past 40 years.

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Multiple Choice Questions

 

1. Of the following list of municipal issues, choose up to six that you consider priorities for improvement:

  • Public Transit
  • Snow Clearing
  • Lower Taxes for Residents
  • Lower Taxes for Businesses
  • Affordable Housing
  • Controlling Spending
  • Promoting Tourism
  • Crime Prevention
  • Roads
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Transparency and Public Engagement
  • Arts and Culture
  • Fiscal Relationship with the Province
  • Electoral Reform
  • Traffic
  • Parking
  • Stormwater Management
  • Urban Sprawl
  • Regional Cooperation
  • Water and Sewer Infrastructure
  • Garbage, Recycling and Composting

Sarah Colborne Penney:

  • Public Transit
  • Snow Clearing
  • Lower Taxes for Residents
  • Affordable Housing
  • Traffic
  • Parking
  • Water and Sewer Infrastructure

Walter Harding:

  • Parks and Recreation
  • Lower Taxes for Residents
  • Affordable Housing
  • Traffic
  • Regional Cooperation
  • Stormwater Management

Bruce Tilley:

  • Public Transit
  • Lower Taxes for Residents
  • Affordable Housing
  • Controlling Spending
  • Fiscal Relationship with the Province Electoral Reform
  • Traffic
  • Water and Sewer Infrastructure

2. For the following list of statements, indicate whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, neither agree nor disagree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree:

a) The City of St. John’s should invest more in public services (water and sewer, public transit, snow clearing, etc.), even if this means raising taxes.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Neither agree nor disagree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

b) The City of St. John’s should reduce taxes, even if this means cuts to public services.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Neither agree nor disagree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

c) The City of St. John’s should design regulations to encourage high density development in the city core and discourage urban sprawl. 

Sarah Colborne Penney: Strongly agree

Walter Harding: Somewhat agree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

d) Metrobus service could benefit from minor improvements, but large additional investments are not a good use of taxpayers money.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Somewhat agree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

e) The St. John’s Harbour Authority should be pressured to restore public access to sections of the waterfront that are being fenced off. 

Sarah Colborne Penney: Somewhat disagree

Walter Harding: Somewhat agree

Bruce Tilley: Strongly disagree

f) The bylaw governing the use of mobile signs should be made more strict to discourage their use.

Sarah Colborne Penney: Neither agree nor disagree

Walter Harding: Neither agree nor disagree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

g) New developments should be held to a zero net-runoff increase policy for stormwater, in order to protect watersheds and reduce the risk of flooding.

Sarah Colborne Penney: Strongly agree

Walter Harding: Strongly agree

Bruce Tilley: Strongly agree

h) Regulations to protect heritage areas in the city should be relaxed in order to encourage new development.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Somewhat disagree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

i) The city should take a harder line with people who park illegally in fire lanes.

Sarah Colborne Penney: Strongly agree

Walter Harding: Strongly agree

Bruce Tilley: Strongly agree

j) Sidewalk snow clearing could benefit from minor improvements, but large additional investments are not a good use of taxpayers money.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Somewhat agree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

k) The senior citizens tax reduction should be extended to all low income homeowners. 

Sarah Colborne Penney: Somewhat agree

Walter Harding: Neither agree nor disagree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

l) The City of St. John’s should implement a municipal composting program.

Sarah Colborne Penney: Strongly agree

Walter Harding: Somewhat agree

Bruce Tilley: Strongly agree

m) Political donations to municipal candidates should be published in a public report and posted on the City of St. John’s website.

Sarah Colborne Penney: Strongly agree

Walter Harding: Strongly agree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

n) City parks could benefit from minor improvements, but large additional investments are not a good use of taxpayers money.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Neither agree nor disagree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

o) Traffic calming measures, including speed bumps and lower speed limits, should be expanded.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Strongly agree

Bruce Tilley: Strongly agree

p) St. John’s should pursue amalgamation with neighbouring communities.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (Did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Strongly agree

Bruce Tilley: Strongly agree

q) Loud motorcycles are a problem and bylaws should be enacted to restrict them.

Sarah Colborne Penney: (did not select one of the five options)

Walter Harding: Somewhat agree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat agree

r) The city should encourage more mixing of commercial and residential development.

Sarah Colborne Penney: Strongly agree

Walter Harding: Somewhat agree

Bruce Tilley: Somewhat disagree

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Long(er) Answer Questions

Arts and Culture

1. What specific initiatives would you undertake to support arts and artists in the city?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I fully agree with supporting the arts. Our culture and uniqueness is our strength, which we can then market to the world. I serve on the Board of Shallaway – NL Youth in Chorus. This organization seeks to create, among other things, young cultural ambassadors. Art and artists make for a vibrant enjoyable city which benefits residents and attracts newcomers. Investment in the arts is a sound investment for the City to make.

Walter Harding: I support the arts community by participating in events and supporting the artists by purchasing works and tickets. There is no question NL has, per capita, some of  the best artists in the world in all the arts combined. the best advertising is word of mouth and I do my utmost to spread the good word about the amazing artists that we have in St. John’s and NL as a whole. This support will continue regardless of the outcome of the election.

Bruce Tilley: The City has done a commendable job in this area and is very supportive of the Arts Community.

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By-laws and enforcement

2. What should be done to discourage illegal parking in fire lanes and other parking violations?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am open to exploring options beyond increased enforcement and fines. Publishing names of offenders has been suggested to me, but stakeholders must be consulted before implementing major changes in approach and methodology.

Walter Harding: Higher fines, more enforcement, posting of names of violators found guilty online or in local papers.

Bruce Tilley: Raise the fines to discourage this.

3. Would you support a volunteer group of concerned citizens to monitor parking lots and issue tickets and/or report violations?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am unsure about the feasibility of such an initiative, but I would be open to exploring the pros and cons with stakeholders including the RNC.

Walter Harding: I would not support the volunteers issuing tickets as their safety may be called into question but I would most definitely support resident reporting violations. Many impaired drivers are caught by Police because of anonymous tips and I support that. I would extend that to reporting  illegal dumpers of garbage as well.

Bruce Tilley: We have a department that enforces the regulations. Citizens can report violations by dialing 311.

4. What should be done to improve the enforcement of traffic laws?

Sarah Colborne Penney: Back in 2005, the City explored the options of either establishing its own traffic enforcement unit, (such as Mount Pearl’s approach), or contracting for that service with the RNC. City staff, at that time, recommended contracting with the RNC. At that time, it was argued that the cost of establishing and maintaining its own unit would be more than the revenue generated by such a unit. Additionally, there was the concern that a certain percentage of traffic stops would require the involvement of the RNC in any event due to a municipal unit not having the jurisdiction to deal with Criminal matters such as driving while suspended or driving while intoxicated. However, the City Council in 2005 opted not to pursue contracting with the RNC for traffic enforcement services. I would be open to examining the feasibility of this option again. This approach would provide the City with an assurance that it get the enforcement coverage it wants as well as a say in how the service is provided.

Walter Harding: I am a proponent of and have spoken publicly on the need for us as a city to have our own municipal traffic enforcement unit. We are one of the largest municipalities without its own municipal force and I believe it’s time to reopen discussion. As well, more RNC cruisers on the road would also help.

Bruce Tilley: This is a Provincial issue and we require greater policing.

5. What can be done to reduce the number of parking tickets issued for parking on snow removal and street cleaning days?

Sarah Colborne Penney: The City needs to communicate more clearly with residents, which streets are going to be cleaned/cleared and when, so that residents know where they can park. Perhaps a visual map showing clearly which streets (and which sides) will be ticketed on a specific night so that residents are informed.

Walter Harding: I have heard from residents that there is sometimes significant confusion and perhaps miscommunication regarding snow clearing issues and I think it’s imperative that the city use social media, electronic media as well as print and radio to make certain residents are well-informed as to the cities intention regarding snow clearing on particular days.

Bruce Tilley: Greater communications.

6. What would you do to reduce illegal garbage dumping in the city?

Sarah Colborne Penney: Video surveillance has been proven to work in other jurisdictions, and is currently being implemented here.

Walter Harding: Plain and simple. Declare war on those amongst us that show such disrespect. Electronic monitoring, a reward for any information leading to conviction of illegal dumpers and a zero-tolerance policy regarding dumping illegally. I would extend the hours of the landfill to 7 am to 6 pm to give residents more opportunity to avail of the landfill. The present hours of operation make it difficult for any resident to get to dump during regular working hours.

Bruce Tilley: Greater enforcement, cameras and a fine of $5000 to $10,000.

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Crime

7. What is your take on crime in St. John’s and what should the city do about it?

Sarah Colborne Penney: The downside of prosperity, as we are witnessing is increases in crime related to that prosperity. I have a great deal of respect for the RNC, I would like them to be more visible. Additionally, I believe measures that empower neighbourhoods, like the Neighbourhood Watch Program, are very effective in dealing with crime and in building community.

Walter Harding: I think the reporting of crime  is up and I support and encourage involvement from Neighborhood Watch, the RNC, community groups and the City of St. Johns to work together to make our city as safe as possible. We are facing significant challenges in the areas of organized crime and drug use that was never a concern for our residents before but the reality is that times have changed and we must change with the times. Increased Police presence is a must and I would welcome the return of foot patrols of the RNC in the downtown core and in other areas of the city that have shown evidence of high crime rates.

Bruce Tilley: Here again, this is a policing issue and the Provincial Government has to take greater responsibility. We as a city has a very effective Neighbourhood Watch program. It is up to the neighbourhood and the streets to participate. We have just set up a major crime committee to address greater effectiveness.

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Development and Urban Renewal

8. The St. John’s Board of Trade argues that the city needs more high density residential development and less urban sprawl. Do you support the Board’s position, and if so what policies would you implement to achieve it?

Sarah Colborne Penney: Yes, I agree with the Board of Trade’s position on this. I issued a press release on this topic on August 12, 2013: *Ward 3 Candidate, Sarah Colborne Penney: We Need to Build Neighbourhoods not Subdivisions*

Ward 3 Candidate, Sarah Colborne Penney stated today, “We need to engage in “intelligent development” – being mindful of the future environment we are creating today. It is neither fiscally nor environmentally responsible to continue to allow the City to sprawl with a continued emphasis on providing infrastructure to single-family and other low-density developments. The extension of infrastructure to accommodate low-density developments is wasteful of tax dollars, as the cost of supplying services to these outlying subdivisions costs more than we’ll ever get back in taxes.”

 “Mixed-use developments and the creation of neighbourhoods within which residents can live, work and partake in recreational activities, is a strategy I believe will lead to sustainable development.”

Colborne Penney asserts: “More roads is not the answer; instead we must try to alleviate our over-reliance on cars by being mindful of creating communities.”

Walter Harding: Urban sprawl is much more expensive for municipalities simply because the area needed to cover to provide services is so much greater than if it were a more centralized area. Density is encouraged and preferred by municipalities because the area requiring municipal services is much smaller and centralized and therefore savings can be found. I agree that we must grow “up” more than in the past as we simply cannot keep pressuring residents by increasing their property taxes to cover the costs of sprawl. We must address density very respectfully and responsibly and must make certain that  we maintain our “old city charm” and that we retain the attractiveness that is welcomed by the many tourists that visit our city every year. A balance can be found with careful and intelligent planning.

Bruce Tilley: This should be addressed through our new Municipal Plan.

9. What should be done with vacant properties (e.g. abandoned grocery stores and soon-to-be-closed schools), and what should the city be doing to ensure that these spaces are put to good use?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I wrote a Letter to the Editor on this topic. It was published in The Telegram on February 15, 2013.

Walter Harding: Regardless of whether it is occupied or vacant I feel we should be getting full taxes from the property as a city. When it comes to the soon-to-be-closing schools I feel we need to take a serious look and crunch the numbers to see if these spaces can be converted into affordable living spaces. I feel the abandoned grocery stores could actually be successful as grocery stores again as the economy has skyrocketed since their closings. Recreational facilites are in demand a well so perhaps we could have a look in that area. All options are open for discussion. It costs nothing to offer ideas.

Bruce Tilley: This is a business issue for stores, etc. and schools are under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Government. The market will dictate the need.

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Electoral reform

10. The City of Toronto is planning to move to a ranked ballot system for municipal elections. This system reduces the problem of vote splitting in races with more than two candidates. Would you support a similar reform in St. John’s? Would you support some other kind of reform?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am not sure that this is needed here. I would have to fully examine this issue before taking a position on it.

Walter Harding: I actually would support that system. I feel a change is as good as a rest and this might entice otherwise apathetic voters to once again join the democratic process. I am saddened to see almost half of the ballots go in the trash during a municipal election as it costs hundreds of thousands of tax payers dollars to put off an election and I have worked hard over the past year to try and get 60 percent of voters to actually vote. An informed voter has my complete respect.

Bruce Tilley: I feel that the current ballot system of mailing is fair but I would rather the old system (that of the Provincial and Federal system).

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Heritage

11. How do we balance real estate development with the preservation of heritage in historic St. John’s?

Sarah Colborne Penney: Our built heritage must be protected. It is a vital part of who we are as a city. However, we must continue to grow and developers need a reasonable return on investment. We must balance new development with the preservation of our built heritage. Our uniqueness is our strength. We can both protect our built heritage, as well as capitalize on it. We need an animated and strong downtown core; that is vibrant and pedestrian friendly. This will require the careful stewardship of City Hall as well as the meaningful engagement of stakeholders.

Walter Harding: One word. Balance. Sustainable growth combined with respectful treatment of our heritage properties is the best way to properly balance the old and the brand new in our city. At the same time that we welcome the new we must value, appreciate and respect the old as we are, after all,  the oldest city in North America and we must retain that part of our treasured past as well as welcome the promise of our future.

Bruce Tilley: This should be addressed in the new Municipal plan.

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Housing affordability

12. What initiatives would you support or undertake to address the following issues?

  • a shortage of available rental housing
  • rising costs of rental housing
  • rising house prices

Sarah Colborne Penney: I recognise that the cost of living’s increasing should not force people to be left behind. I believe in supporting those who are working toward poverty elimination and I believe that affordable housing is fundamentally important and that both of these (related) issues require the co-operation between the various levels of government in order to effectively address them. I believe we should be encouraging mixed-use developments, such as the mixed-use affordable housing development in Pleasantville. Additionally, creative programs like “HomeShare NL” need to be encouraged and supported.

Walter Harding:

  • a shortage of available rental housing: There are times that rental properties are vacant and nobody seems to have known about it. I would encourage open dialogue and better communication to make certain all available properties are actually advertised and that residents are aware that they are actually available to rent.
  • rising costs of rental housing & rising house prices: With growth and a supposed prosperity, a close eye must be kept on rental rates. The most vulnerable among us must be protected from escalating rental costs and the working poor among us and minumim wage earners that keep our city moving must be protected as well.

Bruce Tilley: This should be addressed through our affordable housing committee who have done much research respecting this issue.

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Immigration

13. What initiatives have you been involved with, or would you implement, to promote a welcoming and supportive environment for immigrants and refugees in our community?

Sarah Colborne Penney:  We need immigrants – especially due to our current dramatic demographic shift. Immigrants both enrich our communities and strengthen our economy. Workers and families from other countries must be made to feel welcome and valued with programs to help them network and make meaningful connections within the community and to find meaningful employment. Not only must we be concerned about attracting newcomers, we must also focus on retaining them. I believe that our strong sense of attachment to St. John’s, our strong sense of identity and “place” is something we can focus on municipally, in order to create a thriving and welcoming community for newcomers.

I also note that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) issued a Report entitled: “Immigration and Diversity in Canadian Cities and Communities”. In it, the need for municipalities to be included in federal policy decisions regarding immigration was highlighted: Despite being first in line when it comes to helping immigrants with settlement challenges, municipal governments are not consulted systematically or included in decision-making on immigration policies or programs. The simple step of including municipal governments in these discussions would encourage better co-ordination of services delivered to newcomers. Just as important, municipalities require financial support to deliver the services newcomers need to settle successfully. see: http://www.fcm.ca/Documents/reports/ Immigration_and_Diversity_in_Canadian_Cities_and_Communities_EN.pdf

Walter Harding: I think our city is wonderful in welcoming immigrants and encouraging them to continue the way of life and traditions that they have grown up with. I think all citizens of St. Johns welcome immigrants with open arms and I would encourage that to continue. I see no reason why it would not. We are a caring and tolerant population and we treat all people with the greatest of respect and I see no reason why that would change.

Bruce Tilley: We are doing this through partnering with MUN and through our Roadmap 2020.

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Intergovernmental relationships

14. What are two specific initiatives/issues at the federal or provincial level that you would commit to advocating for if you were elected?

Sarah Colborne Penney: 

1) We need the Province’s cooperation if we are to pursue the regionalization of public transit.

2) We need the Federal Government to partner with the City in order to address the requirements of the new federal wastewater Regulations

Additionally, I recognize that the City has suffered years of cuts to municipal infrastructure funding and many programs and services have been downloaded from the Provincial and Federal levels of Government. This must be rectified. I will advocate for a new fiscal arrangement with the Province (which the Province has indicated it is willing to consider – Minister O’Brien, April, 2013) and for increased Federal funding (especially with regard to the new Federal Waste Water Regulations) in recognition of the essential services municipalities provide.

Walter Harding: I have many that I would like to take on but I feel two of the most pressing issues for me both  provincially and federally are healthier living among residents as well as the need for a new penitentiary here in St. john’s. A happy community is a healthy community. I think we should encourage and reward all residents of all ages to get more active and get healthier. This would lessen the burden on our health care system and enable residents to live full, happy and healthy lives. As well, I feel our antiquated penitentiary needs replacing as soon as possible. A new penitentiary that would be able to provide programs to assist inmates with substance abuse and social issue problems  that would enable them to re-enter society a much different person than they were when they entered the facility. We must realize that all of these inmates that are incarcerated will be released back into society. I think it is beneficial to society and imperative that we provide the programs to assist the inmates in order to give them the best possible opportunity to enjoy rejoining society and contributing to society  as opposed to having no hope and to simply end up right back in prison. Tax dollars are spent on both housing and rehabilitating those who go wayward of the law. I would like to think rehabilitation dollars are more wisely spent.

Bruce Tilley: Greater fiscal management and financial relations with the Provincial Government and more funding from the Federal Government with respect to affordable housing and greater funding for Municipal infrastructure.

15. What opportunities for regional cooperation with neighbouring communities do you think should be pursued?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I believe, with the cooperation of the Provincial Government, that we need to look at the regionalization of some services like public transit. This has been proven effective in other areas like the provision of fire services and waste water management. Greater cooperation between municipalities benefits citizens.

Walter Harding: There was a time not so long ago when the borders between neighboring communities were clear and spacious. Now, I think we would all agree that the borders between St. John’s, Mount Pearl, CBS, Paradise, Portugal Cove-St.Philip’s, etc are paper thin and almost non-existent. As St. John’s is the Capital city and as such has most of the area services such as hospitals, shopping, businesses and government offices, etc, the infrastructure in St. John’s is under great pressures from visitors from outside the city. I think it’s time for all communities in the region to share in the cost of the upkeep of our roads and infrastructure. As well, I feel we as a city would be interested in discussing a “park and ride” system for commuters from outside the city of St. John’s. This of course would require great dedication and cooperation from areas outside St. John’s and planning from city staff but I believe the time has come to open serious discussion on finding ways to alleviate not only the congestion in our downtown but also in other areas of the city. I feel confident that municipal leaders from the entire region will welcome this partnership and will be eager to participate, communicate and cooperate.

Bruce Tilley: Amalgamation and greater communications.

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Municipal pensions

16. A recent submission from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business called for reforming the pensions of public sector workers. Their recommendations include:

  1. Converting from ‘defined benefit’ to ‘defined contribution’ pensions
  2. Ending incentives to retire early
  3. Fully disclosing pension liabilities using a consistent methodology

Where do you stand on this issue?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am not an accountant; I recognize the need to consult with, and rely on, expert opinion in the area of pension reform. It is my understanding, however, that we can no longer afford the current pension regime, and we need to seek to phase in a new approach. Those who developed these plans did not foresee the environment we currently live in where people retire in their fifties and live well into their eighties or even nineties, bond/interest yields are very low and the stock market is extremely volatile. It is my understanding that these changes make the current regime no longer tenable. Solutions will be difficult, but must be sought, lest we end-up like other countries who have become insolvent.

In terms of the three recommendations delineated above, I generally support them. I think recommendation #1 makes good economic sense; Defined benefit pension plans come from a time when people rarely retired early, lived a relatively short time after retirement, interest yields were relatively high and the stock market was relatively stable. In addition, there were many workers for each retiree. This is no longer the case.

#2 Early retiring allowances/incentives have a place in some circumstances but must be used very carefully. They are expensive, and in many cases may be unnecessary. We have all seen the want ads and the numbers showing jobs that will go unfilled in the future (absent significant immigration). People are living longer, healthier lives. Early retirement is inconsistent with this reality.

#3 Absolutely, we have to have standardized/consistent methodologies when reporting public liabilities and we should work towards this.

Walter Harding: (Did not provide an answer).

Bruce Tilley: The City of St. John’s just revised and implemented the City’s Pension Plan.

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Public spaces and walkability

17. How would you foster community spaces and walkability in the city?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I fully support preserving, enhancing and creating community spaces and walkability. These must be factored into the planning stage as we develop, not left as an afterthought. We need to engage in “intelligent development” – being mindful of the future environment we are creating today. The extension of infrastructure to accommodate low-density developments is wasteful of tax dollars. Creating walkable, livable “neighbourhoods”, should be our goal, not endless suburban development. “Neighbourhoods not subdivisions” should be a mantra. “More roads” is not the answer; instead we must try to alleviate our over-reliance on cars by being mindful of creating communities Community spaces and green spaces must be preserved and enhanced as they are what truly make our City enjoyable. If our City is a welcoming, enjoyable place to live, we will attract newcomers, as well as continue a high-quality of living for our citizens.

Walter Harding: A large part of my platform is to work hard to conserve as much green space as possible in the city, save as many existing trees as possible in new sub-divisions and developments as well as require new sub-divisions and developments to have walking trails and recreation areas incorportated into their plans. I do NOT agree that we as a city had to hand over almost five hundred thousand dollars of tax payers dollars to help erect a fence on federal property. I do agree that as a working port there must be some form of legitimate and reasonable security in place but I feel the harbor apron should be open to all residents  who choose to avail of it when the port is not in working mode and when it is safest to do so. If elected I would simply try and offer a logical and balanced approach to who will be permitted to enter the harbor apron area and at what times they can safely do so.

Bruce Tilley: It is difficult with an older city, however, new developments can address this issue more effectively.

18. Do you support the harbour fence initiative? What would you do about it if elected?

Sarah Colborne Penney:  I did not support the harbour fence initiative, however, it is my understanding that the fence will be completed before the new City Council is in place. This issue points to the need for greater transparency and engagement with citizens, at an earlier stage in the decision-making process.

Walter Harding: (See response to previous question).

Bruce Tilley: I have already supported the harbour fence and this will add to the beauty of our downtown while addressing security issues.

19. A commonly used walking trail between Cowan Heights and Sobey’s Square has been cut off by the Team Gushue Highway extension. Would you support the installation of a culvert tunnel so that pedestrians would not be forced to cross the highway?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I am very aware of the loss of this trail as this is located in Ward 3, and residents are quite upset. I have recently spoken to the area’s MHA on this issue, and it is my understanding that a tunnel would be very expensive and potentially harbour negative activities in the area if constructed. However, if a majority of area residents want a tunnel, I would assist in their lobbying the Provincial Government for it.

Walter Harding: I would support that initiative yes. There is a major shopping mall and cemetery in the immediate area and easy access to both without requiring the use of a vehicle is something I would definitely support.

Bruce Tilley: This is an issue for the Provincial Government because they are building the road, not the City, and they should have taken this into account.

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Regulations and red tape

20. How would you increase the speed of regulatory approvals for new business operations in the city (i.e. certification for restaurants, cafes, etc.)?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I agree with the St. John’s Board of Trade statement on this issue which they made on August 13, 2013: “Of all the issues residents and businesses in St. John’s talk about most, new development tops the list. The process, from proposing a development through to building it, can be lengthy and sometimes fraught with animosity. There is a better way.” “The St. John’s Board of Trade applauds the City of St. John’s on its recent restructuring of internal departments to streamline the development process,” says Board Chair Denis Mahoney. “Changes including a two-tier process – one for large and one for small developments – will help fast-track projects that are of significant benefit to the city. We are encouraged that the new municipal plan will also include changes that will help speed development processes, while also allowing for community input.” Smart growth principles, robust public consultations, and speedy development processes are proven to help cities to grow positively and effectively. Development regulations must be streamlined; they must be well communicated, provide guidance to developers, and they must reflect the needs and desires of the community as a whole…… “Clarity and consistency should be available for everyone involved in a potential development.”

Walter Harding: I actually do not think the process is all that slow and I encourage a proper and complete approval process.

Bruce Tilley: We have addressed this in our recent restructuring.
 

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Seniors

21. What initiatives would you support to make the city safer and more accessible for our seniors?

Sarah Colborne Penney: I sit on the Board of the Seniors Resource Centre of NL, so I am quite aware of issues affecting seniors today. Public Transit needs to be improved as it is a key component in seniors’ being able to access City and other services. In terms of initiatives to make the City safer and more accessible, I would consult with seniors themselves regarding their needs and their ideas. Programs which support seniors living in their own homes for as long as possible make good economic and social sense. NL Homeshare is one such creative initiative. Also mixed-use developments which allow seniors to shop and recreate close to home are beneficial. Additionally, programs which aim for inclusion and foster social connections for seniors are key. When seniors are recognized as an integral part of the community (the community which they helped to build), that makes for a safer more open environment.

Walter Harding: When it comes to making the city safer for seniors I feel making the city as safe as possible for every resident is imperative. I would like to see all city recreational facilities free of charge for our seniors to encourage as much participaction and involvement of our seniors as possible. In areas where mostly seniors reside I would support a city sponsored initiative to have private security businesses make regular visits to the area as well as encourage the RNC and city municipal enforcement to show some “visual deterrence” by making regular visits to the areas.

Bruce Tilley: By reaching out to seniors and finding out what their priorities are.

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Snow clearing

22. How do you propose to improve road and sidewalk snow clearing in St. John’s? Please address both and provide specific details.

Sarah Colborne Penney: This is a perennial problem. I am open to discussing new options (such as property owners clearing the sidewalk in front of their own property), and looking to best practices in other Cities, as our climate is not unique, though both our climate and our topography, are very challenging. Additionally, although I recognise that the organic lay-out of many of our streets is very challenging, we want to encourage walking, we want our City to be pedestrian-friendly, and that will require some form of sidewalk snow-clearing.

Walter Harding: Obviously the best way to improve service is to have more pieces of equipment and more operators but that may not be in the budget. I have seen instances where the plow clears a street and shortly after a sidewalk plow clears the sidewalk only to push all the snow back into the street. Perhaps better communication between divisions may help but to speak on this would be premature as I have not seen correspondence from either division but like in anything, communication is the key to success.

Bruce Tilley: We have an excellent snow clearing and sidewalk program. The issue is funding.

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Stormwater management and flooding

23. Last year, a City Commissioner’s report found that watersheds, bridges, and culverts are unable to handle any additional stormwater runoff from planned developments above the 190m contour (such as Dannyville). The report recommends a zero-net increase runoff policy for new developments. Would you require developers to submit a blueprint that clearly incorporates a zero-net increase stormwater management plan prior to any land clearance or developmental phase? If so, how would you ensure that developers follow this policy?

Sarah Colborne Penney: Yes, I agree with this policy. From a sustainability perspective, we can’t keep increasing pressure on existing infrastructure – it will eventually fail. Additionally, from an environmental perspective, we don’t want to keep washing surface pollutants into our storm drain system. I recognize this additional requirement does put economic pressure on developers, but we need to move in that direction for the foregoing reasons. In terms of ensuring the policy is followed, it would be required as part of the permit acquisition process, and in terms of monitoring, the City Engineering Dept could monitor through inspections, just as it inspects projects for other items.

Walter Harding: I absolutely would support this and have spoken on this issue publicly regarding many developments including the hotel being built on the corner of New Gower and Springdale Street. One way to ensure this zero-net is followed is to hold developers responsible for any flooding or damage that may occur after the development is completed but of course this may be challenging. I think the best way to ensure that the  recommendations are followed is to completely and stringently investigate and inspect every step of the development process completely and with a fine-toothed comb.

Bruce Tilley: We have already implemented a policy to address this.

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Tax policy

24. Tell us your position on tax policy, addressing some or all of the following questions:

  • How important is it to keep taxes low?
  • Do businesses pay too much or too little tax relative to residences?
  • Should tax breaks be provided to low income people who are not old enough to qualify for the seniors reduction? What about to senior citizens whose income is too high to qualify?
  • How do you feel about the recent decision to blend the business occupancy tax and the business realty tax into a single tax?
  • Would you consider blending the water rate into the residential realty tax to encourage more basement apartments?
  • Would you consider introducing residential water metering so that households are charged for the amount of water used rather than a flat rate per unit?
  • Would you consider a tax on land value as opposed to property value as a way to encourage more efficient use of land?
  • Should the tax break for vacant commercial property be eliminated?

Sarah Colborne Penney: It is very important to keep property taxes at a level which allows us to maintain City services while not over-burdening taxpayers.

As suggested by the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Seniors (MACS) (July 18, 2012) I believe we should be looking at the potential of deferral for seniors and other low-income earners, while at the same time working to keep property taxes down, especially while property values (as well as the cost of living) are increasing, so that seniors and others on low and fixed incomes aren’t forced out of their homes.

I support exploring the suggestions made by the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Seniors (MACS) (July 18, 2012), where it was noted that “In the past, the City (and the Province) has taken steps to ease the burden of taxation for the growing number of seniors who have demonstrated the need for assistance especially as it relates to maintaining existing properties and continuing to live in their own homes. Questions have been raised, however, with respect to whether these programs go far enough, are equitable or can be made more inclusive. MACS suggests that Council revisit the issue of seniors taxation to: 1) Investigate additional criteria by which seniors could apply and establish eligibility for the 25% reduction property tax; 2) Investigate ways, other than metering, to make water tax more equitable….3) Explore the implementation, perhaps with the cooperation of the Province, of a deferred tax program (similar to a reverse mortgage) for seniors who have difficulty coping with increased taxation resulting from increases in property value.”

Water Meters: I recognise that there is a great deal of inequity in the current system of water tax which sees each household paying a flat rate, when there can obviously be a huge variance in the amount of water consumed per household; e.g.- a family of five with four washrooms and a swimming pool would consume considerably more water than a widow living alone with only one washroom. Therefore I am open to the possibility of examining our options here to address this inequity. Water meters would be one option that we could consider, though I am not currently convinced that they would be economically feasible to install and maintain in each household, I am open to examining the issue more fully, and am certainly open to suggestions from residents. I do support education and encouraging conservation of water and responsible usage, as water is a precious resource. I support continued restrictions on the use of water to water lawns, for example.

Walter Harding:

  • How important is it to keep taxes low? Imperative. Increase disposable income. Encourage economic viability.
  • Do businesses pay too much or too little tax relative to residences? I think it’s a fair tax relative to residences.
  • Should tax breaks be provided to low income people who are not old enough to qualify for the seniors reduction? What about to senior citizens whose income is too high to qualify? I feel working persons that are low income should be afforded a tax break to encourage staying in the work force and I think seniors should NOT have to pay full mil rate when not receiving city services of snow clearing or garbage collection.
  • How do you feel about the recent decision to blend the business occupancy tax and the business realty tax into a single tax? I think it was a seemless transition and did not cause issues.
  • Would you consider blending the water rate into the residential realty tax to encourage more basement apartments? I don’t think doing so would encourage more basement apartments.
  • Would you consider introducing residential water metering so that households are charged for the amount of water used rather than a flat rate per unit? I would only consider water meters if it were economically feasible. I find businesses use much more water than the average 1 cubic meter a day that residences use. Metering would never recoup near the amount that the city charges residents now at the flat rate of $ 615 dollars per year per unit.
  • Would you consider a tax on land value as opposed to property value as a way to encourage more efficient use of land? I would only consider water meters if it were economically feasible. I find businesses use much more water than the average 1 cubic meter a day that residences use. Metering would never recoup near the amount that the city charges residents now at the flat rate of $ 615 dollars per year per unit. No I would not support a tax on land.
  • Should the tax break for vacant commercial property be eliminated? Without having all the information regarding the tax breaks afforded commercial properties I will answer preliminarily and say yes I would eliminate the tax break. It is up to the property owner to use the building. If a fire were to break out in that building the city would still use city  resources and revenue to extinguish the flames on that property so yes they should pay their full taxes.

Bruce Tilley: In the last Municipal budget, we addressed taxation to be more palatable to residents and business. We are also researching more effective ways to help seniors and this will be addressed in the new Budget. We have also set out a 3 year Budget plan.

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Transportation

25. In 2011, a transit study was released that made a number of recommendations for improving public transit in the City of St. John’s, including:

  •  Increase service between Downtown and the MUN/HSC/Avalon Mall corridor.
  • Negotiate a deal to provide Metrobus passes to all students at MUN/CNA for a mandatory fee.
  • Allow city employees to trade free parking at work for cash or a Metrobus pass.
  • Establish a park-and-ride program for commuters.
  • Increase the price of parking in the west end of Downtown.
  • Develop a regional transit plan involving Mount Pearl, Paradise, Conception Bay South, and Torbay.

What is your vision for public transit, with specific reference to some or all of the recommendations above?

Sarah Colborne Penney: Please see my Telegram Blog post on this topic.

Walter Harding: I agree with all the above recommendations actually. I would add that parking price rebates should be afforded to those that partake in any park-and-ride program that the city may undertake as well as any company downtown that can encourage their employees to participate in a car-pooling program.

Bruce Tilley: We have already started on the above and we need to continue with this plan.
 

26. What initiatives would you undertake with respect to transportation infrastructure in and around the city?

Sarah Colborne Penney: Media Release, August 5, 2013: *Ward 3 Candidate, Sarah Colborne Penney: We Need to Rethink Parking in the Downtown Core*

Ward 3 Candidate, Sarah Colborne Penney stated today, “We need to change our mindset about driving downtown. We want people, not vehicles in the downtown core. That means we need to make the downtown (more) pedestrian friendly, and we need to make it more efficient and economical to use public transit and other environmentally-friendly modes of transportation to get into, and out of, our downtown core. This will allow for growth and sustainability.” Colborne Penney asserts that some options worth exploring include: Park and Ride East and West Terminals, Rewarding Carpooling, Potentially making both Water Street and Duckworth Street one-way with angled parking and greater usage of sidewalk by merchants, and Possible Pedestrian-only areas in the downtown.

Walter Harding: I believe we may have to look at using smaller public transit buses actually. Too many times I see a near-empty Metrobus travelling around our city at off-peak times . Perhaps we should be using smaller buses that would cost the city less in fuel, insurance, maintenance, etc.

Bruce Tilley: We already know what to do but in order to do it, we need Provincial funding and support. This is a regional issue.
 

27. What should be done about painted road markings that fade away for much of the year?

Sarah Colborne Penney: A quick internet search indicates that there are many Durable Road Marking options that could be explored. (Unlike paint, durable road markings are made of plastic, and have a much longer life than paint markings.)

For example: Cold Plastic: Cold plastic is a methyl methacrylate durable road marking material that uses a chemical catalyst to create a bond with the aggregate in the road surface. This means it can be applied at lower temperatures than thermoplastic (up to 0 Celsius). Glass Bead: Glass beads are tiny spheres of glass that are used in paint and durable road markings to reflect light back to the driver in dark or poor weather conditions – improving safety and visibility. Inlaid Markings: When a marking is applied to a ground out section of roadway, it’s considered inlaid. Inlaid markings are extra durable, and as they can be made flush with the road surface, are resistant to damage from snow plow blades. Profiled Markings: Also called structured markings, profiled markings are made of thermoplastic or cold plastic, and have a special texture or stamp to increase retro-reflectivity and sometimes create a noise when driven over. Thermoplastic: A type of durable road marking material, Thermoplastic uses a heat process to create a hydrocarbon bond with the oil in the road surface. It’s primarily used for inlaid road markings. I would be open to exploring the feasibility of trying some of these Durable Road markings here. I believe the City has already utilized some thermoplastic markings here.

Walter Harding: I have spoken publicly on the possible use of thermoplastic road markings and I understand the city is actually in the midst of a pilot project regarding such a product. We can always look  at best practices of other municipalities and see what might work for  us here through testing. Our climate is a challenge of course when it comes to latex paint but hopefully this thermoplastic product proves to be both beneficial and cost effective for the city.

Bruce Tilley: We have already started to do pilot projects to address this issue and we will monitor their results.

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Free Space

If there any other important issues you would like to address, please do so here:

Sarah Colborne Penney: I would argue that the municipal level of government is the most important as it impacts citizens’ daily lives directly. This is one of the reasons that I am interested in contributing to my community at this level. Additionally, the City is growing and changing at a rapid pace. I would like to contribute to shaping the City for the future, as ultimately, I would like to see my children live here and raise their own families here.

Walter Harding: I would simply like to thank you for the opportunity to answer some of your excellent questions. As I have been a full calendar year knocking on residents doors, residents have voiced many concerns to me and surprisingly some of the same concerns come up time after time. Speeding drivers, high property taxes, snow clearing, road conditions, sidewalks crumbling, seniors affordable housing, unfair taxation for seniors in condominiums, outdoor fire pits and fireworks at all hours, the escalation in crime, too much development and too fast, as well as the fear of gentrification. All of  these issues, and many more, need its own special attention to ensure they are responsibly and completely investigated. We are a changing city facing issues that we have never faced before. I hope I am part of the council as Ward 3 councillor that will willingly and passionately take these and other issues on to make certain that the residents of the city of St. John’s are responsibly and respectfully represented for the next four years.