Ward 5 Candidates

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Personal Info

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

Sherwin Flight: I believe one of the best skills I have is the willingness to listen to people, pay attention to what is going on, and the ability to figure out the best approach to take to resolve an issue. I also strive to treat everyone equally, and this is also true of the various neighbourhoods around the city as well. The residents of the Goulds, Killbride, and Shea Heights, for example, deserve the same services and treatment as those living in other parts of the city.

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

Sherwin Flight:  I have been a member of The Essential Transit Association, a grassroots community advocacy group that dealt with issues relating to public transit and pedestrian safety.

In the past I have done a lot of freelance volunteer work, creating websites for community based organizations, and helping them expand their online presence to better get their messages out and attract more members and support.

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

Sherwin Flight:  This is my first time running for public office.

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?

Sherwin Flight: None

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

Sherwin Flight: Ward 5, off of Brookfield Rd near Bowring Park

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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

Sherwin Flight:  

  • Public Transit
  • Snow Clearing
  • Affordable Housing
  • Roads
  • Transparency and Public Engagement
  • Traffic

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. 

Sherwin Flight: Somewhat agree

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

Sherwin Flight:Strongly disagree

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

Sherwin Flight: Neither agree nor disagree

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

Sherwin Flight: Strongly disagree

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

Sherwin Flight: Somewhat agree

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

Sherwin Flight: Neither agree nor disagree

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.

Sherwin Flight: Strongly agree

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

Sherwin Flight: Neither agree nor disagree

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

Sherwin Flight: Strongly agree

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

Sherwin Flight: Somewhat disagree

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

Sherwin Flight: Strongly agree

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

Sherwin Flight: 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.

Sherwin Flight: Strongly agree

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

Sherwin Flight: Somewhat disagree

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

Sherwin Flight: Somewhat agree

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

Sherwin Flight: Strongly disagree

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

Sherwin Flight: Somewhat agree

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

Sherwin Flight: Somewhat agree

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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?

Sherwin Flight: I like the concept of public art, and there are a lot of opportunities for artists to improve the look and feel of our city through the use of public art displays. Some current examples of this are the murals, statues, and painted traffic signal boxes in some parts of the city. We should look for other areas where public art would enhance the city.

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By-laws and enforcement

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

Sherwin Flight: This comes down to enforcement, and applying appropriate penalties. If the fines are enough of a deterrent, and bylaws are enforced, the number of incidents should go down.

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

Sherwin Flight:  I like this idea for the fact that is shows a bit creativity in coming up with solutions to a common problem. There is never a problem with citizens reporting violations to the appropriate authorities. In fact, citizens are already free to report violations to the city by calling 311, 24 hours a day. I am told that when parking violations are reported a bylaw officer is sent out to investigate, and issue tickets where appropriate.

I’m not sure, from a public safety perspective, if allowing citizens to issue parking tickets is a good idea. Parking enforcement officials already deal with angry drivers on a regular basis, and have training and support to deal with such issues. Placing an ordinary citizen in this position could lead to potential altercations if confronted by an angry driver, and they may not necessarily know the best way to handle the situation.

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

Sherwin Flight:  Traffic laws should be well known by motorists (despite not being followed in many cases), however, pedestrians may not be aware of the laws that apply to them. A public awareness campaign may help to make people more aware of these issues. A partnership, with the RNC for example, could allow us to run a series of commercials highlighting some good driving practices, along with some of the most common things drivers and pedestrians may be doing wrong. In addition to this, better enforcement of the traffic laws would act as more of a deterrent to those that may not always follow the rules.

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

Sherwin Flight: This is an interesting issue, as the city already provides advance notice of which streets will be cleared of snow each night. As with any problem the first step to a solution is figuring out why a problem is occurring. Can the public be better informed? Can an automated calling system be implemented to alert residents of a certain area that snow clearing will be occurring on their streets? Once we get to the root of the problem we can determine the best approach to take to resolve it.

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

Sherwin Flight: I believe the only project so far that has proven somewhat successful is the installation of hidden video cameras, which can be moved from one location to another. Other communities have had success with this program.

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Crime

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

Sherwin Flight: Crime is a significant issue in St. John’s, but I believe a lot of it may go unnoticed. We need to work with residents and the RNC to develop crime reduction strategies, and encourage public participation in programs like ‘Neighbourhood Watch’. While I’m not entirely sure how the program works, it could be possible to provide some sort of financial support to Crime Stoppers to be used as additional incentives for people reporting crime in the St. John’s area. (On a side note, I don’t really like the idea of having to pay people to report crimes, but Crime Stoppers has shown that this method does appeal to many people.)

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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?

Sherwin Flight: Urban sprawl results in people having to rely more on personal vehicles to carry out their day-to-day activities. This creates more traffic on our roads, and increases the demand for parking. By developing high density areas with a mix of residential and commercial spaces, that are well connected to public transit, we can reduce the reliance on vehicles to do things like going to the grocery store, or bank.

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?

Sherwin Flight: Vacant buildings do not provide any value to our neighbourhoods, or the city as a whole. We should be discouraging this as much as possible. We could start by eliminating the tax break that vacant commercial properties receive.

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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?

Sherwin Flight: I would support some kind of reform, although exactly what that would be I am unsure of at this point. I believe this would require significant public consultations before determining the best approach to take.

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Heritage

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

Sherwin Flight: We should try to encourage more development outside of the downtown area. There are a number of areas around the city where development could take place without having an impact on the heritage areas.

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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

Sherwin Flight: We should take a look at ways to encourage developers to build rental units. The easiest way to do this may be to look at higher density apartment buildings in certain areas of the city where they would be well-suited.

Options for controlling the rising costs of rental housing should be considered, although I believe this may be provincial jurisdiction.

Developers should be encouraged to build cheaper homes that are more affordable.

Affordable housing is a major issue, and is one that requires a comprehensive forward-thinking approach to deal with. It is hard to give an exact answer to the problem without carrying out the necessary consultations first to get a clear look at the big picture.

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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?

Sherwin Flight: I believe in providing an inclusive environment for anyone that calls St. John’s home. I’m not entirely certain what services, if any, are provided by the city to the immigrant/refugee community. We should look to see where there is a need that is not met by federal and provincial programs, or by non-governmental organizations. Partnering with a community-based NGO for the delivery of services may be a good approach to take.

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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?

 Sherwin Flight: 

  • A better fiscal arrangement with the provincial government.
  • A more proactive approach, in cooperation with municipal and provincial governments, in providing affordable housing for low-income individuals.

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

 Sherwin Flight: Public transit is something that could benefit greatly from a regional solution. I could probably elaborate quite a bit on this issue, but I will sum it up like this: residents in neighbouring communities benefit from having public transit services connecting them to St. John’s, Metrobus can increase its ridership, we can reduce commuter traffic on our roads, and reduce the need for parking spaces.

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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?

Sherwin Flight: Employees should contribute to their pension plans, and their monthly benefit upon retirement should be determined based upon their past contributions. I support converting to a defined contribution plan. Pension liabilities should always be disclosed, and incentives to retire early should be ended.

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Public spaces and walkability

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

Sherwin Flight: I believe having a walkable city is important. It encourages people to get out and about, be more active, and enjoy the things the city has to offer. I think the work the Grand Concourse Authority has done has been great, and that we should continue to support them in the future.

The biggest obstacle we have to achieving a walkable city is sidewalk snow clearing in the winter months. We have a large network of trails and pathways; however access to them is somewhat restricted in the winter due to the lack of sidewalk snow clearing.

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

Sherwin Flight:  I did not support the harbour fence. However, since construction of the fence has already begun, and the property is federal jurisdiction, I believe it is too late to stop the project at this point.

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?

Sherwin Flight: The installation of a tunnel should not require an extensive amount of additional work, and would keep pedestrians from crossing the highway. I would support this initiative, because we all know that without a tunnel people will be crossing the highway, and it will be an accident waiting to happen.

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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.)?

Sherwin Flight: I would want to take a look at the current procedures and operations to determine where inefficiencies exist, and to see what could be done to increase the speed of service. Efficiencies would need to be found without cutting corners or having a negative impact on the quality of the services being provided.

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Seniors

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

 Sherwin Flight: I believe one of the important factors to consider when talking about an accessible city is the issue of mobility, and the ability of our seniors to move about freely.

As it stands now I have a feeling that many seniors avoid outdoor activities in the winter months if it requires walking on the streets because sidewalks are not plowed. I see many seniors walking in my area during the warmer months, but as soon as the snow starts there are very few people to be found.

In addition to this, because the sidewalks are not plowed seniors often have difficulty using Metrobus during the winter. When the bus stops, and the door opens and you are expected to climb over a snow bank, you can hardly blame people for not wanting to get out and about. This is especially true for seniors.

Lack of maintenance on sidewalks can also pose a risk for seniors as well. Cracked or damaged sidewalks can cause trips and falls, and are also a concern for people using wheelchairs or other devices to assist with walking.

The new buses purchased by Metrobus include a ramp that can be quickly deployed to allow people easier access to the bus. Metrobus should implement a marketing plan to inform people that these ramps are available for the elderly and disabled, or people otherwise having trouble getting on and off of the bus.

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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.

 Sherwin Flight:  I believe this will require additional equipment, and the reallocation of existing equipment, to provide better coverage around the city.

In terms of sidewalk snow clearing, for example, there are many parts of the city right now where sidewalks on both sides of the street are cleared of snow, while other parts of the city do not get cleared sidewalks at all. In this case, a reallocation of existing resources could provide better coverage than we are currently seeing and allow more sidewalks to be cleared.

In terms of clearing the snow on the roads, this is likely a case where additional equipment would be required. One thing I would like to see changed is the practice of snow plows piling snow on the corners of intersections. It makes it very difficult for turning drivers to get a clear view of the road, and could lead to a serious accident.

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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?

Sherwin Flight: This is a rather simple issue based in the information provided. If the report concluded that this infrastructure is unable to handle an increase in water, and we do not want to replace this infrastructure, we need to have a zero-net increase runoff policy. We have no choice. Failing to do so will lead to problems with flooding. I’m not sure at this point how to best enforce this policy, but I’m sure a solution could be found to this problem if we looked at it, the related regulations, and possible penalties for failing to adhere.

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Tax policy

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

  1. How important is it to keep taxes low?
  2. Do businesses pay too much or too little tax relative to residences?
  3. 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?
  4. How do you feel about the recent decision to blend the business occupancy tax and the business realty tax into a single tax?
  5. Would you consider blending the water rate into the residential realty tax to encourage more basement apartments?
  6. 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?
  7. Would you consider a tax on land value as opposed to property value as a way to encourage more efficient use of land?
  8. Should the tax break for vacant commercial property be eliminated?

Sherwin Flight: 

  1. It is important to keep taxes low, while at the same time maintaining the levels of service we have come to expect.
  2. This is something I’m unsure of, so I would need to take a look at other jurisdictions to get a good comparison.
  3. Tax breaks should be provided based on income, not age. This would take into account low income residents that are not old enough to qualify for a senior’s reduction, as well as higher-income seniors.
  4. I believe this was done for the sake of efficiency. My understanding was that this is more of a technicality, and it will have very little impact on businesses.
  5. I would need further information on this issue before making a decision.
  6. I would want to do a significant amount of research on this issue before making such a decision. It does encourage conservation, since each household would pay for the water they use, but at the same time it could cause a burden on some people, such as single mothers, or low income residents. This is especially true given the problem with affordable housing in St. John’s at the present time.
  7. I would like to take a look at both so that the positive and negative aspects of each could be properly considered. This is an issue that would require significant public consultations.
  8.  I don’t think it makes sense to give tax breaks to commercial operators for leaving a property empty. Why give an incentive for having an empty building, when it provides no benefit at all to the community.

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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?

Sherwin Flight: All of the items mentioned above have been tried in other cities, and we should take a serious look at each of them.

Having increased service, or express buses, running in the Downtown/MUN/Avalon Mall corridor would be a good idea, and would help move people around the city quickly. I would also look at the possibility of increasing this express service to also include an Avalon-Village link as well.

Post-secondary student passes for Metrobus could be something to consider as well, if the student population is interested in this idea. This would mean the cost of a bus pass would be included in a student’s tuition/fees, and a pass would be provided to all students. The price of a pass is usually significantly cheaper than purchasing one at full value, and other cities and schools have taken this approach. This is normally something that the student population would vote on though, so would only be pursued if the student population supported the proposal.

Allowing city employees to trade their free parking for a bus pass is a good idea too, and encourages city employees to leave their cars at home and take the bus to work. This could potentially be expanded to other businesses in the downtown area, where a business could purchase bus passes at discounted rates to provide to employees that take public transit to work instead of driving. This could alleviate some of the parking congestion Downtown as well.

To combine two of your points, we should take a serious look at a regional transportation plan, which would also include the implementation of park-and-ride lots. Since a lot of the traffic on our streets comes from out of town any viable solution must include our neighbours as well. Providing bus service to some of these areas, where feasible, and park-and-ride lots for other areas, would be a significant step in reducing traffic and the need for parking in St. John’s.

I would need to do a bit more research before taking a position on the parking fees charged in the Downtown area. On one hand increasing the cost of parking could encourage more people to take the bus, but on the other hand it could be an additional cost for people who may not able to take the bus to work, due to lack of service in their area, work hours, etc.

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

Sherwin Flight: As recommended in the Metrobus study of 2011 (and perhaps 2007) we need to look at providing more covered bus shelters around the city. The report highlighted the importance of having covered shelters due to our climate, and that it would make the transit system more user-friendly.

We need to set a guideline for when a road should be resurfaced. Right now we just patch up problem areas on a continuous basis without any guideline to say when an area has been patched up enough, and should be completely replaced. As one resident said, we have patches, upon patches, upon patches.

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

Sherwin Flight: There has to be a solution to this problem, we just haven’t found it yet. There are many heavy industrial and commercial settings where paints are used, and perhaps we should see the approach they are using. It’s hard to say in any certain terms, since I am not familiar with the products being used, but what would an airport use on the runways, for example. How long does it last? Does it handle the wear and tear better than what we use on our streets? Whatever the solution, it is a problem that does need some serious consideration. It does cause confusion on the roads, which is a safety concern.

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Free Space

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

Sherwin Flight: I am strongly in favour of the public engagement process, and believe that residents needs to have a say in how their city is run and what their tax money is spent on.

I believe that it is very important as a member of Council, and specifically a Ward Councillor, to listen to what residents have to say and to represent them to the best of your ability. When residents have concerns it is important that they are addressed as quickly as possible.

A strong part of my platform is also what I call community equality. I believe that all residents of St. John’s should be treated equally, and have access to the same services, regardless of which part of the city they live in. Communities such as the Goulds are still part of St. John’s, and should be treated as such.