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Mayoral candidates split along incumbent lines on transparency, policing options vary

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In Candidates / Election 2014
Sep 30th, 2014
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New Tecumseth Free Press Online 

Last Wednesday night, four candidates vying to be New Tecumseth’s mayor were mostly split along incumbent lines, particularly on the suggestions the outgoing council was marked by secrecy and out of control spending and debt increases.

About 150 people who turned out for the event at The Hornet’s Nest, which also featured the deputy mayor candidates (recapped in a separate story file), heard Bob Marrs and Rick Milne defend many of the decisions related to spending, debt financing, and refuting the notion they lacked transparency over the past four years, criticism levelled by Damon Corbet and Kevin Kemp who vow to change that environment.

Below are highlights from the debate exchanges – in the order the candidates answered:

POLICING:
Rick Milne
It’s very expensive to start another police force up. I think we’re getting good policing with the OPP right now. With the new contract, it’s almost like a cafeteria style policing for cost. So you can buy whatever you want. Of course, whatever more service you want is going to cost you more. We can look at what we really need. This is something that the new council will decide.

Bob Marrs
One thing we did, back in 2004-05- did public session re OPP and different alternatives, we took a hard look at the cost, and the OPP came out cheaper. … We have a temporary service for six months next year, so we can take a look at it all. … One of my main things is to make sure we maintain those better services and have that kind of policing we really need, community policing.

Kevin Kemp
“Impractical to start a new force, although it’s only prudent to consider. However, I think what’s critical if we maintain the tri-party arrangement is that New Tecumseth pays its fair share. If 40 per cent of police time is spent in Essa, Essa should pay 40 per cent of the bill. Not New Tecumseth. It is critical and necessary that the Town of New Tecumseth bear only its perportion or fair share and nothing more.

Damon Corbet
When we asked the OPP to come here, that’s the province. So we have no control. We hired them to do the job, they come, they provide the service. That’s why in my own opinion, that we even need to do a combined police service. Look at what it’s going to cost to even do a partial service. Have those community police that walk up and down the beat, that talk to our kids, go around and they’re actually part of the community. … There are other options out there, and I’m willing to research those.

SIMCOE COUNTY
Rick Milne
We fought hard to get back the large item pick-up, and seniors getting our own work staff to go in. We just didn’t have enough votes to bring it back. We kept getting out voted by the northern municipalities.

Bob Marrs
… Division is kind of quirky but I would see what we could do to give ourselves better service.

Kevin Kemp
100 years ago the County of Simcoe may have made some logical sense. However, in this day and age it’s difficult to say that the residents of New Tecumseth have anything remotely in common with Township of Tiny or some of the other jurisdictions. I would certainly advocate a split from the County of Simcoe. It may be impractical because of the two thirds majority that’s required, however some changes need to be made. Changes need to be made to ensure that the interests that are unique to the residents of the south part of the County are not in competition with those of the north.

Damon Corbet
We say okay we only have two votes, mayor and deputy. As well, I’m not sure people are aware, two big places that aren’t included in this great Simcoe County, City of Barrie and City of Orillia. I think maybe this town is getting big enough, that we maybe need to join forces with them. We need those alternative way to get things done.

GENERAL GOVERNANCE – CONSENT AGENDA
Rick Milne

The public has input into it, the public can come out. I remember the 1:30am  and 2 o’clock (meetings) we would go. If the majority of our council wants to change the format, then definitely I will have a change in format.

Bob Marrs
Committee of the Whole was put in place so everybody can have a chance to speak. We’ve gone through those (skipped items) most of those reports are very well researched and well written.When we have to go to the staff and ask for clarification, that should be repeated in council, so more people hear it going over the air. Being on the inside for a while, you find out how these things work.

Kevin Kemp
The days when a resident has to fight an FOI request related to information about their own property, has to end. The day when the Town redacts information as to what we are spending tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees, have to end. I believe in the past years some members of council have even been shutout of things that have happened. My pledge to every member on council, If I am elected mayor, if I have that honour, that will change.

Damon Corbet
Some people in our community can’t make the council meetings. Maybe set up a better communication board, they don’t have to go through their councillors, go through another channel to get their voices heard.

RECREATION IMPROVEMENTS
Kevin Kemp
We need to work more closely with developers that are building new subdivisions and work with them about the types of parks and recreation opportunities we’d like to see there. I’m not a fan of cash in lieu; no let’s have parks in our neighbourhoods. Let’s have things for kids to do. Matthews House in the midst of building a new hospice in town, gosh, wouldn’t it be great if we could partner up with them to create either a playground or tennis court on a part of that property so people in their last days can sit on their deck and watch the children playing.

Bob Marrs
I’ve been wishing for a long time to have basketball courts and other things. I’ve been pushing and pushing to get that kind of thing into small parks. … I have always said the small ones are some of the big ones that will get more people out.

Rick Milne
Well Kevin, we finally agree on something, developers. I’ve been singing this song for a lot of years, let the developers build the park. That’s their business. Our business is not building parks because we don’t do a great job of it. In Beeton right now hardworking group FAB they’re trying to get a recreation centre. ….. Don’t forget the culture, the theatre group, if you’ve ever been out to see these young people performing, that’s a lot of work. Closer to home is walking. One of the cheapest things is walking. You go out to Gibson Hill, they call it heart attack hill, and once you walk up it, you know why it’s called heart attack hill. Adjala Tosorontio has a fantastic track at their municipal building. We don’t have to spend a lot of money if we do things right.

Damon Corbet
So, we built some great facilities in this community already. I think we’re falling behind still. I look around and I see that they’re thinking of other ideas too, getting in with the Y(MCA)… Some research needs to be done, who can help us out, developers, we need to actually look at what the planning department is looking to build with the developers. … We just have to be a little bit more active and listen to what the people want in their subdivision.

BUDGET TRANSPARENCY
Damon Corbet

I’m more than happy to let you know where the money’s going. That’s why we’re all sitting here saying we’re willing to be transparent. This year, maybe we’re not going to buy six trucks, maybe we’re going to rent them. We have to go through each individual department and assess where the budget money is being spent on. I’m willing to be accountable for it.

Kevin Kemp
Good leadership often requires that unpopular decisions be made. It requires sometimes the need to say no. It requires sometimes that you stand alone in the room, a sole voice and you say no. It is something that is far too often lacking in leadership. I am prepared to make hard decisions in conjunction with council. Far too often I’ve seen people vote out of fear whether this will cost them votes in future elections. That’s the wrong way about it. We can’t do that. It drives me berserk as a lawyer that Town administration for whatever reason hides behind solicitor and client privilege with gibberish language to refuse to tell us what they’re spending legal fees on.

Bob Marrs
I take a bit of umbrage that we don’t have transparency. There was a lot of work done over the past 11 years to bring transparency. That’s why we brought in Committee of the Whole. Everybody can have their say. On the town budget if you look on the Town’s web site you can find the details of the budget. That is transparency, it’s all out there. If there’s a couple things that have been redacted there’s usually a good reason for it. And I’m not going to go in and go up against a barrister who’s upset because he can’t find out all the legal things going on. There has been a lot of transparency, nobody’s totally transparent. But I’ll tell you, when I use to go originally and watch council in the late 90s and early 2000s, those things used to go till 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning but what happened is after about 11 or 12 at night, they would go in camera and do a whole bunch of stuff in camera. I have no idea what was going on, but it sure was a lot more in camera work. This is actually more transparent. and I give kudos to our departing mayor to putting that in place.

Rick Milne
If I’m mayor, that (redaction of legal fees) will stop. The only thing that would be blocked out is a person’s name. That should be protected, but the rest should be wide open. It’s a public document and you should be able to read it. I’ve always tried to be transparent. I’m always available, I keep my cell phone on all the time. People are always talking to me, they come into the town hall to talk to me, you see me walking the streets in Tottenham or Beeton, talking to the people. I’m always open whether I’m in the store, because I represent you, the public. You can’t make every council meeting but the obligation I have to be there, I am your voice. So if there’s something that’s bothering you, you contact Rick Milne. You ask a lot of people, contact Rick Milne and he’ll find out, and he’ll get back to you.

GROWTH – CAPPUCCITTI/MATTAMY proposal 
Rick Milne
The province has made Alliston a growth node, so they told us how big we can grow. The Mattamy subdivision now at the OMB. … We’re trying to get the best deal we can using your money. New Tecumseth is the lowest taxed in Simcoe County.

Bob Marrs
The Mattamy plan, that is like building a new Bramalea between here and Beeton. And there is no way I would ever approve of that. It’s at the OMB because we turned it down already, we turned it down before, we turned it down again, every time it comes back its been turned down. It’s going to sizzle there for a while. I sure as hell hope the OMB does not overturn our decision.

Kevin Kemp
I do not support plopping a city of between 50,000 people between Beeton and Alliston.

Damon Corbet
We do need growth, but we also need to control it. We need to control things, however, there is a plan in play. …  I’m not in support of the Cappuccitti plan either.

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