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City of Red Deer

City Council Forum Part 5: What is your message for taxpayers, voters, and residents?

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In the closing days of the municipal election campaign Todayville has considered the issues that seem to be emerging as priorities for Red Deer voters.  We’ve taken the opportunity to send questions via email to all the Candidates for Mayor and City Council and we’ve promised we’ll post the responses of those who get back to us.  We are happy to add responses from those who haven’t gotten back to us yet over the weekend, but here is a collection from some of the contenders.

After we asked four questions to the candidates we gave each candidate an open invitation to say whatever they’d like to voters. Here are the responses from the candidates who wanted to reach out and emphasize what they wish to offer the taxpayers and residents of Red Deer.

5. Please take this opportunity to tell us about yourself, and / or your goals if you are elected. This is your opportunity to emphasize what you wish more than anything else to offer the taxpayers and residents of our city.

Mayoral Candidates

Buck Buchanan
I think we can all identify the problems or many of the problems finding the solutions is much more difficult. I believe the solutions are based on Relationships with our Citizens along with Relationship within Council and with Staff and Relationships with our Neighbours, our Partners and our Boards and Committees. I think it has to be a Team effort and that is what I am committed to.

Ken Johnston

It has been a privilege to seek the office of Mayor these past few months. I congratulate all my colleagues in running for public office. It is a very challenging time to be called to this service and it is humbling work. I have lived here since 1996 and I’ve been honoured  to give  to the city I love. Red Deer has returned much more to me. I decided to run because I thought I could make a difference in the direction we need to take. I do hope that our wonderful citizens will feel the same.

Council Candidates

Bruce Buruma

  • Citizens will be electing a council that will need to make challenging decisions and tough choices over the next four year, many which will have long term implications. We need a strong council that is skilled and works together as a team. Citizens have been clear, they want change and fresh ideas. We need authentic and genuine engagement with our community to know the issues and identify solutions together. I bring relevant experience as a senior administrator with Red Deer Public Schools, I am a community builder with extensive experience serving our community, I have diverse education and skills that will make me a strong voice for our city and our future. I ask for your support!

Brenda Campbell
I am a school counsellor and my primary role is to listen. I have lived in Red Deer for most of my life and know it’s a great place to be, but want to work together to make it even greater. Whether citizens have recently moved here or have resided in Red Deer for decades like myself, we all have something to offer this wonderful city. Bringing what works in other municipalities and also what doesn’t forth, would help us to efficiently and effectively grow. Let’s learn from each other and develop into the best City of Red Deer possible.

Craig Curtis

I am running for Council because I believe the current Council has been unable to move forward on a number of important issues. I believe my experience at various levels of government can be of assistance to a new team under new leadership. I will briefly summarise some key issues from my platform (craigcurtisrd.com)

Homelessness
Council’s decision to close the temporary shelter is negligent. It does not consider the safety of the homeless many of whom suffer from addictions and/mental health issues, and it will make the situation in the Downtown worse. If elected, I will make sure temporary emergency accommodation is available and advocate the fast tracking of a new facility with wraparound services. Funding has been available for over two years and no action has been taken.

Diversity
The demographics of Red Deer’s population has changed, and the city needs to increase its efforts to ensure involvement of all sectors of our community. As a City Councillor I would continue to be an ally to those marginalised by income race, gender or age. I will continue to denounce hate speech and any form of racism.

Reconciliation
The City has moved too slowly to address the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is important because of the legacy of the Red Deer Industrial School and local burial sites.

Transparency

The current Council is divided and there have been two recent Code of Conduct investigations costing over $40,000. Council refused to accept the second report by an independent investigator and has resolved to keep its contents confidential.This should have been released prior to the election.

Victor Doerksen

Many will remember my time as MLA for Red Deer South. During that tenure I held various roles: Chair of Alberta Research Council, Minister of Innovation and Science, Treasury Board. Other than government, significant roles for me include the Red Deer Hospice and Ten Thousand Villages Society Red Deer Boards; Executive Director of CARE; Director of Finance at Etana Supports Society; small business (insurance and retail); and banking. The only thing that proves is that I am familiar with multi-billion as well as small dollar organizations. My best qualification is that I show up, work hard, collaborate, and make decisions. Please also refer to my website for more information: https://victordoerksen.ca/

Vesna Higham

I’m a retired lawyer, appeal board adjudicator, and high school basketball referee for nearly two decades. My husband and I raised our five children in Red Deer over the past 27 years, and are now proud, new grandparents to two precious babies. I understand the challenges families face in these uncertain times and would continue to support a strong family focus at the Council table. It’s been my distinct honour to serve our community on Council for seven years now – over two terms – and I don’t take that for granted. I study diligently, ask probing questions, and work hard to represent our city with honour and dignity. I stand for family values, fiscal restraint, a business-friendly environment, a strong focus on community safety, and a citizen-focused approach.

In closing, an elected official is first and foremost a public servant who must be accessible and accountable to the people. I bring integrity, experience, and common sense to the Council table and make decisions based on what I believe is in the best interests of our community on any issue – let the chips and votes fall as they may. Serving the public with integrity is my highest priority and commitment. Thanks for getting out to vote on October 18 Th.

Cindy Jefferies
I bring experience on council with a fresh perspective after 8 years away from the job. I have gained a tremendous amount of life experience in my time away. I am a leader who will help build relationships and team on council, within the organization, and in the community. I am proud of my record of fiscal responsibility while balancing the needs of our community. Managing challenges in the short term, while positioning Red Deer as we emerge from the pandemic, will require courageous and creative leadership. I believe I can help. I want Red Deer to be a city with opportunities and a place where people belong and want to be.
Janise Somers
I will bring a unique crime prevention perspective to Council having worked in crime prevention for the past 3 years and in an office downtown. In my work, and over the past 8 months of my campaign, I have had hundreds of conversations with residents and business owners, and I have heard your concerns. I have tons of energy and ideas, and I will be like a “dog on a bone” when it comes to the health & vitality of our downtown and preventing & decreasing crime.

I have the heart of a servant and I want to be of service and be in the service of people. Having said that, I want to combine my own personal vision with the vision of others to be the best leader I can be.I love my city fiercely and I am passionate about making Red Deer a place we are all proud to call home. On October 18 th , vote for JANISE SOMER and let’s build a stronger city together through stronger neighbourhoods, a stronger downtown, increased tourism and economic growth.

Dianne Wyntjes
I bring experience to the Council decision table and up-to-date knowledge of the active files when the next Councillor will be making decisions for Red Deerians. I do my homework and am prepared for Council and assigned committee meetings. I’m responsive to calls, emails and make myself available to meet with citizens when they request. I’m active on social media but also recognize the value and importance of traditional methods of community, e.g. face-to-face and telephone. I do a lot of reading (besides the Council agendas) and ask discerning questions. I challenge my own initial thinking and always look to what’s best for the Red Deer community. I’m ready to keep working and hit the ground running. I bring experience and representation on numerous city committees along with knowledge of the community challenges, needs and requests. I bring 30 years of labour relations experience with 17 years as regional director in Alberta. Those skills brought budget presentations, Responsibility of 30+ staff at 7 offices throughout Alberta, working with elected boards and committees with governance understanding, experience and working through challenges, negotiations skills, strategic planning, and listening to diverse ranges of opinions – throughout my career and through my Council experience. I have lived experience in Red Deer since 1975, seeing the City grow and change. Red Deer is home home for the many years ahead and I care about our city and community as we look to the future.
Council decisions are not just for the decisions during a 4 year council term; what’s decided today can impact Red Deer’s tomorrows and future. Citizens want and expect their elected Council to work well together. I’d like to see a regular communications piece to Red Deer citizens “what’s happening with Council”. I would continue my approach as a Councillor by being accessible, responsive and continuing my community communications on social media.
Biggest issues:
Immediate conversations with the provincial government about the committed funding of $7 million, operational decisions and landing on a city location for a permanent integrated shelter for Red Deer. In the meantime, ensuring appropriate temporary shelter measures are in place for the vulnerable.
Mid year budget review and financial updates provided to Council and the community as Council looks to decisions attention to community safety is never done; new Council hearing from the RCMP Superintendent during regular updates to Council; continuing to mitigate safety concerns throughout the City and the downtown, including policing and municipal bylaw enforcement, the social diversion team’s results and continuing crime prevention education with Red Deerians economy recovery through and from the pandemic is a priority. With attention to recruitment and attraction of new business and retention and supports to current business; regular community round table meetings to listen, respond and evaluate.
Looking to the arts and culture scene and what we can do to promote vibrancy in Red Deer, e.g. creative spaces, community ways to support local talents, City planned local events and working with the Red Deer Major Events strategy to attract future events to Red Deer connecting with Red Deer’s youth with their ideas for Red Deer in the next four years
A lens to age friendliness for Red Deer seniors and responding what else we can do in Red Deer to advance quality of life scheduling “community days” where citizens, organizations and businesses can meet face-to-face with Council so Councillors can listen and hear ideas and concerns. No decisions at these meetings as Council makes decisions at Council meetings.
Focus to continued actions for a more welcoming and inclusive community; actions and initiatives to challenge racism and discrimination and advancing our journey for truth and reconciliation
Followup on the motion from Code of Conduct #2 and the next Council’s attention to the issues for Council governance.

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City of Red Deer

Red Deer RCMP and City of Red Deer introduce Integrated Downtown Policing Unit

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News release from Red Deer RCMP

Today the Red Deer RCMP’s Downtown Patrol Unit officially welcomed their two newest policing partners to the unit; two Community Peace Officers (CPO) with enhanced duties.

“The addition of these two new CPO resources will enhance our policing presence, improve safety, and have a positive impact on the downtown overall,” says Supt. Holly Glassford.

The pilot project is a joint initiative between the Red Deer RCMP, City of Red Deer Municipal Policing Services, and the Government of Alberta. The Province enhanced CPOs’ authorities to allow them to investigate certain criminal code files including Theft under $5000 and Mischief under $5000.

“In some respects, they will have comparable duties to their RCMP counterparts. They will investigate incidents, collect evidence, and provide proactive and responsive enforcement of City bylaws, provincial statutes and some criminal codes,” says Peter Puszka, Municipal Policing Superintendent. The two CPOs will also have access to policing tools and databases not typically available to Peace Officers.

Since 2018, Red Deer’s downtown has had a dedicated Downtown Patrol Unit (DPU), focused on improving safety through increased police visibility, proactive enforcement, decreasing property crime and criminal activity, and developing relationships with the residents, businesses and social agencies downtown.

“Our downtown unit has been doing a tremendous job with such a substantial mandate, and they’re really making an impact in our downtown core,” says Supt. Holly Glassford.

In 2021, the DPU conducted 2,219 investigations of which 64% were self-generated files identified during proactive patrols, and the other 36% were in response to calls from the community. This led to 784 arrests, 493 Criminal Code charges, 470 weapon seizures, 37 ounces of illegal drugs seized and 1,061 tickets issued.

During the RCMP’s latest community consultations and survey, participants indicated that there were still issues about the perception of safety in the downtown, and that safety was a barrier to visiting the downtown.

“Council and I are committed to working towards the enhancement and revitalization of our downtown,” says Mayor Ken Johnston. “This innovative, one-of-a-kind initiative will increase feelings of safety and security amongst those working, living and enjoying our downtown.”

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City of Red Deer

City reaching out to tax payers about location for permanent homeless shelter

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Public participation about permanent shelter site criteria approved

Within the next month, the community will have an opportunity to share their input on the site criteria for a future permanent shelter site. Council approved this direction during their Council meeting last night, following extensive conversations around formal roles and responsibilities and opportunity for collaboration outside a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the province.

“While site selection is not part of the formal agreement between The City and the Province, we believe that the Province will support a recommendation in good spirit as part of a shared responsibility to providing shelter services in our community,” said Mayor Ken Johnston. “When citizens come to the table to discuss criteria, we ask that they come with an open mind. Consider all the factors in selecting a location, not just proximity to your home, your business, your property. The permanent shelter will not be what we currently have, it will be an integrated shelter for our vulnerable population to access services that will support them on their journey to permanent housing.”

Administration will begin a public participation strategy and begin implementation within the coming weeks. The resolution approved by Council outlined the following deadlines:

  • June 20, 2022: conduct timely, strategic, solution-focused community engagement about site criteria prior to this date. Inclusive of in-person and online opportunities to provide input to be promoted.
  • July 18, 2022: Council to agree to a location to recommend to the Province on or before this date.

“We are beginning public participation based on the understanding our community wants to help us to address shelter needs.  We are starting with a clean slate when it comes to actual location,” said Interim City Manager Tara Lodewyk. “We recognize that some citizens will want to propose specific locations but we want to dig deeper to understand why.  We will be asking further questions – why do they think that site is a good option, what does it have that would make it the right place and see how that aligns or builds upon the criteria we already have in place.”

In the coming weeks, The City will share public participation opportunities with the community through social media, local advertising, website updates and email notifications. If residents would like to be added to the email list for updates on the public participation and general permanent shelter information, please email [email protected]. More information about the permanent shelter process can be found at www.reddeer.ca/shelter.

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