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26 Oct 2010 To all Candidates for Councilor in City of Steinbach
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A note of thanks to all candidates for putting your name forward to as councilor for City of Steinbach. Thank you for working through door to door and attending the various forms put on.
I think it would be fair to say we all learnt more about our city and the people who chose to live here. It has been great getting the feedback, positive or negative as our vision for Steinbach is challenged.  Through those challenges we can clarify our vision.

All the best to each of you on Election day, Oct 27.

Thanks Roy Enns for sharing this article.
Here is an article from AMM that I came across this morning as well as their web link – a worthy read if you have a moment.

A primary reason many candidates haven’t given up on negative campaign ads is that they often work,” says Kuzmeski. “Negative ads can be a very effective way to turn the electorate one way or the other. What I think candidates should consider is what kind of connector do you want to be? What do you want the foundation of your relationships with your constituents to be? Remember, it’s a small world, and burning a bridge today may hurt you in the future. I think you build stronger relationships both in business and politics when they come from a place of honesty and positivity. Make sure you always take the ethical high road. Don’t make decisions based on how they might negatively affect your business or political career. Do what’s right and you will have nothing to be ashamed of and much success down the road.”

Our campaign had many opportunities to promote ourselves through negative campaign ads.  The fact it didn’t happen speaks of the professionalism of the candidates and shows that they where all running for the right reasons.  I appriecated that candidates stuck to the issues and didn’t make them personal. It was good to have the different discussions and I learnt from each of you. Thanks

19 Sep 2010 What is my Vision for the City of Steinbach
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My mission is to promote healthy living within a safe community by building strong partnerships and sustaining manageable growth.

Drive Sustainable, Manageable Growth

  • Build a Financial Sustainability plan to manage debt load
    o to provide public with plan to understand short and long term debt load
    o complete an accumulated financial impact study
    o provide a process of public understanding of municipal debt
  • Manage our growth rate through effective policy implementation
    o provide continuous, quality services in all areas water & sewer, parks & recreation, sanitation, streets, and administration
  • A Safer Community For All
    Review current policing options
    o Support RCMP in building proactive force
  • Support and enlarge our fire/rescue department
  • Support the Citizens on Patrol Program (COPP)

Public Health

  • Provide opportunities to participate in physical activities to lower regional health costs & promote fitness
  • Offer low cost activities like increased bike/walking pathways, community gardens, cross-country skiing and pleasure skating
  • Review opportunities for recreational activities that are cost effective

Build Strong Partnerships With Organizations

  • Steinbach Residents
    o listen to their concerns with an open mind
  • Steinbach Businesses
    o drive economy and growth in a sustainable manner
  • Hanover School Division
    o support initiatives to build schools
  • South Eastman Health
    o provide level of care required to meet the needs of our community
  • Community groups
    o cooperate with the Chamber of Commerce, Steinbach Fire Department, Steinbach Arts Council and Mennonite Heritage Museum
    o work together with sports associations, seniors groups, community resources and many other in Steinbach and area
  • Regional Partnerships with Rural Municipality of Hanover, La Broquierie and Ste Anne
    o collaborate on fire protection, sanitation services, building inspections and waterway agreements
07 Sep 2010 What I learnt the last four years on City Council
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One of the questions I have been asked lately goes something like this. So, now that you have been a councilor for one term what have you learnt?

Here are some of the things I have learnt during my first term on council;

1. The authority of power of a councilor is different than those of a manager, which is my current role at Loewen. In my workplace I understand the authority or power when it came to making decisions the form of guidelines within policy and budget. As a member of council, I have come to understand what the power represents in terms of decisions that move this community forward. The power is at a very different level and requires a visionary approach, not hands on but forward thinking and in putting policy in place that will be an effective tool to be used by council & staff for many years.

2. A better understanding as to the difference between the words governance and management. It isn’t about the day to day details about what is going on, but our job to provide policy that will move our community forward.

3. How to make a decision with information presented in the form of council material. Then do my own homework on the issues for next council meeting. I have appreciated the information presented by staff and it has been a great benefit. But there is always a public information piece that needs to be heard, understood and appreciated.

4. Have learnt to appreciate the difference of opinion between members of council, community and staff on what ever the issue. Each of us has a different point of view and it is my understanding that we are representing the majority of residence but need to listen and represent all residence of our community. At times we need to do what is best for the community as a whole, and not listen to the loudest voice.

5. Each member of council has different life skills and experiences that they bring to each meeting and each issue. I have learnt to appreciate the differences in opinion, not make issues personal, stick to the topic at hand and make a decision on what is best for Steinbach.

6. An understanding of what my role is within council. We deal with issues as our agenda states. Each of us completes our reading and background work in some way so as to come to council prepared to debate different issues. Then we get to agenda items that have a lot of debate, require me to think my way through all the details presented, make a decision. Then change focus entirely to the next issue and get passionate about that issue. I have gone home from meetings mentally fatigued.

7. The knowing that each word is recorded, need to be careful with words so as to be clear on the message I want to present. How I would like to be heard and understood becomes part of how I prepare for each meeting.

8. Interviews with the press. I have gained confidence in what to say and how to say, but at times it still comes out wrong. The radio and paper have both worked at understanding the intent and not only the words used. I appreciate the wordsmith-ing that has happened after I have provided an interview. That trust between the press and us a council is important.

9. I do have a better understanding of how my vision, together with council’s, ratepayers and the communities’ vision are all different and that I need to accept those differences. Because somewhere in between those opinions is the right decision.

10. I was asked if there where any decisions that I would have voted on differently if we could go back. Yes there are a few that I would like back, some because I could have done more homework others because I absolutely think they where counter productive to my community vision. But having said that once a decision of council has been made it is the right decision and one that I support.

11. I have come to appreciate my community as I start to see it in a different light. Understanding what issues move our community, what the different passions of our citizens are and how they feel about different issues. The feedback, positive or negative, is a result of people being passionate about what they want as part of their community. And in the end it is the passion for our community that will continue to make us successful and keep us moving forward.

31 Aug 2010 To run for re-election or not to run
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It is time to decide if I will take another run at City of Steinbach council or not. Actually the decision has already been made and I have handed in my nomination papers. I will run again.
The last 4 years have been a lot of fun and time of learning, getting to know our community and a taste of politics.
I have had much support from our citizens and have appreciated the comments and concerns raised. I have had to make some tough decisions and would like some back.
In the end many good things have happened and I look forward to 4 more years….if elected.

09 Mar 2010 Library, Investment in our community
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Jake Epp Library expansion

The plan is to expand the Jake Epp Library originally built in 1996 with 8,000 sq ft. The plan is to add approx 10,200 sq ft to the building bringing total sq footage to just over 18,000 sq ft

Work is to be started in 2010 with completion in mid 2011. Expansion will take place to the west side of the library moving into the park. Expansion plans include building and additional parking space requirements.

The Jake Epp library has long been the busiest library in Manitoba. Review of the last 7 years indicates that the last 5 years we have the highest circulation at 22.5 books taken out per capita versus the provincial average of 7.7.

Approximately 76% of Steinbach residences hold a library card plus we serve a large surrounding population that pays $75 per household to belong to our library. As heard earlier that number stands at close to 13,000 members.

For the last number of years we have not been able to add books as our shelves are full to overflowing restricting our on shelf books to max out at 65,000.

As an example from June 29 to August 31, 2009 a total of 92,872 books handled by staff in 55 days. That works out to 1,688 books per day handled.

Cost of the expansion is approx $2,850,000. This plan is to provide the funding of this construction through debentures issued to fund the majority of the construction costs. Of these debentures $900,000 has already been approved. Today we are requesting a further $1,900,000 so we can move forward with construction.

This would be the first time in many years that the City of Steinbach is moving away from its policy of borrowing for no more than 5 year time frames. As we all know borrowing costs are at an all time low and will likely not be going down.

It is time to move on this project that has been needed in our community for many years.  The library program is a City program that has been effective in promoting learning and providing an opportunity to explore worlds, theories and concepts in a non threatening environment. The library offers services that enrich our lives, expand our vision and increase our ability to have a positive influence on the world around us. We all agree on the concept of a library and what it does for our community. It is time to move forward and expand the facilities so that we can continue to provide an improved service to our community. If we don’t start this project this year we will not put it back on the table for the next 4 years. With our borrowing costs at an all time low and with a combination 5 and 10 year borrowing plan it is appropriate to move forward with the library expansion project.

It was articulated thru the information from our Board Chair, Jon Sawatzky, all areas that are hampered by lack of space. Our library is and can be more to our community. It is more than books and periodicals. It is a gathering space for our community that is open to everyone. All programs offered by our library staff are full and overflowing with waiting lists for all the programs.

For me this is an investment in our community. Hard infrastructure funding is easy to approve. Hard infrastructure costs are high, like our council our provincial and federal governments see those as important to growth. But it is our responsibility as a council to deal with the softer infrastructure needs within our community like recreation, parks, pathways and the library. These come with a high cost as well, usually in the bricks and mortar of getting the building constructed. Then they go on to provide our residence with an improved quality of life issues that make our community a great place to live.

We have played the waiting game waiting for additional grants to get the library expanded. This addition would have cost less than half the cost if built in 2006. But we waited because of the chance of getting other tax dollars thru our provincial or federal grant programs. Construction costs continue to rise and will continue to do so.   If we wait another year or two until grant monies are available the cost to our community will be the same or higher as those grants, at best, will off set the higher cost of construction.  Libraries have not been high on the political agenda for the Provincial or Federal granting programs.

As a community and as a council we have many priorities. Each of us sees them in a different set of importance. The different opinions and vision for our community is what makes us function as a council and drives the decision making as to what is best for Steinbach. For me, the library is one of our top priorities. Through its services we are a better community; it is still a place that does not have an entry fee at the door. It is a service provided thru the City of Steinbach funded by its taxpayers.

If approved, the cost of construction will not affect the 2010 tax bill that will be coming out in the next couple of months. Currently our mill rate of 14.66, that is a tax increase for projects that will be spent in 2010, including the landfill and lagoon projects. By moving forward with the library expansion doesn’t mean an automatic tax increase, it means shifting priorities within the 2011 – 2021 budgets to accommodate this construction. The mill rate for 2011 will be set in our budget discussions in early summer and later in fall study session.

Again, we need to continue to invest in our community. As with many wants it comes with a price tag. We want to have continued growth of our community facilities like the library are important, as stated earlier I believe that this is a good investment for our community.