More interviews with Red Deer City Council Candidates + Andrew’s How and Why (and a note about grammar). 

Frank Wong

Andrew Kooman: Two words: Bike Lanes. Let’s just get this Q out of the way. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen two words create so much conversation in the City. This is a 2-part question:

A) What was your position on the pilot project before it became a reality – were you for the pilot or not – and why?

Frank Wong: I was supportive of the pilot project as the intent was sound, replacing some cars with bicycles thus reducing the amount of parking lots Downtown. Phase 1 was a non-issue as the 4 km of bike lanes were on Kerry Wood Drive, Riverside Drive, Riverview Avenue and Cronquist Drive where there were no developments fronting onto the lanes and the driving lanes were intact. Phase 2 was more ambitious as it eliminated driving lanes in certain areas and on street parking in other areas. This is when the public showed their displeasure and the City responded with eliminating the bike lanes on 40th Avenue, 55th Street 59th Street north of the Dawe Centre. With these changes citizens still had concerns with the bike lanes on 39th Street from 30th Avenue to 40th Avenue. This concern will be address soon as it is too late to correct it this year

B) What have you learned about the people of Red Deer and the political process through this pilot project, and what is your opinion of Bike Lanes now?

FW: What I learned was that we accepted the Bike Lane Pilot Project recommended by a committee made up of pro-cycling members and did not have a detailed consultation process involving the public when the plans are drawn. People claimed that they did not know anything until it happened such as losing their parking and their driving lanes. Bike lanes or bike paths are still a good idea as evidenced by the new asphalt all purpose trails constructed this summer on 32nd Street and Taylor Drive north.

AK: The City has put much effort and resource into uncovering Red Deer’s true identity. What is Red Deer to you and what does the City have to offer the province in its next 100 years?

FW: Red Deer could be consider as the New Heart of the Province City (I believe that the Town of Stettler is using that moniker now). Red Deer is starting to get better and better as recent events like Air Canada having regular flights at our Regional Airport and the Centrium expansion puts us into the next tier for entertainment and sporting events. A new pool may be on the horizon and Red Deer College may receive degree granting status soon. We will have everything that our big sister Cities have but on a less hectic pace.

AK: What do you think are the biggest challenges the City faces in the next four years and how do you propose to address them?

FW: The biggest challenges are the down loading of services from the Province and unstable grant funding from both the senior levels of government. The funding limits are not tied to the cost of living. Providing regional services and not being funded accordingly. The rewrite of the Municipal Government Act may address some of the issues but municipalities may end up saddling with more of the costs and responsibilities. We need to build a better relationship with our MLAs and our MP to seek out the most that we are entitled to.

AK: What are you most proud of accomplishing or contributing to in your last term as a City Councillor?

FW: Three of our Centennial projects were people activities oriented, the Central Spray and Play, the Glendale Skateboard Park and the Maskepetoon Park. These projects will be around for years but our biggest accomplishment is the completion of our Environmental Master Plan and our Waste Master Plan which will guide us over the next 25 or more years with environmental initiatives. Red Deer will be a leader in the protection of our Environment if our residents also buy in on the recommendations of the Plans.

AK: How a City helps to provide services to those in need and those who are vulnerable can make it a great municipality. How do you rate Red Deer in this regard: where is the City doing well and where can it improve?

FW: Red Deer is a leader in providing services to those in need and those who are vulnerable. Our Housing First Program is among the best and which some other municipalities are trying to copy. Red Deer’s Social Planning Staff are involved with Provincial groups studying best practices and work with both senior levels of government to seek out funding. We may be able to improve by having a Detox facility as well as a centrally located Drop in Centre for the people in need or vulnerable. I believe that the reason we have people congregating on the streets downtown is when the meal time is over at the soup kitchens or mat facilities, they are forced out onto the streets until the next facility opens for the next meal. Most of their residences are single rooms with not much other living or socializing areas so they need to gather outside on the streets. This is just my theory.

AK: Vibrancy of the Arts can make a City remarkable, even inspirational. On a scale of 1 to Remarkable, where would you place Red Deer? What is your connection to the Arts and in your opinion how important are they to a thriving community?

FW: I think we would be around a 7 in my way of thinking that 10 equals “Remarkable”. With the recent closing of a small theater venue and the closing of a couple of art galleries, we may have been ahead of our time for the Arts. We now have a wide range of venues now ranging from the 60 seat Nichol Studio right up to the 7500 seat Centrium as well as our 550 seat arts centre and 700 seats Memorial Centre. I understand that the expanded Centrium puts us into the next level of attracting concert and sporting events.

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I enjoy attending Dinner Theatres, concerts at the Westerner Days, as well as concerts or bands at the local bars and the Bower Ponds stage. I really enjoy the ethnic entertainment during the Canada Day celebrations and am impressed with the art display at the Museum and Library galleries. The Arts are quite important to a thriving community. We have been getting some good speakers and fairly big entertainers.

AK:  What qualities do you expect and hope for in the person who will be elected as Red Deer’s Mayor?

FW: Proven leader, consensus maker, common sense, good listener to all voices, fiscally responsible, good communicator and open minded. I believe that all 5 Mayoral Candidates have most of these qualities.

AK: There will be a number of individuals elected to Council for the first time in this election. If re-elected, what is your strategy for working well as a Council member for Red Deer’s best interest and what do you bring to the table as a team player?

FW: I bring knowledge and experience to the table but not being the aggressive type I can not claim to be a consensus maker or leader like some people think. Over the years I attended most of the open houses and community meetings to learn the issues from the ones usually most affected and I will try to be their voice where needed. I would provide guidance to new councillors if they wish but not to interfere with their beliefs or values. If an issue is extreme one direction or another choosing the middle ground may be more fitting.

AK: As a Councillor you are given an expense account of roughly $20,000 to attend City-related conferences and training each term. Through the expenditure of these funds, how have you used them to develop both personally and professionally in the last four years as a member of Council?

We actually have a budget of $10,300 per year for expenses relating to City-related conferences and training. This amount was raised the last couple of years when the City combined our per diems with our regular remuneration. Last year the average Councillor had 52% of the $10,300 remaining. In 2004 when I was elected I was encouraged to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Alberta Union of Municipalities Association (AUMA) conferences as our City is a long standing member which makes Council also members. These conferences provide great opportunities to network with colleagues from across the Country and take in education sessions, study tours and keynote speakers. With the increase funding we can attend 2 or 3 more conferences if we see fit or enroll in courses related to municipal government. Most people are satisfied with the 2 conferences and we actually have upgrades within the City relating to computers, social media and wellness. In my 9 years I did not have any interest in attending more conferences especially out of County but may attend in the future when something really interests me.

AK: In the lead up to the last civic election I asked who you would like to emulate in life. In the future, when people consider your legacy as a person and as a public servant, what do you hope they will remember about you and want to emulate?

FW: I did not run for council for fame and glory but to continue serving the citizens of Red Deer. People will remember that I am not a good writer or speaker but I do know what is going on and what might be best for the City. Others might remember me as going to the people to seek out what they have to say or what issues they have. I like to be remembered for Doing Things My Way but some guy named Frank already laid claim to that one.

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More interviews with Red Deer City Council Candidates + Andrew’s How and Why (and a note about grammar). 

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