Andrew Kooman: The first question I asked candidates seeking re-election was about Bike Lanes, so let me just start by throwing a Bike Lane Q to you as well. It’s a 2-part question: A) What is your assessment of the pilot project at this point in time?
Ken Johnston: Having spent the past 15 Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market and the past month going on a door knocking campaign, my assessment is the majority of the community is against the pilot project. Their reasons are both emotional and pragmatic. Emotionally people feel that they were not consulted, that their mobility/movement and safety was comprised, that the City favored a segment who is not using the lanes to any degree, and that the City isn’t listening to their concerns. Pragmatically people do not see any value for money. The response I get is that the money was/is being wasted and could have been spent elsewhere on more important needs. The issue has largely been a catalyst of discontent. I have had discussions with the bike community and many of those folks tell me they don’t feel safe in the lanes due to the design, functionality and lack of driver education and awareness. I like the idea of alternate transportation and a healthier community. I walk 10kms/day. The lanes were poorly communicated and poorly placed.
B) If elected to Council, you will have to make decisions that can’t and won’t please everyone. What strategies will you use to reach consensus and are you prepared to make decisions that aren’t popular with everyone in the community, including your colleagues on Council?
KJ: I assume you mean this question in the context of the lanes. I have a professional background as a Banker and many Chair positions on Boards in my volunteer service. Consensus is reached by creating a common ground. In this case I sincerely doubt that any Councilor or citizen would be against healthy transportation alternatives. In addressing the community concerns in “a” the place to start is clearly communicating why this project was envisioned, how value for money is apparent, how safety concerns can be addressed and exploring a more practical design for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. I have made many and varied decisions in the past that were contentious. I know you can’t please everyone including Council colleagues. Respect remains the key element. The key learning of this pilot is that a far more inclusive approach needed to be taken with common ground to build consensus.
AK: How long have you lived in Red Deer and how did you end up here?
KJ: My family and I have lived in Red Deer since 1996. I was transferred here by Scotiabank as the Manager of the Downtown Main Branch. I retired on August 01/13.
AK: What organizations, groups or associations are you a member of and why are you engaged with them?
KJ: Currently I am the Past President of the Rotary Club of Red Deer and have been a very active Rotarian since 1997.Space does not permit me to expound on my passion for the work of Rotary! I cherish my membership in Rotary as it has allowed me to actively participate in local and international community improvement projects. I am also a Board member of the Westerner Exposition and have been since 2005. I very much enjoy serving the Westerner. It plays such a principal role in the life of the City and Central Alberta from an economic,social and tourism context. My website and campaign literature lists the numerous other Boards, organizations and causes I have been privileged to have served these past 17 years.
AK: What qualifications and experiences have prepared you to represent Red Deer on Council?
KJ: My qualifications are twofold….My professional background as a Banker and people Manager have given me business acumen, negotiation skills, strategic analysis, human resource management, budget and capital expense planning, collaboration, communication skills and the sensitivity to respect all people from all economic and demographic backgrounds. My volunteer/ Board background gives me an insight into the community, consensus building, diversity appreciation, communication and media strategy and other related behaviors. Both attributes allow me to have a vision for the City and its quality of life.
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?
KJ: Firstly let me state that I have been an active volunteer and advocate for the needy and vulnerable. The City does relatively well in this area. Among other things it has embarked on a Homelessness Reduction/Elimination strategy, it provides facilities for addicted youth and adults, it has collaborated with the private sector on housing projects, and it has demonstrated care for our seniors. Simplifying the delivery of funding is the chief improvement I would advocate. Non profits tell me the adminstrative,compliance and distribution of funds is becoming more complex and bureaucratic.
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?
KJ: I’d place Red Deer a solid 7 on the scale of 10 being remarkable. We foster performing and visual arts,have invested in facilities and festivals, and both RDC and our Symphony are vibrant. I have performed for Central Alberta Theatre and played in the local music scene from 2004-2009. More importantly I volunteered for several years at the RDC’s Festival of the Arts. We are making great strides here.
AK: As a Councillor, you will have a key role in shaping the policies of the City and to promote its interests. What kind of City do you imagine in the next 100 years and, if elected, what will you do in this term to move Red Deer in that direction?
KJ: I would envision that Red Deer in it’s next 100 years would have been known for it’s outstanding quality of life. It will still be a City whose creativity and inclusiveness shaped a culture that brought innovation to the entire country. That it values all voices, all citizens. That it’s contributions to education,planning,culture and the economy continue to inspire. What a place to be!!
AK: If elected to Council, what expectations do you have of your fellow Councillors and what strengths do you have to offer as a team player?
KJ: The overriding expectation is one of respect for each other’s point of view. I would also expect that they would be fully prepared at meetings and have thoroughly researched issues before speaking to them in council, in camera, or in private or social media. I am a highly relational person meaning I value people’s counsel, their perspective and their rationale. I bring these social skills and the professional credentials to Council.
AK: If you could accomplish one thing as a Councillor, what would it be?
KJ: Very broad question!! I think it would be taking our location, reputation and opportunity to new heights in the province. We have the most advantageous location,economy,infrastructure,natural beauty and quality of life in the Province, dare I say Canada. We make a significant contribution to the Province as is. If we could leverage that we could grow into a model city.
AK: Who do you look to as a role model and who would you like to emulate in your professional life?
KJ: When I think of role models I think of the Managers and Coaches I have had in my career, those who believed in me even when I was less than perfect!! My primary role model is a person who risked hurting me and our relationship by bringing to my attention those habits and attributes that weakened me and my relationship with others. Only someone who genuinely cares for you will take that risk. I admire him greatly to this day. In terms of emulating someone my hero of heroes will always be Abraham Lincoln. He had the courage and the humility to lead a nation in a most horrible war and had the wisdom to surround himself with all manner of advisors, including those bitterly opposed to him for the greater good of the Country. That’s the model of a leader I intend to emulate at the Council level.
More interviews with Red Deer City Council Candidates + Andrew’s How and Why (and a note about grammar).