More interviews with Red Deer City Council Candidates + Andrew’s How and Why (and a note about grammar).
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?
Lynne Mulder: I voted for the pilot project because I believe strongly that we have to progressively change the modal split! By increasing the number of bikes on the road we will eventually decrease the number of cars on the road which will be better for the environment and will also reduce the wear and tear on our roads which will reduce our budget. I believed that dedicated bike lanes would make it safer for both bikers and drivers. It was also important to me that we had bike routes that went somewhere for commuters. Some of our citizens can not afford a car so biking may be the very best and perhaps even the only option. Research indicated that bike lane implementation was occurring globally and I felt we should get involved now.
AK: B) What have you learned about the people of Red Deer and the political process through this project and what is your opinion on bike lanes now?
LM: I learned so much! I learned that we need to find new and creative ways of engaging our public in a meaningful way prior to implementing this kind of change! I learned that Red Deerians, like most citizens, are hesitant to make change and need a lot of education, support and open communication when embarking on change. I learned that our implementation timing was not good – just as school was starting and winter was soon upon us! I learned that separated bike lanes would be a better and perhaps safer option and I learned that it is difficult to retrofit already established roads. But I still believe in the concept of bike lanes – biking is a viable and affordable option and is better for our health, the environment and will reduce road maintenance. I look forward to looking at new and creative solutions which will result in win-win situations- solutions that are rooted in community engagement.
AK: The City has put much effort and resources into uncovering Red Deer’s true identity. What is Red Deer to you and what does the City have to offer the province in the next 100 years?
LM: Red Deer is my City – it is a community that cares about its citizens, neighbors and businesses. It is a city that strives to ensure a high quality of life for all its people and it is a city that tries to balance both the hard infrastructure needs with the softer people focused needs – skateparks, sprayparks etc. It is city of beauty. It is a city which is becoming much more livable – a city that is designing neighborhoods for the people that will live work and play in them!
Red Deer has much to offer the province in the next 100 years! We are truly in the centre of Alberta – where 80% of the people in the province are within 200 kilometers of us. We could and should look at increasing the number of “head offices” that have their home in Red Deer! We should exploit our location – become a conference hub for the province – as we develop Riverlands, we will see Red Deer mature into a tourist destination – a place where people want to come and can enjoy our unique amenities, our trail systems, our parks and our downtown programs. Red deer also has much to offer in terms of Recreational event planning and volunteer engagement
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?
LM: FINDING PREDICTABLE AND SUSTAINABLE FUNDING sources by working in partnership with our federal and provincial governments. This is accomplished through advocacy as well as working closely with AUMA and FCM to find more equitable allocation of provincial and federal revenue so that municipalities get their fair share of the tax payer dollar! As a council we must continue these efforts and hopefully we will have more successes like the federal gas tax revenue which is now promised and predictable each and every year
Continuing to EXERCISE FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY to meet the changing needs of our city – we must engage in careful and thoughtful financial decision making processes that will ensure that citizens get good value for their tax dollars and fees. I would like to see more creative ways of getting public input into our budget planning and to get their reaction to the proposed budget before we openly debate it at council. I personally will continue to carefully weigh all budget decisions and focus both on the present as well as the future. We must ensure that we build towards a desired future for Red Deer- keeping our vision front and center and basing all of our decisions on the achievement of this vision. It may be necessary to slow down and defer projects as finances permit but we should always keep our eye on our shared vision.
CREATING A CITY THAT IS ACCESSIBLE AND LIVABLE – a city that includes transportation infrastructure and systems that balance the needs of pedestrians, drivers, bikers, and transit users – a commitment to our citizens that our roads , sidewalks and trail systems will allow for easy movement within our city. I will certainly support and monitor the implementation of the new design guidelines which have been developed and will inform the development of all new neighborhoods. In addition, the Mobility playbook and the resulting studies that will take place around movement of people in our city must be closely reviewed by council – I look forward to new approaches to transit and biking over the next four years.
CREATING SUSTAINABLE, AFFORDABLE HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES for all citizens of Red Deer and ensuring a social infrastructure which supports the growth and development of citizens. I will certainly continue to advocate with other levels of government to ensure adequate pensions and supports for our seniors and physically and mentally challenged citizens as well as those citizens who live below the poverty time. I look forward to being part of a discussion and conversation that looks at moving towards the concept of a living wage for all.
PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT – our air and water supply, our green spaces as well as our natural habitats. Ensuring environmental sustainability is essential to our future and as a member of council I will make sure we monitor and measure our performance in meeting benchmarks identified in our Environmental Master Plan and our Waste Management Master Plan
AK: What are you most proud of accomplishing or contributing to in your last term as a City Councillor?
LM: I am probably most proud of the work which we accomplished in articulating our STRATEGIC PLAN and the identification of our six themes which have provided direction to all that we have done over the past three years – Safety, Identity, Economy, Design, Movement and Dialogue! Charters have been developed for each theme and it has been exciting to see the progress made.
I am also proud of the work this council did on GOVERNANCE – we have advanced the municipality immensely and have left an infrastructure which will benefit all councils in the future – the citizens will definitely experience a benefit as well – particularly in the clarity of role differentiation for council and staff!
I am also proud of some of the risks we took in the best interests of our citizens and our future – introduction of the unpopular bike lanes, debating the fluoride issue, the ward discussions etc. These were all very controversial and took a lot of energy for all involved. Other accomplishments like the downtown patio, the revitalization of Little Gaetz, the new spraypark, new skatepark, the centennial celebrations – and I could go on!!
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?
LM: I would probably rate the city as a 7. We have many great not for profit programs in our community which really make a difference in the lives of the vulnerable. We also have a very active Social Planning Department which provides support for the vulnerable. The Commnity Housing Board which allocated both Federal and Provincial Funds is very focused on funding those programs and services that are most needed in our community and making sure that outcomes are achieved. We have Plan to Eliminate Homelessness in 10 years – one of the first municipalities to do this! We have a regional FCSS Board which allocates both provincial and municipal dollars to programs and services that are focused on prevention and promotion – a focus on the vulnerable – children, families and seniors! We must do more – increase affordable housing options and advocate to the province for livable pensions for seniors and physically and mentally challenged so that they have an improved quality of life.
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?
LM: Again, I would place us at a 7. We have just renovated our museum, we have our own symphony orchestra, we have several art galleries, a college theatre program and a great stage for a variety of performances. We attract a number of very credible speakers on current topics of interest, have a number of interesting little boutique shops and the downtown patio and their programs have been a welcome addition to our community. I enjoy art in its many forms and for me it brings life and character to our city. When people select a city to live in, the Arts are one of the first things they want to know about – Arts and Culture give a city a feel or a face which makes that city unique. I believe that a city without Arts and Culture is a sterile place to be!
AK: What qualities do you expect and hope for in the person who will be elected as Red Deer’s mayor?
LM: First and foremost we need a recognized and credible leader – an individual who is committed to making our city the best it can be – someone who is aware of current trends and issues in city design and development – someone who is willing to take some risk in order to ensure we are prepared for tomorrow – someone who is very much part of the present but equally interested in the future – someone who is a team player and is able to recognize strengths in others and allow them to carry the ball when appropriate – someone committed to building team so that council can make the best and healthiest decisions with and for our city.
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?
LM: It is absolutely essential that council work as a team and is perceived by the community to be a team! This does not mean we all have to agree on issues, but we must be willing to listen to others, have a mind that is open to different viewpoints, have researched topics fully including getting public input and make the very best decision for our citizens. Once a decision has been made, regardless of how you voted, it should be supported by all. As I always say, the wisdom of council has spoken! We have already asked admin to schedule a number of orientation days right at the start so that we can get to know one another as we learn about the many aspects of the city and council! I always make myself available through lunches, coffees meeting etc. to answer questions and be a sounding board for new councilors. I have a lot of experience in team building in my previous life in post secondary education. I also pride myself in being open, direct, honest and up front which I think helps me to understand and work with others!
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 three years as a member of council?
LM: I believe it is essential that dollars are put aside for professional development. It is so important to bring back to council and the city the learnings that you have gleaned at conferences and workshops. I have primarily used my dollars to attend AUMA and FCM which are both focused on municipal issues of interest – one is brought up to speed on new approaches, designs and best practices which helps our city to make better decisions both in the present and in planning for the future. I always learn so much, not only from the educational sessions, but also from networking with other councillors across the province and country! It has allowed me to be a more productive and informed councilor which I believe benefits the citizens of our city!
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?
LM: I hope people will remember me as person who was open to listening to her community and bringing their voice forward to the council table. I hope they remember me as someone who was always prepared for formal and informal meetings. I would like them to remember me as someone who always kept their eye on the future but took care of the present. I hope they will remember me as someone who was willing to rock the boat a little and to take calculated risks in the best interests of the city.
More interviews with Red Deer City Council Candidates + Andrew’s How and Why (and a note about grammar).