Andrew Kooman: On your campaign website you outline the need to balance economic, social, and environmental questions. What do you see as Red Deer’s most pressing economic question?
Morris Flewwelling: Red Deer’s most pressing economic question is the depressed and unstable international economy which directly affects the economic and financial health of our citizens and their business ventures, the municipal government and the two senior orders of government. Red Deer is riding the turbulence quite well, in my view, but there is uncertainty.
The second most pressing economic issue is that Red Deer over the past 7 years has been recovering from a very short sighted policy of a previous decade of budgeting in the Nineties where the City was focused on paying off the debentures it had accumulated. However, as each debenture was paid down and the monthly payments were no longer needed for debenture payments, the funds were channeled into the Operating Budget instead of being put away in reserve for future capital expenditures. The result was that for nearly a decade the tax increases were near zero or below. This was very popular, however, it created a situation where the income of the City was not being maintained and indeed dropped by nearly 20%. That is what has necessitated the borrowing that the City has had to do to fund infrastructure in the past few years. Short term gain, long term pain.
AK: What is the single most pressing social concern for the citizens of Red Deer?
MF: I believe the most pressing social concern is poverty where nearly 20% of our people live with insufficient support payments and insufficient incomes to manage. Poverty affects a disproportionate number of children who are being raised in single parent families headed by women. Evidence of the poverty are the school lunch programs, the soup kitchens, the food and clothing banks. Average income in Red Deer is good, however the distribution of that wealth is uneven.
AK: With all the talk and attention of being “Green,” how is Red Deer doing as an environmentally friendly city?
MF: Red Deer is doing well but we could be doing much better. We are using LEED standards on all new construction, we have an anti idling policy for City vehicles, all traffic signals have been converted to LED lamps and we are currently experimenting with LED street lights where more than 11,000 lamps will be replaced. We have a Water Conservation Strategy which includes a rainbarrel program and a toilet rebate program. Our Water and WasteWater treatment plants are very up to date and good on capacity as they will be expected to be the treatment centres for all of central Alberta.
AK: It seems most, if not all, the candidates for Council are talking about the Downtown and issues with safety, drugs, and turning it into an engaging hub that connects with the rest of the city. What is your vision for Downtown Red Deer and why is it (or its perception) so downtrodden?
MF: Downtown is a part of our City visited by everyone, the living room of the community as it were. With professional planning guidance and with the assistance of more than 700 citizens, Red Deer has developed the Greater Downtown Action Plan and is now putting that plan in play. Along with that is the SAFE Community Task Force led by the Mayor to focus on reality and perception in the downtown to make sure it is safe, economically viable and attractive and a centre for the City. The most visible part of that program are the Ambassadors we have had on the streets this summer.
Another part of the Downtown rejuvenation plan are the initiatives taken by the Downtown Business Association. The amount of private investment in the downtown (Executive Place, Elements, Julietta’s Place, convenience store at 45 Street, office/residential building on 46 Street and the new Riverlands Gateway building) there is strong evidence to support the rejuvenation of downtown. Private investment is being matched by public investment.(RCMP Building, Sorensen Station, Veterans’ Park, Major renovations to the Rec Centre, Museum and Golden Circle). My vision for the Historic Dowtown is that it remains a vital retail, professional, government and office centre with special amenitites like the recreation and cultural opportunities that we have. My vision for Railyards is medium to high density residential along the river and trail system. My vision for Riverlands is a special mingling of park and urban centre where entertainment and cultural opportunities flourish amid mid density housing and featuring a major tourist attraction.
AK: In the last election for Mayor, about 13,000 of the eligible 61,000 people voted. How mindful do you think Red Deerians are of their city and of local politics?
MF: Our surveys show that Red Deerians are very satisfied with their City. They like the level of services and taxation. They appreciate the quality of our public works. They support environmental initiatives. They expect local politicians to get on with the work of effectively governing the municipality.
AK: Beyond casting their vote on 18 October, how can average citizens engage in the decision-making process in the city of Red Deer?
MF: Average Citizens can become engaged in decision making by being informed, by doing research, by serving on committees, by contacting any of the Council or Administration to share ideas and suggestions. The City provides public hearings and open houses to canvas public opinion and suggestion on all developments and policy changes. The City welcomes input from a variety of sources so that decisions are made with a full range of views.
AK: What are your plans should your opponent be elected mayor?
MF: Retire as gracefully as I can.
I asked the following Qs of all the candidates for Council, and would appreciate your thoughts to see how your personality fits with your potential co-workers:
AK: What clubs, groups, or organizations are you a member of (or connected to) and why are you engaged with them?
MF: I have always been engaged with a wide variety of groups. They are listed on my website, morrisformayor.com. Some of the groups through which I believe I have done very significant work would be the Ellis Bird Farm Ltd., the Heritage Community Foundation, the Red Deer and District Community Foundation and the Red Deer College Arts Centre Committee. In each case I was the driving force to see the group founded and flourish. For example, the Heritage Community Foundation just gifted 85 websites on Alberta Online Encyclopedia to the University of Alberta in the amount of $143 Million.
AK: What do you do for fun?
MF: I truly enjoy politics, antiques, art collecting, equestrian endeavors, cooking and gardening.
AK: Who inspires you and who would you like to emulate?
MF: I have had a number of people who inspired and/or mentored me including my parents, my Aunt Louis Dean, the late Dr. N. Hrynyk, the late Hilda Buckman Crook, the late Mattie McCullough, C.M. and the late Dr. Ethel Taylor, the late Dr. Grant MacEwan. Notice, they are all “the late”. I believe I am a composite of all of the above and the one person whose philosophy I most value is that of Grant MacEwan where he believed “ that we should leave the vinyard a better place