Public grills candidates at civic election forums

The first week of debate at election forums in the City has given the public an opportunity to hear candidates in the Red Deer mayoral and council race as well as the school board hopefuls.

ReThink Red Deer hosted the first forum at Red Deer College last week and offered a new approach to the typical forum setting.

Citizens were able to engage with candidates in round table discussions with all of the candidates running for political office and school board.

Topics discussed included what the City’s priorities for developing the local economy should be and how the City should support business. Crime prevention and safety issues were also talked about.

Some of the highlights participants suggested the next City council should address include getting out of debt, adding more affordable housing to the community, looking at the public spending and the budget process, snow removal and more development in the downtown, among others.

Dennis Moffat, former City councilor, suggested more residential as well as more hotels should be built in the downtown.

“I think we need to get some positive things happening in the downtown,” he said.

Lisa Johnston, candidate for the Red Deer Public School board, said currently there is nothing in the City’s downtown that attracts her there.

“I don’t go downtown because there is nothing that draws me there,” she said. “I think it should be council’s goal to make downtown’s perception one that’s warm and inviting.”

Councillor Gail Parks said she makes an effort to frequent the City’s downtown.

“I believe in our downtown and I make a conscious effort to go there,” she said. “I think it’s important that we keep downtown as a commercial enterprise. It would be nice to find a large department store that would be willing to be located in the downtown. We need something to draw people there.”

In addition, a second election forum took place at the Golden Circle.

About 80 people were on hand to listen to City mayoral and council candidates speak about their platforms. Questions were also posed to each candidate and while there were many seniors’ issues that were addressed, parking was top of mind for many.

Many seniors expressed concerns over the amount of people parking in the Golden Circle parking lot who were not using the facility. As well, others were concerned about the lack of parking in the City’s downtown.

Councillor Buck Buchanan said more enforcement was needed to ensure those who were parking in the Golden Circle lot were using the facility.

As for the downtown, Councillor Lynne Mulder was asked where the 600 to 800 students who will use Red Deer College’s satellite campus located in the Millennium Centre will park.

“I would encourage the students not to bring their cars to the downtown, but to rather walk or cycle or take public transportation,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Morris Flewwelling was asked about an Olympic sized pool for Red Deer and whether that was something that was on council’s radar.

“I would love to have an Olympic sized pool for Red Deer,” he said. “But I’m not sure that the cost of the building and operating it can fit into the system.

“I don’t think it’s something we’ll see in the near future. It is cost prohibited.”

The municipal election is on Oct. 18.

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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