Three are vying for Perth’s mayor’s spot and two for deputy mayor; many residents took the opportunity, Wednesday night, and packed Farrell Hall to watch and listen to the candidates.
It was an impressive line-up — five men dressed to the nines in suits and ties, all prepared with notes and thoughts.
They introduced themselves — Ed McPherson and Jim Graff looking for the deputy mayor’s spot, and John Fenik (incumbent), John Gemmell and Jim Boldt running for mayor. Because all have experienced council and its workings, and the faces were familiar to most, the answers, on the whole, were concise and relevant.
Candidates were clear in their answers to the questions they had experience with and admitted candidly there were others they didn’t know about.
First question asked how candidates would go about reducing taxes in town. McPherson and Fenik were on the same page saying if taxes go down, they’ll go down but it would take “tough medicine” according to McPherson by seeking grants and loans and managing better. Graff suggested keeping work in-house rather than hiring out, as did Boldt. Boldt also suggested keeping an “adequate reserve but not a huge one, and bulk purchasing with neighbours in order to save.”
Gemmell called the budgeting process “painful. If we get ‘em down, we get ‘em down but we have to do it together.”
Tiny houses are one way of dealing with the lack of social housing and affordable housing in the community, candidates agreed. Granny suites, and co-operative ownership were two other suggestions. “Tasteful zoning for smaller units for the young, single, and elderly would take the pressure off,” Fenik said. McPherson offered an anecdote of a 45-year-old woman out walking; when she stopped to talk, he learned she was homeless and couch-surfed. Graff echoed Fenik’s idea of tasteful (and inexpensive) design for low-income properties to allow individuals to feel pride in their homes.
Candidates agreed a good way to attract new businesses (on the heels of Grenville Castings’ closing), is to get out and sell the town, by developing a good plan of “what the town wants and where it’s going,” McPherson said. Fenik hinted at “robotics and control systems” as a future path.
And all agreed it was important to further develop The Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Change with a concurrent Citizen’s Committee; Fenik took Boldt to task pointing out that when it came to vote for a Citizen’s Committee, Boldt voted against. Perth composts at its waste site, has installed electric car charging stations, hired Honeywell to produce a lighting audit, has installed solar panels on some of its buildings, and Graff spoke passionately about the environmental effect of geotubes at the water treatment plant and the SAGR nitrification system at the Perth lagoon.
Finally, the looming spectre of pot came up. Gemmell got the second real laugh of the evening. As a police officer, he assured those present that “Lanark County grows some of the finest marijuana in Canada.” Candidates agreed the legalization of marijuana is going to happen and the best way to deal with it (now or at a later opt-in phase) is to “accept the challenge,” according to Boldt, and to “do it right,” according to Fenik.