Building the Future Today
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Though it’s become a hoary cliché in the COVID-19 meta to speak of these “unprecedented times”, it’s a cliché that happens to be true. Our city is facing unique challenges, particularly economically, that could prove devastating if mishandled. More than ever, our leaders need to take a forward-thinking approach that applies genuinely new solutions to our new problems—not recycled, harmful ideas like austerity budgets, mindless development, or throwing money at ill-conceived projects.
I pride myself on thinking creatively and critically, and apply intersectional analytical lenses to everything I do, relying on real evidence and the lived experiences of affected citizens to form conclusions on policies of all kinds. On Council, I will take a progressive approach rooted in effective communication, evidence-based policy, novel approaches to issues, and true compassion for the citizens of St. John’s—and it will come through in every idea I put forward.
Here’s a few of my commitments to that end:
Provide a genuinely independent voice on Council that answers to the people first, not the concerns of any particular industry or interest group.
If you’ve spent enough time around politics in this province, you’ve probably heard all the same buzz-phrases I have: “real change”, “true change”, “a go-forward basis”, the works. You’ve probably noticed, too, that those phrases don’t always translate into action, with politicians often seeming much more concerned with placating big business and donors than their constituents, and with that “change” often slow to come. That’s not my style. As Councillor, my first job is to represent you—the voters of Ward 2—and I’ll always be there to answer your calls for help when you need them. I’ll always be diligent in my research and honest with my words, and promise to give you an honest answer when you ask for one. Like the politicians I’ve always admired most, I will always give you the truth, and I’ll give it to you straight—and then have the compassion to help you work with it.
Refuse all corporate and union campaign donations. Work to require total donor disclosure in future elections.
It’s important to me that you understand I’m truly speaking independently—not at the whims of deep-pocketed organisations or interests. No-one has bought or paid for my time, my thoughts, or my voice, and those donors who have chosen to fund my campaign have done so because they like the approach I’ve taken. While our election regulations have changed to ban corporate and union donations in future elections, I am personally refusing them in this election even though I’m not required to—my independence is more important than money. Additionally, I’ll be disclosing all donors right here on my website, regardless of the size of their donation, and will work to require this universal disclosure in future elections as well. The citizens of St. John’s should always be able to know whose money is supporting their leaders’ work.
Resist mill rate changes as much as possible, but tie any that do occur to essential services.
Let me be clear: I do not want to raise anyone’s property taxes, and will do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen. But like all of us, I can admit that our City is facing a difficult financial situation, and that some people are beginning to say tax increases might be necessary to avoid insolvency. In my view, doing taxation right means ensuring that our tax dollars get citizens the services we need—especially lower-income citizens, who are often disproportionately affected by increased tax burdens, and for whom certain service reductions could be incapacitating.
It’s our government’s job to deliver services in ways we can’t ourselves. Things like infrastructure maintenance, public transit, and snow clearing are handled by the government because they can manage those things better and cheaper than if we all tried to independently. If we’re going to consider mill rate increases, I will do my best to make sure every dollar of increased revenue goes directly to the provision of those essential services, because that’s what the government should be doing with our money anyways! This way, we can all receive real, tangible benefits from our taxes that will make our city a better place to live.
Maintain the vacancy allowance, but investigate reducing it by a percentage for each successive year it is claimed in a specific space unless landlords complete significant capital improvement projects.
The vacancy allowance is a controversial piece of legislation, but I can understand both its critics and champions. Put simply, the allowance is an essential part of a simplified taxation plan which has improved our City’s revenues. For that reason alone, I am not wholly opposed to it. Moreover, increasing economic inequality has made it proportionately more difficult for small businesses to find startup costs and rent vacant spaces, which could create a ripple effect in our economy. But even with recent improvements, there are simply far too many vacancies, especially in our downtown, and I believe we must work to correct that.
In following the lead of comparable policies in other municipalities, I’ll advocate reducing the vacancy allowance by a significant percentage in each successive year it is claimed unless landlords make significant capital investments in their facilities. This means that landlords will no longer be able to “sit on” unimproved properties indefinitely, incentivizing them to rent out the properties at favourable rates. Keeping the tax break will thus mean either assisting local entrepreneurs or making our city more beautiful and functional—and if some folks are unwilling to help us do either, we’ll all benefit financially from their apathy.
Carefully examine all options for Mile One Centre’s future to ensure it remains a vibrant cultural hub.
Mile One Centre is a beautiful performance venue and sport facility, but it’s meant to be more than that. A venue like this should be a thriving cultural hub for our city, and it’s often sold to us as a driver of economic growth, especially in our downtown. However, I’ve seen quite a bit of research on that latter topic that troubles me. Stadia simply don’t always provide the regional economic or cultural benefit that their champions imply, if our own arena isn’t having an impact on the level it’s meant to, I would be hesitant to throw more public money at it.
In the last year, we’ve heard a lot of arguments about “selling Mile One”, as though that one process were a golden ticket to fiscal success for our City. While I’m cautious about treating that idea like a surefire deal for taxpayers, I’m also open to it, if ongoing consultations demonstrate that selling the facility would help it become the vibrant cultural space that it ought to be. Put simply, I want to see as many citizens making use of the facility as possible, and will explore every avenue that I can to ensure that happens.
Streamline and enhance the municipal grant application process for artists and musicians, and increase, or at a bare minimum protect, funding for these grants. Give particular weight to applications from especially vulnerable sectors, including, but not limited to, BIPOC, trans, nonbinary, and queer people.
We all know our culture industry is a huge part of what makes our city special, but it’s also one of the first places overzealous cost-cutting measures often look to create “savings”. In my view, slashing assistance to artists is always a false economy—and that’s especially true in the COVID-19 meta, where artists and musicians are having their livelihoods threatened even more than most. I will never support cuts to capital grants for artists of any kind, and will consistently press for increases to the number and size of awards granted. Moreover, I will work with City staff to enhance guidelines for municipal grant applications, and improve communication with local artists to ensure they understand why their applications were accepted or denied. Finally, I will advocate for improved levels of funding especially for our most vulnerable community members, as it is they who often suffer the most at the hands of the market, and who may most need our City’s help in funding their important work.
Advocate at the provincial level for safer use sites.
Harm-reduction approaches to drug use are well-supported as matters of evidence-based policy, and I’m an advocate for them. Safer use sites reduce strain on our health care facilities, keep paraphernalia off our streets, and reduce the negative economic impact of drug use for us all. While the creation of safe drug use sites falls under provincial jurisdiction, not municipal, I’m pledging to form solid relationships with St. John’s MHAs to advocate for their deployment.
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