Capital Ward Debate Re-cap

So tomorrow is the local Capital Ward debate. In preparation for that, I thought I’d do a write up of the Rogers debate. I watched it the other day, but let’s go through it, again. Rather than do a running commentary, I’ll just do a re-cap of each segment of the debate.

Time to fire up the Sutcliffe Machine!

Opening Statement

Christine McAllister: McAllister starts off with a personal statement about her and her background (she grew up in affordable housing) and moves on to her volunteer work and local successes. She also speaks to bringing a different perspective to city council as a woman.

She was confident, but reserved. I’d like to see her rev things up a bit.

Shawn Menard: Menard opens up with the way City Hall works and how it works for developers–how it’s lost his way. He speaks to the work his campaign has done so far (like the OOE tree), and his knowledge of how city governance works (his experience with FCM, etc.). He wants services to be more equitable so that all residents of all means are receiving what they need from the city. He declares that his will be the most progressive campaign.

He was more animated than McAllister and spoke faster (hence the more content). He needs to be sure not to lose his train of thought as he’s chugging along.

Anthony Carricato: Carricato wants better representation at City Hall–smart development, sustainability. He touts his experience and education. He wants change. He wants a councillor that can collaborate with other councillors and get things done (Chernushenko can maybe do the first part).

He was stiff, relying a lot on reading his statement. It lays out the groundwork for a good platform, but we’ll have to wait and see where that goes.

David Chernushenko: He talks about listening and collaborating and building bridges…leading us to the most awkward and ham-fisted segue of the campaign, building bridges! He says that if we want a competent councillor, “he offers us the Flora Footbridge”. My God, he wants us to vote for a bridge! Okay, just kidding, but he did not execute that rhetorical flourish well, at all. He says it’ll be completed five years ahead of schedule! Of course, if you went to the groundbreaking, you’d’ve heard all the politicians chuckling about how this bridge has been planned for one hundred years. So, yeah, only partial credit on that.

He goes back to that bridge-building metaphor. Oof.

Now he’s saying that’s how he works, and that’s how got stuff done on, for instance, the O’Connor bike lane–he helped kill the O’Connor bike lane in Capital Ward. How is that a feather in his cap!?

And we end with that bridge-builder line.

Jide Afolabi: This election is about the future of our city (why yes, it is). We need innovation for livability, sustainability and economic good stuff (sorry, I’m a little slow). He warns against stagnation and promotes bold ideas, like green roofs and tree corps (cool). also something about developments…but Sutcliffe cuts him off as his time is up.

First Question: Is the city becoming too responsive to developers and not enough to residents?

There’s obviously a lot of agreement here, because, duh. McAllister came out of the gate with an interesting tack–talking up the need to rely on community expertise. This should probably play well to the residents in the ward who fancy themselves some sort of amateur urban planner.

At first, this wasn’t much of a debate, as each candidate took their turn to speak. Menard came out pretty hard against the development-centric nature of City Hall. He supports intensification but wants to see zoning regs respected. Afolabi contributed an interesting idea–a counter-variance petition. If 150 residents sign a petition against a proposed variance, it gets quashed. That’s it. No vote, no nothing.

At first, I thought this was a not-so-great idea…but I’m starting to re-consider. 150 is a really low number, so that wouldn’t fly, but I find the proposal interesting, and want to chew it over a bit more.

Carricato, aside from agreeing with the previous speakers distinguished himself by being the only one to speak up for the poor developers. He wants certainty in planning not just for residents, but also so developers don’t have to go back to council three times making minor changes.

My heart bleeds.

Chernushenko says that city council has been dominated by developer interests for decades (convenient that it didn’t start eight years ago). He goes through a list of accomplishments to beef up regulations and give some teeth to planning.

Okay, it all sounds great, but what I don’t get is why we’re still having the same problems if he’s had all this success at City Hall.

Menard takes him to task on this, saying he’s too middle of the road, like his support for Fifth + Bank. Chernushenko’s retort is that he voted for the new CDP and this is what the community association wanted (this does not jibe with his statements after the vote, and wo what about the CDP? First, it’s not a CDP; it’s a CDP-light, and anyway, if the city ignores all the zoning rules, who cares about a CDP?).

McAllister closes, subtly pushing back that it’s not what the community association wanted (and she would know), and that the CA has worked really hard to get minor improvements. I believe the implication is that they haven’t had a champion at city council.

Afolabi and Menard came off best here. McAllister was close behind. Carricato was kind of forgettable, and Chernushenko was defensive and maybe a little cynical (even though he decried cynicism).

Second Question: Should we freeze transit fares?

This was Menard’s round. It’s clear that he lives and breathes city governance, that he’s just drawn to it and has a deep understanding of it. He begins by talking about the need to bring fares down, not just the freeze them. His campaign has proposed a free zone for Bank Street. And he scores some really big points by speaking up for transit as a means to fight climate change when Chernushenko failed to, and speaking about how transit is a gender issue, after McAllister failed to (I’m not saying that because she’s a woman, but because she spoke to gender perspective in her opening statement). He had other sound points about transit’s economic benefits and about the need to spend less on new roads and more on transit.

Chernushenko spoke to the problem with taking transit downtown, and how with cheap or free parking, it’s a no-brainer. He tried to change that this past term, but couldn’t get the votes (I thought he was a bridge-builder?). He also spoke about improved service on Bank Street on the weekends (which is great, if they’re not stuck in traffic) (oh yeah, service suuuuuucks in the evenings, still).

McAllister was good on this. She wants better service and lower fares, but she didn’t really flesh much out.

Carricato spoke more about service, saying he’s not hearing people talk about fares (Chernushenko immediately countered that people are telling him that fares are an issue). Carricato then goes on to talk about the issues with Para-Transpo (damn good point!), and how we shouldn’t fix other issues before Para-Transpo (uh, we can’t do both). He did not say how he’d pay for fixing Para-Transpo…this issue will re-surface.

Afolabi thinks we should tax tourists to pay for transit. I’m not making that up.

Menard clearly took this question, on substance, on thoughtfulness and on the debate (he hit Chernushenko hard on his votes in favour of raising fares).

Chernushenko had both highs and lows. It’s really hard for a councillor to run on his record on an issue when the city is terrible on the issue (and his votes aren’t great).

McAllister and Carricato weren’t really memorable, but Afolabi was with his soak-the-tourists gambit.

Third Question: Where would you set property tax increase in the next four years, and what would you do on mounting pressure on services and infrastructures?

This is where Carricato defines himself as different than the others. He wants to freeze property taxes (even though that makes no sense). So I don’t really know how Carricato wants to pay for things like improved Para-Transpo service.

McAllister took a different angle, talking about looking at what we want to achieve (eg affordable housing and the environment), we have to figure out what this will cost and then figure out how we want to invest our money and how we do that best.

(At one point she was speaking about trees…possibly slightly off topic, but there was a train of thought and trees do count as infrastructure, so, fair game. Carricato kind of made a snide remark about what does that have to do with taxes or something–it was hard to hear him. The accompanying snicker was not endearing. Nor is it endearing when a question about taxes, and services and infrastructure is boiled down to just being about taxes.)

Afolabi wants to tax tourists, a little bit. I’m sensing a trend.

Menard calls out the 2% target as arbitrary and unsustainable. Yes! Apparently, our inflation rate in June was 2.5%. He also talks about the cost of sprawl, and we need intensification…and we need to make sure that we get infrastructure and services in Capital Ward.

OH YEAH STEPS FROM THE CANAL SHOUTOUT BY MENARD.

Chernushenko hears from people that they’d be willing to pay more for taxes for better services, but then others say they’re taxed too much, so we have to tread carefully. He’s agreed to the target of 2%, but he doesn’t want to be tied to it.

See, this is just like Fifth + Bank. He’s playing both sides. He agrees to 2%, but he won’t be tied to it. We might need to spend more for services, but maybe we shouldn’t. Like, what the hell, man, take a stance.

He’s spoken up for more parks planners. He’s proposed tax cuts. He’s looked for new sources of revenue. He’s all over the place. He’s really, desperately trying to please everyone. And despite looking for more revenue sources (like congestion pricing), “the objective isn’t really to raise more money from people…”.

Looking for more revenue sources isn’t really about raising more revenue. What. The. Hell.

Menard hits him hard about infrastructure, poverty, pot holes, infrastructure, and his allegiance to 2%.

Menard also wants a mansion tax, but Jide points out that there are very few houses at $3M in Ottawa. I don’t know. Jide might be right.

Carricato gets to close off, attacks Shawn for wanting to raise taxes and stating he wants to cut taxes. He plays The Seniors card, saying they can’t afford to stay in their homes with increased taxes. Personally, I’d like to see the data on that. But, whatever, how about tax deferrals? They can pay them when they leave the house.

Also, it’s hard to take Carricato seriously as the champion of Heron Park and the champion of poor Glebe homeowners. Noticeably, he spoke about all the areas in the ward, “the Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Old Ottawa East, etc.” I bet Heron Park is glad to be an etc.

This was mainly a battle between Menard and Chernushenko, but not really much of one. Chernushenko spoke a lot saying little, and it was not clear what he believed in or what his vision was.

McAllister has a fine perspective on taxation and services, but didn’t speak much.

Menard took this…unless you want some crazy tax-cutting, budget-destroying populism from Carricato.

Fourth Question: How do we address income disparity?

Chernushenko goes through a list of things we could and should be doing. He says that affordable housing is right up at the top of his platform…but Carricato quickly shoots back that it was at the top of his

This seems more personal for Menard, as he mentions he was raised by a single mom. He walks through the failings of the city, his talks with local organizations, and starts putting forth where we need affordable housing and how we need to put more city money to the issue. He’s got the numbers and the facts on this, mentions the solutions from Medicine Hat and talks about how addressing these issues is a positive, economically, for the city. He goes from passion to wonk and back to passion. It’s good he’s not just a wonk.

Full disclosure: I’ve known Jide Afolabi for the last ten or fifteen years…but even then, I didn’t know his whole backstory. He speaks of living in social housing, relying on foodbanks and needing social services. I don’t know this about him. I know he has an interesting story, and I’d really like to hear him talk about this more.

His proposals are not as strong as others, but his passion for this, his vision and his experience it a worthwhile addition to the debate.

McAllister has a solid line, “Talent is ubiquitous but opportunity is not.” She speaks about the women’s bureau and how this could be expanded for all disadvantaged people. She, too, talks about her background and growing up in social housing. She spoke earnestly and eloquently about this. I’ve said she doesn’t quite have the passion when she speak, and I would like to see more, but here, her subtle emotional pitch was strong.

Chernushenko closed us out saying housing is the top priority and then talking about money. It’s an important aspect, but it really lacks the punch of the other statements. It really comes off a little defeatist (even though he was somewhat fired up).

The Menard, Afolabi and McAllister parts of this topic were some of the best parts of this debate. You could tell they cared and they wanted something better for the city and its residents. McAllister and Menard are stronger on policy, but Afolabi clearly has something to contribute here.

This question goes to McAllister and Menard.

Fifth Question: Would you support a private cannabis store in Capital Ward?

Okay, generally everybody is in agreement. Pot shops are coming. We don’t want them all clustering together. We need proper zoning.

Afolabi came off as looking for the economic benefits and wants proper zoning. McAllister sees the need for consultation; Chernushenko agrees on consultation and he claims that nowhere else in the world has seen this sort of situation (wut?) then said we can learn from other jurisdictions (uh). Carricato wants us to be ready and that we have the proper zoning. Menard says we need to make sure that people have regulated access, also talks about being a school board trustee so they can’t be right beside schools (then talks up FCM’s position–and gets fired up on this part).

After some more chatter, Chernushenko turns to the need to regulate smoking (like, say, in apartment buildings). This is something that does need to be addressed.

Afolabi closes by talking about costs associated with legal weed. I guess that won’t come from the economic boon of pot shops.

So, they all kinda said the same thing. I think McAllister came off the weakest, because she didn’t really say anything other than the need for consultation.

Chernushenko comes out ahead by bringing up other related issues, and Menard is right there with him with his knowledge on what city’s will need to do.

(It’s probably not a surprise that Chernushenko does best on an issue that is upcoming, rather than one we’ve been dealing with for at least four years.)

Sixth Question: Photo Radar!

Okay, everyone pretty much agrees on photo radar (“violently agrees,” Menard, accurately, said). Each tries to distance themselves. Afolabi talks a bit in a circle about how different things work in different contexts, but settles on the need for better street design.

Chernushenko talks passionately about this issue, which is nice to see (I’d like to see that at council). He then says that he had Bank Street from the Glebe to Hopewell declared a school zone…really? In all the debates around photo radar, the city explicitly stated that arterials could not be considered school zones, so I don’t know when this happened. (Also, weird that the bridge would be called a school zone, but, hey, if it finally improves things at all, I’ll take it).

Carricato goes after Bronson Avenue (though he calls it Bronson Street). It’s a good point. Bronson fucking sucks, and basically nothing is being done to fix it.

McAllister has a strong argument about all the work the Glebe CA has done…granted, it was basically a neighbourhood survey, but the neighbourhood really really wants safe streets, so this is useful (if city council cares and it’s not clear they do).

Menard is the first one hit back. He wants to know Chernushenko has done, saying that all the talk is great, but the results aren’t there. (This is a theme of the debate and the last four years, Chernushenko’s rhetoric never matches his record.) He says he sees Chernushenko voting more with the mayor than “the progressive wing of council” (bee-tee-dub, I’m pretty sure Tobi Nussbaum’s actually a Liberal).

Chernushenko does not like that, saying it’s preposterous. Now, I was surprised, but I don’t have numbers. However, saying it’s preposterous is, in fact, preposterous. There’s a lot of cohesion on council, and little (but some) dissent. Yeah, I could see Chernushenko voting with the mayor a lot.

(Menard also hits him saying that he’s not a coalition-builder…damn, that was the time to pull out the “bridge-builder” attack!)

Chernushenko’s response is basically that he’s spoken at events and helped plan a lot of speaking events. Also, he funded a study.

Menard says he can blame council, but we’re not seeing results…”that’s why you have four credible challengers…”.

McAllister closes with good ideas for some improvements, including a bike corridor on Bank Street. YES!

McAllister is good, but she’s really not hitting back enough. She’s kind of sitting back in this whole debate. Look, this isn’t just a critique of debating skill, this is a question of leadership and assertiveness, two things that are important for a councillor.

This one goes to Menard, but it’s basically a dead heat with all the challengers, McAllister, Carricato and Afolabi. Chernushenko spoke well to this, but as everyone pointed out all the crap infrastructure in the ward, the incumbent just can’t come out of it looking strong.

Closing Statements

Afolabi: He speaks about his future vision of Ottawa–green roofs, Ottawa tree corps, counter-variance petitions, and traffic calming and road sharing. We can believe in and we can live in.

Chernushenko: Last year, he spoke about renewables. He said no one covered it because everyone thought he’d win. Now, he wants to talk about climate breakdown. This is his focus (even if affordable housing is at the top of his platform?). I don’t know why he didn’t speak more to this during the debate, if it’s so important.

Carricato: He recognizes Chernushenko’s work, but it’s time for change. He works for the speaker. What we need is a councillor to reach across to the suburbs and rural areas. We need to move forward and bring our community to the next level so we can always see it thrive (and always twirling, twirling…).

Menard: Thanks everyone. He talks about needing new ideas and backing it up with action–strong voice on affordable housing, biking, walking, poverty…sorry, I lost that. He’s worked on city hall initiatives and also brought the U-Pass to Carleton.

McAllister: Excited there’s a choice of credible candidates. She talks about the important issues and that it’s up to us to decide who to use. She talks up her work on the CA–improving developments, greenspace, parks. She’d work, listen collaborate and work for the community (sorry, again, kind of got away from me).

Conclusion

The first time I watched this debate, I thought it seemed pretty close. I noticed everybody’s foibles, their nerves and their stumbles. I felt it had been a pretty close contest, and that every candidate had done well to define themself. I thought the “winners” were fairly clear, but that there wasn’t tons of separation.

Upon second viewing, I still think that the candidates told us who they were. I also think there “winners” were clear, but what has changed is just how much separation there is between the candidates.

It is absolutely, 100% clear that Shawn Menard won that debate. You can see that he has the knowledge and experience to be a city councillor. More than that, you can see that he is passionate about city-building. He eats this stuff up. He’s not merely an activist, he seeks out information, he learns and he searches for solutions. He has the perspective that we need at city council and he has a vision for what the ward and the city should be…and that vision is something we should all embrace.

Christine McAllister had a fine showing. In many different races, she would be the definite front-runner. She has proven that she has the dedication and the work-ethic. She doesn’t have the extensive handle on the issues, and kind of dodged a question or two, but she cares and she’s competent, and that combination is sorely lacking around the council table. Her drawback–in the debate and the campaign–seems to be that she doesn’t have the robust knowledge of all issues, and I think that explains why she wasn’t really leading any of the discussions (except maybe the equality one). Again, she’d be better than about 75% of current councillors, including the Capital Ward incumbent.

Jide Afolabi was the biggest surprise. I’ll admit. I’ve kind of been discounting him. I haven’t warmed to all his “bold” ideas, and his claims of supporting Complete Streets does not match up with some of his specific proposals, but, still, he came off well. He came off fairly knowledgeable, and, yes, he’s willing to look to bold ideas, and I do kind of like that.

Anthony Carricato is the disappointing candidate in the field. I met with every challenger at the beginning of the campaign (or even before), and he seemed quite promising. But this pandering to low-tax voters, and yet still promising better services just doesn’t work.

Look, I just wrote about how Capital Ward needs a change (and that took into account the debate performance), so you probably know what to expect. I don’t think Chernushenko could properly defend his record. I don’t think he properly laid out a vision for what he wants to achieve (which is a big critique I had of him going into the debate)–I mean, that renewables policy came out of nowhere at the end of the debate, but apparently it’s really important. Further, he kept straddling the fence, trying to be a little bit of something to everyone. Worse, he explicitly misrepresented his record. I don’t know how we can possibly have any faith in him, anymore.

So, yeah, coming out of this, to me it’s a race between Menard and McAllister. They’re the two candidates I’d be happy to see win. Afolabi had a good showing, but I just don’t think I can hop aboard the Bold train.

Tomorrow night is the all candidates debate hosted by the Glebe Community Association. For me, this is pretty much the last chance for candidates to make their case. I’ve seen a lot and I know a lot about them. I’m pretty comfortable in my current assessments, so I doubt much will change. Unless something absolutely crazy happens, tomorrow night I’ll likely be writing up an endorsement for either Shawn Menard of Christine McAllister.

STAY TUNED!

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2 thoughts on “Capital Ward Debate Re-cap

  1. I watched that debate with my wife. We both gave Menard a win. Afolabe and McAllister were decent, but neither has the full set of tools, and in some cases may use the wrong tools! Cariricato came off as Watson-light, always pursuing the tax carrot. If I didn’t know better, I would have assumed this was Chernushenko’s first time in the race, but then knowing he’s had 8 years to do what he says he’s “going to” do, but has never done, that should be ample reason to oust him. He’s also claimed many projects as his but they were already in play before he took office or largely the work of others, incl. federal and provincial reps. He’s got little, or nothing, to show for his 8 years representing Capital ward. #my2cents

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