CANDIDATE Q&A – Lena Lazanja

 

The town is going through a re-branding process. How would you define what Amherstburg is and how it should be promoted?

With beautiful waterfront, rural landscapes, top-notch sporting facilities and events, as well as a seasonally bustling downtown core, we have become a top destination for many; tourists, sports enthusiasts and history buffs, as well as becoming a welcoming and safe destination for young families and retirees to call home. Unfortunately, I believe that Amherstburg has focused much of its energy on promoting a quiet, slow-paced, “sleepy-hollow” image. This image, though not necessarily negative, has created a type of promotional stagnancy for our future development. We are more than our Fort, heritage buildings, waterfront parks and recreation facilities. Amherstburg is a hidden diversity gem: a vibrant, socially and culturally-diverse, caring community, made up of rural and urban landscapes that are unmatched. In order to move Amherstburg forward, we must encourage promotional directives and outreach plans to create a sustainable environment that does not only cater to retirees and tourists, but also welcomes young families to live, work, play, and stay.

 

 

Lena Lazanja seeking a position as a councillor in the Oct. 22 municipal election.

 

Taxes and spending will always be election issues. What is the best way to spend money on roads and infrastructure while, at the same time, keeping taxes at a reasonable level?

In order to provide some form of relief to the residential tax payer, while maintaining our current infrastructure needs, there must be other sources of revenue generation to meet future demands. Simply put, Amherstburg cannot sustain itself without future plans for industry growth and commercial investment. Without such investment, there is no tax base growth. Without business development, there are no jobs, no reason for young people to stay, and there will be insufficient revenue generation for growing infrastructure needs and capital projects, which will inevitably threaten the sustainability of our town.

There is a distinct need for responsible planning and spending. All municipalities incur necessary expenses (e.g.: road and facility improvements). However, council/administration must create sound plans in advance of purchases and tenders, develop reasonable and balanced budgets, and continually follow-up and re-evaluate our current expenditures. It is our paramount responsibility to the tax payer, whose money we essentially hold in trust, to make honest, well-defined, productive, and intelligent decisions, with regard to future spending.

 

 

 

 

“Transparency” and “accountability” are words often heard during election campaigns. What specific measures would you undertake to ensure town council lives up to those words?

On town council, we are entrusted with the voices of the residents. As such, I am responsible for ensuring that their concerns are not dismissed, questions are answered factually and promptly, and that I follow-up with resident concerns and issues. In my personal life, workplace, and as a councillor candidate, I have always been honest, objective, considerate of others, responsible for my decisions (and the outcomes), and open to all points of view. Transparency on the part of town council requires maturity, directness, freedom from manipulation, dismissal of rumour, and the purging of misinformation. True accountability dictates that strength, courage, and professionalism are critical, especially when taking ownership and responsibility for ones behaviour or misinformed choices. My personal ethics and the value I place on honesty require me to only support and share factual information, resist biases, research reports, analyze outcomes, and encourage my colleagues to do the same. I will not lessen the voices and concerns of my constituents, simply because they do not mesh with the status quo. 

 

 

 

 

How would you encourage economic development for the Town of Amherstburg over the next four years (and beyond)?

Though the sustainability of our established businesses is imperative, we need to think bigger and long-term, if we are to become a sustainable economic centerpiece in this region. We need to re-focus our energies on; the planning/recruitment process (resurrecting our Economic Development Committee would be a good start), promotion/marketing (underway with our re-branding initiative), and providing assistance/incentives with entrepreneurial mentoring (Chamber or BIA working together with Council/Town administration), as critical aspects for new business initiatives and industry/commercial expansion. Hand in hand with such a strategy, would be a re-evaluation of basic communication and transportation infrastructure, which are essential to economic growth and commercial expansion.

Concentrating future economic development/planning efforts based solely on tourism and franchise designations is limiting and does not allow for diverse industrial interests, entrepreneurial engagement, and trade initiatives to find room at the table. The difficulty in advancing the public interest is to find a balance that scaffolds economic transactions while not over regulating, and provides support and incentives without discouraging initiative.

 

 

 

 

The policing issue is still top-of-mind for some of the electorate. Is providing services on a regional level a good way to save money, a detriment to the town and its identity or would you view it on a case-by-case basis?

This issue is one that has, unfortunately, divided our town. Much of the commentary circulating amongst our residents for the past year (and beyond) has been negative and contentious. I would gladly pay more for any service that is of highest calibre, policing and emergency response, especially. My concerns with the procedure and lack of transparency, with which this contract is being negotiated and finalized, have compounded my scepticism. It is reported that much of our current service is to remain the same, with the only difference being that of new management. Having yet to witness this new management team’s techniques, make it deceitful and irresponsible of me to decide that it must inevitably be worse. If our same high quality service remains paramount, then I am even for a cost savings. I am not resistant to change, and although it is easy to be fearful of the unknown, I am willing to watch, very carefully, in order to determine whether more years should be committed.

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