mayoral debate

Voters hear mayoral candidates talk about the issues

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Amherstburg’s two mayoral candidates went toe-to-toe in last weeks’ “Meet the Candidates” night at Western Secondary School.

Incumbent Aldo DiCarlo and challenger Glenn Swinton traded viewpoints in the second of two “Meet the Candidates” nights, presented by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC). It was moderated by Patty Handysides of AM800.

The discussion was scheduled to start at 7:45 p.m. that evening, following the deputy mayor debates, but DiCarlo was late entering the auditorium due to an apparent illness. When things finally got underway, DiCarlo said he was “very proud of what we accomplished” in the last four years, stating they worked with everyone for the good of the town.

The town’s financial position has greatly improved, he said, noting four years ago “people wanted the town turned around and turned around for the better.” He said the town got its “house in order” and completed all of the recommendations from the Deloitte report in less than 18 months.” Reserves have grown from $2.2 million to $15.8 million, he said.

The debt has also decreased from $44 million to $36 million, DiCarlo stated.

Swinton vowed to review and release all documents pertaining to the policing issue. One item he pointed out was that the town will still have to pay for costs to run the existing Amherstburg police station.

There will also be a review of the role of upper management with the town and the flow of information to council and the public.

“Currently it appears that the tail is wagging the dog and that’s not acceptable,” he said.

Staffing and salary levels will also be looked at as well as the Belle Vue property, the latter of which should have no tax dollars going to it. Swinton said he wants more public input into the Duffy’s site as well.

Swinton also believed in holding off on development charges for builders, the possible formation of a BIA and to better include areas such as Anderdon, Malden, River Canard and McGregor. Bringing on an economic development officer to go after business was also suggested.

Swinton said the town would be “open and honest like you’ve never seen before” if he were elected.

The first question pertained to the policing contract and DiCarlo stated he supported the switch and that if he were re-elected, he would want to ensure that everything that was told to the community at the public meetings came to fruition.

Swinton contended that promises are not being kept, stating he learned the deputy chief is not being retained. He said he wants to bring things out into the open.

“It’s your tax dollars. Why is it so secret?” he asked.

DiCarlo said once the contract is completed, the hope is to bring it out publicly and “instill confidence that we will get what we said we’d get out of the deal.”

Aldo DiCarlo and Glenn Swinton went back-and-forth discussing issues at the second of two “Meet the Candidates” Nights that were presented by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce last week.

On the issue of transparency and accountability, Swinton believed the same issues are around as when he first ran eight years ago. He said unless there is a legal requirement, council should not go in-camera.

If people take time to come to a meeting, they should be able to watch and hear what is going on, Swinton said.

DiCarlo said accountability is justifying the reasons behind a decision while transparency is acting with no hidden agendas.

“I believe I have acted in good faith this entire term of council,” said DiCarlo.

DiCarlo added that if the public hears something they should not legally be hearing, it could come back to cost taxpayers money.

Swinton indicated there are Ombudsman reports which show violations and that people still aren’t being told everything they need to be told regarding the policing issue, and re-iterated the news about the deputy chief.

On the matter of town purchases, DiCarlo said he supported Belle Vue and suggested it ties into plans for a hotel. There is a need for more year-round activities, he said, and that there is a plan to use Belle Vue as a conference centre. It is an 8.3-acre property next to a creek, he added.

“It is not the HMS Detroit all over again, as some would say,” said DiCarlo.

Swinton called Belle Vue “a horrible investment” and that it is limited as to what could be done there. Tax dollars being collected by the former owner were traded for “a liability,” he stated.

“No one was purchasing the property for a reason. It’s worth nothing,” said Swinton.

Duffy’s is also “a liability,” he believed, and now the town has to figure out what to do with it. The seniors hub at the former St. Bernard School is “going to cost your tax dollars to make it happen.”

Meanwhile, Swinton said levies were increased to 2.75 per cent.

“I don’t know what you want to do with the property but we’re going to have to figure it out because you own it now,” said Swinton.

Closing streets in the downtown core on a regular basis would limit access to local businesses, Swinton said in response to the next question, but DiCarlo said “a big rubber duck brought 80,000 people to the Town of Amherstburg when we closed the streets.” He added the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival drew 35,000 people and added he supported more closures.

Swinton responded that “a half-inflated rubber duck did bring substantial crowds, I’m not sure why” and that he was not in favour of shutting down access as he wants to treat all businesses equally.

DiCarlo said he supported the re-branding efforts and said that more feedback is still being gathered. He disagreed with the suggestion that high school students could do the work.

“If we are going to compete on a provincial and national level, we have to do so in a professional manner,” he said.

“Before we can brand the town, it has to have a product,” said Swinton. “If there is nothing to put the brand on, you are wasting money. We need something to put the brand on.”

Swinton added: “You can say Coca Cola, but if there isn’t anything in the can, there’s nothing.”

DiCarlo stated it is more than just a logo, but a new website and a greater focus on tourism. He said the town has “a considerable amount to offer” and that a way has to be figured out to use the brand to attract more people to town.

On the issue of a retail outlet for cannabis, Swinton was supportive stating it will be a legal product.

“It is another business, another product. I say bring it in. It’s a legal product,” he said.

DiCarlo did not answer, instead asking for another break and again stepping out due to illness.

In closing arguments, Swinton urged people to get out and vote as it is up to the voters to decide who they want on council to get the results they are looking for. DiCarlo continued with his opening remarks, adding that while more work is needed on roads, the town has invested millions this term on them. He touted the “Talk the Burg” online engagement platform and the new Community Strategic Plan.

Development, including a new high school, is rising and DiCarlo added that an announcement on a hotel could come soon.
“I expect to announce a location in the very near future. It will likely be sooner than you think,” he said. “Stay tuned.”

DiCarlo also spoke about engaging seniors and youth as well as the ongoing fibre optic internet project being done by Bell.