The Newspaper today did not appear to describe the same forum I attended last night. They gave Randy Hope 9 cherry-picked paragraphs of rhetoric dedicated to his responses, making it appear nobody else answered the question.
The same article gave my responses only 3 lines, likely buried somewhere on the inside pages. Several people commented to me afterward that I was the only candidate giving answers, which I also heard in Tilbury, Ridgetown and Chatham.
Once again, the media seems to have picked its horse, and has also begun using “hope” in headlines a statistically improbable number of times, despite the editor’s promise of “fair” coverage.
This was my comment posted on today’s article:
Interesting article. It gives the most ink to Randy Hope, including a low blow parting shot from Hope to myself. (Where was my closing speech?) What Randy Hope did not say is that more parts of my “losing” platform have been validated and implemented on his watch than his own and thank goodness we had them or almost nothing would have been done. Hope doesn’t say that after being mayor 4 years, he has never brought a single successful motion, does not have any platform, and he’s been reading from his 2006 campaign flyer basically admitting it never got done.
The article does not mention my 33-page Plan for Prosperity at all, which I featured prominently in my answers. It’s the most comprehensive job attraction platform ever presented in a Chatham-Kent election, but a candidate putting in all that extra effort is not news I guess. This document is packed with answers, and is way more than the comments stating the obvious “we need more jobs” that everyone else offered.
I named specific initiatives that Chatham-Kent now has plans to pursue after I introduced them during this campaign, such as using MaRS to match start-up capital to innovative entrepreneurs, attending strategic trade shows in emerging new sectors, and assisting our youth to return to Chatham-Kent to start businesses. I am already at work trying to attract jobs!
I also explained to the forum how we could target attraction efforts to businesses from Toronto that do not depend on their geographic location. From the article you’d think Hope was the only one to answer.
“While most of the candidates proposed lobbying for the expansion of Chatham-Kent’s post-secondary institutions Hope said…” That is not true at all. I said that if elected I would immediately form a panel of educational experts to explore ways to attract and expand post-secondary education programs in Chatham-Kent, including academic and medical curriculum. Why did they single out the mayor’s answer and make it look as if I were one of the crowd? I’m the only one who offered a plan for education backed with an implementation promise.
Reading the media coverage of this election has made me wonder if they are writing about the same events I attended. In some cases they are taking “fair and balanced” to such extremes that you don’t get any flavour at all, but in my opinion this one clearly favours the incumbent. This just shows the need to do your own research, check all our campaign websites, filter rhetoric, and make an informed decision. Please remember to vote.
To expand on what transpired:
In opening remarks, I took a friendly swipe at Tom McGregor, reminding people that I’ve been very involved in the Wallaceburg community with my family over the years, in case Tom thought he had hometown advantage.
We started by answering printed questions that not everyone had. I offered Al Traylor mine, and told him not to copy the answers I had written down. Tom McGregor did the same for Ian McLarty, who promised not to peek. It was a light moment with laughter from the crowd and candidates.
The next question asked for our vision of the Economic Development department. I stated that our communities became successful due to hard work and promotion by our own people, not high-salaried staff who shun public assistance and want to do everything themselves. My 2003 platform proposed business attraction and retention committees in every community based on the Wallaceburg.ca model, which was in fact subsequently implemented successfully as the Wallaceburg Community Task Force. I wanted those in every community with proper support.
We answered a question about rail access to Wallaceburg. I know that rail is needed for the industrial park, and to attract new business or else Wallaceburg is in trouble. I favoured retaining the C&O Railway but needed to see a good viable business plan first. Ian McLarty said it was not even on his radar and had no intention of making it a priority.
On high unemployment, I countered Ian McLarty by reminding people that I could multitask and delegate so that I could handle more than one priority at a time. Tom McGregor had stated some jobs have “negative” impacts for the community. I suggested that none of the 8,000 people looking for a job would view one as negative. I proceeded to outline my plan, and indicated some is being implemented already after I brought it up. I noticed that Randy Hope’s answer was awfully similar to my 2003 mayoral platform.
The media did not report that Hope’s entire solution to youth attraction was to put kids back on the farms. My answer stated that I was one of the youth who left Chatham, so have some insight. I returned to start a business, so we need to be more welcoming and supportive to young entrepreneurs. I also mentioned plans to set up a post-secondary education panel.
When asked about high taxes, I indicated 3 ways in 60 seconds where we could cut expenses significantly. The media latched on to my call for Sunshine Club salaries to be frozen, but missed the savings I proposed by replacing consultants with citizens’ committees and brainstorming sessions. They ignored my comments calling for government to migrate to free Open Source Software which has saved $60 billion industry-wide. Vancouver is already doing this.
Randy Hope answered that we need more taxpayers, and proceeded to repeat my “Four-Point Plan” from my previous election campaign that the mayor slammed in his closing remarks. My Four-Point Plan has evolved into my Plan For Prosperity, which explains how to get more taxpayers.
The article headline mentions the Con-Ex Centre, but only quotes two candidates. I said the question was loaded, (since it was obviously submitted by a McLarty supporter who claimed it was direct competition to existing businesses including the Oak’s Inn). I responded that I do not favour municipal initiatives that compete with the private sector, but that the Con-Ex is designed to attract those events that can’t come to Chatham-Kent now because there’s no appropriate venue. I reminded people that the question arose because we were forgetting to think big enough. Hope later used this line in his answer.
On municipal wage increases, I suggested a Sunshine Club wage freeze until we have satisfactory performance because that club does not let its members leave easily. The media truncated my response for sensationalism.
Mary Lee held up a copy of the Sunshine Club list that only discloses salaries of those making over $100,000, and told the crowd that, “Not one single municipal employee is making under $100,000! This is the list of all municipal employees, and they all get more than $100,000.” That wasn’t correct at all.
Rex Crawford asked a question about municipal debt. Some candidates pointed out that many misleading debt figures were being circulated, and two candidates were quoting those false debt figures. I explained how the debt was comprised, and what it got us. I mistakenly said only $37 million of the debt was financed by taxpayers. In fact, it’s actually $32 million, all according to the official Audited Financial Statements. I promised to be a good guardian of that debt and never be complacent even though most of it was prudent and necessary. Randy Hope responded that it created Return On Investment, a term I taught him during earlier debates.
Bill Arends asked about community meetings. I explained how to do it to break down barriers and open lines of communication. My plan involved brainstorming sessions and community committees to give control back to our people and communities, and keep them engaged and valued. Hope admitted this hasn’t been done and said we need to derive more input from the community (which validates my plan). Tom McGregor said these meeting were not necessary as he preferred to meet with people informally at their workplaces and sporting events.
Not being a “debate” I didn’t get a chance to counter that politicians need to be more accessible, and you won’t get much brainstorming from the places Mr. McGregor proposed.
On the topic of OPP costing, I said that I studied the Sarnia proposal intently, and favour a costing for Chatham-Kent because it would serve as a valuable benchmark. My belief is that our own Police Services will sharpen their pencils, and it’s only fair to taxpayers to make sure we’re getting value for our money.
Randy Hope and I agree 100% on this issue apparently. He also mentioned the need for an apples-to-apples comparison and to factor in the value of retaining local control. It’s just a costing and nothing more. Tom McGregor does not agree with having a costing done, and cited some of the same reasons we did to justify one.
My closing remarks went something like this, but did not get quoted:
There is no margin of error in choosing your next mayor. Leadership takes the resourceful spirit, and teamwork that has defined us since the first pioneers and immigrants arrived.
I am not running for mayor to be a celebrity and have fun. I’m a father who wants all our children to have options for a bright future right here in Chatham-Kent. I’m the husband of a breast cancer survivor, and a businessman who knows the challenges being felt by too many people in our community.
I offer voters 23 years of management experience and entrepreneurial vision to achieve big results with limited resources, so that taxpayers save money without losing services. I’m a strong advocate for the families, farmers, seniors, and everyone living paycheque to paycheque who cannot afford the escalating taxes.
This Plan for Prosperity (which I held up) sets me apart from all the other candidates, who have only just begun to notice we have a problem and think somebody should do something. That somebody is me, and I am pleased to present the voters with ideas of substance that propose solutions instead of the usual campaign rhetoric.
I am not deterred by the challenge ahead, and I’m dedicated to the hard work necessary to accomplish results for our communities. We have everything we need to be successful, except the right mayor with a defined direction. Together with your support, we can change our future for the better.
My platform is online, at www.ckon.ca. I would invite you to look at it and judge my preparedness.
On October 25th, I ask you to vote Austin Wright for mayor. I am ready!
Randy Hope attacked me by stating I lost in 2003 by over 10,000 votes, then started raising his voice louder and louder. He claims he got elected last time to be mayor for 12 years, and mentioned that he would bring prosperity for everyone. He didn’t state that his platform this time was only eight lines long, and did not explain why it was my “losing” platform that was implemented. My record as a “defeated” candidate is stronger than the incumbent’s so it’s no wonder Hope feels threatened by my candidacy.
Tom McGregor read his same speech about Chatham-Kent being a big place and only he is qualified to run it. Ian McLarty talked tough about “misleading reports to council” with “false information,” saying he’s not just one vote on council. He claims to know business and take the job seriously. His solution was to “order Administration” to “cut all the fat” and make 10% reductions to everything because they can do that “easily.” Our recent Corporate Review states this isn’t true, and this does not demonstrate leadership. It’s passing the buck.
Al Traylor held up a chunk of tree branch, and told everyone it was really bad because nobody is talking about the end of the world that is nigh, and that we’re killing the earth.
Of course, this take is from my own perspective and memory which may be a bit biased, but none of the corporate media coverage has done these events justice. My answers were every bit as newsworthy as the incumbent mayor’s.