Wednesday 15 October 2014

Good vibrations: an assessment of Town Ward candidates for Peterborough City Council

This is a simple, tongue-and-cheek assessment of the five Town Ward candidates for the October 27 election to city council in Peterborough, Ontario. La politica has also done assessments, posted separately, for Monaghan Ward, Town Ward, Ashburnham Ward, and Northcrest Ward. Each post has the same introductory paragraphs provided below. can skip those if you are clicking around.

Intro to the assessments

The ward assessments rely on two scores out of five for a combined score out of ten. The first score is based on a candidate’s vibe, with the second score assessing the stuff and things (stuff n’ things) that the candidate proposes for Peterborough. The vibe scoring is purely subjective, and the score for stuff n’ things doesn’t necessarily take a stand on issues (i.e. parkway, taxation), but simply attempts to assess whether the candidate has material proposals, or is campaigning on vague promises and areas of interest.

The total score out of ten does not provide a breakdown of the category scores out of five, because stuff n’ things can have vibe, too, and some vibe is so off the charts it might even be called a vibe economy, with material effects on stuff n’ things.

You are confused, but not for long. At the end of the ward summary we provide an assessment of who we think might win, and why. Remember: you get two votes, as there are two council seats for each ward.

Town Ward

Town Ward (also known as “Ward 3”) is downtown Peterborough. It represents one third of the city’s entire tax base. Historically, it also has the smallest voter turnout – there were only 5,032 votes cast in Town Ward in 2010. This is a ward that punches above its weight. Every vote counts. In 2010 Dean Pappas was re-elected with 2,106 votes, over 46% of the total votes cast. Bill Juby was also re-elected, coming in second with 1,273 votes (25%), narrowly winning over third place finisher, retired school teacher Tim Rowat. This time around Pappas and Juby have thrown their hats back in the ring, but are facing stiff challenges from a strong field of newcomers that includes Diane Therrien, Jason Stabler, and Jim Hendry.

Dean Pappas

Mr. Pappas is the man to beat in Town Ward. High on vibe, with a decent performance on stuff n’ things, he speaks his mind when it comes to the foolishness of promoting Peterborough as a place of wilderness and canoes, noting that real money is spent downtown from visitors attracted to local retail businesses, good restaurants, and wide range of cultural activities. He has been involved in a number of initiatives, from ‘Save PCVS’ to ‘Save Jackson Park’. However, he is vulnerable in that many voters feel that the downtown is facing chronic problems that, as of yet, council has been unable to remedy. He is keen on the urban park at the Louis Street lot, is against the parkway, and supported the mayor when he balked at the proposed police budget and cut loose Lakefield from the shared policing agreement.
Town Ward (Ward 3)

Mr. Pappas was instrumental in pushing for the adoption of the Municipal Cultural Plan, which has resulted in the Electric City Culture Council. The Council advocates for Peterborough’s arts and cultural organizations, and coordinates funding. As well, arts and culture are now supposed to be considered in every decision the city makes, though we can’t say that necessarily results in any material effect. To renew and revitalize the downtown Mr. Pappas supports the idea of Heritage Districts, as well as the Heritage Tax Credit program.

The challenge may be that, after two terms, Mr. Pappas is seen as someone who hasn’t got enough done for Town Ward. We’re not sure if he still has the vibe to match either Jason Stabler or Diane Therrien, but it could certainly be argued that he can top them on stuff n’ things, in part simply because he is the incumbent. Combined score: 7.5 out of 10.

Diane Therrien

Ms. Therrien is low key, intelligent, and well-spoken: a solid and pleasant but not blinding vibe. Her stuff n’ things cred is helped by specific policies and objectives. She is anti-parkway, pro bike lanes, and a believer in mixed-use development. An important objective is to get more people living downtown, which in turn leads to safer streets and a healthier, more stable downtown economy. She also wants better snow removal, and emphasizes the fact that she actually lives in Town Ward (the other candidates do not). At present she is the Facilitator of Community Education and Engagement for the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network, where she is drafting a strategic plan for poverty reduction in Peterborough – something that gives her additional stuff n’ things cred. Though this election does not run on slates, her campaign appears to be closely integrated with that of mayoral candidate Maryam Monsef. However, she could do better if she upped her vibe, particularly given her low name recognition (she moved to Peterborough in 2010). Combined score: 7 out of 10.

Jason Stabler

Mr. Stabler’s focus is primarily on arts and culture in the downtown. He has respectable vibe, writing that “our downtown is one of the most vibrant of any small city in Canada.” Born and raised in Peterborough, Mr. Stabler is the former Interim Executive Director of the New Canadians Centre, is a part time professor in the School of Business and Justice Studies at Fleming College, and the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Community Opportunity and Innovation Network (COIN). He has an impressive record of community involvement, and is by no means a single “arts issue” candidate, with some interesting ideas, including the promotion of a conference centre downtown.  He is an intelligent and articulate candidate, but his vibe is not high enough to separate him from the pack. We would like to score him higher. For now his combined core is a competitive (and tentative) 7 out of 10.

Bill Juby

Bill Juby is the second incumbent in Town Ward. He is hoping to be elected to his third term (2000 – 2006; 2010 – 2014). Low on vibe, and low on stuff n’ things, his seat is vulnerable, particularly to newcomers Stabler, Therrien, and Hendry. Juby has campaigned for turning Bethune Street into a park – not a bad idea, and one that is expected to come to fruition eventually. He has also been a fan of security cameras downtown, something most people who actually live in the core are against. A supporter of Mayor Bennett in the parkway debate, he could suffer blow back from those voters tired of what they see as the Mayor’s non-transparent and non-consensual style. But the truth is that Town Ward has a block of voters who reliably scratch their X for a gruff, unpretentious conservative, and Juby is their man. So, despite a terrible combined vibe/stuff n’ things score of 5 out of 10, Mr. Juby could squeak back into office, unlikely as that may seem.

Jim Hendry

Mr. Hendry is a fairly high-profile candidate, having been editor at The Peterborough Examiner and a panelist on COGECO's weekly current affairs show, Politically Speaking. He wants to keep major offices in the core, and is in favour of the public square in the Louis Street lot, as well as improvements on Charlotte Street and the desolate Aylmer/Bethune Street corridor. He wants to up service of industrial lands next to Major Bennett Industrial Park, ideally through an agreement with Cavan Monaghan Township. If that can’t be done, he would like to accelerate development of the land south of Neal Drive Industrial Park.

He also wants more bike trails to connect our parks, and more on-street bike lanes. He is anti-parkway, (budgeted at $79 million) but open to a compromise that would kill the bridge over Jackson Park, (the bridge alone would cost $31 million). He’d like to hold tax increases to inflation, and borrow money if necessary. Policing costs would be brought under control with the use of more part-time officers and better use of administrative staff.

That’s a lot of stuff n’ things. He also speaks vibe, writing of the importance of a “vibrant, forward-thinking urban centre” and a “vibrant downtown”. But articulating vibe isn’t the same as having it, and Mr. Hendry could really up his game here. It’s really stuff n’ things that have pushed Mr. Hendry’s combined score to a 6.5 out of 10.

Town Ward Rankings

The Town Ward rankings for the combined vibe and stuff n’ things score are, in descending order:

Dean Pappas: 7.5
Diane Therrien: 7
Jason Stabler: 7
Jim Hendry: 6.5
Bill Juby: 5

Town Ward Election Assessment

Dean Pappas will be returned, but will likely not receive 46% of the vote as he did last time, due to a competitive field and his perceived inability to address chronic downtown problems such as street prostitution, methadone clinics, empty storefronts, and the nightly tradition of drunken brawling. Consequently, some of Pappas’ votes will break to the other centrist and left-of-centre candidates Hendry, Therrien, and Stabler. Of these, Therrien and Stabler are the strongest, with Therrien having a slight edge due to her identification with the Monsef mayoralty campaign. The reality is, with three candidates splitting that vote, there is a chance that Juby could get re-elected. In the last campaign, he won with 1,273 votes, 25% of the total. Given that Juby is the only conservative candidate, his base could be considered more secure, even with blowback from his support for the mayor. In 2010 Tim Rowat came in third with 1,071 votes, and that vote is now being split three ways (with some allowance for a degree of peel-off from Pappas). Last election the fourth candidate, conservative Garry Herring, got 582 votes: most of those will now go to Juby, which would give him a clear path to re-election. Nonetheless, Juby will still suffer from the mayor’s unpopularity, as well as a more motivated turnout from non-conservatives responding to strong candidates. This is why we anticipate that the second Town Ward seat will be such a close race, and could be won with as few as 1,000 votes (and by only dozens, not hundreds) – remarkable, given that Mr. Juby was elected in 2010 with fewer votes than any other councillor. So, a tough call, and a toss-up for that second spot. Juby is the deciding factor here: whether you want him in or not, get out and vote.

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