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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

EC BIA’s Meet the Candidates event questions Mayor/Deputy Mayor candidates

by Kyle Reid

With Essex’s current Mayor, Ron McDermott, opting not to run in the 2018 Municipal Election, there is a change coming to the chief leadership role of the municipality. A main issue on the minds of many during the Essex Centre BIA’s Meet the Candidates event last Thursday, was how a new Mayor will handle conflict between Council members during public meetings.

The Essex Centre BIA invited mayoral and deputy mayor candidates to weigh in on that and a number of other topics during an informational question-and-answer format event, which was hosted at the Essex Centre Sports Complex.

The candidates briefly introduced themselves and answered a number of questions moderators with the Essex Centre BIA prepared. Candidates also responded to a few audience-submitted questions.

One question submitted by the audience asked candidates how they would strategically handle disruptive behaviour at Council meetings and re-build the Town’s reputation.

“It’s the number one question I get knocking on doors,” Mayoral candidate Katie McGuire-Blais said during her turn at the podium.

McGuire-Blais said that better communication between the Mayor, Council members, and the public is the key to dealing with the issue.

Mayoral candidate Ron Rogers weighed in with a similar assessment. “My approach would certainly be to encourage discussion, to encourage collaboration, and to encourage that we look at the best processes and the best decisions for our town,” Rogers said, also encouraging more members of the public to attend Council sessions.

Some of the candidates looked to take a more hands-on approach, including Rob Shepley, who said he would enforce the rules of order for meetings.

“There’s a system in place to deal with this,” Shepley said. “If you can’t follow the rules, you’re out of the meeting.”

Mayoral candidate Larry Snively said he would tackle the problem by sitting down with the new Council to ensure members can disagree amicably, but still work together toward a common goal.

“A good Council shouldn’t agree on everything, they shouldn’t, there should be a little bit of debate,” Snively said. “To sit there and fight, and yell and scream at each other, I think it’s got to stop.”

Moderators with the Essex Centre BIA also invited the two candidates running for Deputy Mayor, Phil Pocock and incumbent Richard Meloche, to weigh in on the same issue. Meloche and Pocock both said they would support any strategies the new mayor would implement.

Candidates also addressed a number of other issues at the event, including problematic flooding, cultivating Essex’s tourism potential, and working alongside Town administration. Animal welfare was also addressed with all candidates publicly declaring their support for the Town’s spay and neuter voucher program.

However, opinions differed regarding the 100 percent reduction of development charges for residential dwellings in Harrow and commercial development outside of the boundaries of the Town’s Community Improvement Plan areas.

Moderators asked whether candidates supported the taxpayer-funded discounts. Shepley strongly supported the reduction of charges, calling for sweeping reductions in fees across the town. Snively, however, said he only supported the reductions in certain areas of the town, which are lagging behind in development. McGuire-Blais called for waiving all development fees for commercial development, but only lowering residential fees, while Rogers called for more “attractive” development costs in Essex.

When the same question was posed to candidates for Deputy Mayor, Meloche suggested working with Council to consider wiping out all development charges in the town and Pocock claimed that development fees aren’t the issue-rather, he said, high property taxes are stalling development.

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