Radium voters got a formal look at this year’s contenders for village council at the first all-candidates meeting of the season at the Radium Community Hall November 2.
Six candidates are running for four spots on council, including long-time councillor Ron Verboom, who is seeking his seventh term. Fellow incumbents Clara Reinhardt and Don Devlin were joined by newcomers Karen Larsen, Todd Logan and Debbie Fischer, as the candidates answered questions from both moderator and Radium Rotary President Al Leslie and the voters in attendance.
Current mayor and mayor-elect Dee Conklin began the forum by thanking the crowd for attending, and expressing confidence in what the next three years would bring Radium. As no other candidates came forward to challenge for the mayor’s position, Conklin will return for a second term.
The floor was then passed to the candidates, as each made a brief introduction as to whom they were and why they felt they should be elected councillor.
Devlin, the first to speak, touched on an issue that was re-visited ad nauseam as the night went on — the economy.
“It’s the issue everyone is talking about, not just in Radium, but worldwide,” Devlin said. “Radium used to have far more people coming and going — the question to ask is how do we bring tourists back.”
“It may sound funny, but we need to decide who we want to be when (Radium) grows up,” Reinhardt added. “We have no focus —we have to ask ourselves if we want to be in the same position 20 years from now.”
As the introductions continued, most, if not all spoke of Radium’s economic situation at some point, providing a perfect segue into Leslie’s first question: how to increase economic activity in order to attract more permanent residents to Radium.
Ideas ranged from hiring an economic development officer — something Devlin, Fischer and Reinhardt seemed to advocate — to re-invigorating Main Street, which seemed to be a sticking point for both Larsen and Fischer.
“The lack of employment opportunities are pushing young families out—I want a community that welcomes all kinds of people and families,” Larsen said. “At the same time I want to keep Radium the cute, quaint village that I love.”
After suggesting some of the other candidates were living in “fantasy land” with their economic ideas, Fischer spoke strongly of her desire to revise the village’s current signage bylaws to allow businesses to erect more and bigger signs.
That seemed to strike a chord with several business owners in the audience, who expressed their concerns during the audience question portion of the meeting.
However, Fischer was far from the only candidate to support signage bylaw reform, as each candidate at one time or another expressed their support for review of the controversial bylaw.
“As a business owner in this community, the signage bylaw is a major issue” Fischer said. “We need to be embracing potential businesses to open their doors in Radium.”
Logan and Verboom, as the final two candidates to speak on the matter, were at times forced to echo some of the views held by other candidates, but also added points of their own.
Logan, a local fireman, spoke of Radium’s excellent infrastructure and low tax rates as draws to potential residents, while Verboom talked about further branding and marketing Radium as a tourist destination, something that most other councillors seemed to agree with.
“Everything is in place,” Verboom said. “We just need some branding and marketing to get Radium’s voice out there to attract businesses and residents.”
Leslie’s next question had to do with a similar topic: how to attract tourists during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.
“We need to better market the off-season,” Logan said. “The events by the Radium Events Committee have been very successful, and we need to try and continue to improve those kinds of activities.”
Other ideas included Reinhardt wanting to partner with tour operators as well as supporting new festivals. Fischer spoke of her desire to see more people from Calgary visit Radium, and offered suggestions such as bridal shows and painting and photography classes.
The floor was then opened to the general public to ask questions of their prospective councillors. While many questions regarded matters that only current members of council were able to answer, as many dealt with current bylaws and ongoing projects, there were a few questions that catered more to future councillors views and goals.
One citizen asked the candidates if they had any ideas for alternative financial models to help bring in additional revenue to the village. Reinhardt suggested attracting more investors, while Verboom talked about his ambition to keep taxes low while maintaining the best possible services.
Larsen, as a candidate who was not previously on council, also questioned where current funds were allocated, and said she wants to invest those funds back into the community.
Next candidates will attend the local coffee shop, for a more informal mixer between 2 and 4 p.m. on November 13.