The first All Candidates’ Meeting of the campaign was held Thursday 27th September at the Salvation Army Citadel. In a strange move allowed by organisors the Mayor-elect was allowed a seat at the table and acted as a candidate. At least he made his position clear on the issue. The meeting was organised by the Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee. Each candidate was given three minutes to answer three questions posed by the organisors and then an open session question period took place. All of the registered candidates except Emily Chorley attended and about sixty people were in the audience.
The three questions
In order of answering:
Karl vomDorf: It was hard to hear Karl, he has diminished lung capacity which distorts his voice. That impediment coupled with the bass-heavy speakers made it hard to hear but good for Karl he has published his answers here.
Nicole Beatty: Unfortunately Nicole spoke very fast – too fast for most of the audience, and rattled off a load of local statistics but I picked out that she supports establishing a local Social Planning Council to coordinate and collaborate on all related issues.
Johnny Percolides: “As a real estate broker I have the best understanding of the problem!” He then expanded on the idea that the problem is lack of supply. “Affordability is a supply and demand problem. More supply will bring down prices!” He wants Council to amend the bylaws to allow more density and greater heights in apartment buildings.
Brian Darling:He said he has served the community for thirty years and Yes there is an issue. He pledged to work with the new Mayor and Council, together to bring housing. He suggested that Cobourg sell its surplus land to the County and work with them and their programmes.
Aaron Burchat: Aaron acknowledged the problem and he supports the CIP as a means to get more units downtown. He also said that Council had created new units and looked forward to cooperating on the ‘Tannery Lands’ with Habitat for Humanity (HfH).
Travis Hoover: He said he has worked with all governments and many agencies in his his previous job. “I have seen many examples of innovative solutions, we have to bring them here.” Suggested we can use converted shipping containers and that HfH has some answers. “We have to work with partners.”
Adam Bureau: Adam admitted that he has been homeless in his life and it drove him crazy, completely confused but agencies found him a place to live – set him on his way. He admitted there is a horrendous vacancy rate. Adam would ask the County to increase funding for homelessness programmes. “We should examine what other places have done and implement them!”
Miriam Mutton: She admits there is a problem and outlined her qualifications as a person who can be part of the solutions. “Homelessness and affordability are linked to other social problems and all of it has to approached as one.” She advocated changing building codes to reduce costs, and said that everybody must work within the constraints of differing jurisdictions. She also injected another angle to the debate, “We must ensure that good food does not go to waste.”
Randy Curtis: Very succinct and concise – “There is not enough supply, we must work with the County to increase supply by using our surplus lands and the homeless must be housed.”
Suzanne Seguin: Suzanne also related her experience of being homeless as well as her experiences of being a local politician and being solicited by destitute constituents. Her answer to both situations “was to make things happen.” She has learned to listen and wants to use examples of solutions from the world.
Emily Chorley: Absent but her answers were read out and are here.
In the open question session the first questioner asked why Cllr Seguin voted the way she did on the College St rezoning. Suzanne explained herself and then Aaron Burchat also said that they had made the best of a rezoning by using the R4 zone with conditions that limited the full use.
The second questioner asked the panel “In the light of the crisis do we allow developers to do what they want and relax the bylaws or do we prefer ‘social housing’ built on Town lands? All of the candidates responded the answers ranged from full support of the idea of using surplus land and monies from our investments (holdco and the northam industrial park) – come on down Randy Curtis, to an acknowledgement that it could be done but the private sector had to be involved and an excoriation of the idea from Johnny Percolides who used Toronto Housing Corporation as an example of Governments not being able to run anything.
Okay time to ‘fess up the publisher of the BR was the second questioner and as a result wrote a very skimpy explanation of the answers. Hard to take notes and stay at the mic’ but a much fuller explanation of the answers was written by Valerie MacDonald of CobourgNow read it here
The third question came from a fellow who listed off the available programmes for social housing and asked if anybody had heard of them. A technical question and asked if the Town would commit monies to the programmes. John Henderson and Randy Curtis did so. Nicole Beatty in her answer demonstrated an understanding of the programmes and question, and Suzanne Sequin cautions that the money has to come from the Town’s budget (it doesn’t have to we have a million bucks in play money every year from investments which Council refuse to add to the Town’s budget).
The fourth question came from a fellow who identified as being a member of the Board of a non-profit. “Dozens of my friends are homeless and a question to Nicole Beatty. How would you deal with this?” Nicole answers by saying that the problem is complicated and involves many jurisdictions, “we have to look at it as a big picture!” She suggests that 24/7 ‘wraparound’ programme be initiated. Karl vom Dorf also answered but the speaker problem meant his answer couldn’t be heard at the back of the room.
The fifth question came from a person who identified as an Outreach Worker and she said she has worked with homeless people. Her question was; “what can we do for the people who don’t fit into the warming centre or Transition House?” Nicole Beatty stated that we should have a social worker on staff, a social planning council to identify solutions and all municipal plans must be looked at through a ‘municipal lens’.
The last question came from a man who identified himself as “an ambassador from the Cobourg Seniors Centre – wellness”. “Is there a plan to get good organic food in Town?” Miriam Mutton advocates for a programme to collect fresh but still waste food from stores. “Good food is important!” Travis Hoover states, “I am not sure how Council can do this but I am willing to collaborate.” John Henderson states, “we have community gardens, why are there not more of them?” Nicole Beatty agrees, “we have to have a programme.”
And the meeting ended.