10.02.2013

10 Questions: Strathcona County Ward 2 Candidate Ryan Osterberg


*Part of a 10 Question series with local candidates

1.      The number one issue facing Strathcona county:

There are two issues that I believe are paramount and closely linked together. The first is maintaining our vital infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, sewers and water lines. The first two we do fairly well in the county, but sometimes we repair roads and sidewalks that residents will admit didn’t need to be done, so we need to put in place a clear evaluation process to make sure we are focusing on the area that needs repair.

When it comes to our water and sewers we need to start setting money aside so as to be in a position to repair them as the need arises. This reserve fund could be maintained from existing tax revenues and the fees we charge new developments. By putting fees along with 2 percent of our tax revenues aside we can begin to save towards repairing our water and sewer lines.

The second issue is our budget process. It’s vital that we get the most out of the taxpayer dollars we collect each year. To accomplish this I would like to see Council set clear measurements and expectations for each department and then measure at the end of the fiscal year whether this has been accomplished or not and adjust the next years allocation accordingly. This way we insure as elected officials that the money we are investing is accomplishing the goals we have set.



2.     Is there a way to balance infrastructure maintenance and overall county growth without debt?

Absolutely! We already do a pretty good job when it comes to sidewalks and roads by putting them on a maintenance schedule. What I would like to see is the county set up a reserve fund for other critical infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines, and begin saving money in advance. This is the kind of infrastructure repair we can see coming well in advance and make sure we are prepared financially for it. Given we have recorded surpluses each year I believe this is totally doable without debt. Ultimately it takes a more forward thinking approach, because we should be planning for the future with each budget to insure we create the kind of reserves we will need. This will also require us to evaluate each year what we spend money on, needs will have to come before wants.

3.     What is your take on the Sherwood Park hospital issue? 

This is an issue that has frustrated many residents, and some of our elected officials have blurred the lines when it comes to who is responsible. Ultimately the province will have the final say on whether this community has a hospital or not. However, I believe there is a way we can better lobby for the hospital.

I would like to see the county undertake a comprehensive survey of all Strathcona County residents asking them what services they have utilized in Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan over the last 5 years. These numbers will reveal to us the kinds of services our residents are using.

If we identify, for example, that 800 residents use dialysis treatment in Edmonton, then an argument can be made for a dialysis centre to be added to the Strathcona County Hospital. We then take those numbers to our neighbours in Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan and show how by building this facility in Strathcona County, we can reduce wait time for their residents at existing facilities in their own communities. This will help us secure support from two of our Capital Region partners. With their support and the numbers in front of us, we can then approach the Minister of Health. We can then show the Minister that this facility will not just benefit our residents, but Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan residents as well, and will meet the government’s commitment to reduce wait times for critical care. This creates a win/win/win situation for us, our neighbours and the province.

The other thing I would like to do is put this issue front and centre during the next provincial election. I would like the county to submit a survey to all four political parties asking if they would commit to building a hospital in Strathcona County and asking them what kind of time line they envision for it being complete. The results of this survey would then be published by the County and give voters a chance to make an informed decision on this issue.

Ultimately, in both cases it’s about the County doing a more efficient job of lobbying the provincial government for approval. ]

4.     Transparency is a buzzword for this election.  How will you contribute to an open government?

My Open Government policy is straight forward, and addresses some of the short falls of our current processes.

People’s faith in their democratic institutions is at an all time low. The last year has seen scandal after scandal at all levels of government across the country, from the senate to corruption allegations in Quebec municipalities. In Strathcona County I would like to see the county begin to implement tough new policies that can restore people’s faith at a local level.  These are the policies I would push to create a more open government:

1.)    Immediate implementation of complete expense disclosure rules requiring Councillors to disclose their expenses online, available to the scrutiny of the public.

2.)    New rules requiring Councillor’s attendance records for Council and Committee meetings be posted online so residents can be assured their elected officials are representing them. Decisions are made by those who show up.

3.)    Work with the provincial government to change the requirements for campaign contributions, requiring candidates to disclose all donations prior to Election Day. This allows voters to make an informed decision about who is funding their candidates. (for my part I decided to self fund my campaign, I felt better not owing anything to anyone except the residents of this community).

4.)    Toughen up Councillor Ethic’s code and put clear accountability measures in place including tough fines for breaching the code.

5.)    Tough new limitations for “in-camera” meetings to reduce the frequency in which Council has off the record closed door meetings.

6.)    Implement Citizen Panels, which would consist of randomly selected residents who would get to determine Council raises. These panels would be selected similar to juries but participation would not be mandatory.

7.)    Utilize Citizen panels to assist with Budget and long term planning to provide the county with resident feedback and ideas.

8.)    As Councillor, I will send out a e-newsletter twice a month to keep residents informed about what is happening on Council and how I am representing them.

9.)    As Councillor, I will door knock the community every summer so that I can keep on top of new issues as they come forward and talk to residents.

10.) Residents will hear back from me within 24 hours of calling or sending an email to my office, while it may take longer to address the issue they should hear back from their elected officials in a timely manner.

5.     You are running in a Ward without an incumbent.  What do you offer the citizens of Ward 2 that sets you apart from the other candidates?

Experience

I grew up in this community, and over the last 10 years I have gotten actively involved at the committee level. I have had the honor of being a member of the Traffic Safety Committee and over the last year a member of the Strathcona County Library Board.

I also had the opportunity to work for Alberta Municipal Affairs, working on the Municipal Sustainability Fund. This gave me an in-depth look at some of the amazing projects being undertaken across our province. It also gave me an appreciation for the Municipal Government Act which lays out the framework by which all municipalities must operate by. As a Councillor I would be eager to provide feedback as the Government undertakes its review of the Municipal Government Act for ways to tighten up campaign disclosure rules and accountability provisions.

A Fresh Perspective

Like any organization the county benefits when new people enter office and bring with them new ideas and approaches to tackling the problems facing our community. Growing up in this community has given me the opportunity to view this things from many different perspectives and my life experiences have helped me shape those perspectives into positive solutions.

If elected, I believe it would be my responsibility to question how the county currently approaches issues. It’s important that we never just accept things the way they are, just because that is how we have always done them. I would like to look at successful municipalities across Canada to see ways they are tackling these issues. While living in Windsor I witnessed a community suffering from a major economic downturn, yet they found innovative new approaches to revitalize their community and provide the same services with fewer resources. These kinds of innovative approaches could greatly benefit Strathcona County. By looking at how communities who are less affluent then us deal with issues we could find new ways to deliver services that are more efficient for our taxpayer money.

Communication

The key to being an elected official is communicating with the people you represent. If elected I would bring my strong communication skills to work for this Ward. I would door knock the entire ward every summer as a way to reconnect with residents and find out what new issues they may be facing in our community. I would hold town halls to discuss pressing issues that may affect smaller portions of our ward, such as traffic issues. I would send out a regular e-newsletter to the residents of Ward 2, outlining what has been happening on Council, what new issues have emerged, and how I have been representing them on Council.

The most important thing for communication is making sure residents hear back from you. If someone calls me and I am not available, they will hear back from me within 24 hours. And if I look into an issue for them and find an answer they will hear back from me even if it may not be the answer they want. At the end of the day sometimes as an elected official you have to deliver bad news, but residents deserve to hear it from you.

6.     Who was your first political influence/mentor?

My grandfather is my mentor. When I was young, every Sunday he would sit and discuss politics with me. He had been asked to run for office a few times but he always had a commitment to his family. He told me public service could be an honorable field, an opportunity for you to give something back to the community which had given you so much.

Our chats on those Sundays have shaped my education, my volunteerism and now my decision to run for Council.
7.     Your perfect Sunday:

Quite time at home, with a chance to visit my family. Often I will sit on my balcony with a book and read or talk to friends. To me Sunday is a chance to reflect on the past week and energize yourself for the week to come.
8.     The music in your car stereo:

None, I tend to listen to 630 CHED. I am a bit of a geek and love to know what is happening across our province.
9.     Do you have a habit/vice that you can’t break?

I am addicted to my phone. While I avoid going on it when I am with someone else, I regularly check it to make sure I am keeping up with my emails and the news.
10. Your vision of Strathcona county in 25 years:

In 25 years I would like to see Strathcona County keep what makes it such a great place to call home. I would like to see it still be a safe place to raise our families, a place where kids can ride around their neighbourhoods, play in the parks and enjoy being a kid worry free.

It would be a community with dozens of active community leagues providing input on ways we can continue to improve our community, revitalizing parks and building a strong sense of community for its residents. I would also like to attend the grand opening of another new Gilmore Park. Kids who grew up playing on the new equipment that was installed this year would be grown and trying to replace the equipment for their kids.

Our community would be debt free, have a new sewer and water line system paid for from the savings we started creating in 2013. It will have an innovative tech industry and a thriving small business sector which provides jobs for a new generation of workers.

Two major questions remain for me though when I look into this future, because ultimately it is for residents to decide. Will we continue to have our beautiful mature neighbourhoods, with large lots, large trees, and green parks? Will we have doubled in size and be looking at the near completion of the Bremner development or will we have decided to look at other approaches?

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