Coun. Jim Craigmile answers our questions
During the last Municipal election there was only one “new” candidate elected as the other five councillors were incumbents. The new candidate was Jim Craigmile and we asked him the following questions to explain life as a councillor, which might be of assistance to anyone who might be considering running this year.
Why did you run originally?
In the last election I ran for Council for all the typical reasons, recently retired and time available, working career skill set that should be an asset, general interest in local politics etc. A catalyst is needed to pursue ventures and this quest was initiated during a conversation with friends, a local issue comment I made and a reply that went like “now that you have lots of time you should run for Council”. Shortly thereafter I was in the gallery of Council meetings, reading agendas and attending municipal training sessions.
After you were elected was it as you had expected?
This is a very difficult question because it depends upon the issues of the time. I will answer yes and no due to many other issues outside policy debate. The first Council meeting in January was followed a few days later with the annual budget meeting initiation followed by an interim CAO and recruitment. I must admit the initial fire quickly enhanced the learning curve for a new Councillor.
What were the biggest surprises after you were elected?
The biggest surprises were the number of times I participated in closed sessions and the information I must take to the grave.
Did you think it would involve as much time as it does?
I thought I was aware of the commitment based upon discussions with previous Councillors but my initial thoughts were about 50% of the time required. I underestimated the amount of reading time required, research on some topics, board meetings and general learning curve time for a new Councillor. The previous comment may be influenced by time required to fulfil the Deputy Mayor duties the last three years.
What have the greatest accomplishments you have seen since being elected?
This Council and staff should be proud of numerous infrastructure achievements, project initiation and discussion moving our community forward. Some are listed below: green bridge opening with government grant, Queen Street reconstruction and AODA compliance, asset management plan completion, communication plan, strategic plan completion, new childcare facilities, Wellington Street bridge replacement, James to Emily Street water looping, Emily Street construction, Westward School sale and vision, Cadzow Park revitalization, policing, County Shared Services Agreement, Recreation Master Plan completion, PRC strategic plan initiation, Official Plan update, water storage construction initiation and many discussions on attainable housing, last mile fibre connection in Town and shovel ready commercial property. The list above is only possible because of team effort under the excellent leadership from Mayor Strathdee and the valuable, accurate reports with options provided by staff and our CAO Mr. Kittmer. I would rank Brent’s hiring at the top of my accomplishments and think Lynn and Al who were also part of the CAO search/interview committee would agree. Under his leadership I see and hear positives from staff, industry and residents.
This Council seems to agree on most topics but you seem to differ from your colleagues on heritage funds/grants. Where do you differ from the rest of Council?
Great question and of the issues I was against, none of them were against the heritage attributes of our community but revolved around costs, consistency for all residents, fairness, transparency and intent of program. For example, the Community Improvement Programs (CIP) provides funds for facade improvement and heritage improvement in the Central Commercial District. Allowing funds from both programs to be eligible for the same project demonstrated an 80% cost recovery on a $10,000 investment. This was not the intention of the programs and stopping stacking of these programs to a maximum of 50% project cost resolved this issue. Heritage designation of interior objects at the train station was another issue. After living across from the station I can visualize the internal station in the late 50s, 60s and 70s.There is no resemblance of the current ticket facade to the original in my opinion and I could not commit to designating an internal 1977 piece of furniture. The Heritage Property Tax Rebate Program is about 1 year old and provides a 20% rebate for commercial property in the Heritage Conservation District (HCD). The rebates are applied to the next year taxes and what effect the rebates have on Heritage enhancement is unknown. I should state there is some tax relief to the Town by government paying the school portion of tax rebate (30%). Residents need to visually see improvements to justify their increase tax burden to offset the program costs. There is not enough transparency or checks and balances with this program and for this reason I could not support.
What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of running in the next upcoming election?
Attend all training sessions available in the local area. Attend some Council meetings and read the Procedural By-laws a few times. Arrange a meeting with a current Councillor to ask questions. Most important, trust your values and speak your opinion.