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Endorsement: Darren Hill (Ward 1)

I didn’t really plan on endorsing any candidates for the Saskatoon municipal election because I wanted to dispassionately observe it but the funny thing is that when you watch city council as closely as many of us have, you develop some strong opinions on who should and who should not be elected.  While I have strong opinions on all of the wards, I’ll be posting some endorsements for only some of them.

Since I moved into Ward 1 in 1998, I have been represented by Jim Madden, Lenore Swystun, Donna Birkmairer and Darren Hill.  Of the three, only Darren HIll has been re-elected.

I had nothing to do with the first three councillors.  Hill was the first councillor to knock on our door in a campaign where he made enough of an impression on Wendy that she suggested we vote for him.  In that first term the house behind us was abandoned, started on fire, and was knocked down.  The abandoned lot quickly became overgrown with a noxious weed that Killex and Roundup won’t kill and started to take over our boulevards.  Out of frustration with my own lawn and looking at weeds that were six feet tall, Wendy emailed Councillor Hill and didn’t expect much for results.

Wendy was wrong as 20 minutes later, Hill was outside the abandoned lot with a member of Fire and Protective Services.  Over the next couple of days there was a flurry of emails that Wendy was cc:’d on keeping her up to date with the problem, the solution, and what was being done so that she never had to complain again.  While the lot is still abandoned, it s mowed and cleaned up several times each summer and it has never been a problem.  I even got rid of the noxious weed that was in our boulevard. 

That has been Darren Hill’s pattern through the last two terms in office.  When there is a problem, he acts on it whether we talk to him in person, email, or even on Twitter.  Sometimes the results are better than others but I at least know he worked hard in trying to get those results.  Of course because Hill is so transparent in how he communicates with City Hall, it has empowered Wendy and myself to contact people ourselves from time to time.  Through Hill’s interactions, City Hall is a lot less intimidating of place to dialog with.  While you can’t fight City Hall, you can navigate it and for many, that makes life a lot easier.

Some of you might ask, “don’t all councillors do this?”  The answer is no.  Some never reply to an email, respond to voice mail, or really do anything with constituent concerns.  You have no idea how many times I have been at council meetings and it is painfully obvious that a councillor hasn’t read their council package.  What makes me frustrated is that they are paid almost $60,000/year to do this job.  I can read their council package, Hilary can blog the council package, yet some councillor’s do not.  So yes this stuff matters and I appreciate a councillor that makes it matter.  Hill does that.

I don’t always agree with his votes and stances at City Council but that could be said for any of the councillors.  I have questioned some of his votes and at the end of the day, it’s well thought out and considered a lot of factors, even if I still disagree.   By in large Hill has a track record of being open to and a source of new and innovative ideas for the city while remaining a fiscal conservative.  He can dream but understands the bottom line which are two qualities that make for an effective city councillor.

When over a month ago when we heard gun shots in our alley way (and found the spent cartridges), Wendy and Mark were scared and wanted to move to someplace safer.  Hill had a series of meetings for myself and also for others with the community association and also (others met) with the Saskatoon Police Service to come up with solutions to the crime issues in Mayfair.  Hill’s work at finding the solution was one of the major reasons we didn’t move.  That’s a big deal for all of us.

Last year when a lot of (poorly informed) people asked me why I didn’t run for City Council, I would always answer back that, “Darren Hill does a really good job representing our ward”.  Not that I was inclined to run but even if I was going to be, it wasn’t going to be against a councillor that does a fantastic job both looking after the ward and city’s interests.

So what about Robin Bellamy?

Hill’s opponent is former Ward 7 public school board trustee Robin Bellamy.  Bellamy is a long time candidate for city council and the provincial legislature but his campaign platform leaves a lot to be desired and I think comes from a misreading of the ward and community.  I was at the community meetings over needle exchange and while there are a couple of ideologues that oppose needle exchange, it doesn’t represent the viewpoint of the neighbourhood, the professional opinions of the public health officers from the Saskatoon Health Region, or even reflect an understanding of the neighbourhood dynamics.  What really bothers me about is that it shows a lack of leadership in dealing with the real problem.  His platform reads like John Gormley talking points on the topic rather than anything that resembles an informed platform.

It goes on with his commitment to Cosmopolitan Industries, which ignores the requirement of the RFP, council bending backward to ensure that Cosmo receives it’s required recycling material, and the “Do No Harm” motion that council has adopted towards Cosmo, all things that Cosmo accepted.  Even Loraas made some concessions that it didn’t have to make to Cosmo to keep them supplied with guaranteed growth.  While there is a debate to be had about Cosmo, it would be great that if it could happen on the merits of what happened rather than the spin that surrounded it.

At the end of the day I am comfortable with another four years of Darren Hill as Ward 1 councillor.  He has a proven track record, seems as passionate as ever, and brings an open mind and new ideas we will face as a city.  Saskatoon and Ward 1 is a better place if he wins re-election on October 24th.

Disclaimer:

I am not part of a campaign team and I don’t sit on any committees with Hill or as far as I know, am dependent on his vote or support for any projects that I am undertaking.

3 Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    And to learn what Cosmo pays its employees further frustrates any thinking Saskatoonian. Good article. It’s what good politicians live for.

  2. cjcote says:

    I strongly agree with your assessment of Darren Hill!! He has been the only councillor to answer questions promply by email or phone since we have been in River Heights, no one else has ever taken the time. Just sorry that he no longer represents us because the new councillor, Randy is like the rest we just don’t exist.

  3. City Park says:

    I agree with your assessment. I’ve contacted Darren on a number of occasions and always received a thoughtful reply. I don’t always agree with him, but do appreciate his dedication.

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