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CONTRIBUTION · 17th October 2011
Merv Ritchie
Yesterday, while enjoying a beer with friends, I was asked point blank what would be the first three things I would do if I was elected Mayor.

This was after I was reminded that I wouldn't win the contest but I should simply have fun with it. It is true. The only other time I entered a political contest was in the Provincial election in 1994 and I came in last place. Dead last. And others say I need to cut my hair and trim or shave my beard, and that isn't going to happen either.

I answered the question immediately. I knew exactly what the first three things were. It was almost instinctual.

First, after the new Mayor is sworn into office, it is the Mayors role to accept the swearing in of the new Councillors. At ever inauguration I have attended in the Northwest, the Councillors or Directors all jointly, in unison, perform the oath at the same time. They just insert their name where appropriate. At every one they all fumble their words and no one can really tell who said what and some even chuckle as they mess up. This is similar to what Christy Clark did when she was sworn in as the Premier of BC by the Honourable Steven L. Point. She wasn't listening and repeated words only he was supposed to say. She and everyone else laughed. This is not a laughing matter, it is the most serious part of public service, swearing an oath to not rip off the citizens and take bribes.

So the first thing on my list then is to have each new councillor swear their oath individually. It does not matter how long it takes.

The second thing I would do is put a stack of ballots in front of each Councillor and a bucket on a table in the middle of the room. Each ballot would have a sticker that could be removed to expose the word 'Yes' or the word 'No'. This would be for instituting the most primary function of a democracy, the secret ballot. Everyone votes and the bucket is dumped and counted in front of everyone.

Just like we expect our vote for our representative to be in secret, so we cannot be punished or bribed into something we feel is not right, so should it be for those we elect. If you demand to know how your councillors voted, you didn't take the time to listen to their campaign or get to know them. I absolutely trust the majority of those we elect will do the right thing. If we cannot trust those we elect then the whole thing is a lost cause. But they can only do the right thing if they are not exposed to sanctions by those watching. This is the essence of democracy.

I actually have two answers to the third thing I would do.

When talking last night I boldly stated the next thing I would do was fix the intersection at Lakelse and Sparks Street. I even drew diagrams of three options on how it could be fixed.

1 – take out the south end of Sparks all together and have a light for the left turn onto Lakelse from Sparks and for pedestrians across from the Bear Country Inn and BMO location.

2 – install sensors such as the City has at the Park Avenue and Kalum Street intersection. The light at that location changes almost immediately. It works great in Kitimat too.

3 – purchase the old 7-11 property and redesign the south end of Sparks Street to curve through that lot to line up straight at the intersection. And again install sensors for quick action.

But, my second answer to the third question is more important. It goes to accountable government and true democracy. Lakelse and Sparks will have to take forth place.

This is regarding the production of the documents called "The Agenda" for every Council meeting. These are released at almost the last minute on the Friday before the Monday meeting. These documents are the plans for changing the daily life in Terrace. If someone wanted to do research or alert the citizens all they would have is the weekend and one day, Monday. This is not good enough. The City needs to provide the citizens more time to become informed and to be able to engage and participate by offering their opinion.

While reporting on the City activities over the past 5 years I have discovered many things hidden away in these papers and have exposed them on the Friday evening and weekend. This brought concerned Terrace residents into the Council to express their displeasure. The City did not necessarily like this but one must ask, who do they think they work on behalf of?

It is for these three simple changes that we witness the Occupy Wall Street protests consuming our world. Elected leaders unable to do the right thing and the administrations keeping the truth hidden or at least out of sight until it is too late.

It is not to late. It is time to take a stand. And if we don't do it here, in our own backyard how can we expect the rest of the world to change.
Comment by LF on 7th November 2011
Downtown business property is taxed at an exorbitant rate. My vote goes to the first candidate who starts talking about how to reduce the cost of running our community. Starting off talking about additional spend is not the way to get my vote.

Lakelse Sparks Intersection.
Comment by terry Glover on 28th October 2011
The biggest problem right now with the Lakelse Sparks St. intersection is that the traffic lights are not working as they should.
There are sensors under the pavement, large inductive loops that sense when a vehicle stops for the light and adjusts the lights so the vehicles can pass through the intersection.

It appears one of these sensors has failed so the traffic light has been set to a timing mode so now the light remains green for a period of time for all the entrances to the intersection even when there are no vehicles waiting.
This has resulted in much longer wait times and an increase in people running the light and also an increase in jay walking.
The cost of replacing this sensor would be minimal, yet it has been left this way for several months.
There is money to tear down the CO-OP , extend the Grand Trunk Pathway, put up new Lights in the 4600 block, and that wheel thing by the overpass and yet this intersection is left like this.
If you get elected don't go spending hundreds of thousands on improving this intersection when grooving the pavement and installing a new loop would reduce the wait time to less than half and would cost what maybe a couple thousand dollars.
Go for it Merv
Comment by James Ippel on 24th October 2011
I hope you are elected Mayor, but lots of luck in trying to get rid of the " deadwood" in the City employee bank. Cupe will defend them to the nth degree, regardless of any wrong doings. It's their mandate.
Comment by James Ippel on 24th October 2011
Your comment: "Yes as a taxpayer.................."you comment on wasting money.
Allow me to bring you up to speed. It has been reported that employees in semi-management positions drive City Vehicles as part of their employment. I can accept and appreciate that. What bothers me is when these vehicles are used for personnal use-taking the kid to hockey practice, taking the wife shopping, going home 4 or 5 times a day, going home for coffee in the morning, and tea in the afternoon, using the vehicle to and from work. Maybe I am wrong, maybe these are benefits that the rest of the employees do not have. Are these people special? Are they so indespensable that they require special condsideration?
Let me assure you, two days after you quit or retire, the employer, and direct supervisor forget "Who in HEll you are". Trust me on that.
Sandbox rules
Comment by c. sandecki on 23rd October 2011
Would mbw please cut and paste her remarks to the comment section of the Terrace Standard?
Just like a good mayor/chairman should
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 22nd October 2011
Present various concepts, invite more ideas and then debate them with the council to resolve an issue. The cost and final result/decision is never up to a Mayor. The Mayor simply encourages the debate for the best resolution and this includes presenting the various ideas to be debated. Maybe the land currently the road/intersection next to the Safeway Gas bar could be set up as a unique vending center with various opportunities for those enjoying a stroll walking between the malls, unimpeded by traffic. Just shut down that end of the intersection all together from the entrances to the safeway gas bar and the entrance across the Street to the Gobind mall - Free! (almost).

There are many options and ideas a new Council could discuss. A list of Pros and Cons is the start for all the concepts.
Spend $100,000
Comment by Brad on 22nd October 2011
Your right Merv you didn't say $100,000, but you did suggest "purchase". The taxpayer would need to pay something for the property and the 100k was my best guestimate. Could be more, could be less.

>>3 – purchase the old 7-11 property and redesign the south end of Sparks Street to curve through that lot to line up straight at the intersection. And again install sensors for quick action.
Who said anything about spending $100,000
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 22nd October 2011
It certainly wasn't me. I only suggested this was an intersection needing serious addressing. I proposed three suggestions and have heard many more since. They all need to be properly considered . . . . by the councillors you select.

The role of a Mayor is to maintain the dignity of the debate and support what your elected Council decides.

I am curious what a set of motion sensors, such as is installed at Park and Kalum, would cost to install and wire in. I believe these are above ground sensors mounted on the light standards, though I am not certain.
whoa - slow down
Comment by mbw on 21st October 2011
Lord in Heaven, gentlemen!

Do you not have a life? I think its time you take you dog for a walk or rake the leaves in your yard.

Maybe then someone NEW will join the discussion, making for a lively, pro-active exchange.

We are not in the sandbox. Are we?
Bad Sensors
Comment by Brad on 21st October 2011
Actually what probably drove people crazy over the last month or two these lights were not working properly.

I had mentioned to a Public Works employee that something did not seem right as the lights were turning green even when there were no cars at them. In speaking to him again a couple weeks later he mentioned there were some sensors not functioning properly and they were being fixed.

I don't know the full details but I'm sure that if someone was inquisitive enough they could contact Public Works for the full story, but at least for now they seem to be working as designed.
Comment by Mr. Peters on 21st October 2011
I was curious the other day as to how long one actually has to wait for the light to turn green at our wonderfully dumb corner. If you arrive just as the light turns red, you will have to wait 1 minute and 25 seconds. Now are we really in just a hurry that we would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to cut what, 30 seconds? It is dumb corner, but a vary poor priority.
Brad, your job is safe.
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 20th October 2011
I simply wish for you to recognize your own prejudice and closed mindedness. I accept you do not like the manner in which I challenge the city to be a better place.

Remember though, it was our news service that allowed Hockeyville to begin.

I will not do everything correctly and nor will you, but our objective should be to make everything better for the people who live here.

I acccept when people critique me and I attempt to learn from it and make myself a better person.

Taking offense simply causes heartache, and in life, there is enough heartache just living.

Comment by Brad on 20th October 2011
Nowhere as a "servant" of the City does it say I relinquish my rights as a citizen and taxpayer.

As an employee I do my best to serve my employer the City and their employers the citizens and taxpayers which includes me.

Maybe your should create a new oath with this in it.

As for being sued any journalist or blogger knows how to word their writings to not cross that line into slander.

How about you put your threat to my job in direct wording so I can use it if you become mayor.
No, Brad, Servant!
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 20th October 2011
Yes, you may also be a taxpayer and a resident but the employee part you seem to have misplaced. All of us, and me too if elected, are servants. Our attitude must be to make the entire living conditions of the people residing in the City of Terrace the most enjoyable place any human has ever experienced.

No, we might not get there, but it is our duty, our obligation as employees of the City of Terrace do do everything in our power to make every single moment of the residents life the very best they could have even imagined.

How's that for perspective!

I never headhunted or accused anyone of being corrupt or immoral without direct and provided evidence. The reason I haven't been sued is because everything we have spoken about is accurate.

Arrogance is thinking you can keep a job simply because you have it.
Employee, Citizen, & Taxpayer.
Comment by Brad on 20th October 2011
Yes as a taxpayer of the City of Terrace I have a piss poor attitude about wasting money on making stupid purchases such as Co-op buildings, empty parking lots, etc.

Boy as someone who says he stands for freedom of speech and has no problem accusing our democratically elected leaders of being corrupt, immoral, or just lambasting every decision they make you sure can't take it back.

Arrogance would be a mayor who goes on a headhunt on an employee with over 10 years of service who does a great job (or so I've been told) because they have the nerve as a citizen and taxpayer to express their opinions.

Co-op 2.0
Comment by Brad on 20th October 2011
Wow you'd buy a piece of property probably costings at least $100,000 and generating tax dollars (even though it's a parking lot) just because the streets don't line up.

Hmm.. I wonder what else could be done with that money, maybe pay interest on another dumbass land purchase , pave some streets, etc. )

Long term it might be nice to do these pie in the sky things, but there are very limited tax dollars and pretty normally loses out to neccessity.

>>3 – purchase the old 7-11 property and redesign the south end of Sparks Street to curve through that lot to line up straight at the intersection. And again install sensors for quick action.

Reply from Merv: Brad, you seem to have an issue with me. I did not say I would do this, I stated these were options. This is the role of a leader, to allow for options and opinions to be shared. The Councillors make the ultimate decisions. The issue is the intersection at Lakelse and Sparks.

This intersection is something that is very frustrating to the citizens, those you are a servant to. You get paid by the people who live here when they pay their taxes. Our/your job is to make the City a better place, to remove the frustrations.

You have a piss poor attitude. Please ensure I do not become Mayor because all the City staff who possess such an arrogant ignorant attitude will find themselves looking for a new career. And as Mayor, I will do everything in my power, in camera, to ensure this happens.

Does the Terrace population really pay attention? Part deux.
Comment by Mike Ross on 19th October 2011
I, for one, will always encourage openess, transparency and accountability from any elected official. If anyone tries to bully me, that will also be in the open. I like to think that there are more people willing to favour "doing the right thing" openly than to punish it. If we want to change the "spinelessness" that you have perceived, it will be done by courage, not anonymity.
This is truly a healthy exchange of viewpoints and is also what Democracy is all about. Perhaps we can refer to the original "Does the Terrace population really pay attention?" Let us see. What say you, Terrace? Read the exchange from start to finish and get involved.
More Bullying than you can imagine!
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 19th October 2011
As soon as we started this news website service we began getting dozens and dozens of comments, accolades and tips to stories with the following disclaimer,

"But please do not use my name because I know how this town works!"

An individual can be punished by many means if he doesn't do what someone, who has the capacity to harm him, wants him to do.

In the case of 'lil 'ol Terrace this might mean being excluded from contracts or your business not being frequented. Doing the right thing generally has an expense attached to it. In this highly charged arena, politics, it is worse. We must get to know the people we are selecting from to represent us, and then trust they will do the right thing. And they will.

Note; I just wrote another piece on the same topic for the wall street protests.
No Bullying Here
Comment by Mike Ross on 19th October 2011
Hi Merv,

Partly right. With regard to "electors" remaining anonymous that is absolutely (part of) the essence of democracy. People can never be intimidated into voting for one candidate over another. Once the "elected" assume the voice of the many, however, the "electing" part is over and they are "representing" the views of the "many" and must always be accountable to them. The very fact that we are able to apply the word "spineless" to some representatives is based on the fact that we know how they voted on an issue. If we gave the spineless an anonymous place to hide, we decrease accountability.
In municipal politics, I can't imagine who the "bully" would be, or who could apply sanctions against a councillor, so I can see no advantage in the "yes or no anonymous" scenario. I think we can agree that an elected official who can be "bullied" away from the views of the people who elected him or her needs to be replaced.
Comment by Dr. Bruce Bidgood on 18th October 2011
Merv...your candidacy for Mayor makes me smile....way to put your convictions to the test.

Thanks Mike, and here is my challenge
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 18th October 2011
Currently we all know exactly how our elected representatives will vote, as they are told. This was a trick invoked hundreds of years ago, making people believe they need to see how the guy they chose from their neighborhood voted and stand up and publicly expose himself to sanctions. This trick allowed the power brokers to maintain their control on the Nations.

I have heard this same argument dozens of times, but it is a backwards argument. And the evidence of this thinking being wrong is all around us. Decisions like the sale of BC Rail would not have happened. The spine less BC MLA representatives couldn't bear to be bullied by Campbell so they went along biting their tongues. Some accepted their fate and resigned or just quit politics.

I trust that at least 70% at all times will make the right decisions. I do not need to know how they voted. And for the sake of our "democracy" I will forgo the right to know how they voted.
Anything is possible
Comment by Mike Ross on 18th October 2011
Hi Merv,
"Way To Go" !! on your decision to run for Mayor. Hopefully, you have not listened very carefully to those that reminded you that you would not win. "Having fun" with something and being a "winner" at it are not mutually exclusive but often go hand in hand and long hair and beard do not detract from anyone's wisdom or integrity.
There are things that people will like and dislike about each Mayoral Candidate so far. What you have been doing for so long, exposing truth where you thought it was needed, speaks volumes and you have certainly raised a valid point over what my wife has referred to as "the stupidest intersection in the universe". You and I may, however, have a serious discussion in future over allowing elected officials to hide behind an anonymous ballot when it is already far too difficult to hold them accountable.
Many people, myself included, have not made their final decision as to who gets their vote for Mayor and closed their minds to the other candidates. So you are still in a tie for first place - let's hear more.
Does the Terrace population really pay attention ?
Comment by terry on 17th October 2011
3 brilliant priorities. You've got my vote !