News man enters Morinville race
Stephen Dafoe seeks council seat
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 06:00 am
Stop the presses – one of Morinville’s most prolific reporters has entered the race for town council.
Morinville News owner and reporter Stephen Dafoe announced Monday that he would run for Morinville town council. A town resident since 2006, he is one of the town’s most prominent media figures and a regular figure at council meetings.
“I’ve got a great love for this community,” Dafoe said, “and I want to see it grow responsibly.”
He said he had grown his media company slowly and carefully over the years, and wanted to take a similar approach to Morinville. “There hasn’t been a race to make (my company) big by borrowing tonnes of money.”
Dafoe said he was concerned that the town was in a rush to become a city. “I’m concerned that we might rush forward and build a (recreation) complex with a pool in it,” he said, without making sure it made economic sense first. He took no position on a community pool, he added, and would support it if it made financial sense.
He also criticized council’s current approach to spending. “We’ve drained our reserves pretty well last time to give residents a two per cent tax increase,” he said, which could mean a steep hike or deep cuts in this fall’s budget. Councillors had also taken to thinking of $70,000 tax-hikes as small, as they added “just” one per cent to the mill rate.
“That $70,000 is about 30 residents’ tax bills for the entire year,” Dafoe said. Council needed to think small at budget time and think about how taxes affected individual residents.
Dafoe said he’d look line-by-line in the budget if elected, as part of a comprehensive spending review to determine what services the town actually needed. He took a similar approach as chair of the town’s library board last year, he noted, and managed to noticeably shrink its budget.
Dafoe also wanted a rethink of the town’s community programs.
“We spend about $400,000 a year in community programming,” he said. Instead of having the town deliver all programs, he proposed taking half that cash and giving it directly to community groups to create programs they know residents want. “I think ultimately we could get more and better programming that’s taken advantage of for less money.” He cited the smash hit of the cooking classes put on by the town’s community garden group and farmers’ market this year as proof this could work.
As for youth programming, Dafoe said Morinville needed a new approach. Everyone is calling for new activities or facilities for kids, he noted, but no one’s actually asking kids what they want. “Let’s sit down with youth and find out what youth want,” he said, and get them to develop these programs.
Dafoe said he had a proven track record when it came to speaking the truth and public engagement. He’s served as a director on the local chamber of commerce, sat in dunk tanks at community events, and even performed as Santa Claus. “It’s that boots-on-the-ground activity that allows me to see how the community works.”
Dafoe said he had hired another reporter to run his paper and blog during the election. If elected, he would continue to write for his paper, but would not write on anything related to council business.
Election Day is Oct. 21.