As part of our ongoing coverage of the 2020 Saskatoon municipal election, CTV News at Five anchor Jeremy Dodge is sitting down with each of the city's six mayoral candidates to discuss why they are running for office and what they plan to do if elected. Here is Jeremy's conversation with Mark Zielke. You can also watch their conversation using the player above.
Your campaign slogan: "Fostering hope, dignity and respect." Elaborate on that for me.
Long story short, just like we've seen this morning - it doesn't matter if folks are business owners, it doesn't matter if they're employees, it doesn't matter if it's anybody on the street. If they come up and they say hello, they know I take care of them. They know I look out for them. And that's why I advocate for folks in our city. Not just those at the top, it doesn't matter what collar you have, whether it's blue collar, white collar, no collar, everyone deserves hope, dignity and respect.
And that means, from a city perspective, that everyone is welcomed, that we wrap our arms around even those, especially, who are falling through the cracks in our city.
You wanted to meet downtown. You wanted to make sure that we were among these big and small shops. What is it about the downtown that you feel connected to?
First of all, I see downtown in a lot of ways. Right now it's suffering. There is over 24 per cent commercial vacancy right now downtown. And that, in my opinion, is due to a lack of leadership by the current mayor and administration. When you have an invisible mayor, when you have a mayor that has done nothing over the last four years when it comes to actually helping businesses succeed down here, that's a big deal.
I'm here to correct that. I'm here to lead by example. And I don't ask anybody to do something I'm not prepared to do. I'm down here bringing coffees, having conversations with everybody. That doesn't just include the owners or janitors, that includes all folks. Just living out what I preach.
Part of this downtown is the Lighthouse. Everyone's got their view on it, but you have said you've got an idea to move the facility itself.
I want to be clear. I'm the only candidate running for the mayoralty here in Saskatoon who is actually talking about breaking up the Lighthouse into five different locations specifically with dealing with those issues. We have people dealing with mental health issues, we have people dealing with addictions, we have people dealing with homelessness and poverty.
We have the Lighthouse, 200-plus people stacked upon one another, and yet we have a city that says we shouldn't have institutionalized living and yet here we have it right in our own downtown. That is unacceptable. And that's coming from Lighthouse residents. Of course there's a lot of congruence then when you talk about people outside the Lighthouse and business owners and stakeholders in the community. What I'm talking about is a win-win for everyone. First and foremost that includes people who actually need the help that they deserve.
Somewhat related to that is the situation on crime. Gangs, violence, drugs, they are a thing in this city. The whole situation has not been getting better. It has been getting, some would say, worse.
I would say it's getting worse.
What is the plan there, then?
Obviously, it's not about throwing unlimited money at a continually growing police budget. That is obviously not working. You're absolutely right. I talked to folks even this morning - people are dealing with a myriad of crime issues. And the thing is, we have obviously solutions in place right now from the current administration that are not working.
I'm proposing more partnerships when it comes to dealing with mental health. When people are harassing people downtown creating an unsafe environment. We don't need police officers armed with a sidearm and a Taser and every other known substance taking care of those issues. We need to understand that police are supped to fight crime. Right now even in the city we have until election day, swaths more of extra police. How much overtime are we paying for that?
What I'm suggesting is we take a rationalized look at what we're doing right now and actually create some real solutions, not just Band-Aid experiments.
Let's talk about mega-projects. The library has come up many times, there could be an arena on the horizon, yet here we are trying to deal with a pandemic and slumping economy because of that. What is your view on these big-ticket items?
We have more people today losing their homes, losing their businesses, losing their cars, losing whatever little they have because of this economic uncertainty that we're all facing. When it comes to mega-projects, and this includes the proposed library but also the arena, this should not be taking place and adding a burden to Saskatoon taxpayer and Saskatoon residents.
From my perspective when it comes to the arena, if it's spearheaded by private investment and of course partnerships with the provincial and federal governments, that's fine. But nothing should be added to Saskatoon taxpayers' bills right now. You're paying, I believe it's $50 extra on a water bill in the city right now for using $4.50 of water. That's astronomical, that's insanity.
And so I'm here saying, let's bring some rationalization, let's bring some reform to the budgeting process and to how we deal with these other significant projects that are going to be penalizing Saskatoon taxpayers.
On Nov. 9, why should people put the check mark next to Mark Zielke?
First of all, I'm not a career politician. I don't want to be a career politician. As I've heard out in the community I'm a man of the people and that's what I'm about. I'm about being on the street, helping out those who are falling through the cracks but also advocating for those who are trying to cling on to their business.
So when we talk about leadership and we talk about being accessible and we talk about being visible, I'm that person. I'm also talking about the real issues. We're talking about budgeting, we're talking about rationalizing our budget, we're talking about actually looking at how we do City Hall and how we actually can be approachable for the citizens that we're supposed to serve.
So when it comes to being mayor here in Saskatoon on Nov. 9, there are only two issues you have to deal with as mayor. And that is, be civil and serve. That's what I'm here to do. And I ask humbly for your vote on Nov. 9. Because remember - if you want to see change, you can't keep making the same choices.