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 Don Atchison. You can also watch their conversation using the player above.
You want your old job back basically. Mayor for 13 years now you've been on the outside looking in for the last four. What made you say 'Hey, I need another shot at that.'
Because I have a true love and passion for the community and I just think there's been a bleak and dismal record for the last four years. What's really been accomplished other than bike lanes, fire pits and the controversy over a library. I just think that the city has so much to offer and we've got so much more to do and I want to get on with doing it, to make this city a great place for everyone to live.
Let's look at the campaign website: "leadership, experience and results" are the three words. You're trying to build what you accomplished during your time in office?
First of all, I think that you need to have strong leadership. It's just been announced by the Bank of Canada that they don't believe that recovery from COVID is going to be over until 2023. We need someone to guide us through. A lot of people are having a lot of problems and a lot of difficulties along the way right now and someone's got to be able to deal with that. So strong leadership is really important. The experience, you think of all the money that come through to the city of Saskatoon from both the federal and the provincial government along the way. Hundreds and hundreds of millions, well over a billion dollars into our community and proven results: Circle Drive South bridge, a hundred years in the making, was completed. River Landing, Traffic Bridge, (Chief) Mistawasis Bridge.
We had the farmers' market then they got punted by their current council. Shaw Centre, the soccer facility. New developments in Hampton, Kensington, Blairmore. As a matter of fact, I was told that I was going to be held personally liable for Hampton Village because the administration felt that they were going lose nothing but money on it. It turned out to be a tremendous success, because I believe in the people of Saskatoon and I believe that everyone in our city, regardless of where they live, should have the same opportunities made available to them.
Let's look at some of the planks on that platform, the big one that stands out: no tax increase for next year. So how do we pay for things with no tax revenue coming in.
First of all, revenues are still going up. Assessments still increase because there's new homes being built all the time, there's new commercial developments, manufacturing — not to the same extent that it should be, and much lower rates than what we should have — but those revenues still continue to increase for the city. On top of it, we need to look at the landfill site. It's not moving anywhere, last time I figured it out, it's still going to be there 100 years from now. So we don't have to put in any capital funding for that for one year. Another thing we can look at also is Bus Rapid Transit. We don't need to be doing that.
They claim that it's $150 million, the administration through council, but in fact you need overpasses, you need to do something. The project will be $500 million. I ask people, go to Mississauga news, go to London Free Press news (to look at their projects): $500 million. We don't need to do it right now. There's a lot of over things we can look at. For example, the capital reserves, we don't need to be topping them all up at this particular point in time. I'm saying, let's take one year, let's get our feet underneath us again, and let's see where we should be going with a new council, with new direction.
Let's talk about safety. Crime, drugs, gangs, violence. It's been going up, doesn't look like it's going trend downward anytime soon. What's the solution there.
The solution there is we need a new chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, that being the mayor. The mayor is appointed to the board by the Saskatchewan Police Commissions Act. But after that, the board elects the chair. I want to be the chair once again. It's interesting, during my term crime rates were going down. The last 21 months, there have been 28 murders in Saskatoon. Violent crime is up about 40 per cent in Saskatoon. When I was the mayor, crime rates were going down, the death rates were going down. We've done it before and we'll do it again.
The idea of saying that they're not defunding the police right now, the number of police offers per 100 thousand has been decreasing in the city of Saskatoon after I was (no longer) the mayor. We need to get those numbers back up again and make sure that this city is safe and sound for everyone. You may ask me, well what makes a safe city? When will we know we are safe? When will we have enough police officers? I'll tell you right now, is when any mother, any father can take their children and walk anywhere in the city and feel safe, that's when you have a safe community.
Let's talk about some of the other big issues. We've got the Lighthouse downtown and everyone thinks they know the solution for that. What is your plan for that facility?
It's really interesting, back in August, no one was talking about the Lighthouse and I was the very first one to bring it up, that the Lighthouse needs a new solution. The people that are living there right now, the participants that are there, it's not fair to anyone. Would you want to be locked out from 9 a.m. in the morning until 5 p.m. in the afternoon? Mother Nature calls, we need to better than what we're doing. I've had discussions with the Lighthouse along the way with their executive director. I believe that we can find the right location for them, the provincial government has given $100,00 for the city and the city's put in another $100,000 to do another study.
We don't need more studies, we need action now. We're going to be able to do that, I believe, in a very short period of time. It's not what it started out to be, we've got different groups there. We have the homeless there, the police are using as a drunk tank, we had those that were just marginalized before that we're looking for jobs that were being trained for them. We need to be able to look at that once again and if they need to be separated, that's what we should be doing.
The new proposed public library is a big issue as well. Are you on board with moving ahead or are you on the side that says 'No, we don't need to spend that much?'
Well, first of all, we don't need to spend $135 million. Let me explain what $135 million is. That's building the Traffic Bridge and the (Chief) Mistawasis Bridge, the capital costs of them alone. I don't think we need that type of dollars invested into the library. This council, this mayor did a terrible job of bringing that forward. They didn't ask the questions, they didn't do the right things at all.
As a matter of fact on the Sept. 20 meeting of council, they should have asked the city solicitor to put this to bed once and for all. Can City Council reverse the decision that's there today? No one, had the internal fortitude to do that, including the current mayor who should have done that. We should be looking at having, for example, a lease there. (The library in Stonebridge) has a lease, they have it Station 20 West, the library has done that sort of thing already. It can be a lease to purchase, it can be in fact co-developed with a developer. They could put an office tower on top, they could put residential on top. We talk about infill in the downtown area, this a prime opportunity to do that.
On top of that, you could have put retail on the main floor. You don't have to have the entire first floor for a library, it could be a little bit on the first floor, second and third floor. There are lots of ways of looking at it. But $135 million today, I think it's extravagant at this particular point i time.
On Nov. 9, why should people put the check mark next to your name?
Because we've done it before and we'll do it again, getting this city back on track again with safer communities. We're going to make sure that we hold the taxes down, no increase in 2021 at all is what we're going to do. We're going to look at creating more jobs in our community once again, we're going to be dealing with the Lighthouse.
We're going to deal with the farmers' market and there are a whole host of other things that we need to including looking for direct investment in our community. So once again, I ask the people in the city of Saskatoon, please vote Don Atchison on Nov. 9 and go to DonAtchison.ca and we'll have a tremendous community once again.