It was standing room only and the crowd didn’t hold back.
Six years without a civic election seems to have Warfield all fired up because at Monday night’s all-candidates forum the questions came hard and fast for all the names up for council Nov. 15.
The evening opened with the panel of nine candidates, three for mayor, six for council, giving a three-minute insight into their respective campaigns before moderator Catherine Adair got down to the nitty gritty.
Considering the large turnout, it was apparent that electors wanted answers because the Warfield Community Hall remained quiet during the two-hour grilling about property tax increments, council’s unilateral call to halt the library/recreation agreement with Trail, the ambiguity of a candidate meet-and-greet, and the ongoing talk of amalgamating the region.
Alongside those concerns was the underlying atmosphere of old guard versus newcomer.
First out of the gate, was a two-part inquiry that suggested a large tax bite is coming due to Warfield tax levies being disproportionate with the rising costs of services. Each candidate was asked what they were prepared to do to cover future costs in the village and at the regional district level.
While all agreed that gradual tax increases are inevitable to meet Warfield’s service and facility demands, first-time mayoral candidate Ted Pahl replied that council-to-community engagements must factor into how village money should be spent.
Long serving Warfield politicians Bill Trewhella and Jim Nelson, both in the running for the top seat, maintain that Warfield should be getting a cut from Teck’s industrial taxes, each ensuring they are ready to level the playing field and sit down for discussions with the company.
Former village councillor Bill Bain, now in the running for one of four seats, said that people in Trail should realize when they cry there’s a $100 problem, they only have to find $38. “When we have a $100 problem, we have to find $100.”
Incumbents John Crozier, Tom Milne and Jim Nelson were then asked point blank, why they made the “arbitrary” decision to pull out of the Trail Residency Program without community consultation and if they planned on continuing “this course of governance” if re-elected.
Nelson admitted the decision has been a bugbear and was handled clumsily, while both Crozier and Milne replayed council’s course of action before crediting Trail Coun. Kevin Jolly with coming back to the negotiating table to resolve the matter.
Next up, the mayoral candidates were asked about previous experience and what each could bring to the municipal table.
Trewhella and Nelson both conceded experience was necessary, with the former saying that starting with a blank slate was a negative not a positive.
Political newcomer Pahl lightened the mood by acknowledging that the question was most likely directed at him, but he maintained his business acumen and leadership experience were fitting prerequisites for the governance position.
The questions didn’t let up, though there were laughs from the audience when new candidates were asked if they would conduct job evaluations on all village staff.
Bain, Shane Ferraro, Diane Langman, Pahl and Brett Rakuson agreed that those actions are best left to the village (crew) manager. Ferraro noted that too many voices would leave employees spinning in their tracks, Langman called for better communication between council and staff, Pahl talked about accountability and Rakuson conceded that council directs the policies that should be followed through by management.
Pahl, Langman and Ferraro were next on the hot seat with a question about a meet-and-greet gathering they hosted a few weeks ago, and if running as a three-person team meant council decisions would be made as a group and not individually.
The rookie candidates explained they didn’t know each other well prior to the election but found likeminded-ness through the nomination process and sharing campaign costs lightened the load because all three have young families.
The meet-and-greet event was simply an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the community, Langman said, adding that it wasn’t exclusive, everyone was invited.
The evening closed with discussion about future amalgamation with Trail and other Lower Columbia communities, increasing recreation opportunities within the village, and shortfalls in operating the Warfield outdoor pool.
While the first-time candidates, called for change to move the village forward, incumbent Crozier asked voters not to be influenced by age and that retirees had more time for the job.
Ferraro responded that council needs a good mix regardless of age and joked that he’s home four days a week. Trewhella reiterated his passion for the “Jewel of the Kootenays,” followed by Nelson’s look back at 1938 when Warfield was a Cominco subdivision and shared industrial taxes and his view that a renewed interest in council was a big step forward no matter the outcome.
Rakuson closed with a statement that a changing of mayors in Trail and Rossland is big news, reminding villagers they have the same opportunity to vote in new people or carry on in the same direction.