After years of following with increased interest the decisions of Rocky View County, a Springbank resident has decided to run for a Council seat in the October election.
Jerry Arshinoff, 63, said he made his decision after learning that Division 2 Coun. Kim Magnuson will not seeking another term.
“I have immense respect for Coun. Magnuson,” he said.
The recently retired financial advisor and former school principal said he became interested in local politics when the County began approving controversial community-altering development projects without knowing whether they represent a fiscal advantage.
“Council is just asked to vote with a blindfold on,” said Arshinoff.
Arshinoff said urban-like projects do not belong in the countryside.
“We moved here because of what it is,” said Arshinoff, who has lived in an acreage near Commercial Court for 28 years, where he and his wife Diane raised five children.
His views, Arshinoff soon found out, were in tune with those of most area residents.
“I and most neighbours want to remain pretty much as it is now,” he said.
If any development is to be approved in Rocky View, Arshinoff said, it must make planning sense, represent a fiscal advantage to the County, and be accepted by the community.
However, Arshinoff contends, the County presently has no way to know whether a new project is financially advantageous because no system to make such analysis is in place.
“During the hearing for (retail centre and senior housing complex) Bingham Crossing, when some councillors asked whether (Balzac shopping centre) CrossIron Mills had provided a net benefit to the County, there was no answer,” Arshinoff said. “So I thought it was over for the applicant.”
Eventually, however, Bingham was approved by a slim majority of councillors from areas far away from Springbank voted to approve it.
Arshinoff said candidates must disclose any financial contributions from corporations before the election, to help electors make an informed choice. Disclosure after the vote does not cut it, he said. As for himself, Arshinoff has already made up his mind.
“I am not interested in contributions,” he said. “And for sure, I won’t accept contributions from any business or developers—they may have to come to council and then I would have to excuse myself.”
The recently retired financial advisor and former school principal says he is aware of the commitments that a councillor’s role entails, and intends to give it the necessary time if elected.
“I fully realize being in council is an extremely time consuming job,” he said.
On the other hand, he says, he expects representing the community will be easy.
“It’s easy to do it, because 85 per cent of our residents share a common viewpoint,” he said.
In regards to the $60-plus million debt the County created to build sewer and water systems in the County’s east side, Arshinoff sees no other option than paying it back as soon as possible.
“Rocky View’s debt is there,” he said. “It should not have existed, but it is—and it must be addressed in any meaningful way.”
To achieve that, Arshinoff said, all superfluous expenses will have to be cut down.
Until the financial situation is stabilized, he added, “the (projected Balzac) County campus is nuts,” he said. “And the Vantage Point publication should be online.”
Once the County regains its debt-free status, he added, ambitious projects may be considered again.
Arshinoff says he has trouble understanding why a code of ethics that was signed by four councillors would not be officially adopted by the whole council.
“Why would a councillor not sign a code of ethics or, if they think it’s flawed, make their own?” he asked.
An accountability system is needed to avoid public mistrust, Arshinoff added.
Proposed developments, in Arshinoff’s view, should be advertised with a large, conspicuous sign placed in the property. Similarly, the County website should be designed accept residents’ letters in support or against a proposal. Those letters, he added, should be read during a public hearing instead of just being filed.
“We should have something very simple instead of wondering to whom send a letter,” said Arshinoff. “It can be a simple and straightforward system.”
In addition, developers should be required to post enough securities so that the County will be able to fix anything that may go wrong.
“There has to be a guarantee that people in the area are not going to be flooded, or hit by other unintended consequences of development,” he said.