Marks pleased ward vote going ahead
The man behind the Let Us Vote petition says Red Deer city council’s about-face on the wards plebiscite issue was surprising but the right move.
Garfield Marks said he didn’t mind spending $3,000 out of his own pocket to set up an office, take out ads in the Red Deer College newspaper, and print flyers and petitions because Red Deer residents now have the chance to vote on a ward system.
“I think it was worth every sense because it is our democracy,” said Marks. “A lot of people were excited that somebody stepped up and took that first step. That’s all I did. I took the first step and I put up a sign and said, ‘Let’s start here.’ ”
By a vote of 5-3 on Monday, Red Deer city council reversed a Feb. 4 decision that rejected going to a plebiscite on a ward system in conjunction with the Oct. 21 civic election.
After the Feb. 4 rejection of a plebiscite, Marks took matters into his own hands. He began the process to start a Let Us Vote petition calling on council to go to a plebiscite. He took out a three-month lease on office space. Canvassers were set to begin circulating the petition on April 1.
Marks said the support from the community was overwhelming. Last week, city officials and councillors paid him a visit to discuss the petition and why he wanted a plebiscite.
While he was pleased, Marks said some of his supporters are worried about the wording of the plebiscite question and the rollout of public education on systems of representation from the city.
Mayor Morris Flewwelling, Coun. Dianne Wyntjes and Coun. Tara Veer changed their original votes from Feb. 4 to support a plebiscite.
“One of the things I learned in public life is that you formulate ideas and you formulate visions but you also listen,” said Flewwelling. “You listen very carefully. ... My soundings told me that maybe we didn’t do the right thing in dismissing the plebiscite. I still argue against wards. That hasn’t changed my view.”
Flewwelling said he heard a lot of residents say something along the lines they want the opportunity to say yes or no.
He said this decision likely captured the community’s mood a little more accurately.
“I think maybe we didn’t hear people out on it and we made a decision,” said Flewwelling. “God knows it wasn’t the first time I changed my mind.”
Coun. Cindy Jefferies said she has flipped sides on the issue several times but in the end she had to stay with council’s original decision during the debate. She also called attention to formulating the right question.
“Whatever the question, we have to be quite careful on how we use a plebiscite,” said Jefferies. “Getting the question right is critical. If we ask a question that is too wishy washy, then we’re in trouble. Then we will be disappointing the people who wanted the question in the first place.”
City staff will come back to council in six weeks to outline a strategy for public education on the systems of representation and more information, including costs of adding a plebiscite to a municipal ballot.
How Council voted
How they voted on a plebiscite on a ward system:
In favour: Mayor Morris Flewwelling, Councillors Frank Wong, Chris Stephan, Tara Veer and Dianne Wyntjes.
Opposed: Councillors Cindy Jefferies, Paul Harris and Lynne Mulder.
Absent: Coun. Buck Buchanan.
In favour: Buchanan, Stephan and Wong.
Opposed: Flewwelling, Veer, Harris, Mulder and Wyntjes.
Affirming at-large system:
April 30, 2012
In favour: Flewwelling, Veer, Harris, Mulder, Jefferies and Wyntjes.
Opposed: Buchanan, Stephan and Wong.