Mount Pearl mayoral faceoff: Candidates talk taxes, transparency … and new city manager Steve Kent
Travis Faulkner and Dave Aker each want to be the city's new mayor
The municipal election is three days away and two men are duking it out for the top council seat in Mount Pearl. Travis Faulkner and Dave Aker sat down with the St. John's Morning Show to answer some questions about recent issues creating a buzz in the city.
Give us a sense of who you are.
Aker: "I've been on city council for the past two terms, a total of eight years, and I've always dedicated myself to the City of Mount Pearl. [I've] lived there since 1974 … My focus for the next four years will be on roads, infrastructure, living in the community, expenditure control, reasonable taxation and, of course, innovation.
"I'm offering myself as a full-time candidate, I'm retired from my day job. I'm a CPA in my former life and I'm very comfortable working in an environment where we have to be cutting costs."
Faulkner: "I've been 33 years working in this country as a self-employed entrepreneur … Taking over the mayorship in Mount Pearl will bring a different leadership because when you're in business, it's just not an easy game and I got here today with some really, really, really hard experiences and struggles. I've borrowed a lot of money, I've paid it back. I want to take Mount Pearl to a place where it hasn't gone before."
The cost of everything is going up, and revenue in many areas is going down. Where would you tighten the belt?
Faulkner: "My biggest platform that I'm running on against Dave is on transparency and accountability … you will see radical transparency under my leadership. We're going to introduce a type of internet-based tracking that you've never seen before. I want to curb the abuse of travelling that the councillors now seem to just do on a whim. Councillors travelling all over the world. And the taxpayers are concerned.
"At the end of the day, there are traffic issues, serious traffic issues. We have a population decline."
Aker: "I'm hearing it at the doors, people are concerned with [the] levels of expenditures. But I'm also hearing that our services are very, very good. They like our facilities, they like our track record. My biggest concern … is with roads. I think we're falling a little bit behind in our roads.
"At the end of the day, I just think we have to manage the city's expenditure levels, but we also have to be cognizant of the fact that we have to continue to reinvest … we don't want to have a city full of potholes in 10 years because we've had to cut our taxes to such low levels that we can't afford to be sustainable."
Steve Kent has been hired as the new city manager with a salary of $190,000. That generated lots of conversation. Do you think that municipal employees are paid too much, and would you limit increases?
Aker: "From where I sit, I know how the salaries became too high. It was during the boom of the oil industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since then, everything is falling … I think the salaries in the City of Mount Pearl are a bit too high for management staff especially.
"At the end of the day, our policy is to review the salaries of all of our management staff every five years … that'll be done in 2018 … and my response to people at the doors is the chips will fall where they fall."
Faulkner: "The whole hiring of Mr. Steve Kent did not pass Travis Faulkner's smell test … When I become their mayor, there will be an investigation to get to the bottom of this.
"As far as I'm concerned, what Mr. Aker voted for unanimously with his entire council, he demonstrates to the taxpayers that he has no value of their money and I will not tolerate the paying of these kinds of salaries and executive measures … I'm talking about directors that right now is costing us $700,000 for four people, and that's going to stop on my watch."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.