DC candidates in-depth: Johanna Martens

Talk about your time in the community and community-building. What boards/commissions or committees do you sit, and talk about key projects you have had a hand in?

Community development is a main passion of mine and all the work I do with my company, Myanna Consulting, is that, community development. Through my company I have had the honour of working with many community groups and on many community projects. Currently I am the regional coordinator for Success By 6 & Children’s First. With this work I support the early years in our community by working with a large range and early years’ service providers and community groups who support children and families. Each year I am responsible for distributing over $70,000 within the community, designated for the early years.

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Some of the projects supported are; Free Positive Discipline classes for parents, partnered on the City’s summer book walk,  partnered with the Literacy society on their Room to Bloom program and provided child care for ESL families, sponsored the Harmony park at Tremblay school, and enhanced the Calvin Kruk Centre for Performing Arts by installing a kids area and parent information centre, host our annual Early Years Children’s Festival, and many more projects. With my work on Success By 6 & Children First I have the opportunity to meet and work with families from our community who make up the heart and soul of Dawson Creek.

I also give back to my community in volunteer work and am currently the Secretary for the Kiwanis Club of Dawson Creek, a director of the KPAC Society, and a director on the Building Learning Together Society. 

Some of my past community work I have been involved with include The Stonewell Development Society (waterpark project), Dawson Creek Harm Reduction Committee, Community Futures, and many more.

In your opinion, what is the role of a city councilor in a 10 to 20,000 person city?

The role of Mayor and Council is to represent the best interests of your community and work as a team to achieve this. As a councillor, it is your responsibly to leave your ego & bias at the door and listen to your citizens. Each one of us on council should work as a team with individual unique backgrounds. When we do this we are truly representing the best interest of the community.

Are there any particular issues or local decisions that have you running? Why and what are they?

There is not one particular issues or decision that has made me want to run but to continue to build on the success we have achieved. The decisions we make today affect those of tomorrow and our future generations. 

What are the three most important issues facing the City?

1) Fiscal gap is a huge priority for the community and an issue that needs to be solved on many levels. I support the City of Dawson Creek in being a leader in taking the measures on addressing the fiscal gap. This is not an unique issue to just Dawson Creek but is an issue facing many communities in the developing world as the cost of living, services, and goods is constantly on the rise. This is not a matter of reducing services but prioritizing our services and ensuring they are delivered in the most effective and efficient ways. We should also be looking for innovative ways to generate new industries as a source of revenue to the community. For example there is technology out there that can use waste from our community which we currently spend large amounts of money on disposing and turn it into a source of bio diesel. This could turn an expense into a revenue stream as well as creating more jobs and being environment responsible. 

2) Crime in Dawson Creek seems to be on the rise. Reducing crime is the responsibility of all citizens in the community. One way we can achieve this is by building resilient neighborhoods. This means that we have a responsibility to know our neighbor’s, be vigilant and aware of what is happening in our neighborhoods, and form a neighborhood coalition. How Mayor and council can support this is to support these neighborhood coalitions and leading the way by implementing initiatives and grants to help neighborhoods get started.

3) Diversifying our Economy should be a top priority for the community. There are a lot of innovative, new emerging industries on the rise such as the cannabis industry. The opportunities that are coming with the legalization can create new jobs and designate Dawson Creek as a leader in this industry. In addition, the natural resource sector provides us opportunities to look at ways to leverage this industry but focusing on value added industries as well as cluster developments that would use our assets and build on them. Also we need to look at what we traditional have considered “waste” to see if there are more beneficial uses that this waste can be put to.

Matters such as health and education are more provincial matters and business, but are often lumped into municipal politics. What role can a municipal councilor play in health and education when it comes to these institutions in their city?

The role they play is to advocate and lobby the provincial government for services in their communities. This is critically important that Council voice the community concerns in these two areas. That is a key and important role for Council.

What can you, if elected as a councillor, do to help reduce crime in Dawson Creek? What ideas can you bring to the table?

See above answer 

How do you balance the push for economic growth and environmental sustainability?

Economic growth and environmental sustainability  can go hand in hand. As a community we need to be proactive rather than reactive and look for new innovative ideas on turning some of our expenses into revenue. This can create new economic growth while also being environmentally responsible. “Sustainability” is a three legged stool – environmental, economic and social – you need a balance in all three and all three working together to truly be sustainable. 

How do you see industry, small business, and nonprofits’ relationship with the city of Dawson Creek?

All 3 make up our community and are key partners. They are all critical in making Dawson Creek a community of choice for all residents.

Do you think the downtown core is successful and thriving? Why or why not, and cite examples.

The downtown core has not reached its full potential. While there are a number of vibrant businesses in the downtown core we could be doing more to encourage new growth and opportunities.  Hosting more downtown events and encouraging businesses to stay open later will entice more people spending time in the downtown. Downtowns should be the heart of a community and gathering place for events and businesses.

What do you know about public transportation options in Dawson Creek? Do you have any ideas regarding public transportation?

Public transit consists of the bussing system, the trail systems, and other modes of travel such as bike lanes and taxi cabs. I think Dawson Creek  is doing an overall good job in providing various options for mobility. As far as public transit, it is an expensive program but is critical to those that use it. I support providing options to the community. 

It has been said by a handful of current councilors that DC must mind its fiscal gap and are not doing it. One current councilor pegs the city’s own building upkeep bill at approximately $40 million dollars behind. What has (or hasn’t) City Council done, and what more can be done?

I think that the finances need to be reviewed by a 3rd party to provide an independent analysis and to provide recommendations on strategies for improving our fiscal future. We need a better understanding prior to making decisions. Making decisions without knowing all the information can have more negative effects than positive opportunities. 

If elected, what steps will you take to put DC on firmer financial footing?

See above answer

It’s easy to suggest projects, or improvements to services, but it all costs money and the City has a limited budget. Do you believe the City has to raise taxes in order to do what you feel needs to be done? Or do you feel there are services that can be cut? Why or why not?

We won’t be able to do answer this question until a financial review is done.

Do you want Rotary Lake opened? Why or Why not? If so – please provide a list of steps that should be taken by the city or that the city could recommend to operators. (And in what form, if it should re-open).

I would like to see the lake re-open but understand that it is in part, in the hands of Northern Health. The upgrades that the lake needs to bring it to code will cost the community a lot. What we should be doing is looking for new partnerships and ideas enabling the possibility of re-opening the lake without it adding to the tax burden of citizens.

With the removal of Rotary Lake, some have noted the lack of affordable recreation options for families and youth in Dawson Creek? What do you feel council has done in this regard, and what do you plan to bring to the table if elected? (Aside from your feelings on Rotary Lake).

I think the City of Dawson Creek and a lot of other community groups work very hard providing free to low cost events for youth and families. 

Are you in support of a runway extension at the Dawson Creek Regional Airport? Why or why not?

I believe that the Dawson Creek airport provides a good local airport options both commercially as well as for residents. I would need to see the business case  in order to provide an opinion on an extension to the runway to ensure that it made fiscal sense and would justify the costs.

What are your feelings on how City Council has handled the incoming legalization of recreational marijuana?

I think that the current council is doing a good job taking the necessary steps to ensure the transition to legalization is safe and well accepted in the community. It is a new chapter, socially and economically, for all us so it will be matter of monitoring those changes and implementing changes as necessary.

Should councillors travel to and attend conferences and events inside and outside Dawson Creek that the Mayor may also already be attending, expensed to the City? If so, why and what tangible benefits must come out of these? If not, why not?

Yes Councillors should travel to outside conferences. This is one way we can generate new ideas for our community and learn from other communities. Conferences often share “best practices” and open up networking opportunities. However, I recommend that Council members submit reports on their attendance at these meetings and conference so that their learning can be shared. I am also not sure that all Council members need to attend conferences such as FCM and UBCM everyone. We may want to consider staggering our attendance in order to reduce costs. 

You get one million dollars for a single DC or related area project. No strings attached — your choice. Where does that money go?

One project I would love to see in our community is a combination of a seniors centre and pre-school. While I know that council is not responsible for these areas of operation it is in partnership with the agencies that do manage these two areas that we have an opportunity to leverage more funding to see this opportunity come to fruition.  

 

 

Don’t forget the DC Mirror council candidate mega-debate at Encana Events Centre Thursday Oct. 11.

 

 

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