Posted on 09/20/2010, 8:18 pm, by mySteinbach
Chris Summerville

Chris Summerville running for Steinbach City Council

Dear Steinbach Voter:

As Steinbach has been our home for the last 17 years. It has been a wonderful community in which to rear our family. It is characterized by strong social capital, a vibrant business community, a progressive City Council, as well as a strong faith community.
It is no secret that Steinbach is one of the fastest growing cities in Manitoba with a growth rate of approximately 4 percent each year. This growth is projected to continue for the next 15 years. But does Steinbach have to grow and progress the typical way that most other cities have: lacking wise foresight and addressing problems too late. Wise leadership will be necessary to ensure this growth is measured, sustainable and financially sound. The city’s mission statement is: “Steinbach is a clean, safe, and vibrant community that values tradition and prosperity. Our mission is to preserve the quality of life Steinbach is known for while effectively managing its growth and resources.” 

City Council will face many challenges in the days ahead regarding its continued growth and how to address the needs of its residents. Towards that end I declare my candidacy in running for a seat on city council.

I believe Council must work as a team and demonstrate servant-leadership in managing the city’s resources. As a resident of Steinbach I ask the following question of all residents:

“What kind of city do you want to live in?”

In answering that question myself I propose the following issues or values that will be my priority as a city councillor.

1) Public Safety.  Increasing crime comes with population growth. Steinbach’s crime rate is increasing. Increased policing presence and neighbourhood watch and DARE programs will be necessary in creating a community-wide crime prevention strategy.  As well, we must be proactive in promoting services that assist in developing resilient families and communities. Illegal drug use is usually the driver behind much of the current crime. Input from community groups is critical in addressing this issue. As to traffic safety a “by-pass” around Steinbach will eventually be needed in light of the growth.

2) Housing for vulnerable groups.  The Steinbach population age group 65 to 74 will increase by 47 percent over the next ten years.  A variety of seniors housing models will be needed in order for seniors to age in their place of living. Significant will be the need for assisted living housing as well as additional personal care homes.  Currently there is little, if any, safe and affordable housing stock for those disabled by mental illness and new immigrants, as well as young people earning minimum wage. Steinbach will have no choice but to work with community agencies, community developers and different levels of government in improving this situation

3) Primary Health Care Centre. Physician and health care service provider recruitment can be enhanced by the establishment of a Steinbach Primary Health Care Centre that has a focus on collaborative care.  Eventually Steinbach along with other levels of government will have to entertain a new Regional Hospital similar to that of Boundary Trials between Winkler and Morden.  City Council has demonstrated it can play a significant role in recruitment of health care providers.

4) Reasonable debt load. City Councils of the past and present have been successful in maintaining one of the lowest mill rates in Manitoba while having a manageable debt load. With the continued growth of the city two questions will be critical: Where do we spend tax money (priorities) and 2) How much do we spend and borrow (prudence). Council has an ethical obligation to be as accountable and transparent in its planning and communicating with the residents of Steinbach. How to keep taxes low and debt low while addressing infrastructure issues, enhanced recreational and art facilities will call for the wisdom of Solomon: prioritizing projects, balancing city reserves, keeping debt manageable, and repayment period reasonable, while not failing to address the concerns of our most vulnerable citizens.

5)  Collaboration with community business leaders and community developers. This can be achieved by bringing back standing committee portfolios. “There is safety and wisdom in a multitude of councils.”  Plebiscites ought to be avoided as leaders are chosen to lead. It is in the word “leadership.”

What experience do I bring as a 58 year old executive to be an effective listening team member of City Council?
While serving on numerous provincial and national boards. I have served as a board member of the South Eastman RHA for the last 8 years that has the responsibility of managing a budget of approximately $90 million. My last year will end five months after the municipal elections. My favourite committee has been that of the Ethics Committee. For the last 16 years I have been the CEO of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society which provides support service in each of the regions of Manitoba including Steinbach. We have never operated a fiscal debt. The majority of my professional work has been that of an advocate at the local, regional, provincial and national levels. I have three years left out of six to serve as a Board Member of the Mental Health Commission as appointed by Prime Minister Harper.

It is well known that I am motivated by a strong sense of social justice. While being fiscally conservative, I am socially progressive as a community worker. I think a caring community and all levels of government must address the needs of its most vulnerable citizens so they too can have a quality of life in Steinbach while the city effectively manages its growth and resources. The guiding principle is to deliver services in the most efficient and accountable way possible while addressing financial, social, development, safety, health and environmental issues.
I would appreciate your support on October 27.