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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Letter: Different perspective on candidate performances in mayoral debate
Letter. Supplied

Dear editor:

After attending the candidates debate on Sept. 28 at the Royal George Theatre, I read with some interest letter writer Peter Rusin’s take on the performance of those running for lord mayor.

Unfortunately, his observations left me wondering whether we had attended the same event. To provide balance, I’d like to offer my perspectives on some of Mr. Rusin’s remarks.

Let’s start with those concerning Gary Zalepa. Mr. Rusin states, “Zalepa is not real since his priority rests with his real estate business, and he was quite clear about that.”

I did not come away with that impression. Zalepa seemed to be clear about his dedication to the responsibility of lord mayor. References to his family’s realty business and other local endeavours were evidently meant to underscore his tenure as an active member of the community and his appreciation of the challenge of running a local business.

This, in addition to the dues he has paid in the elected political arena, in both local and regional councils, have made him “feel ready” to aspire to the position of lord mayor.

When discussing Betty Disero, Mr. Rusin uses unsubstantiated hyperbole quite liberally. His dire warnings of a “vote for Disero being a vote for amalgamation” and assertions that the “province frowns on the Disero style of governance” are merely opinion.

He claims the lord mayor’s rebuttal concerning the town’s legal posture vis-a-vis developers demonstrated hyper-aggressiveness honed through her years on Toronto council.

Here too, my observations differ markedly from those of Mr. Rusin. I was left with the impression Disero did a good job of defending the town’s stance on these legal matters and that she put forward sound arguments to counter the uninformed positions of the other candidates.

I didn’t consider her stance to be excessively aggressive, just appropriately assertive.

It is disappointing that Mr. Rusin’s references to Disero’s Toronto background are employed derisively. Shouldn’t her Toronto political experience be considered a benefit to the town, given intensified pressure from large GTA developers such as Benny Marotta’s Solmar?

Although Mr. Rusin might consider developers like Mr. Marotta to be “good guys” let’s not confuse personability with business.

Solmar has a well-documented history of being extremely aggressive on all fronts to achieve its business goals. Frankly, I’d like someone with the energy, assertiveness, and experience demonstrated by the current lord mayor to have our backs when dealing with such groups.

Mr. Rusin supports Vaughn Goettler’s seemingly more conciliatory approach to developers and, presumably, other parties wishing to take the town in directions that are at odds with the draft official plan, existing bylaws and heritage designations.

But, Goettler has absolutely no political experience and, in debate, has demonstrated shallow knowledge of the full array of local issues coming to the fore during this campaign.

His pleasant personality and business acumen cannot fully compensate for his political naivety. It is not in the town’s best interest to elect a lord mayor who will be learning on the job and highly susceptible to manipulation by entrenched and aggressive interest groups during this period of formative and rapid change for NOTL.

It is simply too risky. Perhaps it would have been better for Goettler to seek a councillor’s seat to gain some experience with local politics before running for lord mayor.

I do not know any of the municipal candidates on a personal level and have no campaign involvement. I am just a resident doing my best to make an informed voting decision.

I do not yet know which candidate I will support for lord mayor, but Goettler is not at the top of my list at this time.

Michael Ennamorato
NOTL