Don Atchison is defending his record, and challenging his opponents to get specific.
The incumbent responded to criticisms of his tenure on Candidate’s Row with Brent Loucks Wednesday night.
Atchison said while his fellow candidates have been criticizing his mega-projects, they aren’t saying which initiatives they’re opposed to.
“I guess what they’re talking about is they don’t like Circle Drive South bridge,” he said. “I guess they don’t like the commuter parkway bridge, I guess they don’t like bus barns… I guess they don’t like River Landing.”
Fellow candidate Devon Hein has opposed “kingdom-building projects” and specifically named River Landing and the Remai Modern Art Gallery. Him, Kelley Moore and Charlie Clark have all suggested major projects have put the city in debt.
Atchison hit back on that criticism, saying Standard and Poors still rates the City as “triple A.”
“Isn’t it wonderful to look there through the rear-view mirror and say whatever you want to?” he asked.
Atchison also went on the offensive, criticizing his opponents for lacking “concrete details” in their visions for the future of Saskatoon.
“Who doesn’t want a better city?” he said. “But please, tell me how you’re going to do it. I don’t hear that from anyone else but me.”
REMOVING CARGO RAIL LINES FROM CITY LIMITS
Part of Atchison’s vision for the future is removing CP rail lines from Saskatoon.
He said with trains set to nearly triple in length, commuters shouldn’t have to worry about getting stuck behind one on major roads. He added other major cities across Canada are having the same conversation.
The incumbent noted the project wouldn’t be the sole financial responsibility of the City. He said he would work with the province and private sector, as well as the federal government.
“Why wouldn’t we talk about it?” Atchison said. “Why wait until everyone else has done it?”
He said his opponents would prefer to conduct studies on the matter, resulting in “analysis paralysis.”
“They want you to go out there and tell them what you want through doing their studies,” he said. “Is that leadership? I don’t think so.”
KEEPING TAXES LOW
Atchison also defended his record on taxation, saying Saskatoon has the second-lowest city portion of property taxes in the region.
He noted the separate road repair levy has one year remaining, and other than that taxes are only raised by a formula of inflation plus growth.
He said growth can cost money, but it’s better than the alternative.
“Zero growth has a worse effect on you than anything else,” he said. “People leave your city… Air service, businesses that want to expand don’t into the future.”
“I am not on the page of holding the city back by any stretch of the imagination.”
Another platform point raised by Brent Loucks was Atchison’s pledge to remove protected bike lanes from 4th Avenue and 23rd Street.
He reminded listeners he was the only council member to oppose the two-year pilot project, labelling Clark “Flip Flop Charlie” for supporting it.
Atchison said he supported having the bike lanes along Spadina Crescent and 24th Street.
“That’s where they should be,” he said. “[They’re] capable of handling it.”
Atchison deflected responsibility for how negotiations have proceeded with the Amalgamated Transit Union, which has been without a contract for several years.
He said council has been making decisions as a group while bureaucrats have been negotiating with the union, and the pension plan is still a point of contention.
“Transit wants a veto,” he said. “That’s a no go.”
He complimented other municipal unions including fire and police for agreeing to the new pension program.
The former Blades goalie also tamped expectations for a new downtown arena.
He said it isn’t a top priority, but the conversation should still happen as SaskTel Centre ages.
“Sod-turning ceremony is not on Oct. 27,” he said. “But we need to put the land aside. If you don’t… how are you going to build it?”
Candidate’s Row will host Devon Hein Thursday night to complete the list of mayoral candidates. The episode airs at 7 p.m. on 650 CKOM.