Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 6, 2014
For an election that has remained pretty silent the last couple of weeks, it appears the battle for Brandon boulevards and billboards has begun.
After an extended weekend that saw the launch of a new school year in its wake, much of the electioneering seems to have jumped a gear or two with candidates honing in on the seven weeks leading up to the municipal election.
While the official deadline to file paperwork is still a few short days away, many of the races have started to shape up, with a couple of wards sporting more than one candidate, and battlegrounds such as Rosser showing a handful of names for residents to choose from.
With the real campaigning in full swing, we also have hit the time of year when boulevards will most likely explode with campaign signage.
The Rick Chrest for Mayor camp was the first into the fray, as this past weekend saw signs for the challenger pop up on thoroughfares throughout the community.
Signs are without a doubt a costly undertaking for a candidate, and their effectiveness was hotly debated online after our current mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, stated she would not place yard or boulevard signs this go-around, deciding rather to look at billboard advertising and bus benches among other public forms of advertisement for her campaign.
To be fair, there really is no exact formula for success in this choice, and signs on public property have been a thorn for many as residents take to online forums, Sound Offs and social media to express their displeasure for the “clutter” along the major thoroughfares in the community.
That said, however, and having experienced this firsthand as a candidate in the last provincial election, signage provided an icebreaking opportunity at the door.
Often at the doorstep, if a candidate were to start a conversation with the resident, many would know the name at least, after having seen a boulevard or yard sign in their neighbourhood or elsewhere in the community.
Now this may differ a bit with an incumbent, but campaigning is all about having and continuing conversations.
And any candidate, incumbent or not, who decides not to take this opportunity for promotion may end up behind the 8-ball when meeting residents, or trying to stand out amongst the crowd.
A green approach to campaigning is all fair and good, but at the end of the day, nobility towards a green initiative in exchange for being elected and having the ability to enact a green agenda seems a small price to pay for a few yard signs leading up to an election.
City headed in right direction on hotel tax
It was welcome news this week to see the City of Brandon and council have learned that the current criteria for the hotel tax rebates just wasn’t working as it should.
The hotel tax, although controversial, was designed to prop up elements in the community that help attract visitors to pay that very same hotel tax while staying in Brandon.
It was what many would dub a success, but the focus to be event-led only as opposed to improvement-based seemed narrow in scope — something that was shared by a review committee that recently presented findings to council.
If the hotel tax is going to reach its maximum potential, it needs to be open to city-wide improvements by partnering this money with public and private funds.
It appears in the current scenario, much of the monies collected by the hotel tax were hampered by actually finding enough places to spend it as it was originally intended.
This new stream would allow for a better distribution of the funds and allow entities such as the Keystone Centre, museums and the like to come forward seeking their piece of the pie.
It is small change when tied to big projects, but as we have learned with many stalled downtown projects that have been attempted over the years, the ability to leverage money locally can be a catalyst for the bigger-picture government investment scenarios.
It is nice to see these dollars returning to the community as they were intended as opposed to falling into general coffers or further allotment elsewhere.
Improvements and event optimization through this scenario is good for the community, both to help attract people throughout the year, or even newcomers who become eventual residents one day.
The evolution of the hotel tax is a wise move for this community.
Hopefully it is something that is carried on by the next council, whoever they may be after the dust settles and the chairs are filled this fall.