Betty Ponto has spent 13 years at the Taylor council table and is looking to spend another four as one of three incumbents seeking re-election.
Looking ahead over the next four years, Ponto says the district needs to be prepared for the recent LNG Canada announcement. That includes prioritizing infrastructure, including Parcel Z and pathways, and reviewing core services and service levels provided for residents. Doing so will meet the needs of residents both present and future, who will be key to attracting added amenities and businesses like a grocery store in the future, she says.
Alaska Highway News has sent out a questionnaire to all candidates in this year's election, asking them about their experience and priorities, what they think the district should be doing to attract new amenities and businesses such as a grocery store, and the biggest challenge the district needs to manage over the next four years.
Responses are being published as they are received. The answers below have been edited for spelling and grammar only.
Name: Betty Ponto
How long have you lived in Taylor: 35 years
Occupation: Administrative support staff and postal clerk
1. Why did you decide to run for council?
There’s an old saying that goes, "Everyone said somebody should do (or say) something about that." We are all somebody. All people are born with a voice, how they choose to use that voice (or not) is personal choice.
I learned long ago that it’s ok to put forward your voice, even if it’s not the same as another’s, and that you can also use your voice to speak for others who feel they cannot do so. I’ve been able to put forward both mine as well as other’s voices many times, over many years, both on council and in many other avenues. I know that’s a valuable contribution both to the community and council table. Others put forward their voice(s) which may be different, which is important to developing a council built on diversity.
2. What experience and skills would you bring to council?
Aside from the 13 years of experience being on council, my background is one of being engaged in the community, both interacting generally and volunteering with a number of organizations. I still get called upon for advice from some of those organizations. They know they can count on me to get them correct information and help where I can. I love to learn and have often said that up to 80 per cent of our job on council is education – whether that is educating ourselves on topics and new initiatives or educating others on the same.
3. What would be your top three priorities if elected, and why?
To me, the highest priority doesn’t ever change: ensuring our infrastructure continues to be sound. Municipalities are mandated to supply only two services: water and sewer. Supplying those services are what enabled Taylor to become incorporated as a village. When you think about it, if you don’t have those, you likely won’t have a town.
The core services and service levels review strongly recommended by the current council is hugely important in my opinion. That will objectively tell us where we are at and where we might need to go on many levels such as staffing, services, programs, etc.
Continuing to work on community safety. We have made large strides in improving resident safety through projects such as safe pedestrian walkways from the north end of the community at the school to the south end at the industrial plants; initiatives like that need to continue.
4. What programs or services should the district spend more on?
The cost of the core services and service level review is money that will be well spent. That review will help in pointing us in the direction of things we should be looking at. Through that, we need to ensure district operations have the resources needed both for the present and for the planned future.
5. What programs or services should the district spend less on?
All of our current programs and services are valuable; they enhance and maintain our family-oriented community. For me, there would have to be a good argument made to cut anything.
6. Would you support raising taxes to support council priorities?
Not necessarily council priorities, but community priorities if that is indicated as being desirable. The budget time of year is coming soon and with it there is opportunity for the community to say whether there are things they would be prepared to have taxes raised for, or services/programs cut to accommodate.
7. What should the district be doing to attract a grocery store?
In addition to the seeking of opportunity that has been going on for some time, we need to increase our residential population. We’ve heard that one thing for some time — if there were more potential customers available in the community, it might be more feasible. Moving forward with Parcel Z development will aid that.
8. What other businesses and industries should the district be working to attract?
One business that I’ve heard often as a desire is more visitor accommodation. This is both for travelers, and attendees for events like weddings, hockey tournaments, family reunions, etc. Council has always been open to hearing both business and industry proposals and that should continue.
9. What should the district be doing to attract and retain new residents?
First things first, it’s hard to attract new residents if they don’t have somewhere to live. The Parcel Z development will help make that a reality for many. Those of us that live in Taylor know what a great community it is and all that it has to offer. Those seeking to come and join us in this community need somewhere to come to.
10. Do you support a pay raise for mayor and council?
If you are asking about the annual indemnity/honorarium: for some time that has been turned over to staff for suggestion/recommendation when the Fees & Charges Bylaw is reviewed every year. Recommendation for any increase is based on whether our rates are staying in line with others. As in years past, I would look carefully at any recommendation that would come forward to see if I think there is merit in changing the amounts.
If you are asking about the graduated meeting fees recently discussed, I voted yes to those and believe they are warranted and not out of line.
11. What's the biggest opportunity facing the district over the next four years?
Ensuring we are ready and prepared for the district to realize the benefits of the recent LNG announcements. An example: Parcel Z development in order to have the opportunity to build our residential population base.
12. What's the toughest challenge facing the district over the next four years?
Lately I have been hearing thoughts/critiques of things that took place three to five years ago or longer. Although that can easily just be a part of an election year, I would like to see ongoing input.
When council members talk to other municipalities at our conferences, we all like to share ideas. Another municipality talked about how they had informal chat sessions at their local library regularly. That is one idea we have adopted by hosting informal Coffee with Council sessions. They are a great start, and have seen good engagement, which hopefully will encourage more engagement in the formal processes of official meetings as well. Otherwise, we could very well be talking about 2019 in the next election year of 2022, rather than right in 2019.
Finish this sentence: When I'm not deep in thought about politics and civic issues, I'm…
... participating in my love of learning and practicing various forms of tai chi. My ability to do that has been curtailed the last few weeks and am very much looking forward to resuming my regular schedule of classes shortly.
What's the last book you read?
Naked Tuesday by Judy Kucharuk – hilarious and real all at the same time! Love her column as well.
What's the last movie you watched?
The best hidden gem of Taylor is…
It’s not really hidden, but apparent when you are here --- the people.
If you weren't living in Taylor, where would you be?
Actually my husband and I faced that question when he retired a year ago. Leading up to that, people kept asking us if we were going to move and if so, where. We put very serious thought into whether that was something we wanted to do. The answer was no, our hearts are here (although escaping winter for short term breaks isn’t ruled out, lol).
Want to know more about Betty Ponto? She can be reached by phone at 250-789-9139, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at email@example.com.