Off and Running for Mayor!

By Tooker Gomberg, Edmonton, Alberta.

Tooker decides to take the plunge and run for Mayor of Edmonton.

On August 7, 1998 at 11 a.m., Mountain Standard Time, I delivered the following speech to the major Edmonton media at a news conference to announce my candidacy.

I think of you as my constituency, too. Ange and I would be pleased to hear from as many of our 500 subscribers as care to respond. Be forewarned: unless you request otherwise, we may publish your comments on our webpages, with links to yours, if you have one… And there’s nothing wrong with brevity. Short is beautiful.

Thank you, friends, for your ongoing support.

Good morning, and thank you for coming.

For weeks people have been asking me: “Are you running for mayor?” My response has been that a candidate is but a small part of a successful election campaign. It takes a community to run a campaign. I asked people if they would join in.

Many people have told me: “yes!” Over the past two months a team of concerned citizens has come together to talk about our future. About choices for our city. What kind of Edmonton do we want for the 21st city? A growing number of people are saying that they are not satisfied with our current mayor. That they want action for a change.

I have thought long and hard about running. And I have decided that people deserve a clear choice.

Will Edmonton follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles, with more freeways and dangerous streets? Or will livable cities like Copenhagen be our inspiration, with stores and workplaces nearby. A place where people are comfortable to walk around in. Why not? It works on Whyte Avenue!

Over and over again people tell me of their concern about declining public transit service. Will Edmonton Transit continue to sink like the Titanic, with Bill Smith at the helm? Edmontonians have been telling me that they want a healthy city, and public transit can get us there.

This campaign is not just about Gomberg For Mayor. It’s about ideas. It’s about grassroots democracy. It’s about the public good. Don’t get me wrong. Edmonton has so much going for it: a good business climate, a diversity of cultures, dynamic and enthusiastic communities, festivals of world renown.

But we all realize that there is a growing malaise as the province slashes social programs like health care, and Mayor Smith and Council ponder selling off valuable, profitable public assets like Edmonton Power.

I have travelled widely, and I have thought long and deep about what makes a city work. As we head into the new millenium now is a good time to consider where we’re going.

Elections are a time to ponder new ideas, and to think about what is possible. My team will put forward, on a weekly basis, a series of thoughtful and compelling platform planks on a broad range of issues. Here are a few:

1. Creating a vibrant local economy by supporting small business and keeping the dollars flowing locally;
2. Making Edmonton a safer, more livable city;
3. Saving energy and protecting our climate;
4. Sustainable transportation and smart urban design;
5. Grassroots democracy – involving citizens in decisions that affect their lives.

Over the course of the next two months, we will involve thousands of Edmontonians in grassroots politics. We will talk together, discuss, argue and craft pictures for the 21st century. We will do it in an open, inclusive, and creative fashion.

Finally, this campaign is about issues, and policy. Let me be clear: I will not engage in a campaign around issues of style or personality. The issues are too serious to be trivialized. There is a lot at stake.

I am entering this contest convinced that attractive and ecological solutions exist to virtually every one of our urban problems. And surprisingly, more often than not, they are cheaper ard more popular than the old way of doing things.

All that’s missing is fair consideration of alternatives, and honest debate. Elections are a time to dream. I invite Edmontonians to tell me what’s on their mind. On the cusp of the new millenium there is enormous opportunity. Together we can build a great city for all Edmontonians.

Thank you very much.