By COLLIN GALLANT on September 1, 2021.
Darren Hirsch says his record over the past four years should resonate with voters in the coming election – his support for a heavy “cost reduction” in the city budget, a COVID relief plan for business grants, property tax relief and economic development efforts.
He told reporters at a noon-hour announcement in Rotary Park he’s ready to run on his record of “pushing hard” on those issues, and that more needs to be done.
“We’re still not through COVID and we’re still not done with Financially Fit (budget plan),” he said. “There’s undone business left on council.”
Among the first tasks of a new council following the Oct. 18 election will be approving a budget plan for 2022, which asks officials to slash $10 million that year following a $15-million cut in 2021.
As well Hirsch was a leading proponent of major changes to the city’s dividend policy in late 2020, which he says will bring the city near a point of no longer using reserve funds in place of natural gas dividends.
“Quite frankly our revenues just aren’t what they used to be and actions needed to be taken,” he said. “I have business experience behind me and I’ve led the charge in protecting the taxpayer from tax increases.”
Hirsch becomes the fourth sitting councillor to announce a re-election bid ahead of a Sept. 20 nomination deadline. More than two dozen candidates could be on the ballot on Oct. 18.
Five candidates will vie for mayor, a position Hirsch says many in the community urged him to consider making a bid for.
He began his speech Tuesday outlining that support, and later told reporters, “Never say never.”
“It’s not the right fit for my family at his time,”said Hirsch, a commercial banker in his private career. “I always appreciate people who think of me in that regard … it’s a nice situation I’m in currently.”
The next council will not only be required to agree to budget amendments to find $10 million for 2022, but also draw up the next four-year budget to start in 2023.
Hirsch backed the Invest Medicine Hat model for economic development, and says careful review of utilities operations are needed if the outlook in the power sector worsens.
“All options should be on the table,” he said.
Hirsch previously served on council for the 2005-2008 term, is a former president of the Chamber of Commerce, chair of the Medicine Hat College board of governors and was the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Medicine Hat riding for the 2012 provincial election.