Endorsing the right future for the ward, and for the Town
Technically speaking, there are seven candidates on the ballot in the Ward 1 by-election being held to fill the seat vacated by Councillor Mike Ciolfi, who passed away in April, having been one of four individuals present in council chambers on one fateful evening who later tested positive for COVID-19. The loss to his family, to the residents of the ward, and to the entire town cannot be measured.
Realistically speaking there are actually six candidates—given that Cari Pupo declared herself out of the race almost before it began, but not soon enough to see her name removed from the ballot. Four of these remaining six do not live in Ward 1, and of these, two have barely lived anywhere in Pelham long enough to pay property taxes, and one just rents a room.
For reasons obvious to everyone but those who think that familiarity with your neighbours shouldn’t matter, the councillor elected to fill Mike Ciolfi’s seat should live in Mike Ciolfi’s ward. This leaves two options: James Federico and Wayne Olson.
Both are highly qualified for the job. Both have lived in Fenwick for some time and know the ward and its people well. Both are volunteers committed to the community. And both have pertinent professional chops: Olson is an accountant with extensive business and government experience, and Federico is a professional engineer running his own firm. We have no reason to imagine that either man sees council as merely the entry point for a career in politics—voters have learned an expensive, “legacy” lesson on that score.
But only one can be elected. How should voters make their choice?
In our view this by-election is about Pelham Town Council’s future—thus the Town of Pelham’s future—since the successful candidate will doubtless enjoy a great advantage at re-election in 2022.
While Olson is the older of the two, he is ultimately the candidate of the future—a future that we need to see happen in our town.
Federico has strong ties to the past, to the administration of the previous council and to former Mayor Dave Augustyn. He was part of that council’s community centre design committee, as well as that council’s committee of adjustment. His by-election nomination papers—open to public inspection at Town Hall— are signed not just by one Augustyn, but a trinity of them.
Federico’s campaign has borne the marks of these associations.
While Olson is the older of the two, he is ultimately the candidate of the future—a future that we need to see happen in our town
On the issue of marijuana, he has expressed hope that the Town and local industrial marijuana operations can move toward a “collaborative” relationship. The sentiment is nice, surely, but this is precisely the approach that the last council took—and was badly burned by. Marijuana growers have proven repeatedly that what really counts is their bottom lines. They are uninterested in following Pelham’s—or even Canada’s—rules. Indeed, after being cited recently for alleged illegal growing, one operation unbelievably continues to raise cannabis at their site on Foss Road, as seen in photos submitted to the newspaper last week by a local resident. The previous council allowed this wolf in the door. The time to appease it—as the last council did and as Federico appears to want to do now—is long gone.
Federico’s ties to the Augustyn council also raise an eyebrow when it comes to development.
Seemingly everything that could have gone wrong in East Fonthill did. The same must not happen in Fenwick, where major development set to more than double the population is in the works. Development here must be done far more responsibly than was the case in East Fonthill. Federico, maintaining that it would help seniors stay in their homes longer—a laudable goal, for sure—supports increased residential densification. Granny apartments, yes. But Fenwick, and rural Ward 1, needs residential dwellings consistent with the essence of the community, which does not include row homes and condominium complexes.
Wayne Olson has distanced himself from the previous council and staked out the need for a clear path to financial health for the Town. He has committed to a strong stance against offending industrial marijuana growers. He has committed to a wiser approach to development—especially in Fenwick—pledging to make decisions based not only on his financial acumen but also on good old “farmer’s common sense,” by which principles he was raised as a youth.
In his retirement, Olson has served as a crossing guard for our students. In mid August, he told the Voice that such duty was a wonderful way to serve the community.
“You get to practice integrity every day,” he said. “That is healthy.”
We suggest that on September 15 the voters of Ward 1 put Olson to work practicing integrity on Pelham Town Council—some of whose members could benefit from a refresher as to what this looks like—for the benefit of not just their own ward, but for the town as a whole. ◆