Daryl Bennett, 62, is running against incumbent Paul Ayotte for Mayor of Peterborough in the October 25th municipal election. Bennett, a Principal in The Liftlock Group of companies, grew up in East City and attended Armour Heights Public School and PCVS.
Bennett has volunteered for causes such as the 2004 flood relief effort, the campaign to build a new hospital and saving Market Hall. He is also a sponsor of bursaries at Trent University, and was named Citizen of the Year in 2004.
In this interview with PtboCanada, Bennett gives his vision for the city, and the reasons why he thinks he has what it takes to be Mayor.
PtboCanada: You say you declared your candidacy because you care about our city and about the future of our city. The way things are going, how does Peterborough's future look? Are you concerned about lack of jobs here? And if so, how do you propose we turn things around? Also, you say you intend to revitalize Peterborough and provide new opportunities for its residents. Can you give us an idea of some of the main policies and how they might differ from Mayor Ayotte's approach.
Bennett: I would not be running if I didn't think it was necessary. I didn't just wake up one morning and decide to become the Mayor. The decision came over the past four years, brought about in part by watching and listening to people's concerns about how difficult it had become to deal with City Hall—the stories about families whose children were spread far and wide because of the lack of opportunity in our own community; the stories about elected members of Council speaking about their lack of empowerment to deal with the needs of their constituents under the current regime. And finally, the decision came looking at a picture of my youngest grandson, with a perceived caption of him saying, "Why didn't you try to do something for my generation?"
One of the most important functions of the Mayor is to build consensus. It takes six votes to pass all matters at City Hall and it takes leadership to bring the members of Council together to do what is best for the community. Gaining consensus and making decisions is something I've done all my working life. The job of bringing business and tourists to our community starts by getting the operations of the City in order and creating a new environment of customer service. We, the Council, create the environment that pro-actively sets the agenda for progress. That means that we don't just follow processes that are already in place. The days of dotting i's , crossing t's and filling in the blanks so we can convince ourselves that everything is in order are over. We have far more potential to be the best we can be, and our job is to get on with it.
PtboCanada: What would you do to clean up our downtown, get rid of the crime/drugs/panhandlers, etc.? How would you help change the perception that our downtown is not safe and get more people down there to support the local businesses?
Bennett: Some of the answer is already in place, through the promotion and activities of the DBIA (Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Association), but we can do more. I think the Police Service has done good work as well. What we need to add to those is a more frequent consultation with and involvement by the businesses themselves, so that the health of the core is always top of mind. I think that the opportunities for eyes on the street that result from downtown housing will help, as will a new approach to downtown waterfront improvements. The ultimate strength of the downtown lies in a collective understanding that we all have a precious and historic resource that has to be actively supported in order to compete with the powerful suburban model.
PtboCanada: Aside from your website you launched, we noticed you're employing social media (Twitter) as part of your campaign @Bennett4Mayor. Will you continue to "tweet" if elected mayor as some other mayors do (e.g. Mayor Ellis in Belleville, Mayor Miller in Toronto) to let citizens know what you're up to in the community? How will you make yourself accessible within the community?
Bennett: I think it's time we bring a new generation of technology to reach out to people, and Twitter is a good example. So is internet voting. Personally, I will continue to operate much the same as I have for the past forty some years. I'm very much hands on; I understand that communication is essential in any business or government, and people will not have to wonder what I'm up to.
PtboCanada: How do you plan to reach out to the younger generation (Gen X, Gen Y) to show them you care about their needs? Because they are the future of this city.
Bennett: Well, everything about our campaign is aimed at providing the kind of leadership that will improve our collective well-being, and particularly for youth, whose opportunities to stay here and find work and a good life are far too limited. Peterborough has good schools, and we are fortunate to have Trent and Fleming to attract youth and to develop their skills. But it is our job at City Hall to create the employment and community conditions that will entice them to stay. As part of our campaign, we will be scheduling community consultations for youth so we can hear from them directly. As Mayor, I am attracted to the idea of a permanent Youth Council so their concerns are always on our agenda.
PtboCanada: For those that say Daryl Bennett is "a suit", all about business and his "old boy network", what do you say to that?
Bennett: Well, it all comes down to what a business is and what business people do. To me, business is a process of bringing people together to create, advance or resolve things. We all do that. Whether it's creating a lease on a building, operating a retail store, operating a media outlet, drafting the framework for a new by-law or delivering a social program, you bring people together to make change that is in the interests of your customers and your community. I've had some forty years of business experience where I have done just that, and I've had some success at it. I believe I can apply that experience for the benefit of the people of Peterborough.
PtboCanada: What would being Mayor of Peterborough mean to you?
Bennett: A wonderful opportunity to give something back to the community that has been so good to our family. A vote for me on election day will be a statement that the citizens of this community think we can do better.