Tofino’s lack of affordable housing was the top conversation topic outside the municipal hall on Saturday as residents lined up to cast their votes for the town’s next mayor and council.
“The biggest issue for me, by far, was definitely the housing situation in Tofino,” Duane Bell told the Westerly News after voting. “I know there’s a lot of argument about whether the government needs to be involved in it or not, but I definitely see that, for there to be housing for everybody, there’s definitely got to be involvement in subsidized housing.”
Bell owns Tofino’s Rhino Coffee House, which offered free donuts to the first 100 voters who came in on Saturday.
He said he was impressed with the number of candidates who put their names on the ballot.
“In fact, I’m quite elated with how the election has gone. Not only has it seemed to be a great, fair and positive experience for the candidates and voters in general, I’m really glad there’s been a wide selection,” he said. “[There’s] lots of representation out there and that’s great so it’s just up to us to get out there and vote for them.”
Marnie Helliwell also cited housing as her “number one” issue.
“In order to have a vibrant community, we have to have people that can afford to live here and raise their families,” she said adding it is important for locals to cast their vote. “If I want to have any say in how our community works, I need to participate in it fully and that includes voting.”
J.J. Belanger expressed similar sentiment and said he was happy with his choices on the ballot.
“It’s really important, as part of our civic duty, to vote for a council and mayor that is forward thinking, looking at the issues of Tofino, and working with the community to try and solve some of the issues that we have,” he said. “Housing really is the biggest issue that we’re facing right now…So, I voted for people that have that in mind and spoke well about that; not only in the Westerly, but that I’ve spoken to in person. And, I think, just having the right demographic on council that actually supports the community and listens to a wider spectrum of people.”
Samantha Hackett said she hopes Tofino wakes up Sunday morning with an effective team at the helm.
“The biggest issues I think is making sure that we’re moving forward and that we have a cohesive council that works together for the greater good of the community,” she said. “It’s important to engage in your community and have a voice…I was happy with my choices. It was nice to see lots of people engaged in the process and putting their name forward.”
Kyle Meagher said she voted for the candidates that she believes will bring actionable solutions to the table.
“I am looking for people with ideas,” she said. “I like action. I want people who bring motions and present them with solutions…I want change-makers.”
She added it’s important for residents to make their voice heard.
“Municipal politics is one of the most important ways that we can get local issues at the table and make change,” she said. “That’s what affects me and my family and my friends most directly and I think that’s how we build community, by writing good policy.”
Chris McCue said he’d like to see a shift in the town’s direction.
“I’m not necessarily a big fan of the monoculture that’s going on in town. I’d like to see a little bit more diversity as far as the way that Tofino is heading,” he said. “It seems to be becoming more of a playground for the rich…It’s focused more on heavy heavy tourism and, I think, the town needs to take a direction more towards locals.”
Kevin Midgley said he is hoping for change in Tofino’s leadership.
“We need change. We need housing solutions and not just tiny houses, we need apartments. We need a change of government so that there’s less bureaucracy in the community,” he said.
Voters have until 8 p.m. today to cast their ballots at Tofino’s Municipal Hall.
For all of the Westerly News’ stories on the municipal election, click here.