Vice-president (operations) candidates focus on big picture

Hartley, Niyongabo discuss visions for AMS finances

Wednesday, Jan. 27 - 4:40 p.m.

Victoria Hall was filled at last night’s AMS vice-president (operations) debate between Team CHR candidate Ben Hartley and Team PNF candidate Kasmet Niyongabo.

The vice-president (operations) is primarily concerned with finances and service operation for the AMS.

He or she also acts as a mediator between the Board of Directors, where many financial decisions are made, and the AMS assembly.

During the debate, both teams focused on the necessity of taking a holistic approach to the AMS.
“A lot of times in student government people get hung up on one issue and forget about the big picture,” Niyongabo said.

During the debate, Niyongabo asked the audience to pay attention to a red napkin to show how easy it is to get bogged down with one aspect of the whole.

Hartley discussed how his experience on the Board of Directors has helped him see the big picture when it comes to AMS finances.

“I learned how the AMS finances work as a single unit,” Hartley said, adding that he thinks it’s more difficult for poeple to see the interactions of specific services and budgets if they previously thought of them separately, as a service manager may try to do.

Hartley and Niyongabo agreed that establishing good personal relationships is the best way to combat problems such as disagreements and a decline in motivation to perform well.

Niyongabo said when Vice-President (Operations) Leslie Yun went in to solve an employee problem at Destinations, she had to introduce herself to the employee. He said he doesn’t think employees should only meet the vice-president (operations) when there’s an issue.

Hartley said he wants to be more involved with the services.

“The AMS has over 500 employees,” Hartley said. “Establishing a rapport with every single service is the best thing you can do.”

AMS Hospitality & Safety Director Ellen Allwright asked what one thing each candidate would change about an AMS service.

Niyongabo said he wants to expand Walkhome by advertising it to first years through residence dons.
Hartley said he wants the Common Ground to become accessible because the stairs pose a barrier. He said one way to go about this would be by tapping into the AMS’s accessibility fund.

Both candidates agreed with the proposal to limit students to applying to three services at a time for jobs.

“I don’t think it’s a good use of time to have so many interviews to do for people who aren’t as interested in the service,” Niyongabo said. “By restricting it to three, we’ll make sure to attract people who are passionate about that service.”

“Having to do 500 interviews will take the manager’s time away from other aspects of training,” Hartley said, adding that since new managers do the hiring, it means the more time they spend interviewing, the less time they spend doing shifts and learning their job.

AMS Internal Affairs Commissioner Lucas Anderson asked whether the candidates see the AMS as a service or as a business.

“It depends on your motivations,” Niyongabo said. “Do you want to make money or make an impact?”
“We aim to give students jobs and help them gain experience,” Hartley said, adding that those aims make the AMS seem like a service but if each service providing the jobs isn’t run as a business, he thinks the experience is of little use.

Hartley said he thinks the best way to make the services more professional is to improve their customer service.

“Customer service has to be front and centre and we have to make sure our employees know they have a stake in the system and that their service will only thrive if they provide good customer service,” he said. “This is how businesses run.”

Niyongabo said he thinks the best way to encourage professionalism is to lead by example.
Ken Wang, vice-president (operations) 2008-09, asked the candidates to fire someone on the spot.
Niyongabo was gentle and explained the appeal process.

Hartley said the vice-president (operations) has to make a decision that, given an employee’s infractions, the service would be better off without that person.

“Ken, your term as VP (ops) was brutal. You’re fired,” he said jokingly.

Niyongabo and Hartley disagreed over how to solve the Common Grounds current deficit problems. The Common Ground is projected to run an $80,000 deficit in 2009-10.

“We need to work on giving Common Ground all the tools they need to succeed,” Niyongabo said, adding that tools could include things like more reusable cutlery to reduce financial and physical waste.

Hartley said he thinks more drastic measures are necessary. Measures include making sure there’s something for everyone there by providing kosher and halal options and installing debit and swipe card pay options.

“With debit, maybe people will get lunch instead of just a coffee,” Hartley said, adding that the debit machines cost $37 per month and each transaction costs $0.08 meaning that the cost of the service is nominal enough that the increased volume should cover it easily.

When each team was asked what song best embodies their campaign, Team PNF presidential candidate Mitch Piper sang Don’t Stop Believing by Journey and Team CHR presidential candidate Safiah Chowdhury and vice-president (operations) candidate Ben Hartley sang Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk while vice-president (university affairs) candidate Chris Rudnicki danced along.

The AMS presidential candidate debate between Team CHR’s Safiah Chowdhury and Team PNF’s Mitch Piper is tonight at 7 p.m. in the JDUC Lower Ceilidh. The rector debate is on Thursday.

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