Friday, January 12, 2007

Candidate Questionnaire - Peter Rizov

1) Why VP Finance?

I chose finance because it is a portfolio that blends both functional operational tasks with political involvement. It is one that will allow me to put into practice all the knowledge I (should) have acquired in my Commerce classes. Further, it is the one I am best qualified for. Most of the other VP posts are quite a bit more political and thus require much more familiarity with the inner workings of the AMS. I, having been on exchange and not having been in the flow of things, thought that I would instead aim for the VP Finance position and leave the other posts for the AMS apparatchiks :P

Again, the Finance post will allow me to combine both my political passion and my attained knowledge and skills into one functional position.

2) How do you feel about the proposed Athletics fee referendum? What issues, if any, do you see?

The Athletics free referendum is an issue that is currently puzzling me. On the one hand, in discussion with Sophia (current VP Finance) and from her 3rd quarterly report, I gathered that the Athletics folk had backed down from insisting upon a referendum. However, from your site and from this question, I ascertain that this is not the case and that such a referendum is still a probability.

However, assuming that the referendum is still on the table, I for one would tend to oppose the fee as I understand it. While the rational behind the fee is that it would support a radical drop in user fees, subsidizing such a project with student funds is not the way to go. Currently, in my opinion, the greatest barrier to student use of the existing facilities (such as the Bird Coop gym) is that they are outdated and over-priced. This change would serve only to hide the fees from being overt to covert amongst the other AMS+ fees. In order for me to support this fee increase, Athletics would have to show a strong over-capacity utilization (demand).

Thus, the drop in pass costs would have to precede the implementation of such a fee. If the drop in prices results in a surge in demand, then the AMS should indeed look to invest the money of such a fee into new facilities as per Athletics' recommendation and student demand. Or better yet, the AMS could lobby the government and University to pull their weight and help keep exercise options on campus affordable. Hell, if Golds Gym can make money on campus without bankrupting the students, then athletics should be able to do it too, especially with some government funding. If the AMS were to invest in the Gym, then it would only seem fair that we saw part of the revenue as well.

3) The AMS is largely dependent on its businesses for operating revenues. With the arrival of University Boulevard, do you see this as a sustainable model? If not, what can be done to improve it?

The AMS businesses will probably be in for a fight, but there doesn't appear to be a reason why they can't compete with the best of what UTown will bring (eventually). With 40,000 students on campus it is hard to imagine that this place could become so saturated with non-AMS businesses in the near future so as to bankrupt the SUB. Provided the SUB renovate (once in a while) to more or less keep on par with the new businesses, it should be able to split the market with them.

If this fails however and the SUB can not compete, drastic measures will have to be undertaken. If the funding source of the operation revenues dries up, then the AMS will need to find new sources of funding. Yet, how this can be reconciled with the fact that any such money is made off of students is hard. Perhaps when the UTown condos bring in more residents, the SUB could somehow alter its businesses to cater more to them and use such profits to operate and expand the AMS's student-oriented services.

4) Do you favor a bylaw amendment indexing AMS fees to inflation? How would you get one passed?

In principal I do favor the bylaw. This is because it makes sense. It is inherently illogical to fix a price at a constant nominal value. The assumption behind this is that every year, everyone's incomes go up at least as much as inflation and thus it is only just to index the fees to such a value.

Passing such a bylaw would require garnering support from the rest of council, but I fail to see how convincing them of the logic of this argument would be difficult. If, by chance, there was strong opposition a compromise of adjustments done every several years instead of annually could be done. However, that is an inefficient solution and would best be avoided.

5) What skills do you have that suit you particularly well to the Finance portfolio?

I like fixing problems. I don't like inefficiency. When you combine these two, you get a situation wherein I stubbornly refuse to give up on fixing a problem until the solution satisfies me. I am also a balanced person and, while being politically vocal and active, I can also compromise and understand the realities behind situations.

6) If you could change one thing about the AMS, what would it be?

I would change the degree to which the AMS financial and committee/commission information is published. Currently this is done via the website and even then certain things (council minutes, quarterly reports, etc) are poorly updated and hard to find. Such information needs to be easily accessible to anyone who wants to know what is going on, for any reason. This would help a more diverse group of people be able to access the AMS and become involved in it. Further, such a timely and standardized form of publishing records would induce the various arms of the AMS to operate more smoothly and quickly.