Retired MLA and former Mission mayor Randy Hawes is considering a political comeback.
“Everywhere I go people are asking me to run,” said Hawes, who says he’s “seriously thinking about running” because he is “embarrassed” with how the current elected officials are treating each other at city hall. “I’ve spent 21 years representing Mission. In that time, I’ve never felt so embarrassed about what’s going on here.”
Hawes has watched council meetings online and believes there’s a lot of ill-feeling in the chamber.
All members of the current council were elected into office as part of the Citizens for Responsible Municipal Government (CRMG) slate, but now four councillors are sitting independently. Couns. Nelson Tilbury, Jenny Stevens, Jeff Jewell and Tony Luck voted in favour of a motion expressing a lack of confidence in the mayor and disassociated themselves from his actions and statements, unless there is a prior resolution from council. Tilbury resigned from CRMG in September 2012, while Stevens, Jewell and Luck broke away from the group earlier this year after an irreconcilable split.
The independently sitting councillors wanted to see a B.C. Supreme Court ruling on whether Coun. Dave Hensman, who holds a one-year-lease on a building about a block away from a property the district purchased as part of Mission’s downtown revitalization plans, was in a conflict of interest. Mayor Ted Adlem and Couns. Larry Nundal and Hensman opposed the action. All councillors were required by the Community Charter to vote on the motion, which failed because it did not gain a two-thirds majority — also required by law.
Hawes says the situation has brought unflattering attention to this community.
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I always thought a mayor’s job was to bring unity and decorum; I don’t see that.”
Hawes is seeing disrespect and a disunited group. “Don’t make it personal,” advised Hawes. “As a city councillor, you should argue an issue passionately and be as forceful as you can, but after the vote happens, it’s over.
“Nothing is ever personal,” he stressed. “I can’t count how many times I’ve been out-voted as mayor.”
Another past Mission mayor, Abe Neufeld, and former district councillor, Paul Horn, also urged the current council to discuss their differences privately.
Neufeld, who served as Mission’s mayor for four years after Hawes was elected to the legislature in 2001, said if there were differences, they would talk about it privately.
“We had a lot of private meetings in coffee shops and each other’s homes,” he said.
“They [mayor and council] need to figure out how they want to work together,” observed Horn, who believes communication is the missing link. “It’s absolutely common for people on council to have strong feelings … but most of the time people sort it out with face-to-face dialogue.”
Although he has been asked, Horn has no plans to run in November’s municipal election.
While Hawes was a part of the original meeting that brought CRMG together, he is no longer associated with the group and will not be running under CRMG.
It formed when a group of citizens met to discuss the way the district was being run in 2011, said Hawes.
“We looked at tax increases and a number of things that were not happening,” he continued. “We spoke to quite a number of people and tried to put together a group of people we thought would think alike on major issues … We recommended ones [to run] we thought would form a strong council.”
Hawes stepped away from the group shortly after the last election when the elected officials also formed the CRMG executive.
“How can you be citizens responsible for municipal government when you are the government?” Hawes asked.
Political slates are common in municipal elections across B.C., and CRMG was the first of its kind in Mission, but now Hawes isn’t sure voters will want to go through that experience again.
“Now I have to believe a slate is not a good thing,” said Hawes. “Putting people together was probably the wrong thing to do, but it’s hindsight now. The thought was good.”