Former Mission MLA Randy Hawes is coming out of retirement and running for mayor in this year’s municipal election.
Hawes made the announcement Tuesday evening at the Mission Springs restaurant to family, friends, and supporters, including former elected officials and those seeking office in November.
Hawes told the crowd of about 50 people that he intended to retire last year, but he felt “guilty” about what is happening at city hall.
“For three years I’ve seen bitterness, acrimony and bullying of staff, bullying of the public,” Hawes explained. “I felt guilty because I helped get (Citizens for Responsible Municipal Government members) elected. It was a mistake.”
Hawes was part of the original meeting that brought CRMG together, but now he is distancing himself from the group and criticizing not only the leaders of the organization, but also the work the current mayor and council have done in office.
The low property taxes over the past three years were accomplished at the expense of cutting valuable services, he charged. Mission’s protective services budget, which includes police and fire services, is hundreds of thousands of dollars less in 2013 than it was in 2011, said Hawes. One of Mission’s two fire inspectors was cut, leaving just one man to inspect all commercial and industrial buildings on top of investigating fires.
“He’s 700 inspections behind,” said Hawes, who noted the fire at the large drug lab earlier this month on Horne Street could have been prevented if the building had been inspected.
The district needs to concentrate on controlling costs, not cutting them, he noted.
He agreed new industrial and commercial construction bring revenue to the community, but pointed out there haven’t been any new developments in the past three years. The Smart Centre development, anchored by Walmart, was approved by the previous council as well as Heritage Marketplace on Stave Lake Street.
Hawes also stated the district’s current downtown revitalization plan is “unrealistic.” Instead of moving ahead with relocating the highway and building a plaza, the organizations need to get together to address the homeless and addiction problems. While the issues fall under Fraser Health and provincial jurisdiction, it is ultimately Mission’s problem.
“Our problem will continue to get worse unless we pull the community together to deal with it. We can do that by building files and talking to everyone, including the homeless to see what they need to get them out of the system.”
Hawes believes staff morale at municipal hall is low and fears there will be a strike from unionized workers if the situation doesn’t improve.
Hawes also encouraged voters to favour independent candidates who serve the community in other ways because they care.
Hawes and his family moved to Mission in 1979. He spent 21 years in public office, including three terms as mayor and three terms as MLA.