Incumbent mayor Ted Adlem is seeking another term at Mission’s helm and hopes to lead a new group of CRMG council candidates into office.
CRMG (Citizens for Responsible Municipal Government) is the only slate in Mission. Running for council under the CRMG banner in November’s election are Bobby Brar, Attila Davalovsky, Don Forsythe, Ronn Harris, Dave Hensman, and Larry Nundal.
“The slate is a group of like-minded people who have a huge interest in the community,” said Adlem, noting running together is more affordable for candidates.
Adlem said he has known each member of the slate for many years and but that was not the case in the last election.
“I would never run again with people I don’t know,” said Adlem.
All members of the current Mission council were elected in 2011 as part of CRMG, but four have broken away from the group over the past three years. Couns. Nelson Tilbury, Jenny Stevens, Jeff Jewell, and Tony Luck are now independent members of council, while Nundal and Hensman are still a part of CRMG.
The fracture in the group was made public earlier this year as council members criticized one another in open council meetings.
At the height of the tension, the four independent councillors passed a motion this past February stating their lack of confidence in the mayor and disassociated themselves from any actions and statements from the mayor without a prior resolution from council.
“(The motion) had no meaning because it had no impact on the office of the mayor,” said Adlem, who believed the councillors who passed the motion were playing politics.”
Adlem also said it’s a “fallacy that city hall is falling apart … We’ve had some people leave who I don’t think should have been there when I was inaugurated. A lot left for better pastures and I can’t fault them for that.”
Earlier this year, The Record reported 34 full-time employees resigned from the district in the past three years, while 13 have retired.
Despite the internal challenges, Adlem told The Record he has moved on and council has been successful in getting the business of the community done.
“Pre-paying down debt is crucial and we’ve done a fine job doing that,” said Adlem, who explained the district has eliminated $12 million of its $19 million debt in the past three years. “We have just under $7 million of debt left.”
Reducing the debt will save the district from interest payments, which could add up to $5 million over a 10-year period, he added. “Now that money is free to spend on things like infrastructure. We owe it to future generations to not saddle them with debt.”
The district had been building up its debt reserve fund for at least the past 10 years, Adlem explained. “When you’re dealing with the Municipal Finance Authority, it’s usually a 20-year term. We can pay down the debt halfway through without penalty.”
Mission has paid down a large portion of the debt related the the construction of the Mission Leisure Centre, he noted.
In 2002, Mission taxpayers voted in favour of borrowing up to $13.8 million to renovate and upgrade the leisure centre and the Sports Park. Extensive renovations to the leisure centre were completed in 2005 and costs ran $8 million over budget.
“This year and next year, we have the ability to pay down another $3 million in debt.”
Adlem said Mission needs to “live within its means” to reduce the tax burden on the average taxpayer.
The district eliminated $600,000 in salaries by restructuring municipal hall based on recommendations in the core services review, said Adlem. “If we want a sustainable tax base, we have to be business friendly.”
Mission has, on average, received $500,000 in new revenue from construction in the past three years. Mission has been fortunate the last few years with commercial and industrial development outpacing residential home building, said Adlem, who suspects there will be a dip coming up.
New commercial and industrial projects over the past few years include the Smart Centre development which is anchored by Walmart, and Heritage Marketplace at 11 Avenue and Stave Lake Street.
But the biggest development project the district is working on is downtown revitalization, said Adlem.
“We’re always the town to drive through,” said Adlem. “I want to be the destination town.”
According to Adlem, moving the highway off of First Avenue is crucial to the plan. He defended the decision to focus district resources on the project, which primarily focuses on three blocks of First Avenue.
The business improvement area is mostly made up of small shop operations, but it brings in almost $1 million is taxation revenue to the district, said Adlem, noting the Junction Mall from Save On Foods to Boston Pizza is the only area that brings in more.
“To me, it’s a significant area to concentrate on. They’re the second biggest contributor to taxation in Mission and they don’t get recognized for it.”
The area will bring in more money to the district if the revitalization project can raise the value of the area.
“It’s an investment in the future and I’m prepared to do that,” said Adlem. “I moved here in 1981. I listened to every politician elected talk about downtown, but not one did anything about it until I came along.”
Adlem hopes to densify the area to draw more customers.
Adlem has enjoyed representing Mission for the past three years, and in addition to trying to improve the community, he also enjoys serving its people.
“(Being mayor is) an awesome job. Whether a politician likes it or not, the voter is always right.”
Adlem is being challenged for the mayor’s seat by Coun. Tony Luck, retired MLA Randy Hawes, Fraser Valley Regional District Electoral Area C director Wendy Bales, and community advocate Kevin Francis.
The Record will profile the challengers in coming editions.