On Nov. 15, 2014 Mission residents went to the polls and elected a new mayor and council to a four-year term. The current council has now reached the halfway point of their term. With two years under their belt and two years to go, the Mission Record asked each councillor three questions:
1. What do you feel is the most important decision made in the first two years of your term?
2. What are you most proud of in this term so far?
3. What is the biggest issue facing Mission in the next two years?
Here is how they responded:
1. I believe the most important decision was the $3.5 million investment in infrastructure downtown. It is important to note that this investment is only one part of many different strategies that have been put in place to address a great number of issues that the downtown faced when we were elected.
The safety of our citizens (not just downtown) was our first priority and we immediately increased the number of officers at the detachment. We were very fortunate to engage the ACT team (a joint partnership with Abbotsford) at the same time. The team specializes in dealing with mental health issues and have managed to house many of our street people with mental health issues.
Also at the same time, Stone Soup was launched, which is a grassroots group that is dedicated to bringing a greater awareness to the needs of those living on the edge of society. Also, just last month a Good Neighbour Bylaw was adopted which will address nuisances such as noise and smell and property maintenance.
So with all of these in place it was time to make the decision about the investment in infrastructure. I believe that the downtown is Mission’s welcome mat. I can’t wait to see the improvements which will be completed in 2018!
2. The thing I am most proud of is my work with transit. I started a grassroots group made up of transit users so that we could determine the strengths and weaknesses of the system. We meet every couple of months at the library (I bring the Timbits) to go over current transit issues.
I take these issues and bring them to the attention of the BC Transit representatives through our traffic and transit committee. I am passionate about improving our transit system as I recognize the need, especially given that 25 per cent of our young people under the age of 30 do not have driver’s licences.
It has become an issue for our employers particularly in our industrial park who are not connected via transit. Also with the influx of residents to Mission from points west there is an expectation of a more comprehensive transit system. This will become more important as we build more homes on smaller lots that can’t fit two or more vehicles. I really hope we see Sunday service and a connection to Maple Ridge in the not-too-distant future!
3. The biggest issue facing Mission will be planning adequately for growth. Water and sewer capacities will be the first to be examined after we complete the OCP (which was long overdue). With growth there is more pressure on our roads and a greater need for sidewalks as many of our new residents have young families and need the safety a sidewalk can provide.
The Transportation Master Plan, which was released just last month, will help guide council in prioritizing the areas needing the greatest investment in infrastructure.
A Parks Master Plan is also in the works as more people means more green space and more infrastructure in existing park space. Both new and old residents also expect some sort of river access for recreation so the plan will include this as well. More people will also mean an increase to the services the city provides. That means more staff will need spaces to work at an already over-capacity city hall and RCMP headquarters.
1. What comes to mind for me as the important decision is the staff re-structuring within the organization. Albeit there were some tough decisions made but the pay-off is the staff morale has improved tenfold and productivity has also improved.
With staffing levels met council has been better able to move forward with our strategic plan.
2. I am proud that we have been able to deliver on the completion of the new skate board park and the all-weather sports field.
The recent announcement of the street scape revitalization for downtown is also a proud moment. Council is determined to make Mission a community that our residents will be proud to call home.
3. One of the biggest issues facing Mission is to increase light industrial land so we can attract more commercial business to ease the tax burden on our residents.
We want our working people to be able to find good paying jobs in Mission so they won’t have to leave Mission every day to go to work.
When folks leave to work elsewhere, we loose shopping dollars, volunteer time, and people have less opportunity to connect in their community.
1. The hiring of more RCMP officers. For the last 10 years councils have put off hiring officers, even though our population has been growing year after year.
When we were elected, we had 47 officers on the books, but in reality there were never more then 40 at any time because of leaves, transfers, and other reasons. With the extra officers now in place and new ways of dealing with transfers we have more officers on the street.
2. Confirming funding for the revitalization of the downtown core, and the new bylaws and tax breaks for buildings that go with it. It is over 25 years since the district has spent any money on the downtown.
The DBA reports that vacancies are the lowest that they have been in years. We need to build on that. In 1969, when I started working in the area, the downtown was vibrant and busy. It will be that again. This has been proved time after time in the Lower Mainland.
3. With the huge growth happening in Mission, we need to work to improve the infrastructure that will need to be in place to handle the growth.
A second sewer line across the Fraser is very important. If for some reason the original line should fail we would be in big trouble. The estimated cost to put this line in is over $6.5 million. We are hoping that the federal and provincial government will help out with the cost of this.
Road work on Cedar at Seventh is getting to a point where improvements need to be made as well. The estimated cost of this is over $3.5 million to make it right. This includes purchasing lands along the right of way.
We have agreed on a short-term (five to 10 years) fix of $99,000. That should allow us enough time to get money in place to do the work that is needed.
1. Strengthening our bylaws and protective services. It has made a huge difference especially with houses used for criminal activity.
Our fire service has been outstanding as the first responders for all calls. The downtown core has had a large decrease in social issues.
2. I would have to say the Mission Skatepark. The park has been busy, very busy. I have volunteered many years with youth in our community and I have never seen the youth of Mission be more proud.
3. Transit and job creation. With our new and rapid growing population, transit and jobs will be a key component of building our city. Saving time and money for our young families is a top priority to me. Time is irreplaceable especially time with our children.
1. I believe the most critical decision of this council was to assume responsibility of Heritage Park. This was difficult, but necessary, to ensure the vision within the park is consistent with the Park and Recreational Master Plan and does satisfy the community needs.
2. I am most proud of our staff. We have strategically added staff with a strong administrative team. With this approach, we have been able to satisfy residential concerns effectively, and complete major projects on time and budget.
3. I see the biggest issue as the demand for development, especially residential. We need to ensure this positive growth does not place pressure on our infrastructure capacity and increase cost to our taxpayers.
Each new development has to satisfy the objectives of the new official community plan.
1. In my opinion, the most important decision this council has made in our first two years is our choice of a new CAO. Councillors come and go and are, at best, a group of dedicated amateurs. The quality of a municipality’s professional leadership determines the quality of service provided and the level of job satisfaction amongst its employees. Ron Pool has more than met our highest expectations in both these areas. Mission is now fortunate to have achieved a truly spectacular management team led by this gentleman.
2. In answer to this question, I have two points to make, one regarding development and one regarding decision-making. Firstly, I am impressed by the growth of a group of largely first-time councillors into a team of well informed and independently thoughtful community representatives. Secondly, I am delighted by the decision to actually spend money on our downtown, rather than just continue the past 18 years of chatting about it. The streetscape is in the budget. It is now my hope that the plaza will soon also become a reality.
3. I believe the biggest issue hasn’t changed in the 17 years I have served on council. It is the shortage of family-supporting local jobs. With the withdrawal of many provincial offices from Mission, it has actually become worse. Becoming a Vancouver dormitory is not acceptable. Residential taxes alone will not cover the cost of providing the facilities which a growing population needs. Cultural and social-welfare organizations are dwindling as their volunteer teams age and are not replaced. Commuting families don’t have the time or energy to give to their community. Commuting parents are left short of quality time to spend with their children; a situation which raises many problems. Already, we are seeing the start of traffic jams. If we want to live in a vibrant community, this must change. Living, playing and working in Mission must be our top priority.
– Next week Mayor Randy Hawes talks about his term so far.