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Q&A with Mission mayoral candidates

This is the first in a series of questions leading up to the April 24 by-election

Each week, leading up to the April 24 Mission mayoral by-election, the Record will be asking each candidate a question and publishing their replies. (Candidates were asked to keep answers to less than 300 words)

QUESTION 1:

Some of the candidates have identified problems, or challenged the current operations of council. Given that you are just one voice among six councillors, how do you plan to steer the municipality in a new direction? Be specific about what you think works, what you would like to see changed, and how you would do it?

EARL BABICH

I plan to lead the municipality in a new direction by seeking a clear mandate from the voters to implement the “New Vision for the City of Mission.” A clear mandate means the voters will voice their will for the six council members to follow my leadership and row the boat in the same direction.

I will work everyday on compromise and have so much optimism that I shall require 5 out of 7 votes for approvals.

Mission is in a housing crisis. It is a simple unbalance between the supply and demand of housing and/or living units. Our voter list has tripled in10 years and all that has been done is construction covering a greater amount of surface area of land with homes eating up the greenways and once fertile land. I seek a clear mandate to convert this town into a progressive green city with densification of building units such as those constructed at the Olympic Village in Vancouver where 17 acres of land now has 1,100 residential units with commercial and recreational amenities with considerable green spaces.

Mission will become open for business – where developers will profit in exchange for increasing the supply of units with the complete stratification with the strict sale of the units to principle owners that occupy the unit personally and no rental units. I will make a new zoning designation such as “city densification” and promote developers to be innovative in their design with the main focus of leaving more green spaces, be in the interests of the public and aid in eliminating homelessness. I can foresee city towers in strategic locations in the height of 22 stories in Mission.

What does not work currently are developers bringing forward plans of densification in areas that are not in the interest of the public and waste staff resources when a clear rejection is obvious.

PAUL HORN

As I meet with neighbours in the run up to the election, I consistently hear people talking about challenges that come down to one word: communication. Whether I am speaking with somebody who is a building permit applicant or a citizen with a neighbourhood concern, people have let me know that they expect to have more prompt and consistent responses that leave them feeling respected and heard.

There are three main things I think we can do to improve:

– As a team, we can investigate and learn better civic engagement practices, and then build them into our procedure bylaws and citizen engagement practises. In my work and research, I know of many of these practises and I will encourage staff and council to develop these areas. We will also routinely check to see whether or not we are meeting the mark from the community’s perspective, using surveys and townhalls.

– We need to undertake and renew proactive and community-based planning in the areas of social development, healthcare strategy and environmental protection. We also need to continue driving forward with neighbourhood planning that involves all citizens on the waterfront and in Silverdale.

– I would continue to develop strong relationships, based on respect and collaboration with other members of council and with community volunteers and agencies. These include our school district and Fraser Health as well as many local organizations such as MASH, MATH, MCSS, SARA for Women and many others. One of my first strategies would be to reconvene the Mission Healthy Community Council, which was extremely effective in bringing services to our community.

A good mayor will help to embed a culture of collaboration and listening into the city; one that will last after that mayor has moved on.

RHETT NICHOLSON

Mission is not going in the wrong direction; we just have a lot of work to do. That is why this council needs a hard-working mayor.

The mayor needs to spearhead the ideas, be the frontline worker. Organize and assemble information then steer this ship with the council.

As the Mayor, I would be talking to the residents, businesses and developers. Reach out to new investors for job creation and activities, talking to other mayors to share knowledge and best practices. Gather the information needed and bring it to the council. I will make sure council is well informed and involved so they can make their best decision. That is how I would influence votes.

I will bring a new approach; I am young and have a lot of energy and experience. I am optimistic and willing to listen and learn. Council needs to respect each other’s ideas because the public has elected them for a reason. If you elect me, you will be supporting my ideas that you want to see Mission’s planning department to be efficient, create bylaws and plans that work for Mission, that we need to invest in youth, give them a proper place to hang out that is well staffed and well programmed.

That you want to keep Mission families from being pushed out of the community by diversifying housing types and take advantage of Housing grants and 0% interest loans from CMHC.

If you elect me, you are saying pedestrian safety is a priority and you want to see safer streets. As Mayor I will do the hard work, Mission will face many issues from small to big I will address them all the same way, knowledge and understanding. I will be out working for council and our community and be the leader Mission needs.

DAVE PERRITT

The position of mayor is, but 1 of 7 elected officials, that work with District staff, to make sound decisions, for the good of the citizens and the community.

To suggest, that a new mayor, would make sweeping changes and fix everything is beyond absurd. We need stability not chaos and uncertainty. This past year has had far too many challenges, chaos and uncertainty, we do not need to add fuel to the fire.

The business of local government must continue even in such times. The district has continued to work through this monumental upheaval of Covid-19, providing services and running the city. The business of local government has continued.

We need leadership and stability, not conflict and chaos. Everything has changed, and staff have responded to the new situation. Meanwhile, demands have accelerated with a boom in developments, much of which, the district have been attempting to create for years through economic development incentives. The tax base needs to be less on housing and more on commercial and industrial. This is happening now at a fever pace.

We can always do better, whether it is permits, business licenses, inspections or any of the many criticisms I have heard leveled at the DOM. Our outdoor spaces, like parks and recreational sites, have been inundated with people, often from other communities, seeking some level of activity during covid-19 restrictions.

Staff are facing increases in projects and development that are 10 times the previous norm. The pressure is immense and they have “stepped up” to the plate, adapted, improvised and over-come these challenges.

I will be a strong voice advocating for improvement of those things we need to do better. Tell me, What do you want Mission to look like in 5, 10, 20 years?

COLIN RENKEMA

I am not proposing a complete change to council operations. Some things work well. An excellent example was the recent rejection of the 10th Ave apartment proposal. Community input was sought and council listened to both the area residents and the developer.

What needs to change is zoning with more certainty of outcome. The developer waisted a great deal of time and money on a proposal that was not going to be embraced by the neighbours. I noted that despite being unanimously rejected by council they said it “checked all the boxes” and was consistent with the Official Community Plan (OCP).

If this is true the OCP needs to be changed. Different “checked boxes” are also needed.

If elected I have one vote and a year and a half to get things done. That will create urgency on my part to move things forward. I will work with, not against, the other council members. Dialogue and lively discussions produce the best decisions.

I will encourage strong debate. Despite what some might like to portray, the other councilors all want what is best for Mission and so do I. We get there by listening to what Mission wants and getting it done.

Mission must be open for business. Our downtown core needs high occupancy development to flourish. I will ask council to work with staff to create certainty in zoning. I want to significantly speed up building and development permits as well as licensing for businesses.

Certified professionals such as engineers could be relied on to sign off on single family buildings, renovations and other minor requests. This would clear the backlog and allow staff more time for complicated files. If the answer is going to be yes, let’s get there as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

NELSON TILBURY

Showing up and stepping into a position of authority, on any project midstream is complicated and needs a certain level of experience. The work is often the easy part. The people, that is where the challenge can be. Often, the people are defensive. Who is this guy? Who does he think he is? What does he think he can do? Does he have the community’s best interests at heart?

The people at city hall are good hard-working people. They are not the enemy, they are assets. They have families, wants and dreams. They are our biggest asset.

The first thing I will do to achieve the goals I am setting out is to listen. My goals will be laid out and presented. First and foremost, I will focus on and develop the support and trust of the people around me, including councillors and staff. I will work hard to build relationships. I will work quickly and relentlessly to achieve this. This is the most important and essential goal!

With respect to the goals that I have laid out in my reasons for running, I have released my first action plan – the establishment of a Morals and Ethics Committee within 30 days of being elected. This goal, one of the tools in my action plan, will address the withering of respect for our city hall, bylaw concerns, transparency in city land purchases, ballooning bureaucracy, frustration with building permits and planning. Will the policies change? Will they be modified? I do not have an immediate answer, but one thing i know is they will not be shoved under the carpet. Is this a complete solution? No, yet it is a start.

On Wednesday I will release my second action plan on Facebook. It deals with rural properties, crime prevention and affordable housing options.