Even before he takes office, mayor-elect Randy Hawes is meeting with the rest of the newly elected council members to discuss the work that has to be done to move Mission forward.
“Everyone had a bit of a platform, and I appreciate it, ” said Hawes, who will be identifying priorities with fellow council members before presenting them at the inauguration ceremony on Dec. 1.
One of the first things on Hawes’ list is to meet with district staff and repair relationships.
“We have a staff morale problem,” said Hawes. “It has to be fixed. They are the face of our community. Council is there to provide governance, but staff do the work.”
Hawes is also not forging ahead with the current plan to revitalize downtown. He suspects there are “serious infrastructure problems” downtown with drainage and sanitary sewer lines and would like to find out what is underneath the pavement before building on top of it.
Hawes is worried that the system cannot accommodate the growth taking place above Seventh Avenue.
“In a severe storm, there could be flooding here,” said Hawes. “We have to know if the infrastructure is solid.”
Hawes is also not convinced re-routing the Lougheed Highway will benefit downtown.
“Moving the highway now is not an option,” said Hawes, who would like to look at other ways to move heavy traffic out of downtown, like a bypass near the waterfront, or a route to the north that was talked about many years ago.
“I don’t know what the city has now… or what right of ways are in place.”
The development of the Welton Plaza will also be put on hold. Hawes would like the city to acquire the post office building at the corner of First Avenue and Welton Street when Canada Post moves out. He would like to see it designated as a historic building with a civic use.
“I personally want to see a fine arts centre, but that’s open for discussion,” said Hawes. “Putting a fine arts centre there would bring a lot of people downtown and that could be the game changer.”
The mayor-elect would also like to see social issues addressed downtown, including addictions and homelessness. He wants to look into having a mental health worker for the district, and has plans to talk to police about other ideas.
Councillor-elect Rhett Nicholson, who lives and owns a business downtown also has ideas to improve the area. He has set up a meeting with the Downtown Business Association to discuss the issue.
“Everyone wants to see downtown clean up and we all have different ideas,” said Nicholson, who knows a better shopping atmosphere is needed.
Downtown is a priority, but there are others too, said Hawes.
Other actions Hawes will be focussing on when he takes office is forming a new partnership with the school board, building a new skateboard park and a new seniors’ centre, and helping families with sinking homes on Best Avenue near Cedar Street.
“It’s completely wrong any citizen should sit in that situation (with a home that’s sinking) for as long as they have,” said Hawes. “I know every person on this (new) council believes it’s unconscionable and want to do something about it.”
Pam Alexis, who received the most votes for councillor in the election, echoed Hawes’ desire to rebuild relationships first.
“I know there is a lot of hard work ahead, but I am confident this council has the necessary skill set and passion to get it done,” said Alexis, who listed the top three issues to address are public safety, keeping taxes low, and business development.
Councillor-elect Jim Hinds, who has attended council meetings regularly for the last nine years agreed “respect” needs to be brought back into municipal hall.
“There are a lot of things that need to be done, but it will all have to take time to do,” said Hinds.