The Chilliwack Progress asked city council candidates to outline their “out-of-the-box” ideas this week as part of ongoing Elections 2014 coverage.
Sixteen of 17 candidates replied (complete answers are here) with what they would bring to the table if elected to “significantly improve” some aspect of how the City of Chilliwack is run.
Candidate Patti MacAhonic tackled poverty.
“I believe the root cause of some of the largest problems facing Chilliwack today is poverty. Social entrepreneurship—a drive for social undertakings that combine business principles and motivations—are emerging as promising approaches to combating poverty,” she said. “I am proposing that we develop a poverty elimination strategy and policy using these innovative approaches that are measurable and address key areas such as income security, housing, food security, employment, health, and childcare.”
Many of the ideas from first-time candidates had to do with “engaging” the electorate in a variety of ways.
Two of them zeroed in on youth.
For candidate Kim Harder, the idea is to establish a Youth Health Centre.
“Plenty of evidence exists to show that engaging youth early on creates, healthier, safer and therefore one could say, more attractive cities,” said Harder, adding she also favours youth representation at the city level. “When you look at the excitement young people have around events like We Day, it’s clear that they are wanting to make a difference and be involved. The University of the Fraser Valley is large untapped resource for potentially increasing youth engagement in municipal politics.”
Incumbent Jason Lum said he’d like to see a “youth advisory committee” set up at city hall.
“With declining voter turnouts, it is clear that we must work harder to educate, engage, and include a new generation of voters in the decision making process.
“What better way than to learn hands-on about the roles and responsibilities of Local Government than having a direct say in some of the recommendations to Mayor and Council.
Incumbent Chuck Stam went out a snow removal limb to solve the problem of snow clogged roads.
“My ‘out of the box’ idea is more of a back to the basics, citizen engagement idea relating to heavy snow fall events,” Stam said. “The concept is city would pre-qualify and contract with owners of heavy equipment and farm implements to be available and ready when called upon to remove the snow from pre-determined third and fourth priority roads.
“This would free up our equipment and operators to remain focused on our first and second priority roads and provide safer passage to our less travelled neighborhoods and country roads.”
Candidate Philip Maxwell said he’ll be active on social media, and in person, to keep people informed, and to counter the idea that council is unreachable.
“With the social media craze, people have forgotten how to talk to each other. I want to bring this crazy idea of talking to someone face to face back.
“I will attend public events, have open forums and talk to local business owners to ensure there is a ‘personal touch’ to my seat on council,” said Maxwell.
Candidate Phill Bruce is also out to “engage” folks.
“My Out of the Box idea is to continually engage people throughout my term to find out what the real issues and concerns are from the people in the street to the farmers in the field, facilitate from the people of Chilliwack how to fix there issues and concerns and how to make this community better,” said Bruce.
Candidate Michael Kha’s idea is a city council meeting that goes mobile to take the issues directly to the people.
“We could call this initiative the ‘Road Show’ and let everyone be comfortable in their own environment while learning about how the city works. I believe that if we can bring city hall to ‘people’ more people would be interested in politics, and be more engaged with the current issues.”
Getting more Chilliwackians out to vote, and getting key info out to them, through accountability and transparency seemed to be the over-arching theme for several people.
Candidate Brenda Currie said she would like to see “voting promoted on a continuous basis,” such as going out to schools and educating the youth to vote, “and not just at election time. I feel getting more citizens involved will allow them to have more input.”
Candidate Richard Williams said his “top priority” is “strengthening the foundations” of public engagement.
“For instance; we must start making all public (non-council) meetings/forums part of the public record like council meetings. Social media and other online forums (as examples) must become an integrated part of ‘regular council’ meetings as well as the other public meetings. Processes like the rezoning applications can also be enhanced with more online engagement.”
Candidate Brigida Crosbie vowed to “listen” to the people.
“Letting the people know and feel confident that their issues and their voice have been heard,” she said. “To be more open and honest about what is happening in our City and to stop pretending that Chilliwack doesn’t have the same issues as any other City and to acknowledge them and be proactive in dealing with these issues.”
Being approachable was Chris Kloot’s idea, adding: “I want people to feel they matter, because they do! I want to hear people’s visions, dreams and wants for this community.”
Incumbent Sue Attrill praised the amazing staff team, with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they were part of her idea.
“I would like to see monthly seminars offered to the public on any number of topics. It can sometimes be difficult for citizens to understand our zoning for example.”
Candidate Dick Harrington said the answer is a city-run Wi-Fi network for the community, patterned after one in Fredericton, NB that began in 1998, with an initial investment of $65,000.
“That investment was paid back in full. The non-profit agency that runs it is owned by the city, with the city being the sole shareholder.The taxpayer contributes nothing into the costs.
“We need such a service for Chilliwack and I will push for this when I get elected to Council,” said Harrington. “Let’s work together to make Chilliwack the Internet capital of British Columbia.”
For candidate Sam Waddington the key is bolstering tourism.
“We have an opportunity to build a tourism industry here that reflects our position in the Fraser Valley as the best place to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. If we capitalize on this opportunity there are vast economic benefits that await us in this sector, and tourism could feasibly become a cornerstone to Chilliwack’s economy in the years to come.”