The challenges ahead

As nominations for this fall’s municipal election draw to a close, it’s clear Chilliwack voters will have plenty to choose from on Nov. 19.

As nominations for this fall’s municipal election draw to a close, it’s clear Chilliwack voters will have plenty to choose from on Nov. 19.

Candidates still have until 4 p.m. Friday to file their nomination papers, but as of yesterday there were several people seeking one of the six seats on council, and 12 people seeking one of the seven seats on the Chilliwack Board of Education.

What’s still unclear is if there will be a race for the Mayor’s chair.

If the incumbent Sharon Gaetz goes unchallenged it will be unfortunate – not because Gaetz has done a poor job, but because an uncontested mayoral race tends to lower overall voter turnout.

That’s too bad, because there are issues that need to be dealt with during the three years ahead that need to be discussed now.

There’s work to be done at both the city council and school board level. Chilliwack continues to feel the pressure of a growing community. That growth must occur in a smart and systematic way if we are to avoid bigger problems down the road. Chilliwack’s infrastructure must keep pace with that growth – that includes properly funded police and fire services.

Candidates may find it easy to say no to any spending initiatives. However, the real challenge will be to find innovative ways to fund these necessities so we are not simply deferring road repairs (for example) to future administrations.

Chilliwack school trustees are also facing challenges. Chilliwack has the unenviable position of having a high school completion rate that lags behind the provincial average. It is currently also undertaking an expansion and modernization of three of its schools. It is also facing the challenge of a growing school population and a rapidly changing world. And it’s doing all of this while trying to rebuild its senior administration.

Chilliwack needs a board of education that is able to generate an environment that will attract and retain talented and innovative people who can deal with these challenges.

There are candidates who will assure us over the next few weeks that they are the ones who can meet these challenges.

It is up to us to listen, question, decide and then register our vote.