Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Some candidates aren't taking this seriously
UPDATE: I'm happy to now report that several of the candidates I mentioned, below, have now taken the opportunity to engage the public by answering the questions posed by TheV3H.com.
In a municipal election, the general rule is that any publicity is good publicity. That's one of the reasons I have been conscientous about replying to media questions and surveys about the campaign and my candidacy. It certainly paid dividends when I promptly submitted a requested op-ed to the Georgia Straight, and was rewarded with a very positive mention in The Province.
Today, it's been disclosed that I'm the only candidate to have answered a series of questions posed by the Tri-Cities-specific e-news site, TheV3H.com. Frankly, it astonishes me that candidates who say they are serious about running don't take the time to engage the public by answering such questions.
My leading rival, Neal Nicholson, apparently thinks TheV3H.com is important enough to advertise on it, but not important enough to give it (and the voters of Coquitlam) the courtesy of answering its questions.
Let's name some other names here: Brian Babcock did not attend a single all-candidates meeting, and didn't answer questions for V3H. His excuse for missing the meetings? He was out of town on a sport-fishing trip.
Massimo "the mystery man" Mandarino has also been a complete no-show, with no explanation, and has written nothing.
Andy Shen, the very young SFU student, appears to be running for the sport of it and to brag about his 2,000-plus Facebook friends. He attended the meetings, but didn't write for V3H.
Owen Coomer, a 20-something bar manager, admits he ran for mayor in the last general election merely to get his name better-known. He attended two of three meetings before saying he was too ill to appear at the third. He seems to be serious in his candidacy this time out, yet he didn't respond to TheV3H's invitation.
Ralph Banni attended all three meetings, responded to the Georgia Straight, but apparently ignored TheV3H.com request.
Andy Wickey and Nicholson were at all three meetings but wrote nothing for V3H.
Being a good city council member means being direct, honest and willing to communicate with voters. Is the silence from the majority of council candidates an indication of their unwillingness to communicate with the residents of Coquitlam? If so, what does this say about what sort of council members they will be?
Everyone is complaining about the fact voters don't take these by-elections seriously. Perhaps if all the candidates who have entered the race treated the by-election seriously themselves, the voters would follow.
Click here to read the questions and answers at the site, or simply scroll down.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and why you are running for council?
My candidacy is a natural extension of both my interest in public policy and my growing commitment to community service. As a professional journalist, I have specialized in commentary about political matters; the time now seems right for me to move from talk to action. As a long-time activist, I have worked to improve not only my neighbourhood but also the whole of Coquitlam. A seat on Coquitlam Council would facilitate this passion.
2. What do you see as the most important issues currently facing the City of Coquitlam?
Owning and maintaining a home in Coquitlam is becoming increasingly difficult, and I believe that Council should act where it can to lessen the financial burden on residents. Consider property taxes. In the year 2000, my wife and I paid $1,699.07 in property taxes. In 2008, we paid $2,328.87—an increase of 37 percent. That dramatic rise is unacceptable, especially at a time when inflation was running at only one or two percent a year. Utility bills are also a problem. This year, our bill increased by 17 percent, and it’s gone up 84 percent since 2004. Again, this is simply unacceptable.
These increases seem to be driven, in part, by over-spending. According to a recent study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Coquitlam had a dismal record of overspending on operating costs in the years 2000 to 2007. The Federation calculated that, if operating expenses had simply kept pace with population growth and inflation, Coquitlam’s spending should have grown 20 percent in that time. Instead, spending grew at more than twice the expected rate, or 41.9 percent. Once again, this is simply unacceptable.
3. How will you work together with Mayor Richard Stewart and Council to make Coquitlam better?
Throughout my years of community involvement, I have a record of collegiality, hard work and good humour. While I am most noted in the Tri-Cities for a weekly political debate column in one of the local newspapers, my friends, associates and colleagues know that I embrace team work and striving for common goals. I have no doubt that I will be able to continue this approach once on council.
4. How will you encourage more people to become involved with their civic government?
The key is communication. Most of us lead busy and complex lives. Many of the people I’ve talked with while going door to door in Coquitlam over the past month say they have no time to keep up with civic affairs. City Hall can and should find ways to communicate simply and efficiently with residents in order to encourage greater engagement
Posted by Terry O'Neill at 9:56 AM