"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A strong second

Well, the results are in and I finished a strong second. Congrats to winner Neal Nicholson and all the other candidates. And thanks again to everyone who voted for me and helped with the campaign. Detailed results here.

Thanks to all!

Just a quick note to thank everyone who voted for me today and everyone who pitched in by phoning, driving and campaigning. Polls close in less than half an hour now, and we'll be heading down to city hall to watch the results being posted.

Whether I'm elected or not, this campaign has been a winner. Thanks again to all the people who worked so hard and supported me with so much enthusiasm. This has been a true team effort.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fighting for lower and fairer taxes

We're running some new ads in the two community newspapers today which are adding a new wrinkle to our messaging.

In the past, we've been concentrating more on telling people who I am. Now, we're focusing on one particular message: lower and fairer taxes. Everywhere I go, people are upset to hear that city council is raising property taxes by 5.28% this year.

People also don't want special new taxes put on homeowners or motorists to pay for the Evergreen Line.

And, of course, most people are opposed to the provincial government's introduction of the HST. This isn't a municipal issue, but I'm still hearing about it everywhere I go.

I continue to tell people that I am deeply disappointed that the provincial government introduced this harmonized sales tax regime after promising not to; that Victoria failed utterly in explaining how the tax will work and why it's supposedly needed; and that the provincial government decided to proceed with this legislation in the face of massive, widespread public opposition.

I believe that, in the face of this tsunami of opposition, the premier and his cabinet should have taken a step back and reevaluted the province's position and really listened to and then attempted to answer the questions and meet the concerns.

Their failure to do so has not only hurt the government politically, but also shows a disrespect for the public.

I continue to believe that, as most major economists say, the HST will have a long-term beneficial effect on the provincial economy by making businesses more competitive, thereby creating jobs and wealth.

Nevertheless, for now at least, the government needs to back off, rethink everything, and develop a better implementation plan -- possibly one that has a phase-in period that lessens the short-term impact on consumers.

Meantime, here's a link to the Coquitlam Now's editorial on the by-election.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Looking forward to higher voter turn-out

I've just spoken with the city's Chief Election Officer and she has informed me that turn-out to the advance polls, which ended yesterday, was significantly higher than in the most recent by-prior by-election.

A total of 834 people cast ballots over the three-day advance poll leading up to Saturday's by-election. That's well over double the number (368) of people who voted in advance polls the last time the city staged a by-election.

That earlier by-election ended up attracting only 5% of registered voters, with the winning candidate taking less than 1,300 votes.

I've long believed that high voter turn-out worked in favour of my campaign, and so I'm very pleased by today's news.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Advance turn-out stronger than last by-election

The final advance poll before Saturday's general voting is today, until 8 p.m., at the Poirier Community Centre. If you are unable to vote on Saturday, please vote today--and bring a friend too.

Meantime, the Tri-City News' headline today says that voter turn-out to the first two days of advance polling was "not promising" compared to the advance turn-out during the last civic general election.

But compared with the advance turn-out at the last by-election, the turn-out this year is actually is exceptionally strong; in fact, more voters cast their ballots in the first two days this year than in all three days last time around. I take this as a good sign!

Mainstreaming the message

It's not even noon yet, and the campaign has already enjoyed some great publicity. First off was our 'Burma-Shaving' (display of roadside signs) at the intersection of Como Lake and Clarke this morning. Thanks to Dave, Andy and Roger for helping me out.

Next, I learned that the BCIT broadcast journalism feature on me had been posted on the school's website. Here's the direct link to the story. Thanks to Rob and Zameer for their great work! I must say, it was certainly odd being on the other side of a camera and a reporter's questions. In the end, I'm very pleased with the results.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Going live tonight on Roadkill Radio

I'm going to be talking with Kari Simpson and Ron Gray on RoadkillRadio.com this evening at 8:10 p.m. We'll talking mainly about my campaign and the by-election, but we'll probably veer off in other directions, too. If you're a Canucks fan, you might want to listen to Roadkill on the computer and watch the game on television with the volume muted. Just a thought....

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

Monday, May 10, 2010

Interchange information

You might remember my earlier posting about Maillardville's concerns about the lack of a consequential upgrade to the Brunette/Highway 1 interchange.

Well, a communications person with the Port Mann Bridge project noticed the item and sent me an email explaining that the current plans don't call for major changes because, essentially, other "regional transportation improvements", including some impacting the Brunette-Blue Mountain-Lougheed Highway intersections, may be in the works; therefore, it wouldn't make sense to plan major changes to the Brunette/Highway 1 interchange at present.

Here's the full text of the note:

Dear Mr. O'Neill:
I read your blog this weekend regarding the Coquitlam All Candidates Meeting held last week and would like to point out that the information contained in your blog is not quite correct [http://electterryoneill.blogspot.com/2010/05/battle-brewing-over-bridge-traffic.html].
In fact, there will be some safety and efficiency improvements in place at this interchange by 2013 to address short- to medium-transportation demand. Current plans for Brunette include a staged approach so that additional improvements can be made based on scope and timing decisions for a number of other regional transportation improvements such as the North Fraser Perimeter Road and potential improvements for the Brunette-Blue Mountain-Lougheed Highway area that could be integrated with Highway 1 and the North Fraser Perimeter Road. It would not make sense to spend public funds reconstructing the Brunette Interchange today only to have it become redundant in the near future. It is for this reason that the preliminary design concept has changed.
Many decisions about the local and regional lie with other planning agencies and we work closely with them to ensure our project designs consider this bigger picture.
I welcome you to attend our Cape Horn informational open house at Coquitlam City Hall on May 18 if you any questions about the Port Mann/Highway 1 Project.
General inquiries can also be directed to:
Web: www.pmh1project.com
Email: info@pmh1project.com
Tel: 1-877-999-7641
Yours truly,
Pamela Ryan
Communications Counsel
Port Mann/Highway 1 Project
Transportation Investment Corporation
Suite 1420 - 1111 West Georgia Street, Vancouver BC V6E 4M3

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Big Labour's big problem?

With less than a week to go now before the by-election, it's clear that the contest is shaping up as a battle between the single Big Labour/NDP candidate and everyone else on the centre-right. The only problem is that the majority of Coquitlam voters don't realize it.

The Left's champion is Neal Nicholson, who is backed by the NDP machine, endorsed by NDP politicians and the firefighter's union, and supported financially by CUPE.

With all this union support, one wonders about Nicholson's statement at last Wednesday's Maillardville all-candidates meeting (pictured), in which he agreed with my idea that, as a budget-control measure, we should reduce the size of the city staff through attrition and retirements. In other words, we should institute a hiring freeze until we get spending under control.

Does CUPE know about this? Has the New Westminster Labour Council heard? If so, do they agree? Not likely.

I have no reason to doubt Nicholson's sincerity, but I can't see how Big Labour can support a man who backs a reduction in the city's work force. That just ain't Big Labour's style. I await an explanation.

Meantime, I believe that I have emerged as the leading non-Big Labour candidate. My policies are aimed at providing the most good for the broadest range of Coquitlam residents, not just for special interests. I believe that using common sense, we can find common ground on most of the big problems facing us.

By the way, those doubting my memory of Nicholson's statement need only listen to the audio recording of the proceedings, which is now conveniently on-line here.

Fighting the five-percent tax hike

Here's my newest press release, which I'm distributing door-to-door today. It's going over very well.

O’Neill calls for city hall cuts & lower property taxes

COQUITLAM – With yet another huge property-tax hike looming over Coquitlam, independent candidate Terry O’Neill has called for immediate steps to protect homeowners.

O’Neill, who is running in the May 15 by-election, points out that council adopted a budget on May 3 calling for the average homeowner to pay an additional 5.28% more property tax this year.

Added to last year’s 7% increase, the two-year total is quadruple the rise in the cost of living over the same period.

“The average worker or small-business owner certainly hasn’t received 12% in raises or earned 12% more profit over the past two years,” O’Neill says. “It’s unacceptable for council to continue saddling the citizens of Coquitlam with this sort of tax burden.”

He said council must immediately freeze hiring and re-examine all aspects of the budget. “The city has to cut its spending, starting immediately,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill recently wrote a passionate plea in defence of homeowners, housing affordability and lower property taxes in Coquitlam. The article, published by the Georgia Straight, drew praise from Province columnist Jon Ferry.

“…I was happy to see that Terry O’Neill, a candidate in the May 15 Coquitlam city byelection, has been vigorously defending the suburban lifestyle he and his wife have enjoyed for the past 30 years,” Ferry wrote in his paper’s May 3 edition.

O’Neill has had a distinguished career in journalism and communications. He is also a past president of The Eagle Ridge Residents Association and currently sits on the boards of several non-profits, including the Coquitlam Foundation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Eight candidates, one choice

Both local papers have published some coverage of the all-candidates meetings that took place earlier this week. Here's a link to the Tri-City News' story. And here's a link to a story in The Now.
The News has also published a handy guide to all eight candidates.
Remember to vote: May 8 at Pinetree Community Centre; May 12 at Poirier Community Centre. May 15 at any of 11 schools. See the city's website for details.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Burquitlam meeting a big success

The third and final of the all-candidates' meetings is now over. I'd say it was another great success for the campaign, and probably my best performance of the three. The photo shows the little display I set up in the gym of Banting Middle before the meeting began.

Here's the text of my Opening Speech.

I’d like to begin by thanking the Burquitlam Community Association for hosting this meeting. Thanks, also, to everyone in the audience for attending. It’s great for democracy.

You know, I’ve been talking to hundreds of voters over the past month, and many ask, “Why are you running?”

My answer is simple: After a long career in journalism writing editorials and opinion pieces like the Face to Face debate in the Tri-City News, the time has come to stop talking and start doing.

I’ve always dug for the truth and taken strong stands. Indeed, my job was to spark debate. Now, I'm ready to put down my reporter’s pencil and serve my community in a different fashion, as a city councillor.

Now is the time to listen more intently.
Now is the time to collaborate and seek common ground.
Now is the time to work with my neighbours, my community and all voters to make Coquitlam an even better place than it already is.

My priorities are not unlike those of the majority of voters:

*We want sound management of our city’s budget, keeping tax increases to a minimum while protecting key services. I’m happy to report that there’s wide agreement among my fellow candidates on this point.

Mr. Nicholson, for example, agreed with me last night that council should reduce the number of workers on the city payroll, using attrition and retirement.

*There’s also broad agreement on an issue that’s of great interest to Burquitlam: completion of the Evergreen Line. Here, however, Mr. Nicholson and I disagree. I want all B.C. taxpayers to pay equally for the shortfall. Mr. Nicholson, however, favours raising funds by slapping a special charge on motorists using the Barnet Highway.

[Note: later in the meeting, Mr. Nicholson attempted to explain that his toll or user-fee idea was actually more of a general, long-term thought, and not directly related to paying for the Evergreen.]

I’ve been involved in community affairs since I helped found The Eagle Ridge Residents Association 30 years ago.

I can be trusted to make the best decisions for all Coquitlam.

And I promise to be accountable for my actions in office.

Please vote “Terry O’Neill” on May 15. Thank-you!

Battle brewing over bridge traffic

To no one's surprise, last night's all-candidates meeting in Maillardville centred on issues directly relating to this most historic of Coquitlam's neighbourhoods.

But, while it was no surprise that issues surrounding community planning, recreation, heritage, arts and culture, and crime figured prominently in the discussion, what caught most of us off guard was the news that the provincial government is planning no upgrades* to the Brunette interchange as part of the Gateway Program , even though construction of the new Port Mann Bridge will greatly increase traffic.

Several members of the audience complained that an already-difficult traffic situation in and around Maillardville would become intolerable once the new bridge starts pouring more traffic onto the freeway and, ultimately, over the Brunette interchange.

In response to the concerns, I made it very clear that I would do my utmost to see that the community's concerns are addressed. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," I told the audience, and I plan to be one squeaky wheel!
*[Update: I should have written 'no significant upgrades']

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Opposed to punitive Barnet road usage fee

From funding the Evergreen Line and lowering business taxes to expanding library services and maintaining support for local non-profits, our first all-candidates meeting covered alot of ground.

To my mind, the defining moment of the debate was when Neal Nicholson said that, if elected, he would support the imposition of a road usage fee (a toll?) on motorists using the Barnet Highway. The proceeds, he said, would help pay for the Evergreen Line. If memory serves me correctly, he declared he wanted to ensure it would "cost a lot" (or something to this effect) to drive the Barnet.

Luckily, I followed Nicholson in the speaking order and said, in no uncertain terms, that it would be unfair to penalize motorists who, by necessity, have to drive to and from downtown Vancouver from Coquitlam. Moreover, I pointed out that the entire region, if not the entire province, will benefit from expansion of rapid transit.

This being the case, the burden should be shared by all, not shouldered disproportionately by one segment. The video that's part of this posting is of my complete answer. Please visit my Facebook page for more videos.

Here's my home-stretch ad

Here's an advance look at the ad that'll be running in tomorrow's Tri-City News. We're in the home stretch now!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Defending suburbia and suburbanites

As I informed readers last week, I recently submitted an op-ed column to the on-line edition of the Georgia Straight newspaper, after the editor put out a request to all eight candidates.

I quickly agreed to write the piece, but didn't think it would be widely read by Coquitlam voters. I did conclude, however, that the column would allow me to elaborate on an important part of my campaign platform: defending suburban homeowners. (The picture shows central Coquitlam on a foggy fall morning a few years ago.)

The Straight published the piece last week, and I figured that was the end of it (although I did check the paper's website from time to time to see if anyone else had written a column; as of today, only one other candidate had done so).

Imagine my pleasant surprise, then, when a friend called me a few hours ago (while I was in the middle of door-knocking in Ranch Park) to deliver the great news that my column had caught the interest of Jon Ferry, the Vancouver Province newspaper's front-section columnist and, furthermore, that Ferry had written in today's paper that he was in complete agreement with my position.

All in all, it's great news for the campaign, especially as we head into the three consecutive all-candidates meetings this week. Here's the Province column, below:

Suburban living offers quality over quantity

Out in Langley over the weekend, I was struck by just how pleasant life in the Lower Mainland suburbs can be with a large lot, a sizzling barbecue and a backyard full of kids.

And I thought how it wrong it was for politically correct politicians and transportation "experts" continually to rail against suburban sprawl as it were some form of disease.

Not everyone loves downtown living, at least if they have a family to raise or an animal or two to feed.

Nor do they thrill to the mantra of forced housing densification, or eco-density, that's become so fashionable among academics and urban planners.

For many Lower Mainland residents, the dream is not to live in a luxury condo in Vancouver's West End or Olympic Village. They'd much prefer a single-family home in the Fraser Valley with a decent-sized backyard, approachable neighbours and some trees their children can climb.

But too often their voices go unreported in civic reports, university studies . . . and B movies that invariably give the suburbs a bad rap.

That's why I was happy to see that Terry O'Neill, a candidate in the May 15 Coquitlam city byelection, has been vigorously defending the suburban lifestyle he and his wife have enjoyed for the past 30 years. "This is our home. This is where we live," the longtime journalist wrote in a Georgia Straight op-ed. "And this place . . . despite what some downtown urbanites might think, is not some sort of suburban blight. It is the manifestation of our hope and dreams."

It was much the same point that retired Maple Ridge teacher Dan Banov made recently in taking issue with patronizing remarks by local city Coun. Craig Speirs about the alleged inactivity of those who lived on large suburban properties. "The kids are less healthy, more obese," Speirs was quoted as saying.

Banov, who lives on acreage in Whonnock, quite rightly questioned where Speirs had got his information. "I always thought children living closer to nature would give them a healthier life, climbing trees instead of monkey bars," he fired back in a letter to the Maple Ridge News.

Certainly, life in the suburbs isn't all peaches and cream. And suburban motorists increasingly are being taxed to death. But despite the media hype about people moving into the urban core of Vancouver and other large cities, there's little or no evidence suburban living is becoming any less popular in North America.

High-profile U.S. geographer Joel Kotkin says the reason is that the suburbs represent for most people the best, most practical and most community-minded choice for raising their families.

"Indeed, for four decades, according to numerous surveys, the portion of the population that prefers to live in a big city has consistently been in the 10-to 20-per-cent range, while roughly 50 per cent or more opt for suburbs or exurbs," Kotkin noted.

The bottom line? Lower Mainland community leaders need to stop fixating on the supposed virtues of densification and downtown living . . . and start sticking up for the burbs. After all, they're where most of us live.