The following questionnaire was sent to all New Westminster candidates for mayor and council a little over a week ago. A separate questionnaire was sent to trustees (their responses are also being published this week). Questions were selected based primarily on comments from readers of Tenth to the Fraser collected via Twitter and Facebook, with a few of my own questions added in. Responses are published in the order they were received. Spelling/grammar are not corrected and candidates’ responses are published unedited.
1. First, let’s hear a little about you:
- What’s your name? – Jaimie
- How long have you lived in New Westminster? – 25 years
- What do you love most about our city? – It’s strong community and the way people get involved.
- What do you think most needs improvement? – The level of traffic.
- What is the civic issue that is the most personally meaningful to you? – Successfully reducing homelessness by 45%.
2. What are the top three initiatives you believe would improve economic development?
- Cutting red tape for businesses at City Hall to streamline processes to obtain permits, inspections, etc.
- Densifying in suitable areas such as Skytrain stations, creating a strong local customer base, and commercial and office areas easily accessible via Skytrain from thoughout the Lower Mainland, such as Plaza 88 and the Braid Station lands.
3. How would you like to see city council improve engagement with younger citizens?
Engage youth more in the civic process, so that civic involvement is natural going into adulthood, through support for volunteering programs, and direct connection to civic activity. How about more young citizens on city committees? I know I do that on the committees which I chair. Would anybody like to tag along and be a Councillor for a day?
4. What should New Westminster do to improve access to recreational programming and indoor public spaces in neighbourhoods that lack amenities like rec centres and libraries such as the West End, Connaught Heights and Sapperton?
I’m not sure I agree with the premise entirely, as I don’t drive a car, and so a city of 7 square miles is particularly convenient. I live in Sapperton, where the Canada Games Pool and rec centre is 5 minutes away, and previously lived in the West End, with the library a 5 minute drive and not a long walk away. However, there is a need to ensure local access to services, to live up to and build on that idea of the walkable city. The city can improve on recreational programing, beautification, and civic engagement through more support for Parks and Rec programs. I do think there is a need to review services in all areas of the city to ensure fairness and equal access. That’s why I support the neighbourhood planning process currently planned by the current council, beginning in Sapperton next year. One topic of particular concern is elderly seniors. The city now has 1200 seniors over the age of 85, for many of whom access to services and recreation can be limited. We need to make sure we have adequate shuttle access and programs to make sure we are not leaving our elders in isolation.
5. Which approach best describes your philosophy towards City budgeting and spending?
New West should take advantage of funding offered from other sources (federal, provincial, developers, etc.) in order to fund important community & infrastructure improvements – even if it means having to borrow to pay for our share of a project
If you could get two dollars by borrowing one dollar, to achieve a long-desired goal, it only makes sense. The city has long needed to revitalize, waiting to go it alone rather that seizing opportunity would only cost more in the end.
6. Which of the following most closely reflects your views on taxation?
Taxes are about right. New Westminster’s level of taxation is appropriate for its size and the level of services provided to citizens. Current revenues are adequate and we don’t need to raise taxes.
I support maximizing other services of revenue. That’s why I supported an office tower being included as part of the civic centre with a private partner (tax revenue and jobs), eventually a restaurant attached to the pier park (tax revenue and service), and in fact I support looking at how to include revenue generation in any civic project. Bringing development cost charges in line with other municipalities has also brought money into the city without adding pressure to taxes, and other measures are available, such as billboard advertising on city property. As a result of that kind of approach, 29% of city revenues come from a source other than property tax, and 40% of property tax comes from non-residential properties. I support continuing to build in that direction.
7. Beyond voting, serving on City committees and appearing at council meetings, what do you think citizens can do to become more involved in civic life?
There are some excellent blogs that discuss civic issues in the city, but the key is personal engagement in community. A strong civic life can only come from a strong community. New Westminster has arts groups, history, parks and rec and library programs, and 250 non-profit organizations in which to volunteer. In fact, long before I was elected, I attended my first residents’ association meeting simply because I wanted to meet some of my neighbours.
8. What should be done about truck traffic through our city?
Next year, the city is to begin work on its Master Transportation Plan. We can’t treat trucks and traffic like it doesn’t exist or need to move, but we can question if that movement needs to go through a small mainly residential community where the streets were initially designed by the horse and buggy. New Westminster commuters drive 18,000 vehicles a day, but 450,000 vehicles a day go through our city. We really need to be proactive, looking at the siting of the future replacement for the Pattullo Bridge for example, and the more natural major transportation connections that can occur, than simply routing through New Westminster until traffic hooks up with appropriate routes again on its way through.
9. What should be done to improve our recreation facilities? Specifically, what would you like to see done with Canada Games Pool, which is in need of repair/upgrades?
Two options have been presented, to renovate, or to rebuild. However, there is a third option that might be more cost effective and improve the facilities and level of service, and that is to renovate with an expansion, similar what the city did recently with the expansion of the Queensbourough Community Centre. The city is expanding in population, and we need to move beyond crisis response to deterioration of civic facilities to a more responsible and proactive approach. Given the importance of recreation to community health and well-being, I think this is a priority for planning, but there has to be strong due diligence to financial issues.
10. Let’s conclude with some ‘blue sky’ thinking. What is one big-idea project or improvement that you would propose for New Westminster if cost was no object?
If cost were no object, I would move Pattullo Bridge to Coquitlam, restore water and wildlife habitat on the Fraser River foreshore, establish a small park and nature preserve on Poplar Island with a pedestrian/cycle bridge for access, put every document in the city’s archive online and indexed, build a small neighbourhood pool in Connaught Heights. Oh, but wait, you said only one. But that’s just the amazing thing about New Westminster. We refuse to accept the apparent limits as the end of what we can accomplish. And as a result, we often succeed.
If you want to learn more about Jaimie McEvoy you can find him online: