Here We Go Again

#NewWestVotesWhat’s happening in New Westminster politics has been a great portion of this site’s history. We’ve written all sorts of think pieces, op-eds, event previews and recaps, profiles, and have also hosted all-candidates events. Our comments section has always made for lively discussion, as well.

In the past, we’ve often endorsed certain candidates.

We’ve made the editorial decision that from now on, Tenth to the Fraser will not endorse any particular candidate for any election. True, our editor’s political leanings are not exactly secret, but we just don’t think Tenth to the Fraser, as a business and a team of a few people, needs to make a proclamation about who we think is the right leader.

We do commit to write about what we think is much more important: providing information about how, when, and why to vote, and providing a platform for all candidates to give answers to questions, purchase advertising (so long as they meet our guidelines about suitable advertisements), and have an opportunity to submit pieces about the issues their position might have to cover.

So…. guess what?

There’s a school trustee by-election coming up to replace Mary-Ann Mortensen who resigned in March this year, and that means you are voting for a single person to replace her. Just because it’s only one person doesn’t make it any less important for New West to vote, in fact, it’s almost more important that you do put in the effort. And regardless of whether you have children, trustees work collaboratively to develop policies and lead and represent New Westminster Schools, and ultimately, they work to raise awesome future New Westers who might one day be your neighbour, your employee, or your caregiver.

For a bit more info about what trustees do and why you should care no matter that, check out this article from back in 2011.

The election takes place on June 11. if you can’t make that, then there is also two opportunities for advanced voting: June 1 at City Hall, and again on June 4 at Glenbrook Middle School. All of the date and places are available on the City’s website and all voting opportunities are from 8am to 8pm.

Who’s running? There are two candidates who have filed: Dee Beattie, backed by the District Labour Council, and Mary Lalji, running as an independent. I sent both candidates the same questions, and I’m printing them below exactly as received. Dee got her responses in first, so hers are listed on top. If you’ve got more questions that need answers before you make a decision, get in touch with your candidates and ask them your questions! Their contact info is included below.  Continue reading “Here We Go Again”

B.C. Election in bloom

Vote!
Voting time is coming near again! The B.C. provincial election will be held on May 14, 2013. 

Amid rainshowers and spring flowers, I’m starting to see orange election signs sprouting in my neighbourhood, with shades of red, blue, green (and more) soon to follow I’m sure. Yes, it’s election time again in B.C. and New Westminster candidates will soon be stepping up their door-knocking, robocalling and energetic presence at local events.

On Tenth to the Fraser, we always try to do our part to help New West folk get to know the candidates and issues around election time, and while we probably have to scale back our efforts this year due to personal scheduling conflicts involving a certain sure-to-be demanding newborn, there will be some voter goodness coming your way.

Specifically, we are collaborating with New Westminster Environmental Partners and NEXT New West to organize a unique event: an  All-Candidates Jane’s Walk starting at 5:30pm on May 4. Our groups have joined forces before, organizing both traditional and non-traditional local all-candidates events, and we’re always thinking about new ways to make voting and political engagement less intimidating and more fun. Here’s the description of the event:

All New Westminster residents are invited to gather at SappertonPark (at the corner of East Columbia Street and Sherbrooke Street) at 5:30 on Saturday evening. The four candidates will be introduced, and the group will walk along Columbia Street and the Central Valley Greenway to Downtown New Westminster and the River Market (a distance of about 3.5 km, so about an hour walking at a leisurely pace).

Along the way, each of the candidates will be given an opportunity for their 5 minutes “on the soapbox” to address the crowd, but the emphasis will be on face-to-face and small group conversations during the walk. Participants will be encouraged to chat with the candidates and ask their own questions. There will also be a few surprises along the way to encourage a meaningful dialogue!

At the end of the walk, participants and candidates will be encouraged, as is the NEXT New West tradition, to gather at a local pub and continue the conversation.

Pat Johnstone will emcee (if you don’t already read his blog, you should!), and all previously declared candidates have agreed to participate:

James Crosty has only just announced he’s running as an independent candidate, but hopefully he will also be able to find time in his campaign schedule to join us on the walk. 

Jane’s Walks are a global event celebrating the legacy of celebrated urban thinker and pedestrian advocate Jane Jacobs, held on the first weekend in May to coincide with Jane’s birthday. The walks are free tours, guided by knowledgeable locals to highlight interesting places and neighbourhoods. This is the first year that New Westminster has participated in the event, but there are already ten walks organized for that weekend, and possibly even more to come!

2011 election results: Puchmayr edges out Osterman on council; Campbell, Phelan, Mortensen join school board,

 

Wayne Wright was re-elected with over 60% of the vote in New Westminster.
Wayne Wright was re-elected with 62% of the vote in New Westminster.

Preliminary New Westminster election results are in, and the results are not entirely unexpected. As in the 2008 election, there is only one new face on City Council, but unlike last time, voters did opt for change on school board. And despite an energetic campaign by challenger James Crosty, incumbent mayor Wayne Wright won by a landslide.

Crosty used a variety of means to get attention, including launching a campaign to brand himself as a ‘citizen advocate’ months before declaring his candidacy, Tweeting frequently, hosting ‘citizen chats’ with interested voters and leveraging his position as the president of the Quayside Community Board, one of the city’s most effective residents’ associations, to improve name recognition and rally his base of supporters. Crosty hoped to tap into dissatisfaction with the status quo on issues such as train noise, municipal taxation and spending, and big-ticket projects like the new Pier Park (dubbed ‘Wayne’s Wharf’ by the Crosty campaign). But Crosty was also dogged by a series of gaffes, including accusations of plagiarism after lifting the answer to a candidates questionnaire from Wikipedia, lack of attendance at all-candidates’ events and Tweeting caustic responses to critical questions from voters. In the end, while some voters were receptive to the idea of change, they were not convinced that Crosty was the person to lead New Westminster in a new direction.

With about 60% share of vote vs. Crosty’s 30%, Wright’s win is a clear indication that a solid majority of voters believe New Westminster is on the right path. Most people I spoke to thought the city could do better in one way or another, but believed our town is far better off today than it was nine years ago, and they can see things getting even better once major downtown developments stickhandled by Wright are completed, including the new multi-use Civic Centre, the Plaza 88 development and the Pier Park.

On council, former councillor and NDP MLA Chuck Puchmayr easily won a seat, edging out incumbent Bob Osterman. Jaimie McEvoy, who just barely won his seat in 2008 came in with a much stronger showing with the third largest number of votes. Jonathan Cote also came out a winner, claiming the top spot with 6,481 votes. Cote ran his campaign the way he managed his previous years on council, with dedication, good humour and dogged persistence. The Cote campaign knocked on 3,100 doors during the campaign and participated in six 6:30am ‘Burmashave’ rallies to drum up support. All other incumbents won their seats, including Bill Harper, Betty McIntosh and Lorrie Williams.

The school board race turned out to be the most interesting. There were two vacant seats on the board, and most people expected District Labour Council-endorsed candidates Jonina Campbell and David Phelan to win those spots, but what I didn’t expect was that Campbell and Phelan turned out to be the most popular trustee candidates. It is a credit both to the quality of the candidates and to their campaigns, as it is notoriously difficult to break through as a new trustee. Another fresh face squeaked in too, Voice’s MaryAnn Mortensen. Incumbent trustee and fellow Voice colleague Jim Goring lost his spot. Incumbents round out the new school board: Voice’s Lisa Graham and Casey Cook and DLC-endorsed Michael Ewen and James Janzen.

So there you have it: a more progressive council and school board, and a clear endorsement of Mayor Wayne Wright’s vision and leadership for New West – at least for the next three years.

Who are you voting for? TF editorial team shares our picks for mayor, council & trustees

New Westminster City Hall
New Westminster City Hall

Public endorsements of candidates are not uncontroversial. Pat Tracy, editor at the Record, has publicly come out against them, and those who do share their endorsements open themselves to criticism for their choices. Those of us on the ‘editorial board’ of Tenth to the Fraser, who do the daily work of writing for the site, soliciting & editing guest posts, approving comments and interacting with readers and Facebook and Twitter, debated whether or not to share our picks for this election, but in the end we decided we must.

Our rationale is simple: we are uniquely positioned through the work we have done on this blog to get to know more about the candidates than many other voters are able to do. We have met almost all face-to-face, and in many cases have had extended conversations with them about the issues that matter to us. Because we have been blogging and tweeting about the election, we have come to know the candidates and issues far better than we would have as spectators.

We don’t believe that our opinions are “special” and we don’t expect anyone to go out and vote for people just because we tell them to. In fact, we don’t want to tell you how to vote. We want to tell you why we are voting the way we do. We hope that by sharing our opinions it will help others in the city to solidify their choices for mayor, council and trustees. We also hope that others in the city will respond by sharing who they are voting for and why in the comments – particularly those who are better informed than we are. New West politics are complex and even after three years of paying much closer attention, I know I don’t know everything that’s going on in this town. By opening the door to dialogue, we hope to better understand the point of view of those on the other side of the political divide.

Below, you’ll find our picks for the New Westminster municipal election 2011. We’ve organized it by position (Mayor, Council, and Trustee). We will begin by highlighting the candidates that the three of us most agree on. We’ll also share a few ‘honourable mentions’ who stood out. .

The editorial team of Tenth to the Fraser consists of Briana Tomkinson, Will Tomkinson, and Jen Arbo, but we’ve spent a lot of time this past few weeks talking politics with family, friends, and fellow citizens, so the list below has been influenced by the insights gleaned in conversations in real life and online, as well as information we’ve seen in local media. As I mentioned above, if you’d like to share your endorsements, please feel free to do so in the comments. We do ask that you emphasize who you are voting for rather than trashing candidates you don’t support.

These are our personal endorsements, based on our individual ideals, one-on-one conversations with candidates, reading through the questionnaires we distributed to candidates on issues that matter to you, our readers, and what we have seen of these candidates in the years leading up to this election. They do not reflect the views of our businesses, employers, or other organizations we are affiliated with in our fair city, and are our personal opinions only. We’d love your comments on our endorsements, but as is our policy, no personal attacks. We encourage positive discourse and cheerleading for your preferred candidates rather than reprimanding.

Whatever you do on November 19th and whichever way you swing politically, the most important thing is that you need to get out and vote. In New Westminster, we vote for one mayor, six councillors, and seven trustees. Vote for the ones you support. Do not feel obligated to vote for a full slate if there is not a full slate of candidates you support. Just get out there and do it and tell everyone you know to do it, too.

Mayor: Incumbent Wayne Wright

Wayne Wright
Wayne Wright

Why? He’s proactive, experienced and we agree that New West is a better place after nine years of his leadership. Of the four mayoral candidates, we believe Wayne Wright is the best choice to lead our city for the next three years.

Jen: “I’m picking Wayne Wright for mayor. He’s the best choice of the four running, and I think still has something to contribute. He has experience in the tank but is still relevant. I don’t know if I’d vote for him three years from now, but I think he is the right person for the job now, in terms of where New West is and where I want the city to go.”

Will: “I will be endorsing Wayne Wright this election. New Westminster has seen a sustained period of growth, renewal and improvement over the last 9-12 years and there is nothing in the city’s plans to make me think this is going to stop. Almost all of the allegations against his record are spurious, misleading or ‘overly creative’. Mayor Wright seems content to let his nine-year record speak for him and has been running a very laid-back campaign, especially compared to the energetic efforts of James Crosty, the main challenger. From my vantage point, Wright has consistently pursued improvement for all New West citizens, has been generally successful and had fostered an openness and transparency in City Hall that is uncommon in the Metro Van area.”

Briana: “Of the three candidates, Wayne Wright is the strongest choice. He has a progressive vision for this city, which we have seen manifest in several ambitious projects brought to life during his previous nine years on council, including “Wayne’s Wharf” (the new Pier Park) and the new Civic Centre. As an entrepreneur himself, he is supportive of small business but also has the chutzpah to go after larger employers, such as the new TransLink office that is coming to New West. He’s well-connected to developers, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing – the rapid pace of development during Wayne’s time in office has positioned us well for growth. Now that we’ve had so much residential development, it’s time to focus on strengthening local employment, and I think Wayne is our best bet on this front too. I think New West has come a long way in the past decade, and I would like to see Wayne take another three years to finish what he started, and then pass the torch to someone new.”

Councillors: Jonathan Cote, Jaimie McEvoy, David Noshad, Betty McIntosh, Chuck Puchmayr, Bill Harper

Jonathan Cote: Thoughtful, committed, family-friendly and green

Jonathan Cote
Jonathan Cote

Jen: “He most reflects my own personal blend of environmental, family friendly, developer savvy, whole approach that I want for New Westminster.”

Will: “Jon may not be the most persuasive public speaker but he is deliberative and more technically competent on civic, transportation and development issues than any other member or challenger for council. His commitment to sustainability and sound municipal practices get my vote.”

Briana: “Cote is diligent, thoughtful, committed and approachable. I’ve been very impressed with his leadership on environmental issues (there wasn’t even a City environment committee before Cote) and work with the Youth Centre committee. Plus, as the only council candidate with young children, he is the best positioned to truly understand the pressures and concerns of working parents in our city.”

Jaimie McEvoy: Driven, persuasive, kind and brainy

Jaimie McEvoy
Jaimie McEvoy

Jen: “Jaimie represents those that are hard to help. He is also an environmentalist and is a calm rational person. He is a positive person. He has also publicly said he will support a new animal shelter, and that won me over.”

Will: “Jaimie is a tireless voice for those in our city that need advocacy and services. Many on council are involved in outreach and support services. Along with Betty, Jaimie stands out as one of them. Jaimie is a persuasive public speaker and a tireless advocate for New West and municipal rights. Our positions align on traffic and the environment; he will get my vote.”

Briana: “Jaimie took a while to grow on me. I have always appreciated his stalwart support for the underdogs in our society, but I’ve since learned that he brings the same thoughtful consideration and stubborn advocacy to other issues as well. Jaimie is a political animal and seems to thrive on policy debates – not a bad thing, in moderation. I am not as far left-leaning as he is on some issues but I think he brings an important perspective and an unquestionable work ethic to the task.”

Dr. David Noshad: Positive, collaborative, green and tech-savvy

David Noshad
David Noshad

Jen: “Originally I was on the fence about this relative unknown. I’ve heard him speak at the meetings and think he is comfortable working in groups. I found him to be at ease in the spotlight, and I like what he has to say on his surveys. He takes a science based approach and I like that. Over the course of the campaign, I have decided to vote for him.”

Will: “A challenger, looking for a seat on council for the first time, Noshad has impressed me with his fluency with municipal issues (especially for a challenger), his positive attitude and his commitment to work collaboratively with whomever is elected and with all community groups and stakeholders, regardless of affiliation. I believe Noshad would be a force for change on council for economic development and promotion, contributing to an improvement to our commercial and industrial tax base while supporting sustainability.”

Briana: “I like his energy and I like that he brings a new perspective to New West politics. I’m not convinced that version 1.0 of all his proposals will fly here, but he’s going in the right direction talking about business incubation and support as a key pillar of our economic development strategy, attracting sustainable and high-technology industries to New Westminster and generally helping more people to live and work in town.”

Betty McIntosh: Strong, experienced and populist

Betty McIntosh
Betty McIntosh

Jen: “She is a tiger – she’s likely to fight for things more than anyone. She is not afraid to speak her mind. Sometimes she and I disagree on specific points but I know she does everything out of a passion for the city. She also is active and involved with the senior population.”

Will: “Long-serving incumbent Betty McIntosh gets my vote. She has long time involvement with community outreach and is ever present at events, committees and wherever she is needed. She has significant council experience and is a good source of sober second thought. Betty has sharp elbows and has been known to mix it up with other councillors and perhaps her voting record can be seen as populist but for a municipal politician, voting how you think the citizens want you to vote can be a good thing. Added benefit is her connection with the hospital and nursing, helpful in a public health crisis.”

Briana: “Betty is one of the most visible councillors. It seems like she’s out smiling at every public event. That alone is not enough to vote for a person – indeed, I disagree with her on some issues like what to do with the parkade – but I have also seen that she isn’t just there to shake hands and kiss babies. She really does seem to want to engage with people and I think she brings those insights back to council. She has used Twitter the same way, and in fact was one of the earliest politicians to begin tweeting (along with Jon Cote).”

Chuck Puchmayr: Crafty, personable and a long record of service

Chuck Puchmayr
Chuck Puchmayr

Jen: “Chuck is a proven spokesperson for citizens – and knows legislature very well. He’s crafty and personable and when I see him in the community I see the renewed sense of vigour that has come with a clean bill of health. He and I have had some good private conversations at the Farmers Market and I feel like he would do a good job.”

Will: “I have gone back and forth on this one. Pros: long record of good service to the people of New Westminster; extensive work with community groups and non profits; experience required to enter the council and need no learning curve time. Puchmayr also aligns with my views on transportation and the environment to a certain extent, insisting that commuter traffic should not be accommodated with capital projects, but rerouted and diverted as much as possible. Cons, some finger him for a portion of the delay of the NWSS replacement project. He can be scrappy with political opponents, but perhaps also collaborative. He will likely be preparing the electorate for a Mayoral run in 2014. I will be voting for Chuck.”

Briana: “I’m on the fence about Chuck. I was new to New West when he was our MLA, so although he’s got name recognition for me, I don’t really know what he was like as our representative in Victoria. Many people who I respect and who share my values have said they support him, but he was one of the candidates who used Twitter for negative attacks this election, and that left me cold.”

Bill Harper: Level-headed, engaging and sensitive

Bill Harper
Bill Harper

Jen: “Bill represents the need for judicious development. He is level headed and sensitive and I like that he represents multicultural events. I also like his approach to business and economic development. He supports the farmers market. I am kind of surprised Bill is on my list – I’ve had a few colleagues tell me they don’t care for him – but I think he’s a good choice.”

Briana: “I liked his answers to our questionnaire, particularly his comment that he wants the City to use technology to better reach and engage citizens. Bill seems more ‘union establishment’ than I’m fully comfortable with, but he’s another one who is respected by people I respect, and therefore I will probably vote for him.”

Will: “Most likely to get my final vote. I think Bill and I agree on many issues. I think he has the skills and work ethic to achieve continued success as a councillor. However, just as John Ashdown’s antipathy for labour colours everything (in my opinion) so Harper’s close involvement with labour leaves me feeling… unsure. I will have to make this final decision at the ballot box.”

Honourable Mentions: John Ashdown, Lorrie Williams

John Ashdown

John Ashdown
John Ashdown

Jen: “He and I have worked on committees together. I think he is passionate, generous, caring, funny, and willing to learn. I do agree with him that more needs to be done to encourage economic development, but sometimes his anti-union passion is overwhelming and I think he puts too much emphasis on the city doing work small business owners should be responsible for – I think a business owner needs to offer a solid business in the first place in order to be successful. Also, he has repeatedly and openly criticised the Living Wage Policy, a policy I believe in. I’m not sure I can vote for John, as much as I like him.”

Will: “I know and like John. He is tireless and selfless and works very well in a committee/board format. He has given good service to New West on the BIA for 12th St and in the thankless job as the 12th St Festival organizer. While I have my own doubts and problems with organized labour and their influence in politics, Ashdown has a single-mindedness on this subject that I think impacts his decisions on other, non related topics.”

Lorrie Williams

Lorrie Williams
Lorrie Williams

Jen: “Lorrie is a true humanitarian. So much so that I think she would be more effective on a larger scale in the non profit sector, possibly either nationally or globally. I applaud her dedication to arts, culture and humanitarian endeavours.”

Will: “In the circles I am in contact with in the city, and in the online presence, Williams is invisible. Perhaps this is okay but it makes it hard for me to endorse her. I like the fact that she won the Humanist award, I like some of her priorities, as far as I can define them but many of her stated reasons for wanting to remain on council do not resonate with me. (Wait for me Daddy statue, good idea, not a reason to be on council, rabbits, etc).”

School Trustees: Jonina Campbell, Michael Ewen, MaryAnn Mortensen, David Phelan, James Pepa, Glen Richmond and Brenda McEachern-Keen

Jonina Campbell: passionate, dedicated and bursting with ideas

Jonina Campbell
Jonina Campbell

Jen: “She is incredibly dedicated to bringing up active and smart kids. She’s my favourite candidate and I think her passion is commendable. She also acknowledges she doesn’t have all the answers but is willing to learn and brings a team spirit to the table.”

Will: “ I am very impressed by the vision and moral clarity of this candidate. Bursting with ideas, non-political and focused on the well-being of kids, Campbell is a breath of fresh air for trustee. Her active kid campaigns and collaborative attitude cinched my vote.”

Briana: Definitely on my list. I love how she took initiative to create the Growing Up Urban outdoor play activities for kids, and how she believes in empowering and trusting kids. As a teacher and a parent of school-aged kids, I believe she will be able to represent two perspectives that are important to consider when weighing decisions about our schools. She seems collaborative and yet is clearly not a pushover. She also knows how to take criticism and learn from it, which is pretty important given the state of political discourse in SD40.”

Michael Ewen: experienced, approachable and scholarly

Michael Ewen
Michael Ewen

Jen: “He’s extremely experienced and as I have quickly discovered, he is also very funny and has a lot of passion for kids. He also seems realistic in terms of what school trustee can and can’t accomplish. He seems open to exploring things outside of the box but doesn’t seem to overextend.”

Will: “Scholarly and experienced, respectful collaborative and pleasant, Ewen and I agree on many policy issues, including bottled water in schools and the ongoing role of the business company. Sure, he carries some of the baggage of the last few boards but this board will also need some continuity and Ewen could be key in this role.”

Briana: “Michael’s experience really shows in the all-candidates events. He’s relaxed and approachable, listens well and says smart things. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from him on Twitter this election, and I hope he continues with it after the election to answer questions and share insights on school issues.”

MaryAnn Mortensen: Authentic, determined and tenacious

MaryAnn Mortensen
MaryAnn Mortensen

Jen: “She’s not afraid to speak her mind, has kids in mind, and while we occasionally disagree on points, she’s authentic and has navigated through the system (PAC, DPAC, etc) with honesty and integrity. I’m a little put off by her public criticism of people she may very well have to work with and I’d rather see her focus on rising above that. It’s about working as a team for the community, not who said what when.”

Will: “Where Jonina may be a breath of fresh air, Mortensen is a kick in the pants. If anyone is going to shepherd an early conclusion to the school building programs it is the tenacious and fearless MaryAnn. She has shown leadership at the PAC and DPAC level and in her local neighbourhood (and mine) protecting Grimston Park. We disagree on banning bottled water in school (I say ban it, she says no), but, like Betty on council, Mortensen for trustee will keep ‘em honest and crack heads if required.”

Briana: “MaryAnn has my vote. We worked together on the organizing committee for Summerfest in Grimston Park and I have seen that whatever she takes on, she gives it her all. We don’t see eye to eye on everything, but she is unquestionably a strong advocate for children, and that’s a perspective I want to see represented. I hope to see her moderate her stubborn streak and work collaboratively with the board – I know she can do it.”

David Phelan: Positive, focused and respectful

David Phelan
David Phelan

Jen: “He’s a teacher and has young kids in the New Westminster system. I think his voice is needed. He’s got lots to offer and is a fresh perspective. His top issues align with most of mine and he believes heavily in collaboration. David has been very positive in this campaign.”

Briana: “I was very impressed with David. I love his ideas about introducing more hands-on learning for kids, including things like school garden programs and exploring partnerships with community organizations like the Royal City Farmers Market. ”

Will: “Again, a new candidate bursting with ideas, unencumbered with political baggage and focused on student-centered vision for excellence. He is respectful and speaks well. I think he would be a good asset to the group.”

Glen Richmond: Fresh perspective, practical, good ideas

Glen Richmond
Glen Richmond

Jen: “He’s running as an independent – he is a former cop and I think he brings some good ideas to the table. He seems practical and I think his experience as an RCMP officer and RCMP school liaison is valuable.”

Briana: “Glen kind of snuck up on me. I’d never heard of him before the election, but what I’ve heard of his ideas seem sound and I love the perspective he’d bring from his work as a school liaison officer with the RCMP. I agree with his statement that our kids need more play space and fewer portables, and I’d like to see how he intends to make that ideal a reality in New Westminster.”

James Pepa: Enthusiastic, genuine and collaborative

Jen: “I like James, and I like his authenticity and I admit I have a soft spot for candidates who represent the farther corners of New Westminster like Connaught Heights, Massey Victory Heights and Queensborough. I worry with four kids how much time he’ll have to give to the district but I think his enthusiasm might carry him and he seems well supported by his family. I am disappointed he supports the continued availability of bottled water in our schools and I hope that if elected he will be open to reconsidering that position.”

James Pepa
James Pepa

Briana: “I like James too. Though young, he seems mature for his age and genuine. He’s said he wants to reduce wait lists for programs of choice by expanding popular programs, and if he and the board can find a way to do it within the budget, it would be a great boon for kids in the district. I also like that he would support increasing community use of schools, which seems practical to me.”

Will: “If Mortensen is a kick in the pants and Campbell is a breath of fresh air, Pepa is my ray of sunshine. Talk about a candidate with the kids at heart, this is it. Active as the president of Connaught Heights PAC, positive, collaborative, funny and free of any political mumbo jumbo, Pepa could do more than any other candidate to help bring the board back to the people and increase public confidence in their work. Go Pepa.”

Brenda McEachern Keen: Poised, professional and a consensus-builder

Brenda McEachern-Keen
Brenda McEachern-Keen

Will: “Wow another newbie for trustee. I am on a roll. McEachern-Keen has a poise and professionalism that impressed me. She has expressed that she is a consensus-builder and is able to work in a non-partisan way, even with NW and District Labour Council-endorsed candidates. Her professional training in law will be an asset considering the work the trustees must to with the city and the province for the new schools, and with the SD.40 Business Company. She is a pro and it shows.”

Briana: “I was impressed with how hard Jim Goring worked to fill in for her when she couldn’t make it to the first trustee all-candidates meeting! She clearly inspired respect and loyalty. Her legal background is an asset for the board.”

Lisa Graham
Lisa Graham

Honourable Mentions: Lisa Graham, Jim Goring

Lisa Graham

Jen: “I really like Lisa, because I think she speaks a lot for kids who are not part of the mainstream system and I think her voice is very valuable at the table. She’s also all about technology. But she is too long-winded and she loses me at meetings and in her responses to the candidates survey and I find myself tuning out. I wonder if I am the the only one?”

Jim Goring

Jim Goring
Jim Goring

Will: “Like Ewen, Goring is going to know how to get the work done and how to set priorities. The work with the unions and the business company are going to need the tribal memory and practiced hand that Goring offers. All interactions I have had with him have been constructive and sincere. Besides, he reminds me of my Grampa.”

Why You Should Care Who is a School Trustee

Last round of municipal elections I had a four month old baby and while we made it to the polls, I remember vaguely choosing a mayoral candidate, and a few councillors I knew and liked, and that’s it. I didn’t select any school trustees because in my mind, there was no point. My child was a mere four months old and I didn’t think that a school trustee would have an impact on me. At least not until he made it to school, right? And even then we were considering homeschooling and private school and I felt like if my kid wasn’t in public school then it wasn’t going to matter.

This election I have a remarkably different opinion. I now firmly believe that the position of school trustee is every bit as important as councillors – perhaps even more important – regardless of whether you have children.

Why? Well, first let’s look at what the school trustees even do. The BC School Trustee Association (admittedly, a group who serves the trustees it represents) has a relatively succinct description of what a trustee does:

Trustees engage their communities in building and maintaining a school system that reflects local priorities, values and expectations. School trustees listen to their communities; guide the work of their school district; and set plans, policies and the annual budget. Reflecting the strength of local representation, boards report back to their communities on how students are doing: boards are directly accountable to the people they serve.

Essentially, trustees determine how, who, and at what price the assets (schools and other school district owned buildings) are used as well as in depth policies for how everyone must behave while doing so. And while most of us automatically think this refers only to the children in the community who attend public school, it actually represents a glut of other groups: sports groups (both adult and children), service groups, clubs like Girl Guides or Cub Scouts, the proprietors of craft or plant sales, as well as other groups who may rent the facilities for events.

Additionally, the School District themselves identifies these as the functions of trustees:

  • Policy, Planning and Evaluation
  • Action on Legal Requirements
  • Selection of Senior Personnel
  • Public Relations
  • Final Appeal
But why does this matter to everyone, even those who don’t have kids in the system or even have kids at all? It’s simple: if you have healthy and happy kids in your community, your community is better for it. Let’s not forget that the assets and policies the trustees govern are paid for in part by your tax dollars. Don’t you want them to do a good job with your investment?

 

And finally, there is a giant body of science based knowledge out there that shows children thrive most when they are given all the right building blocks, and some of those blocks don’t come from their immediate families. (Just Google “healthy kids research” – over 49 million hits). Teachers, neighbours, community role models, and the community at large all have an impact on the children in our community. The New Westminster Children’s Charter, endorsed by both the City of New Westminster and the School District, sets out what kids need to thrive.

In short, if you’re on the fence about why you should be voting for a school trustee, I urge you to consider that these are the people that will help further the growth of children in our community who are going to grow up and hopefully stay in our community and become us – voters, taxpayers, and hopefully deeply engaged citizens. I’d prefer kids who want to contribute and who care about what happens, don’t you?

* * *

Here’s a list of what candidates said in our survey when we asked “Why should residents who don’t have children care about school board issues?” (arranged alphabetically by last name with a link to their full questionnaire responses published earlier this week.)

Jonina Campbell: Education matters to everyone. How we educate and raise youth affects all society. Furthermore, there are issues relating to schools that affect local neighbourhoods such as traffic planning, playground space, and space for community use. Already our schools are open for recreation and the arts (ie. Massey Theatre). I’d like to explore ways we can continue to expand the use of our schools. For example, because New Westminster has limited space available to build new recreation facilities, our schools could be used for recreational opportunities on the weekends. This might include something like a yoga class or open gym for children.

Casey Cook: Everyone should care about education and School Board issues. A healthy school system is a great contributor to a healthy community. Furthermore, today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. They are tomorrow’s decision makers. On a practical level, residents are taxpayers and should have a level of interest as to how effectively their taxes are being spent.

Michael Ewen: Beyond the democratic and economic argument about a well educated work force being more able to contribute to the development and hopefully evolution of our economy, residents should care that our schools are more fully utilized for the community. Due to budgetary constraints we are looking at a new policy that will see us charging our community user groups. We should be continuing the practice of keeping these facilities open and available to our community, at little or no cost.

Jim Goring: Public Education has an impact on the quality of life in our community in ways that benefit all, creating good citizens, supporting democracy, providing employees some who become employers.

Lisa Graham: On average, children are ‘in the public education system’ for a relatively short 13 years but are ‘in the community’ for their lifetime. This is particularly true in the Royal City — in fact, some families have called New Westminster ‘home’ for multiple generations! Unfortunately, too many residents do not realize that they are already vested stakeholders in school board issues because it is their tax dollars that fund the public education system. Schools are a microcosm of the larger society; as such, it is important to hear from yet-to-be engaged constituent groups, not only because they have a right to be heard, but because their contribution/input on school board matters can help shape outcomes that will impact the larger community. Active collaboration amongst all stakeholders can create a better community for all of us. The best consultation outcomes are the ones that sort through the most input; it’s in everybody’s best interest to participate in public matters.

James Janzen: Because we are all going to be relying on these kids to be the citizens of the future.

Brenda McEachern-Keen: Empowered students = empowered citizens. The social skills students learn as children will be the social skills they take into adulthood. The values our schools instill will be the values they live.

MaryAnn Mortensen: A healthy school community is vital to the community as a whole. We have roughly 6,000 students in New Westminster and we know that while some residents are transient, most stay and raise families here. One of the roles trustees play is to ensure that through sound policy making, we provide the best learning environment and safe buildings in which students can learn and teachers and staff can teach and support students and staff. Trustees are also charged with the duty of distributing a budget. This money is all our tax dollars at work. Part of good governance also means that we communicate with services/agencies/organizations in the community that encourage, support and engage children in their learning and lives while they are in our school system. The cost to society is enormous when we do not pay heed to our school communities. The seven trustees you elect oversee the management of our school district. Many have only to think about the concerns around the Massey Theatre’s future or how the lack of planning for new schools has impacted not only our students but also the community around where to site the elementary, middle and high school. Our schools are called community schools because they are shared hubs for all community members. Resident Associations were impacted by a decision to charge insurance fees for their meetings, extra-curricular activities and activities for children and adults are impacted by the decisions of our Board of Education. Too often, people do not realize the impact a school board has on its community and they vote only for council and Mayor. It is my hope that the community is awakened to the reality that your seven-member school board does matter to you whether or not you have children, whether or not you have children in the system or whether your children are grown. Your tax dollars pay for public education and our school buildings. You have a right and obligation to ensure that you vote for individuals who you believe will spend our $60 + million dollar budget responsibly and equitably and manage the schools in your community with good governance.

James Pepa: Children are our future and we should all be active in their education.

David Phelan: Our schools have strong connections to our community. The community uses our schools for a variety of social, community and athletic events. Community support and involvement is strong for many school programs, such as Hyack Football and the spectacular performances put on by NWSS students at Massey Theater. The Neighbourhoods of Learning areas in the new schools will provide a varied number of programs that residents will be able to access. We also have the opportunity to create connections to our environment in our new schools. This can be building relationships between our schools and community gardens, local farmer’s markets and Farm to School Programs. These connections can be used to promote healthy eating patterns in our children.

Glen Richmond: Because our students are the future citizens of our community and, as products of their environment, their experiences will affect others in the fullness of time.

Fun meets politics at November 2 all-candidates event

Vote!
Not sure who to vote for? Meet the candidates at Fun & Politics, an all-candidates mixer on Wednesday, November 2 from 5:30-8pm at Lafflines Theatre. Because liquor will be served, the event is open to anyone aged 19 or older. Admission is free. Please RSVP by email at nextnw@gmail.com or via the Facebook event: facebook.com/nextnw

In an homage to ‘silly season’ shenanigans, we’re co-sponsoring an upcoming New Westminster all-candidates’ event  that will feature a comic along with the candidates.

We’ve teamed up again with NEXT New West and New Westminster Environmental Partners to co-host Fun & Politics, an non-traditional, informal all-candidates’ mixer aimed at encouraging younger voters to become more engaged in city politics.

Last civic election only 24% of voters participated, and this event is our small way of trying to encourage people who have been disengaged with local politics to start getting to know the candidates and the issues in a fun and friendly social event.

I don’t know about you, but I find the format of a typical all-candidates “debate” pretty stale. I’ve been to a number of them now for municipal, provincial and federal elections, and they very rarely include any sort of real debate. In an effort to promote civility and fair time for each candidate, most all-candidates’s debates have little or no opportunity for candidates to question each other or even to respond to each other’s statements. As a result, the candidates usually play it safe, sticking to broad statements that most voters can agree with.

All-candidates debates are too often boring, inauthentic affairs that reveal little about the candidates or their platforms. This structure is not ideal, but sometimes it’s the only chance for voters to see the candidates in person and make their own assessments. Although I don’t find all-candidates debates very inspiring, I do think it’s important to have events like this that bring politicians face-to-face with voters. Our “Fun & Politics” meet & greet is not a replacement for all-candidates meetings, but we hope it will provide an alternative forum for those who avoid traditional “debates” out of fear of having to endure two hours of bafflegab only to leave knowing little more than they did before about who they should vote for.

Fun & Politics is an event that calls it like it is. It is not a debate, and it does not pretend to be. There will be no “knockout blows” and as at the previous version of this event that introduced voters to federal election candidates, the amount of speechifying will be kept to a minimum. Unlike a typical all-candidates’ meeting, the free event will be an unabashedly social occasion in which voters are encouraged to connect one-on-one with mayoral, council and school board candidates to ask their questions. Speeches will be kept to just 1-2 minutes per candidate before they will be turned loose to work the room and speak directly with voters. Held at the new Lafflines Theatre, the event will also feature a stand-up comic. Food, beer and wine will be available for sale.

Fun & Politics, co-hosted by NEXT New West, New Westminster Environmental Partners and Tenth to the Fraser, will be Wednesday, November 2 from 5:30-8pm at Lafflines Theatre. The comic will begin around 6pm, followed by candidate introductions and open networking. Because liquor will be served, the event is open to anyone aged 19 or older. Admission is free. Please RSVP by email at nextnw@gmail.com or via the Facebook event.