Bill Harper wants upgraded infrastructure, better access to information and recreation [council]

Council incumbent Bill Harper would like to see the City make better use of technology to improve access to information and make City Hall more citizen-friendly.

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.

Bill Harper
Bill Harper

1. First, let’s hear a little about you:

  • What’s your name? – bill harper
  • How long have you lived in New Westminster? – 32 years
  • What do you love most about our city? – its inclusiveness of all peoples
  • What do you think most needs improvement? – our industrial and commercial tax base
  • What is the civic issue that is the most personally meaningful to you? – making a place for my grandchildren

2. What are the top three initiatives you believe would improve economic development?

  • Small business incubation and support
  • creating an environment where businesses feel welcome and can be successful.
  • Changind our OCP to allow for development that is mixed use and neighbourhood compatable

3. How would you like to see city council improve engagement with younger citizens?
Better use of technology to allow for those who want to, to be able the see the discussion and debate in council as to why diecisions are made like they are. For citizens to have better access to information. To make city hall more citizent friendly and create a position at city hall where by citizens can have help getting through the different departments and getting the answers they need, like and Ombudsperson.

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?
In the past New Westminster has tended to centralize services for citizens such as Canada Games pool. one Library, one seniors centre, etc., because it was economical to do and the size of the city would allow it to do so. There is now a citizenry that want services within walking distants of their homes. Given the access to capital to do it would be nice to have a recreation centre in each area of the city. Centenial Community Centre now serves Sapperton, Massey Hieghts, Glenbrook and Queens Park. It would seem that a similiar centre should be placed in the west end with Moody Park being the place for an uptown development for more services. The Civic Centre down town while not having all the services of a Recreation Centre does provide services of a specific type that are in their neighbourhood.

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
non of these are either or questions. Some times you cannot get public input on purchase of property for public use such as the Pier Park purchase because the city is in a set of negotiations to purchase at the best price possible. These are incamera decision sometimes because the city wants it that way and sometimes because the seller wants it that way and some times from a third party representing the city because is prevents the price from rising because the seller will want a bigger dollar if it understands the city wants it and the public proccess now demands it.

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.

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?
Become active in a community organization. Contribute to your city is a way that is rewarding, creative and helps others.

8. What should be done about truck traffic through our city?
This is a very difficult and complex question where stock answer may seem right but you quickly find out there are many factors outside the ability of the city to fix. Truck are traveling through our city because the are on their way to eastern canada or the us and are taking a direct route to get to the freeway. Others are going to destuffing terminals to have their goods reorganized and shipped out of the city or delivered to places in the GVRD. I am of the opinion that we need to convince the provincial government and the GVRD/TranLink that front street should no longer be a truck route and that as much truck traffic as possible to transfered to the South Fraser Road when it is open. This will allow us to revitalize Front Street as a secondary artial route, with new stores and businesses and easier access the to water front and the new Pier Park. Most importantly we need to continue to insist that trucks stay off of all remaining streets in the city that are not designated truck routes and continue to protect our neighbourhoods.

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?
We are currently putting 11 million dollars into dramatic improvements to Queensbourgh Rec Centre. We understand what improvements need to be made and have put those in our 5 year capital plan. We currently have a new all weather field being built at queens park. Last year we completley rehabilitated the track at the high school, we built an new all wheel park in Queensbourgh, a new park in Queensbourgh that has ball fields and fun areas for children and families, a new pool at moody park. With Canada Games Pool people must understand this is a very large capital program that will have to be faced in the not to distant future. It is estimated it will be a 52 million dollar project so federal and provincial help will probably be neccessary. We have just begun the initial planning at this stage and is very general in nature. Real dollar figures and options need to be put on the table before it goes to the public. My personal view at this time is we need a state of the art facility like other cities have, whether that is a renovated or new facility I will have to see the options before I can make up my mind.

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?
The best possible thing we could do for citizens of the future is to have our infrastructure completly overhaulded. We are the oldest city in western Canada and as such our sewer, grey water, electrical, roads, etc., need a heck of alot of money to bring them up to a standard of excellence. That would allow us to then focus on the detail of improved livability in the city such as new types of parks in our urban core, bring our aging building such as city hall, QueensPark Arena and other up to a standard we all can be proud of.

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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