Council candidates weigh in on family issues in New West

This is the second of two articles sharing election candidates’ opinions on children and family issues in New Westminster. The first article focused on trustee candidates. Kathleen asked all candidates to answer two questions: what is within the elected officials’ ability to influence and what specific initiatives would the candidates personally implement if elected? Unfortunately, due to time constraints, only three council candidates responded: Betty McIntoshBob Osterman and John Ashdown.

The role of the city is to ensure the livability of the city. In relation to child and family issues, this can include parks, recreation programs and space, identifying child care space and other community services.

More broadly, issues like transportation and safety also impact how liveable a city is for families. Incumbent councillor Betty McIntosh explains “The city develops Policy guidelines and has a Social Planner to assist the development of the Policies that are child focused. City Council works closely with School Board on major Capital Projects such as building of 3 new schools. The newer middle schools had City monies to increase the gym size for community shared use.”

A lot of the city’s work is in advocate to other levels of government for thing traditional in the provincial (and sometimes federal) mandate. As Betty said: “Council meets informally and formally with members of other levels of government frequently at Conventions. A variety of issues on homelessness, affordable housing, traffic and transportation are discussed.”

Child care is the most obvious example; the city can help identifying child care space, but does not run, operate or fund child care facilities. Bob Osterman indicates that council knows, “that the Social Health of a Community is directly related to adequate child care and inclusion of children in all our deliberations.”

Using the same framework as I used in my post on trustee candidates’ ideas on child and family issues, I have organized highlights from council candidates’ responses under the three headings: stop, create and advocate. I did not receive responses to my questions from any of the mayoral candidates.  (You may note that I also included ‘Reduce’ and ‘Improve’ headings in the trustee post. I omitted those headings here because I wanted to just choose the best responses and not have too many quotes from the same person.)

Stop:

John Ashdown: “Procrastinating, weighing out the impact decisions will have on Labour rather than to taxpayers and families. High Taxes are one of the key things working against families. They must be brought into line. The Bottom Line. ”

Betty McIntosh: “Public meters on Sunday need to be free.”

Create:

John Ashdown: “I would look at the existing programs to determine value vs cost. Then, I feel there would be room to introduce new programs and policies.”

Advocate:

Bob Osterman: “We would like provincial, federal Funding for : Social Housing, Enhancement of Royal Columbian Hospital, rebuilding our old infrastructure (Sewers, Water, Roads) We are the level of government closest to the resident Family, we need the funding support to continue to foster, build and enhance a healthy society.”

Betty McIntosh: “Advocate for increased funding to existing programs (Societies) for children & seniors.”

Conclusion

If you were to ask me, my two top issues in New Westminster from a child and family issues perspective are:

  1. Parks and Recreation: There are some great parks in New Westminster that I would like to see maintained. However, in a city where much of the year we experience rain and damp mornings, I would like to see more availability for safe spaces for indoor active play. Strong Start, which is funded by the provincial government I believe, is great. However, often there is a lack of programs and spaces on the weekend to support working parents.
  2. Walk-able City: If we want to encourage parents and their kids to spend time in New West, then we need business districts that better cater to the needs of middle income earners and have a vibrant business community. There seems to be a lot of dollar store/thrift store types business in New West and not a lot of opportunities for our family to spend where we live. So business development in downtown, uptown and Sapperton is important to me.
What child and family issues do you see in New West? What would you like to see our elected officials do about them?

Traffic, taxes among Bob Osterman’s top issues [council]

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. 

Bob Osterman
Bob Osterman

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

  • What’s your name? – Bob Osterman
  • How long have you lived in New Westminster? – 38 Years
  • What do you love most about our city? – Our sense of History and our small town “compactness”
  • What do you think most needs improvement? – Traffic Flows, Rat Running, Gridlock morning & night
  • What is the civic issue that is the most personally meaningful to you? – Traffic, Congestion, School Children Safety

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

  • Small business incubation and support
  • Funding a ‘buy local’ campaign
  • Cutting red tape for businesses at City Hall to streamline processes to obtain permits, inspections, etc.
  • Develop more A Class Office business Centres

3. How would you like to see city council improve engagement with younger citizens?
Expand our Youth Committee to have represenatives from Every School. dedicate one Council Meeting a Month stricly for Open Dialogue, rotate this forum around the City

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?
Work with the School District & Ministry of Education for more after hours use of School, devlop neighborhood of learning centres in each School

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

6. Which of the following most closely reflects your views on taxation?
Taxes are too high. The City should freeze or reduce property taxes by any means necessary, even if this requires cutting back on City staffing or services.

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?
Join & devlop your local Resident’s Associations. Join Block Watch. Join community orkanizations such as : Lions, Kiwanis, Elks.

8. What should be done about truck traffic through our city?
Time limitations, Strict Enforcement, Push for the completion of the South Fraser Perimeter Road in Surrey, Delta.

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?
I would like to see it rebuilt using maximum green technology, with marginal cost heating, cooling, electricity.

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?
Regain our waterfront, take it back from Largo (beside the Discovery Center) Increase our land base, into the Fraser River

If you’d like to know more about Bob Osterman, you’ll have to try Google or look him up in the phone book – I couldn’t find any campaign sites for him online!

What to do about traffic? The candidates weigh in

Traffic ranks as one of the top concerns for New West residents. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd.
Traffic ranks as one of the top concerns for New West residents. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd.

This is the second in a series of posts highlighting responses from New Westminster Environmental Partners’ mayor and council candidates’ survey focusing on environmental issues. Our first post brought together the mayoral candidates’ answers to NWEP’s questions on local questions related to sustainability. You can read all candidates’ full responses on NWEP’s website. If you’re looking for more information on mayor, council and trustee candidates we have compiled a list of all New Westminster civic election candidates’ websites, Twitter profiles and Facebook pages on Tenth to the Fraser. 

A constant source of frustration and conflict in New Westminster, traffic is one of the most heated issues in our city right now. An outpouring of public protest scuttled the proposed United Boulevard Exchange, but the city remains challenged by the question of how to handle the competing demands on its roads. Truck traffic and downtown commuter traffic from other suburbs regularly clog our streets and the resulting gridlock inspires rampant “rat-running” through normally quiet residential street. The question of what to do about all this isn’t easily answered, as council considers other factors including social, environmental and economic costs.

I have therefore grouped replies from our council candidates based on the emphasis they gave in their answers to the various competing approaches to transportation planning. There is some overlap, so please do read through the candidates’ answers in full, but my hope is that this will give voters a sense of which candidates prioritize improving the flow of car traffic vs. reducing the volume of car traffic, for example, or those who advocate focusing on mitigating imapacts on residential streets vs. more ambitious plans to radically reroute traffic. Replies are from candidates for council, unless otherwise indicated.

The question NWEP asked candidates was this: The City will be developing a Master Transportation Plan within the next term, what would you like to see included in that plan?

Improve the flow of car traffic

James Crosty – Mayoral Candidate
Comprehensive movement plan to get vehicles in and out efficiently instead of building our road network for two or three hours a day. The people that live work and play in New Westminster should not have to endure movement challenges for the other 21 hours a day. The public must play an important role in any plan to be developed.

John Ashdown
I would like to see a plan which plans to do away with $100,000 plans, which simply gets put on the shelf. We need a bypass! We need to work with adjoining communities for a common solution. Develop Stormont. The UBE is unnecessary now they have the King Edward overpass nearing completion. However Brunette, E. Columbia, Front Street and Stewardson Way will need to be a huge part of the Study. Once the South Perimeter Road is complete, I estimate you will see a considerable reduction in traffic heading through New West to Highway #1. We have a whole crew of transportation bureaucrat’s claiming their high salaries are justified. Now is the time to prove it.

Lorrie Williams
A reasonable truck route plan, exploration of the Storemont interchange.

Reduce car traffic, increase transit/cycling/walking

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
Regarding developing a workable Master Transportation Plan you have asked a difficult question. The most obvious challenge to me is the re-routing of commercial trucks/vehicles, improved traffic control, improved inner city transit and to create incentives to encourage more foot and bicycle use. A lot of people find it easy to go downhill but not so easy to go uphill.

François Nantel
Better strategy to streamline through traffic like.  Study to see if one- way streets would help, and where. More left hand turn signals (dedicated), or interdiction to turn left. May be a gondola from Columbia Station to the Mall uptown that would run above the low rise on 7th street (they have those in Venezuela).

Jonathan Cote
Given that transportation is such a critical issue in New Westminster, the Master Transportation Plan will be one of the most important documents the upcoming council will be working on. I would like to see this plan focus on increasing the sustainable transportation (walking, cycling and public transportation) mode share in our community. I also feel that this plan needs to focus on improving the integration of land use and transportation planning.

Jaimie McEvoy
Look at options to reduce traffic in New Westminster, and move away from our role as the throughway of the Lower Mainland.

City positions and a plan to pursue them on regional transportation issues and inititatives.

Review the routing and the need for Patullo Bridge, be ready to challenge TransLink when necessary, push the province to reform TransLink to be more responsive to communities, and give greater emphasis to public transit and other modes of transportation.

A solid plan, with targets, timelines, and adequate resources, to make all of our streets safe and fully accessible to all.

Enhance and promote support for walking and cycling in the city – and beyond the city, as part of our connection to regional transportation infrastructure.

Call for improvements to Skytrain and the five stations in New Westminster, and expanded hours of service. Skytrain should be safe, be clean, and be well maintained.

Citizen involvement – a very good program of consultation with citizens, stakeholder groups, and neighbourhoods.

Return Front Street and the waterfront to the people, and restore the natural environment on the waterfront and the heritage buildings on Front Street, by finding parking alternatives to the parkade so that it can be at least partially removed.

Undertake initiatives to support electric vehicles and small personal transportation in the city.
Improve bike and pedestrian pathways by removing obstacles.

David Noshad
‘Walk/bike to work’ is [a] subject that needs close attention. If designed properly, programs like this can reduce daily traffic while improving citizens’ quality of life.

Chuck Puchmayr
We are the thoroughfare of Metro Vancouver, and if you think the traffic is bad now, wait until the new 10 lane Port Mann bridge is open. We need to take advantage of our Chartered control of some of our roads and curb the expansion of the vehicle onslaught into our city. At the same time we need to move people and goods efficiently and creatively.

Focus on quieting residential streets

Betty McIntosh
A continuation of respect for all residential neighbourhoods with reduced impact from motor vehicles. In the plan clear direction of where motor vehicles can go not just where they can not go.

Vladimir Krosnogor
Sensible solutions to out frustrating traffic problems. Reduce traffic in residential areas, not increase it

Bob Osterman
We need to know the BC Gov’t final decision on the Patullo Bridge, also we need the Surrey-Delta South Fraser Perimeter Road to be completed to take truck pressure off of our roadways; Front/Brunette/Stewardson. We need to continue neighborhood traffic calming, and making each neighborhood safely walkable.

Balance needs of all users

Wayne Wright – Mayoral Candidate 
Transportation requirements are complex and issues that we need to address include pedestrian safety at crossings, better facilities for cyclists, transit access and service, reduced volume of regional truck and vehicle traffic, vehicular safety as well as air quality, noise and livability issues. We need to find the best routes for all traffic in the City and how to find the funding that will be required.

Gerry Liu
I would like to see the master transportation plan include a choice to move around the city by foot, bike, bus, Skytrain & car. Consideration for semi trucks must be included as well as handicap & disability services, providing facilities – covered benches, & trees for the environment.

Send traffic ‘around, over or under’ New Westminster

Susan Wandell
Through traffic still needs to be directed to the perimeter of the City. I would support a cut and cover on McBride Blvd. from the Pattullo Bridge through to the Stormont Connector.

Gavin Palmer
Our City is in the unique position of being the ‘keystone’ of the lower mainland and needs to determine its own destiny. As the oldest City in Western Canada, preceding Canada itself, we deserve the respect of the other cities in this region and MUST continue to remind them of this fact. We have no land to devote to expanded roadways and have no funds to pay for regional arteries. With that being stated, we need to work with our neighbors to arrive at a regional solutions which work for all. Flow-through traffic needs to go around, over or under our neighborhoods so our citizens can enjoy the quiet enjoyment of their homes including the ability to get in and out of the city unimpeded. This will be a major challenge and needs public consultation with our citizens and our bordering jurisdictions.

Notes & observations from New West’s first all-candidates meeting of 2011

Turnout was good at the first all-candidates meeting of the 2011 campaign, hosted by the Queensborough Residents Association.
Turnout was good at the first all-candidates meeting of the 2011 campaign, hosted by the Queensborough Residents Association.

At the first all-candidates meeting for the 2011 civic election in New Westminster last night, Bob Osterman took me to task for making fun of his ugly election signs.

I don’t recall doing that, and I can’t find any posts in the archives that mock his signs, but Bob took me aside and said that last election me or someone related to Tenth to the Fraser did, and I guess I’ve got to believe him. Bob went on to explain why.

“I’ve been using the same ugly signs for the last 20 years,” Bob said with a laugh, “and I’m gonna keep on re-using those ugly signs every time I run. And you know what I do with the stakes in between elections? I use ’em to stake my azaleas and my tomatoes.”

Whether Bob’s ugly election signs are a sign of pragmatic thrift, environmental consciousness (reduce, reuse, recycle!) or a kind of superstitious talisman – his version of growing a playoffs beard – I believe this anecdote illustrates a simple truth about New Westminster politics: there’s more than meets the eye.

Since we began blogging about New Westminster three years ago (we launched Tenth to the Fraser shortly before the 2008 election – though the timing was quite unintentional), the way I view local politics has changed profoundly. Three years ago, the names on the ballot were just names on the ballot. I’ve now had the privilege to get to know most of this year’s candidates as people.

My husband Will and I launched Tenth to the Fraser in part as an incentive for ourselves to dig deeper into local issues and get to know our community better. We have succeeded far beyond my initial expectations. Several of the council and school board candidates this year are now our friends, and most are friendly acquaintances. I look back at Will’s observations of mayoral and council candidates at the last Queensborough All-Candidates’ meeting and our endorsements in 2008 and it’s funny – we snubbed some of the people who we have grown to like and respect. Like most voters, all we had to go on was election flyers, the all-candidates’ meeting and newspaper coverage. In other words, we had to rely on secondary sources, and it’s very hard to get a true measure of a person via leaflets, reporters or 30-second stump speeches. This too is a secondhand report, but in it I hope to show a bit about the people on the ballot. If you are able, I encourage you to meet the candidates in person – many of them are quite different than how they come across on paper or in pixels.

This post will not offer any specific endorsements, just some observations and notes that I took during the all-candidates’ meeting. Given the disclosure above that some of these candidates have become friends, I do want to reveal up front who these are. I’m no journalist, and like everyone I am not unbiased. I’d rather be honest about my biases, and let you temper your own judgements about what I say based on this disclosure. Candidates I would call friends (people with whom I have shared a beer or other informal social time) include Jonathan Cote and Jaimie McEvoy on council and Jonina Campbell and MaryAnn Mortensen on school board. I am friendly (though not close) with John Ashdown, who was one of the early co-organizers for the inaugural Summerfest event, as well as James Crosty and Wayne Wright, who were my Quayside neighbours when I first moved to New Westminster. I have also had several friendly conversations with Betty McIntosh and incumbent trustee Lisa Graham. To be clear, being “friendly” with someone doesn’t automatically mean I would vote for or endorse him or her. I don’t agree politically with all my friends – it takes the fun out of talking politics if everyone agrees on everything!

Now, on to the all-candidates meeting report. I took a lot of notes at the all-candidates’ meeting – and in fact, was berated for it by a fellow citizen who accused me of being a City shill (and, when I said I was blogging, demanded I tell him who I was blogging for – as though it couldn’t possibly be for my own fun). This was the same guy who kept asking long-winded leading questions and then shouted down any candidate who dared try to answer them. All the politicos took it in stride. This won’t be the first, or the last time they will be loudly attacked by someone who takes advantage of a public question period to share an angry rant.

Here are some of the quotes, observations and paraphrased comments that stuck out for me for each of the candidates. They are in no particular order.

Mayoral candidates

“No mayor walks by himself.” – Incumbent Wayne Wright, who said that he feels the current council works very well together, evidenced by the fact that there have been only two tied votes in the last six years. He appealed to voters to choose a leader and six to go with him. Wayne is running on his record, of course, and used the mic to remind everyone about the many changes he’s brought about during his term, particularly the transformation of Queensborough (since the all-candidates meeting was hosted by that residents association).

“Sports and music are ways to bring people together” – Francois Nantel, an affable Quebecker, mentioned several times that social events are important to build community. The mayoral dark horse suggested the creation of a mayors’ slo-pitch league to encourage more citizen involvement. He also said that he was unaware of any music festivals that were hosted in New Westminster, which was a surprise. There are several, including the 12th St. Festival, organized by council candidate John Ashdown.

“I’m neither an asteroid nor a star, just a guy with his feet planted firmly on the ground.” – Vance McFayden positioned himself as a pragmatic, middle-of-the-road populist, promising that he’d initiate a program of four open town halls per year where citizens could discuss the issues that matter to them with mayor & council. He told me prior to the debate that he was a good choice because he had “no ties.” I think he was referring to Wayne’s well-known connections to developers, and perhaps hinting that the other front-runner, James Crosty (who was absent) had his own “ties” to be wary of. The surprise mayoral contender wore a giant photo button on his lapel with a picture of his father – apparently a family tradition to celebrate the life of someone who has recently passed (Vance’s  elderly Dad died on Sunday, and it is the reason why Vance didn’t announce his candidacy earlier).

As I mentioned, James Crosty was absent, but he sent several volunteers to distribute flyers bearing his apology and an explanation: he was at a residents’ meeting in uptown New West that he said he committed to two months ago. James has been visiting all the local residents’ associations to introduce himself and shake hands (I ran into him at the last West End residents’ meeting a month ago), as well as attending citizen-organized chats upon request. James has been the most visible challenger so far, having started his “citizen advocate” campaign months ahead of the official announcement that he was seeking the mayor’s chair. I was surprised that he did  not show, prior engagement or no.

Council candidates

“Ladies and gentlemen, I shall be short because the chairs are hard…” – Crusty council candidate James Bell appeared frail but peppered the evening with irreverent one-liners.  Quite genteel in our conversation following the debate, he was fiercely outspoken on a few issues, specifically commenting on the hazard to pedestrians and cars of open ditches in Queensborough. His final remark was, “Ladies & gentlemen I want to thank you for enduring these hard seats while you were subjected to word hypnosis.” James is also running for school trustee.

“When I got into city politics it was to answer the question, ‘can compassion and politics go together?’ The answer is yes, I believe they can.” – Incumbent councillor Jaimie McEvoy, whose day job is the director of the Hospitality Project in New Westminster, is an outspoken advocate for New Westminster’s most disadvantaged residents. He has a closer view of the impacts of poverty than most, on the front lines of one the largest food bank in the Lower Mainland, serving 3,000 people every month. Thoughtful and self-effacing in a one-to-one conversation, I was surprised to find that Jamie is a hell of a debater. I’ve never seen him in action before.

“My name is Chuck Puchmayr, and … I’m back!” – Former MLA Chuck Puchmayr introduced himself with a note of surprise, acknowledging his last-minute declaration of intent to run for council. He delayed his entry into the race until he got a bill of clean health from his doctor after his recent battle with cancer. Chuck is a polished politician and expertly reminded all of his successes as MLA and councillor as he responded to questions. Chuck’s got a cheeky sense of humour, as seen in his choice of URL: politicallycorrect.ca.

“I want to help build a better communication between the city of New Westminster and the people of New West. That is, your concerns and issues, we want them to be properly answered.” – A self-described “rookie” politician, Gerry Liu apologized several times for his lack of polish. Polish or no, he has heart.

“Development Cost Charges should be transparent so that citizens can see how the money is spent” – Harpreet Singh Sihota echoed a sentiment that ran strong in Queensborough. Many in the audience demanded more transparency in terms of how the money paid to the City by developers is spent. Some suspected that money levied in Queensborough was funneled towards improvements uptown, however all incumbent councillors said unequivocally that all DCCs collected in Queensborough are spent in Queensborough, pointing to water and sewer upgrades, new parks, the rec centre expansion and upcoming Ewen St. upgrades as examples of how this money has been spent.

“We’re one of the only cities that allows open delegation to council meetings. It’s risky, but you know what, we want to hear from the citizens of this city.” – Incumbent Lorrie Williams’ plain-spoken reply  to a question about how citizens can voice their opinions to the City. A councillor for nine years, Lorrie was asked several times to defend recent council performance. She said this council had accomplished a lot, though it wasn’t enough for some critics in the audience. Lorrie pointed out, with the voice of experience, “Things take longer than you think.”

“It’s important that we have a city hall that cares.” – Jonathan Cote spoke about the social and environmental issues he is so passionate about. He mentioned there has been a 45% decline in the homeless population in New Westminster since establishing more shelters in New West.

“I will bring balance back to council.” – Veteran former councillor Cal Donnelly, who has served under five mayors, appealed to voters to bring him back to council. Cal was the only politician to include a QR code and a link to a Surveymonkey survey on his election flyer, though, oddly, not an official website.

“One of the most important things we’ve done in the last three years is the official apology to the Chinese community,” – Bill Harper, responding to a question about multiculturalism and inclusiveness in New Westminster, mentioned the apology for the city’s racist past was very meaningful for many Chinese-Canadians. Harper also mentioned that the controversial DCCs mentioned earlier used to be among the lowest in the region at $750/unit. Council has raised the fee to $6,500 per unit, which is closer to the middle of the pack.

“We need our fun. You can’t live in a city where there is no fun.” – Paul Mulangu, who recently made headlines for chaining himself to a door and launching a hunger strike to protest funding cuts to his Centre of Integration for African Immigrants, focused on the need to encourage more multiculturalism and culture in New West.

“It’s not up to City Hall to tell people what is good for them, it’s up to people to tello City Hall what they want and need.” – Former Arts Council Chair Susan Wandell, speaking about the importance of citizen involvement.

“This city is doing its share for the region.”  – Betty McIntosh pointed out that because some neighbouring municipalities do not have homeless shelters and other services for the poor, New Westminster is shouldering more than its share of the responsibility for their care. She mentioned that New Westminster has 1,900 subsidized housing units – a lot for a population of about 60,000 people.

“Every councillor has personal phone numbers. If you need a private meeting, call us and we will come.”  – Bob Osterman and the other incumbent councillors tried to stress how open they are for citizens to share their concerns. Communication and transparency in city dealings was a recurring concern voiced by citizens in their questions for the candidates.

Gavin Palmer was also in attendance, however I didn’t catch any quotable lines from him. He is an outspoken Queensborough advocate.

Several council candidates were no-shows, including:

Port Royal gets controversial height variance

Despite vocal opposition from Quayside residents concerned about the impact on their views, city council has approved the request by Port Royal developer Aragon Properties to build a taller tower in Queensborough.

On Monday city council voted 5-2 in favour of a height variance for the Queensborough tower, which will allow the developer to add 28 more feet to the highrise.

Coun. Bob Osterman and Bill Harper opposed the variance.

Source: Port Royal tower to be taller | New Westminster News Leader

As The Record’s Theresa McManus reports, the decision illustrates that election endorsements don’t always translate into influence:

Allegations that city councillors who are endorsed by the New Westminster District and Labour Council or the Voice New Westminster electors group didn’t hold any weight in council’s consideration of a development variance for the Aragon Group’s proposed highrise at Port Royal.

Coun. Bill Harper, who was endorsed by the labour council, opposed the variance. Councillors Jonathan Cote, Jaimie McEvoy and Lorrie Williams, also endorsed by the New Westminster District and Labour Council, supported the variance

Councilors Bob Osterman and Betty McIntosh, members of the Voice New Westminster slate, were on opposing sides of the vote – a fact that made McIntosh smile. McIntosh supported the variance, while Osterman was opposed.

Source: Independent Thinkers | Only In New West (Royal City Record)

Traffic congestion in New West

Traffic congestion and public transit infrastructure are named among the top issues for most civic election candidates in New Westminster – and it seems we’re not alone. Greater Vancouver is experiencing major growing pains related to suburbun expansion. Cost of living has boosted growth in areas like Pitt Meadows, Coquitlam, Surrey and Abbotsford, but the majority of jobs are still located in Vancouver. The result is gridlock due to the funnel effect of so many people coming into the downtown area through a limited number of access points.

Unsurprisingly, those at the wide end of the funnel want to twin the Port Mann bridge, hoping it will speed their commute into town. We at the narrow end – New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver – are more likely to oppose it, fearing it will only bring more non-residential traffic into our communities.

Writes the Vancouver Sun:

In the south-of-the-Fraser communities of Langley, Surrey, Delta and White Rock, where gridlock on the bridge is a huge issue, nearly 75 per cent of candidates agreed or agreed strongly that the bridge should be twinned.

Artist's rendition of a twinned Port Mann Bridge.

Artist’s rendition of a twinned Port Mann Bridge.

Handout

In the Tri-Cities area, support was even higher. Eighty-five per cent of candidates agreed.

In the core communities of Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, where many fear that more lanes will bring more traffic, only 30 per cent either agreed or agreed strongly with the bridge twinning.

New Westminster council candidate Betty McIntosh said she’d like to see the new South Fraser Perimeter Road completed to siphon off some of the traffic that now runs through New Westminster, which, as the geographical centre of the region, has a disproportionate number of vehicles travelling through it
“New Westminster is a compact, well-planned city with a large volume of transit users. We can work, live and play within our city boundaries,” she said.

Lorrie Williams, also running in New Westminster, said the city could “easily become just the crossroad to other places” and it needs well-planned commuter and truck routes and cooperation with other municipalities to share the burden.

As a central access point for the Lower Mainland, New West benefits from proximity to both the city and the suburbs, but as this issue highlights, there is a dark side. Too much traffic is just pass-through traffic, and it impacts local traffic, air quality, quality of life and also our businesses. 

The Sun quoted Williams and McIntosh, but here are some opinions from other local candidates on the traffic situation here in New West and what to do about it (quotes from the Sun’s poll data and candidate websites): 

Mayoral candidates:

  • Wayne Wright (incumbent): “Always a problem in a Geographic centered city like N.W. Biggest issue is North Fraser Perimeter Road and bridges and how they will be brought through the city.The road goes directly though the middle of downtown and our new residential areas and the bridge heads are congested already.We will be working directly with Translink and the Province to address these problems. There will be solutions but there will be large capital costs necessary to do the right thing.”
  • Blair Armitage:  Ipsos Reid poll rates traffic as high priority with New West voters (note: I tried looking for more detail on the Voice website but I was unable to find the info I was looking for. If you’re reading this Voice, SEO is everything. Get your Google juice on!)

Council candidates:

  • Jaimie McEvoy: New Westminster needs more support for cyclists, include more bike routes and bike racks throughout the city ….. We need to ensure that when Patullo Bridge is replaced that city council is a strong advocate for its citizens, ensuring that the new bridge improves traffic, and does not increase traffic on our local streets.”
  • Matthew Laird: “New Westminster is at the cross roads of the Lower Mainland, we have an opportunity to be an example of progressive urban planning, making a walkable, livable city focused on sustainability.”
  • Bob Osterman: “New Westminster has over 350,000 cars driving through our city each day, our roads are clogged and the consequent accidents and car pollution concern every resident. To go from West to East at rush hour can take 30 minutes to travel 2 miles.”
  • Lynda Fletcher-Gordon: The amount of traffic in New Westminster will not decrease. In fact, without the provision of more public rapid transit, it is likely to increase. While we want to have a walkable city, we also need to consider how to keep the traffic moving and avoid gridlock. While I support traffic calming devices generally, the traffic calming devices on the main roads and intersections contribute to the gridlock that often happen – especially at 6th and Royal. They cause congestion as those drivers who want to use an alternative route or merely turn from Royal onto 6th are prevented from doing that.”
  • Terrance Owen: “New West suffers from severe road and rail cross-traffic to and from other municipalities. These road and rail routes fall under federal and provincial jurisdictions. The city needs the cooperation and support of these senior levels of government to provide alternate routes and containment that will alleviate the problems created for New West.”
The Vancouver Sun is leveraging the data gathered in their municipal candidates’ issues survey well here, but this quote from their article again highlights how they missed the mark from a technology standpoint.

To help you on voting day, Nov. 15, you can use the database as a personal ballot, printing off a list of all candidates and then circling those that best reflect your views.

Print it out and circle the candidates you’re voting for? C’mon Sun, you can do better. The data is there, all that is needed is the technical execution to make it more useful. If the Sun doesn’t have the technical resources, they could at least provide the data in an easily remixed format so that others with the knowledge and the desire could create something better suited for the Web.

Readers, if you notice that I’m missing a candidate’s published comments on the issue, leave a note in the comments. If any political candidates wish to expand on their comments, go right ahead!