10 Questions: Langley City byelection candidates respond

Langley City byelection candidates expanded on their answers to our 10 Questions.

  • Feb. 24, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Shelley Coburn

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

Yes, the City should work to increase population density in the downtown core but it needs to be done well, it needs to be done responsibly. Density is an important component of building a community. If we want things like jobs, a strong local economy, and transit, we need growth and this requires access to appropriate and affordable housing. This is a good way to accomplish this. We need redevelopment and we need to see buildings that are commercial on the bottom and residential on the top. We need to stick to our Downtown Vision.

2. Do you support the construction of high rise developments?

Yes, but I think we need to be clear on what we are talking about when we talk about “high rise developments” because there is a limit. Again, it has to been done properly and this means doing it in the right place in a way that makes sense for the community, for the people who live and work in the surrounding areas. It goes back to the importance of growth, however, how we manage our growth requires the right plan. We have to balance our need for growth against the other things we value and we need to preserve and protect our beautiful natural habitats. Like any plan it will not be easy and it is a huge investment but I believe if we engage in dialogue with the entire community that we will find a solution that works best for everybody who calls Langley City home.

3. Should the City do more to promote the construction of low income housing?

No to strictly “low income housing” but yes to affordable housing. It really is not for the City to build “low income housing”, as this is generally Provincial jurisdiction, however, it is the responsibility of the City to try and work with developers who want to provide affordable and appropriate housing. We might need to better manage the existing “low income housing”. What I mean by this is that we need to have a look at what we have, who is living in it, and what kind of shape it is in. Basically, is it safe and is it liveable? If it isn’t, we need to work to apply pressure to the property owners to make sure that these places are habitable. We have vulnerable people living in our City and we have to make sure that they have a safe place to live no matter how much money they have. Just because a person is on a fixed income does not mean that they should not expect the same access to safe and comfortable housing that other people have. I think that our focus should not solely be on “low income housing” but on responsible development, and in some cases this may mean having multiple price points in a building or designating a certain percentage of units in a building “lower income”.

4. Should more RCMP officers be hired, even if it means a tax increase?

No, I do not think that more police officers are the solution. We recently experienced a tax increase and this increase will help to pay for one additional RCMP officer. The City already has one officer for every 506 residents. This is one of the best in British Columbia. A 2014 review by Black Press found the average municipality in B.C. has a ratio of one officer for every 717 residents.  Rather than simply hiring more RCMP we need to get to the root of the problem or else we are just throwing money at the situation. The RCMP is a band-aid solution which is not only costly but prevents us from getting to the underlying issues. We can throw all of the costly resources we want at something but if we do not know the problem we will continually be missing the mark.  If we have the resources, we should be using them to implement the suggestions and recommendations that have been set out for us by the Crime Prevention Task Force and the Homelessness Task Force. This is currently underway and the recommendations will be forwarded to the Public Safety Committee for recommendation to Council.

5. Should the City do more to improve security around the downtown?

Yes, the City should do more to improve security around the downtown area and it is my understanding that there has been lots of work done here. We have many recommendations that have been set out for us in both the Crime Prevention Task Force and the Homelessness Task Force. I think it is time that we take the hard work done by people and begin to implement it. These task forces take time and money. We cannot justify doing them if we do not make good use of them.

6. Should casino revenues be used to fund general programs and reduce property taxes?

No, we are already using the money in our community, it pays for capital projects, for example, the new Timms Community Centre. These projects would otherwise be funded through tax increases. So in a round-about way we are already doing this, we are keeping our taxes as low as we can, developing and enhancing our community, and we are doing this without borrowing money. The City is demonstrating responsible stewardship.

7. Should the City create more bike lanes and public cycling infrastructure?

Yes, we should be making our city more bike friendly and there is some funding available through the Province to improve bike infrastructure. We have funding for this and it is an ongoing process. Making our community more bike friendly will only add value. It will make it safer, more liveable for everyone, it will encourage families to get out and ride, and it will increase transportation options. It is good for people and it is good for our environment. It is just good for our overall quality of life.

8. Should Langley City lobby to get a light rail or SkyTrain line extended to the downtown? Yes.

Yes, Langley City should lobby to get both of light rail and Skytrain extended into the downtown. It is good for the people who are already here and it is important to have if we want to attract people to come here, either to work, shop, or live. If we want to grow and be able to sustain ourselves it is important for us to be connected to our neighbouring communities. Surrey is a good example. Surrey will continue to experience extreme growth and there will be jobs and opportunities. This is not just good for Surrey but it is good for their neighbouring communities. Transit allows people to move in and out of communities with ease, whether for jobs or even university. If we had, not just rapid transit or light rail, but improved transit all around, it would increase the appeal of our City. This will take time, and in the interim it is important we lobby to make sure that the people in this community can get to the places they need to with ease.

9. Would you support increasing property taxes to fund transit improvements?

No, not at this point. I think there are issues with the funding formulas and there seems to be a lack of clarity and so in my opinion this isn’t the best option for taxpayers. I think before we give more funding we should be clear on exactly what we will be getting for our money. This should match the current need and also have room for future need. The sentiment seems to be that we do a lot of the paying and we see nothing for it. It’s seem a lot of hurry up and wait for the people in the valley. I think we have heard quite clearly that the issue is not so much that people do don’t want to fund transit, it is more that they currently do not have faith in Translink to spend our money responsibly and in a way that does not leave Langley City out in the cold.

10. Do you believe Langley City and Township should be amalgamated into one municipality?

No, absolutely not— this just doesn’t make sense for Langley City.  Not only would we see increase in our taxes but I think this would come at a reduction in our services and what we see for our money. Large cities result in large bureaucracies, which can often be costly and inefficient. More important than this, there is something special and unique about Langley City and this would be lost in amalgamation. I love the small size of my community, I love that I know and see me local government and that if I want to talk to the Mayor about something that chances are pretty good that I will get this opportunity without having to wait two or three weeks. Also, at this point, there is no business plan for it and our City is debt free.

Carol Gran

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

Attracting good development that appeals to a variety of incomes will be difficult because of the crime rate and the state of our downtown.  Seniors and families are attracted to smaller communities but safety and services is high paramount.   It is Council’s first responsibility to keep our residents safe and our City crime free.

2. Do you support the construction of high rise developments?

High rise development is often controversial but there is no quicker way to increase the population, broaden the tax base and to provide amenities we currently cannot afford.   In return for greater density developers can be convinced to contribute generously to items on our wish list.  High rise development is further in the future because the land in our City  presents expensive challenges.

3. Do you support the construction of high rise developments?

Currently Langley City has the third highest inventory of affordable housing in Metro Vancouver mainly due to City Council bylaws against converting rental housing to strata.  In fact re-development is what we should be talking about which would include a percentage of affordable housing. Balance is the key.

4.5.6

RCMP officers are expensive but their presence in the community provides comfort to residents and a deterrent to criminals.  Some communities enhance protection through security guards often hired by downtown business associations. The more visible they are the better.   Personally I would rather see Casino proceeds used to hire more security than increasing taxes to do it.

7. Should the City create more bike lanes and public cycling infrastructure?

As more and more communities “go green” bike lanes and walking trails are important.   Safety for  riders, walkers, power scooters and drivers is critical.

8. Should Langley City lobby to get a light rail or SkyTrain line extended to the downtown?

Rapid transit is inevitable in the near future and Council should be engaged with the community and Trans Link in deciding what works best for our residents. Cost is always one of the determining factors and the type of transit would make a huge difference in a small city like Langley.  This is an issue that both Langley’s must work on together.

9. Would you support increasing property taxes to fund transit improvements?

I do not support transit improvement on property taxes and congratulate Langley for our firm NO in the referendum. My personal view is that the Province should take over administration of Trans Link and look for more reasonable ways of funding it.

10. Do you believe Langley City and Township should be amalgamated into one municipality?

I am not an advocate for amalgamation but I certainly believe we should work together for the good of the entire area.  An example.  The reality is we are home to almost 400 homeless people not the 92 you keep hearing about.   Langley City carries the entire burden when 2/3 of them come from the Township.   It is long past time for the Township to become part of the solution and not the problem.

Kiernan Hillan

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

Yes.

Changing the dynamic of our downtown means changing the environment into one where residents feel safe and happy, and where businesses can succeed. These goals work hand in hand. To create an environment that is conducive to business growth, of the right type, we need to provide a natural market for our merchants. We need more reasons for our residents to want live near downtown. Properly designed multi-use buildings with shops on the ground floor and families in the upper floors are one component. The residents provide customers and “eyes on the street” – while the businesses generate positive foot traffic and vibrancy. We need buildings that fit the character of Langley City.

2. Do you support the construction of high rise developments?

No. Langley City is not, and never should be, a concrete jungle full of faceless windows.

3. Should the City do more to promote the construction of low income housing?

Yes. A City that supports its residents is a healthy City. Most of us take for granted that we can afford to pay market rates for accommodation – but many of our friends and neighbours are struggling. Think of the pensioner on a fixed income: how can we support her to live a healthy, safe, long life in the City? Or how do we get more young people into the housing market? We should work with our developers and residents to ensure this happens.

4. Should more RCMP officers be hired, even if it means a tax increase?

Do not know

We already have one of the lowest resident to RCMP officer ratios in the Lower Mainland.  We should make better use of existing resources. While the simplistic answer would appear to hire more officers, I firmly believe that Improving the look and feel of our downtown core over the long term would be a better use of our hard earned tax dollars. However, I am open to hearing from our police force about their future, strategic needs and ensuring they have what they need.

5. Should the City do more to improve security around the downtown?

Yes

It took many years for us to get where we are today and the situation will take many years to resolve. If anyone says they have simple solutions to this complex issue, they are grossly underestimating the problem. It will take vision and resolve to improve our downtown. We need to take actions designed to change the dynamic in the downtown core. This will involve the RCMP being more aggressive when dealing with the criminal elements as well as involving all stakeholders in real discussions to ensure that our homeless population is dealt with effectively and with care.

I would like to see more foot and bike patrols. If we have a physical presence in the downtown then the criminal element will feel uncomfortable. Constant vigilance will help bring petty crime down. Be hard on the street level crime at all times,

Take back our City Centre and create an environment that ensures our residents feel safe and secure. We must work together as a community to make sure that everyone has a place in our City and create infrastructure to support that.  We need to increase reasons for our residents to want to be and live downtown. If we achieve this, we will go along way to reach the goal of improving security downtown.

6. Should casino revenues be used to fund general programs and reduce property taxes?

Do not know

I firmly believe It is best to use casino money for major capital improvements within our City – better sidewalks and roads, upgraded water and sewer systems, more lighting. These are urgent infrastructure needs that will make our city safer and healthier.

This, in turn, saves property taxpayers money. When big ticket capital items are funded out of casino revenue, it brings down (or eliminates) borrowing costs and reduces the amount that taxpayers need to chip in for these projects.

However, we need to resist the temptation to always build big, flashy projects. If we continue to build mega projects and neglect our core infrastructure, one day we will have to pay the piper.

7. Should the City create more bike lanes and public cycling infrastructure?

Yes

I believe we can create more contiguous bike lanes in a cost effective manner. But we are a City with diverse transportation needs. I would not want to overemphasize the need for major improvements in our small, but important, bike lane network to the detriment of more cost effective uses of our tax dollars for the majority of our taxpayers. There are many, many infrastructure needs in the City, and core priorities like water, sewer, parks and roads should take precedence.

8. Should Langley City lobby to get a light rail or SkyTrain line extended to the downtown?

Yes

As our region grows we need to ensure that we are connected throughout the region. However, more consultation should be done with City residents about the pros and cons of connecting us via SkyTrain to Surrey. We must ensure a plan is in place to protect City residents from some of the crime issues that can come with a rapid transit connection. This is one of the reasons it is so important we improve the downtown – if we are to have rapid transit, we need to welcome it to a safe, vibrant community, not a deteriorating one.

9. Would you support increasing property taxes to fund transit improvements?

No

The needs are evident for the future of our transportation network throughout our region. The City should be aggressively lobbying for funding in the form of a combination of TransLink efficiency, developer contributions, and more money from senior levels of government.

Mel Kositsky

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

In order to revitalize the downtown area, density bonus agreements can be made with developers to rebuild storefront properties and strip malls so they include newer retail units and housing and offices above the stores. The height of the buildings may vary depending on soil conditions for underground parking and the housing units should also allow for families by building two and three bedroom units to keep the downtown from becoming just an adult-oriented area. This could include an allowance for rental and low income housing.

4. Should more RCMP officers be hired, even if it means a tax increase?

Building a safer community has to involve increasing the number of RCMP officers and getting members out on the streets — walking or riding bicycles. Langley City needs to improve its reputation and become a safe, pedestrian friendly community and not a drive through area, especially in the downtown core. Policing costs are about 25 per cent of the annual operating budget and that percentage may need to be increased as growth continues. Going with even more community policing programs is a way to help eliminate the perception of crime and fear of the homeless.

6. Should casino revenues be used to fund general programs and reduce property taxes?

Langley City should continue to manage its casino revenues prudently because there is no certainty that the 10 per cent revenue sharing formula with the province will continue indefinitely. Ontario changed the formula in recent years and that could easily happen here, especially if there is a continual downturn in the economy. Competition from other gaming establishments, as well as online gaming and sports betting will erode profits, as will the emergence of “powerball” type lotteries. When I was on the executive of the Union of BC Municipalities I was Chair of the gaming committee and worked on securing the revenue sharing formula and protection of bingo revenues for charities in the face of introducing slot machines. The City should continue using casino revenue for major infrastructure renewal and special projects, which indirectly reduces the need to increase property taxes.

8. Should Langley City lobby to get a light rail or SkyTrain line extended to the downtown?

Langley City can be well served by public transit because of its geographic location and any improvements to routes in Surrey and Langley Township would likely be linked to a City hub site. Because of the increasingly high price of land, especially in the Willowbrook area, it is difficult to say if there is enough space available to build Skytrain stations and at-grade light rail might prove difficult, as well. We now have proven success of the #555 Express bus to Skytrain over the Port Mann bridge and an express to Aldergrove. I would like to see more express buses along Fraser Highway (direct to Langley City) as a start while negotiations continue with the provincial and federal governments for more funding.

10. Do you believe Langley City and Township should be amalgamated into one municipality?

Amalgamation of the two Langleys is a non-issue after 60 years of separation. Langley City is its own urban community while the Township is still more than 75 per cent rural and part of the Agricultural Land Reserve. I have been against spending any time or funds on studying amalgamation as other studies across Canada have shown the myths are not backed up by research, most recently in one done for the Victoria area. B.C.’s unique regional district system already allows for shared services such as water and sewer. The costs associated with reducing the number of elected officials are so low that it is really a false perception. This would result in a loss of local involvement as higher paid staff begin replacing elected officials in the decision making process. Fortunately B..C. is not in favour of forced amalgamations as was done in other provinces.

Rae Maj

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

Yes. Although, it must be done responsibly. It is important that both the young and aging population have access to affordable new housing.

3. Should the City do more to promote the construction of low income housing?

Yes. The more affordable the housing, the more people have to spend on necessities. If people are made to feel part of the community, they have a stronger sense of shared responsibility for the welfare of the city.

4. Should more RCMP officers be hired, even if it means a tax increase?

No. Residents do not feel safer as more money is being allocated to a larger RCMP budget. We need to change the type of policing that is being implemented. More on street presence, bike patrols through the city as well as security on the streets later into the evening.

5. Yes. Upgrade lighting in the down town core, keep restaurants open later, have a security presence for safety of the patrons for a vibrant community.

7. Should the City create more bike lanes and public cycling infrastructure?

Yes. Of course.

8. Should Langley City lobby to get a light rail or SkyTrain line extended to the downtown?

Yes. Absolutely

10. Do you believe Langley City and Township should be amalgamated into one municipality?

No. However there should be a shared responsibility financially for issues that affect both communities.

Sharon Newbery

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

Yes. We need more housing in the city and better transit but will not receive the improved transit without the higher density.

2. Do you support the construction of high rise developments?

Yes. To a maximum of 6 stories and only in the downtown core.

4. Should more RCMP officers be hired, even if it means a tax increase?

No. The current proposed budget already includes the hiring of more officers.

6.Should casino revenues be used to fund general programs and reduce property taxes?

No. The casino revenue is used mainly for infrastructure which already keeps our taxes lower.

8.8. Should Langley City lobby to get a light rail or SkyTrain line extended to the downtown?

Yes. But again we need higher density.

9. Would you support increasing property taxes to fund transit improvements?

No. Transit needs to get their house in order before receiving any additional funding.

Serena Oh

10. No  But I believe homelessness issues must work with township together.

Nathan Pachal

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

Yes, I support the City of Langley’s Downtown Master Plan. But since the plan is getting to be around 10 years old, it is due for an update. Therefore I would support a community-wide public consultation process to make sure an updated plan aligns with the needs of the community.

2. Do you support the construction of high rise developments?

No, There is currently no need or means to support a high rise development in Langley at this point in time.

3. Should the City do more to promote the construction of low income housing?

No, Langley City is already one of the most affordable communities in Metro Vancouver. There is affordable housing stock in Langley City, but the municipal government needs to work in conjunction with the Province of BC to ensure that this stock is meeting the needs of people in our community. I would support strategies to improve current subsidized housing and housing for low income seniors, plus clamp down on negligent landlords.

4. Should more RCMP officers be hired, even if it means a tax increase?

No, Hiring one or two RCMP officers in Langley City will do little to address the crime and homelessness issues. But if the force needs to expand due to an increase in population of our community, I would support that. Policing is the fastest growing, and largest expense for City of Langley taxpayers.

5. Should the City do more to improve security around the downtown?

Yes, the City of Langley must make this a priority. Not only by repairing damage from vandalism, eliminating graffiti quickly, and ensuring all garbage is removed from our streets and parks in a timely fashion, but by also working to make Langley’s Downtown a desirable destination.

I’ve always supported Downtown Langley merchants who have worked hard to make the core an inviting destination through innovative programs, special events, and festivals with limited resources. With the help of the City of Langley, these programs can be expanded to make our core an inviting destination.

That is why I support an arts centre. This would help address security concerns as the positive activity that surrounds such a facility has been proven to reduce crime and create a stronger community.

6. Should casino revenues be used to fund general programs and reduce property taxes?

No, this would be like withdrawing your RRSP to cover daily living expenses when you don’t need to. The City currently uses the casino revenue to fund long term capital infrastructure. Without this funding: property tax would need to increase, the City would need to go into debt, or the City would have to stop investing in improving the infrastructure in our community.

9. Would you support increasing property taxes to fund transit improvements?

No, the Provincial Government is already collecting the existing Carbon Tax which should be used for exactly this purpose.

George Roman

1. Should the City work to increase population density in the downtown core?

Yes. The increase in population density has to be restricted to the downtown core. The City must also redesign the downtown entertainment area and give it an attractive and unique character. Fort Langley and Leavenworth are examples of successful downtowns with unique characters. Fort Langley adopted the old town theme and Leavenworth adopted a Bavarian German town theme. This has resulted in booming business and influx of tourism all year long.

2. Do you support the construction of high rise developments?

Yes. I support the construction of high rise developments if economically feasible. High rises should only be permitted in the downtown area. When issuing development permits, the City has to ensure that our transportation services and infrastructure can accommodate the increase in the number of residents.

3. Should the City do more to promote the construction of low income housing?

Yes. There are concerns about the potential loss of affordable rental units in the City, as the existing rental stock is aging. Our priority should be updating and improving the condition of the existing rental stock as well as considering more affordable housing for young families and seniors.

4. Should more RCMP officers be hired, even if it means a tax increase?

Yes, if safety experts conclude this is the only way to improve safety. However, I will only increase taxes as an absolute last resort if no other funding sources or cost savings measures are available. I believe police must change the way they patrol our communities and deploy their forces. Police must manage their resources more efficiently, implement effective crime prevention policies, have greater street presence by assigning officers foot and bike patrols duties, direct more resources to hot spots of crime and encourage block watch programs.

5. Should the City do more to improve security around the downtown?

Yes. The City should increase foot and bike patrols, improve lighting levels to meet acceptable standards, clean up the downtown core from abandoned needles and keep it up-to-date and well maintained. The City has to redesign specific areas to decrease apprehension and increase the feeling of safety.

6. Should casino revenues be used to fund general programs and reduce property taxes?

No. Casino revenues are currently used to fund new capital projects as well as maintaining, improving and updating our existing infrastructure. This is a very responsible approach as skipping maintenance schedules will result in incurring higher costs in the future and significant deterioration of the City’s infrastructure.

7. Should the City create more bike lanes and public cycling infrastructure?

Yes. Cycling projects support active, healthy and environment-friendly communities. The City should seek provincial funding assistance and apply for programs like BikeBC, which is the province’s cost-sharing program that helps local governments build cycling projects.

8. Should Langley City lobby to get a light rail or SkyTrain line extended to the downtown?

Yes. A light rail or SkyTrain line is a very important component of the City’s plan to revitalize Langley Downtown and boost the economy. A city without viable transportation is like a heart with clogged arteries. This project will have significant positive impact on Langley City’s economy, liveability and environment.

9. Would you support increasing property taxes to fund transit improvements?

No. The residents of Langley City pay enough taxes. TransLink is viewed by many as poorly managed, dysfunctional and in urgent need of fundamental reforms eliminate waste and increase operational efficiency. TransLink has to cut costs, instead of asking taxpayers for more money.

10. Do you believe Langley City and Township should be amalgamated into one municipality?

No. The main duties of a City Councillor include protecting and promoting the interests of citizens. Several studies have shown that the City of Langley citizens will have no net benefit as a result of an amalgamation with Langley Township. The City of Langley is debt free and in excellent financial shape, while the Township has debt on its balance sheet and faces increasing financial challenges. The casino revenue, currently used to finance capital projects in the City, will not stay in our community. It will have to be shared with the Township in the case of an amalgamation.

Learn more about the candidates’ backgrounds HERE.

Read about the recent all-candidates meeting HERE.

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