Langley City: Candidates gather at forum

All but one of the candidates for Langley City council participated in a forum on Oct. 16.

The forum was a tightly timed format with candidates asked to give yes or no answers. They were then given the opportunity to elaborate on a set number of questions of their choosing.

Mayoral candidate Randy Caine, owner of Hempy’s gifts and novelty, had a run in with the City when trying to open his business. He said his top priority is to do something about low voter turnout and hopes his running will inspire non-voters to got to the polls.

Mayoral candidate Ray Lewis said policing costs are shocking and he’s concerned about the high crime rate.

Mayoral candidate Ted Schaffer said his concerns include infrastructure and supporting youth and seniors.

Ron Abgrall, a council candidate, was absent.

Candidate Paul Albrecht has lived in Langley for 23 years. The engineering technologist said in the past three years he is attended almost all city council meetings.

“Speed dating. That’s what this is. Fourth on the ballot, first in your heart,” joked Dave Hall about the rapid fire format for the evening.

“The winds of change are coming,” Christine MacIntosh said during her introduction.

“I will provide some generational diversity on this counsel,” said Miriam Marshall.

Gayle Martin promised to maintain the fiscal responsibility residents have seen from council.

Sharon Newbery has an accounting and small business background.

“I’m not afraid to speak up,” she said.

“I can bring fresh ideas to council,” said Nathan Pachal.

Carla Robin called herself a good common sense hard worker.

Rudy Storteboom has lived here for more than 30 years.

“I still want more and better for the residents of Langley City”

Val van den Broek worked at the community policing office for eight years and said council has to tackle the problems downtown.

One of the first questions was transit.

“I tend not to use public transit because I don’t want the scenic route,” said MacIntosh who said the City must clean up the bus hub.

Albrecht said transit has to change especially South of the Fraser and TransLink governance must change.

Pachal has worked extensively on transit and infrastructure issues. He noted that Vancouver ridership has declined and ridership in communities South of the Fraser River has increased. Stoorteboom sat on a transit committee in the late 1990s and pushed for services.

“We need better service but we also need the population to substantiate it,” Robin said.

Marshall said the provincial government must take more responsibility.

“Council really has no say in this whatsoever,” said Hall.

Ted Schaffer sits on the TransLink Mayors Council a referendum on TransLink’s 30 year plan will be in 2015.

Services to Langley are spelled out in year eight of that plan, but it only happens if the referendum passes and funding is found, he said.

The candidates were asked about road pricing.

“A gas tax is a pretty crappy way to raise money,” Pachal commented.

Storteboom called TransLink “a black hole of need” and said low tolls at pinch points on the transportation grid would be better.

“I believe every bridge in Metro Vancouver should be tolled,” Martin said.

Albrecht called road tolls a reasonable way to raise money.

Lewis was asked about how to improve the downtown. He said it’s a long process to develop properties. It’s council’s job to make sure it’s decent development and the amenities are in place, he said.

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When asked about infrastructure and infrastructure renewal incumbants noted that the City is debt free, thanks to casino revenues.

Hall said the City has reserves to fund infrastructure and the rate of replacement or repair is faster than other municipalities.

“We are in great shape compared to many others,” Hall noted.

He pointed to the overpasses as an example of the City having to pay into projects that amount to downloading from higher levels of government.

Martin noted that the City spends about $5 million annually on infrastructure.

Storteboom would encourage the City to go after federal and provincial funds.

Van den Broek said infrastructure takes years to repair or upgrade and what happens if the casino revenues diminish? Money must be found from other levels of government.

Robin said the City needs alternative sources of funding.

The candidates were asked about high union wages for municipal workers.

Marshall said there is little the City can do.

“If you want good people, you’ve got to pay the rate the unions are asking for,” she said.

Arnold said it’s backwards – municipal staff make more than provincial staff who make more than federal staff but the City has to pay the market rates and “I’m not sure how to change that.”

“Not many people out there work for love,” said Schaffer.

MacIntosh she has no problem with local wages being higher than other levels of government because these workers are more grassroots and closer to the electorate.

On the issue of downtown problems, Van den Broek is an auxiliary RCMP constable and sees what happens downtown. She doesn’t see a champion for the downtrodden on council.

Van den Broek said there is no place for people to go if they’re addicted and the waitlists are too long.

“We got so many issues were going to be facing in the next 20 years,” she said.

Newbery would like to see more police visibility, more offender monitoring and more community engagement through programs such as block watch.

Pachal said more money for policing is not the solution. Community revitalization is needed, growing the stronger economy will reduce crime.

Schaffer the City has worked hard to reduce crime and it is down.

 Hall noted that the City spends about $10 million annually on policing a lot of the issues are provincial responsibilities such as mental health care. It’s more downloading if the City starts looking after these issues, he said.

Candidates were asked about the City’s decision not to allow a shooting range on the Langley Bypass.

Hall said that issue is going before the court so he excused himself from commenting.

Newbery said such a business should be welcome in the community.

Arnold said the City should be looking for business opportunities.

Van den Broek said there is a bigger concern. The City needs to review business licences closer.

Marshall was questioned on her ideas for downtown revitalization. She’s a researcher so she would want to look at pilots and projects elsewhere to see what worked and how they could be adapted for this community.

Another question was whether the candidates support a performing arts centre, even if it’s built in the Township.

Arnold said it depends on the negotiations with the other stakeholders (Langley Township, the Langley School District, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Trinity Western University).

Hall said the City is busy building the Timm’s Community Centre right now. He wants a more solid commitment from the other partners.

“A cultural centre is something I believe is long overdue,” Albrecht said.

 Pachal said the downtown is an ideal spot for art center and it would help clean up crime by increasing legitimate uses for properties.

The City has a Hatfield and McCoy relationship with the Township. New faces on council could help change this, he noted.

“There is more to life than just going to work and paying bills,” was Marshall’s reply.

MacIntosh said she didn’t have enough information on the finances but the relationship needs to change with the Township.

Caine’s concern was that it would be outside the community. The City doesn’t have enough year-round facilities, such as a year-round pool.

“We have mobility issues and people who are financially strapped,” he commented.

Robin said arts centre is sorely needed.

Candidates were asked where they lived. Most live in Langley City.

Robin lives in Langley Township. Marshall straddles the City/Township border with her home in both municipalities.

The issue of the several new methadone dispensing pharmacies came up.

Storteboom said there are no about a dozen in the City.

Council should restrict new ones and make changes to the existing ones so that they have to be full service. He wants pharmacies restricted to a maximum of 20 per cent methadone dispensing and the requirement to offer full pharmacy services. He said the community doesn’t have a big enough addiction problems to warrant so many methadone clinics.

“My understanding is they’re bringing them in from other communities and leaving them here on the street,” he said.

The candidates were also asked about issues such as Brydon Lagoon, feral cat problems, Metro Vancouver, paid parking downtown and trees.

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