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Election 2014: Coun. Henry Braun to run for mayor in 2014

Coun. Henry Braun will run for mayor in the November civic election against first-term incumbent Bruce Banman, who says he intends to serve as mayor “as long as the people will have me.”

During his announcement Wednesday, Braun said his campaign message is similar to the platform he ran on when elected to council in 2011 – a need for greater transparency and accountability to the citizens of Abbotsford, as well as fiscal responsibility.

He said that while the city has made strides over the past three years, there is still room for improvement.

“Being a servant to the people means that we listen and make principled decisions which will serve the interests and needs of Abbotsford as a whole, and not only special-interest groups.”

He said that issues with the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, the Abbotsford Heat contract, the failed water referendum, the failed YMCA proposal and the defeat of Abbotsford Community Services’ supportive housing for the homeless proposal “have all contributed, in one way or another, to the steady undermining of the people’s trust in local government.”

Braun has been an Abbotsford resident for close to 60 years and was the co-owner, president and CEO of Abbotsford-based Pacific Northern Rail Contractors Corp.

Banman said the announcement of a challenge doesn’t come as a surprise, but he won’t start to campaign yet.

“I am very supportive of the democratic process, but right now as mayor my focus is not on campaigning; it’s on the positive work taking place at city hall.”

Banman said he is proud of changes that have been made at city hall in his term, as well as this year’s zero per cent tax increase, achieved without reducing services. He added that there are still important goals to focus on, such as upcoming plans and recommendations to address homelessness from the city’s task force.

Braun said he feels he has a different skill set than incumbent Banman and is giving Abbotsford a choice for the kind of leadership they want.

Banman and Braun were the only new faces on council after the election in 2011. With former councillor Simon Gibson leaving his post to serve as MLA for Abbotsford-Mission and Braun taking a run at the mayor’s chair, there will be two vacant seats on council.

Despite rumours of slates of candidates being formed in Abbotsford, Braun said he is not planning to run with partners, as he has reservations about the idea.

Banman said he doesn’t think slates are “appropriate in a local government format, so I have no plans to run as a slate.”

Among the issues facing Abbotsford in the future, Braun said the city must focus on the newly renamed Abbotsford Centre, with the Heat supply-fee contract only half of the problem, and something must be done to address the losses from the entertainment component. He said the city also needs to help the homeless and thinks the best model is housing-first, which focuses on getting homeless people into housing without restrictions such as being drug- or alcohol-free.

In the last election, there were five candidates for mayor. Banman defeated incumbent George Peary 13,837 votes to 12,694, with the third-place candidate receiving only 2,449 votes.

Out of 21 candidates that ran for eight council seats, Braun, the only new councillor elected, received the second highest number of votes at 15,649, following Coun. Patricia Ross, who received 19,710.

Voter turnout in Abbotsford was about 38 per cent, compared to a provincial average of 29.6 per cent, due in part to a referendum held on a controversial proposal for a public-private partnership to create a new city water source and treatment plant at Stave Lake. It was defeated with 74 per cent of voters opposed.

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