27 council candidates provide answers to Times questions

Township councillor candidates respond to two questions.

  • Nov. 7, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The Times has asked two questions of the candidates running in the Nov. 19 local elections. Their answers provide more information to potential voters. These are the answers to the following questions from the 27 candidates for councillors’ seats in Langley Township.

1. What is the most important issue facing Township council, and by extension, residents?

2. How can the Township reduce annual property tax increases to no more than two per cent?

Petrina Arnason, candidate for council

1. TransLink’s failure to provide viable local transportation solutions is of primary concern to the Township and its residents. Most do not benefit from our expensive subsidization of urban-centric transportation infrastructure such as the Evergreen Line.  The majority of South Fraser residents are headed for sub-regional destinations and therefore this model does not meet our needs.  Current funding of TransLink initiatives supported by Township tax dollars only adds to the financial burden of those forced to utilize their vehicles for travel and leisure activities beyond our boundaries.

I therefore support renewed exploration of light rapid rail in the South of Fraser Region in order to meet our current and growing transportation requirements.  A community rail system linking local communities to established SkyTrain terminals would offer less costly transportation for the region.  In my opinion, the integration of train/bus/SkyTrain infrastructure would result in a much more cost-effective model than what we have.

2. Councillors must act as corporate managers ultimately responsible to shareholder taxpayers. Council should scrutinize all proposals and projects to ensure that costs are reasonable and reflect an actual need. This requires a thorough analysis of budget lines annually. Budgetary quarterly statements should be implemented to include quarterly spending details, and projections establishing future costs. These measures should result in more control over spending.  The Township should also implement cost overrun penalties for all major works projects. Council should further set policy objectives at the start of each term which are fixed to a budget tied to the two per cent increase or less.  Any discretionary spending beyond this would be deferred to the following tax year with no exceptions.  Council should further explore efficiencies from all service areas as well as cuts or user pay increases for some services.  I also support referenda,with respect to citizens’ support for extraordinary cost expenditures.

Bert Chen, candidate for council

1. Sustainability. As Langley moves ahead, we cannot prevent the rapid growth of our Township without adhering to the needs of residents, without providing the necessary services that people demand, and without concern for even further plans. We need to ensure that our Township can sufficiently handle issues related to an ever increasing influx of residents, we need to remain innovative and accepting of new methods of community planning, and we need to prove to not just our own residents, but neighbours across the province and Canada that the Township of Langley can successfully balance a bustling city with our natural splendour, not just for the short term, but for good.

2. Determination to genuinely find savings for taxpayers and streamline services. This can come in the form of temporary legislation to freeze taxation levels, or to find a set amount of savings from the annual budget. While governments are only prompted to act in face of a severe situation, resolve and determination now to truly find savings in government operations, and work together with community partners, whether they be developers, local associations or groups to jointly deliver services and projects will shift the burden away from the Township — this will thus shift the burden away from the taxpayer, and provide a level of choice for residents in the aspects that they want for their community.

Wayne Crossen, candidate for council

1. Community development planning.  Anyone who has lived in Langley for the past few years has seen the Township change enormously. We have new resources like the Langley Events Centre, and new traffic infrastructure like the Golden Ears Bridge. New neighbourhoods have sprung up seemingly overnight and our population is increasing dramatically. As part of a growing region, Langley isn’t about to stop developing, but we need to make sure these changes occur for everyone’s benefit. Only quality neighbourhood-based planning can ensure that development is done sensibly so that our quality of life is not just protected but improved. Too often, municipal governments simply hand over the reins to developers, rather than putting forward a plan and holding developers to account. We need a Township council that works together with the public to help build a Langley with safe sources of water, functional roadways and transportation, and a real sense of community.

2. I am not certain that we can, but we should attempt to do so.

We can examine all the services we are providing to ensure they are actually needed and being delivered in an efficient and cost effective manner.

We should promote the development of new businesses areas that can provide jobs close to home and also increase our tax base.

Institute a three-year freeze on council’s salaries.

We must be open to suggestions and ideas concerning new and innovative ways of providing services.

We should explore partnership and sponsorship opportunities.

We should look at internal efficiencies such as deferring technology upgrades and reducing out-of-town travel.

We must lobby Metro Vancouver partners to negotiate realistic affordable contracts with municipal employee unions.

Rebecca Darnell, candidate for council

1. The most important issue facing the Township is the absence of positive working relationships both inside and outside of the Township.  Those prior relationships have been destroyed by the toxic environment created by the Brownshak incident in  October 2009.  Langley deserves an accurate version and an explanation under oath from Rick Green and his lawyer Calvin Patterson.  Working relationships are necessary to restore credibility.

2.   The Township can ensure that taxes are tied to value added projects and that we fully explore alternative income and capital injection sources, such as Public Private Partnerships (specifically the one that resulted in our having the world-class Langley Events Centre).  It is necessary for council to do extensive due diligence and examine reallocation of existing financial resources prior to considering tax increases or adjustments.  The Township of Langley also needs to enforce existing bylaws, a potential revenue source that has been historically neglected.

David Davis, candidate for council

1. Unfortunately, the most important issue facing council and residents is how dysfuctional our mayor and council have become. We need to remember who elects our council and mayor into office, the people do. It doesn’t matter if they do not like each other, they just have to remember to do what they were elected to do — represent the people.

2. I’m not in favour of taxing everybody and everything, but after saying that, we have to get the money from somewhere. If we don’t want to raise our property taxes, then we need to prioritize our spending on everything and every department within the Township.

Tyler deBoer, candidate for council

1. Without a doubt I would have to say taxation.  The feedback from our community has been overwhelming.  The concern from residents is that if the recurrent tax increases continue, they will not be able to afford to live in this community anymore and neither will their children. Residents are looking for value for their money and they don’t see it.  My response is that we need to account for the dollars spent and put an end to the annual tax increases.  Fiscal responsibility is second to none.

2. By implementing creative ideas such as the Property Endowment Trust fund and value for money audits within the Township I believe a zero percent tax increase can be achieved.  There is already proof from professionals sitting on the Standing Committee of Finance to backup the feasibility of an endowment fund in regards to our community.

Bev Dornan, candidate for council

1. There are many important issues facing the Township such as transportation, safety and security, infrastructure such as water  and sewer lines and preserving our green space while promoting growth, but the most important, in my opinion, is balancing these needs with the ability to pay.  We must make the hard choices and do the best we can with the tax dollars that are available.

2. Langley is a growing municipality with growing needs.  We do not have the infrastructure that many more mature communities have and therefore there is more need for transportation, roads, parks and other amenities.  To accommodate this under two per cent is hard, but managing our expenses and making the hard choices with regards to what we can achieve with our tax dollars goes a long way to that goal.   The needs of the community and when that can be accommodated will dictate what can be achieved.

Steve Ferguson, candidate for council

I will address questions  1 and 2 together.

The number one issue in the Township is taxes.  Residents are extremely concerned about how their money is spent and what future costs, fees or charges are facing them down the road.

Take the two-cent per litre gas tax, a tax I oppose  because we were promised a number of the transit improvements prior to the implementation of the tax.

We also live the furthest in the region in a semi-rural community and our residents drive more.

I do not want to saddle our residents with new fees and charges, I want to continue with our existing departmental system with no new levies.

I have been on the finance committee and worked to form the Long Range Financial plan in the past. I believe that we should begin a new Langley Township long range financial plan to look at how we can find efficiencies  not just for this year but for many years to come.

Some ways that we can keep taxes down to two per cent:

1. Growth of the commercial and industrial sectors, hence the benefit of tax revenues.

2. Managed quality growth in the residential market that can contribute to existing and extending services.

3.Efficiencies in utilities through hydro reductions, heating costs, water and sewer usages (we pay a volume fee through Metro Vancouver).

4.Partnerships with other governments, federal, provincial, and regional, in shared services and projects

5. Partnerships with the school district in parks, buildings, and other facilities

6. Partnerships with other agencies: Sports, recreation and cultural groups, Universities,  and businesses

7. Partnerships with individuals — creative ideas, initiatives, and who knows — thinking outside the box

The Township is a great place to live. We have amazing citizens who are involved in helping and volunteering at all sorts of levels. Just remember the Olympics and the BC Summer Games.

With everyone working together, we can work hard to make Langley an efficient community.

Charlie Fox, candidate for council

1. The most important issue is property taxes which I will answer in Question 2. The next most important is transportation to Langley, through Langley and within Langley. To improve transportation we need to;

– develop a more respectful working relationship with TransLink;

– develop a citizen’s transportation committee to work through issues and options with Translink;

– look at connector routes to the new 202 Street rapid bus interchange;

– develop density on the 200th corridor to provide people for ridership;

– improve the 502 bus through Gloucester and into Aldergrove;

– look seriously at light rail options down the Fraser Highway Corridor from SkyTrain;

– review the bus networks within the Langleys as to efficiencies;

– look at a bus loop closer to the central area of the Township/city to provide local, safe parking for commuters; and

– in neighbourhoods we need to continue traffic calming at parks/school sites.

2. Firstly, let me state I have signed the Canadian Taxpayers Contract on tax reduction (www.taxpayer.com) strategies and commitments. I have committed to fiscal responsibility and tax control through:

– Working diligently to keep taxes lower than the rate of inflation (unless I get approval from taxpayers in a referendum);

– Moving the municipality toward a fee for service for as many functions as possible;

– Pushing the Township to investigate partnerships with other levels of government;

– Supporting measures that improve transparency and accountability;

– Continuing to exercise extreme discretion on my municipal expenses which to date have been the least of any elected official by far;

– Continuing to challenge staff to look for efficiencies and cost savings in departments. Through staff initiative we saved $1.4 million last year, a good start; and

– Supporting the Municipal Auditor proposal.

Murray Jones, candidate for council

1. Sustainable development and community planning. These are integral to issues related to them, such as infrastructure, transit, taxes and quality of living. We need new community plans in our communities like Brookswood and Aldergrove. We need to revisit the plans for other areas and evaluate their progress. A good plan is essential to avoiding waste and creating balanced input from residents, professionals and planners.

2. Examination of budgets and an ability to reallocate unused budgets or to carry them over to the next fiscal year, a review of exempt staff wages and their link to collective agreements, increased DCC’s, fewer “wish list” items, possible partnerships with communities outside Metro Vancouver, promotion of community based initiatives like Adopt-a-Street and Block Watch, reinvigoration of our tourism attractions, an examination of user fees, a reduction of wasteful practices and a proper infrastructure maintenance program.

Bob Long, candidate for council

1. The newly elected council will need to put great effort into developing a work plan for effective governance. The mayor, whomever elected, will need to take a positive leadership role in this exercise.  The Township has incredible potential. It is by far one of the best places to live and work in the Fraser Valley. Accenting the positive aspects of life in Langley and working towards accomplishing projects as laid out in the long term financial plan will be of great benefit to all citizens and taxpayers of Langley Township.

2. In terms of taxation, who says that even two per cent is appropriate? Perhaps it may be less. One cannot pre-decide on what the budget will look like. It is developed solely based on the needs of the taxpayer.

However, one of the most important factors is the downloading from other orders of government. That is why the work of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities is so important — to have a strong municipal voice for a larger share of the Canadian tax dollar.

Tony Malyk, candidate for council

1. Trust is the most important issue facing council. The current council has lost the trust and respect of the citizens by taking their voice away from the democratic process. They have voted for proposals such as the first Mufford Crescent Overpass, The Bedford Landing Development and Athenry Development, despite passionate and sizeable opposition from residents.

They also lost the residents’ trust when they chose to waste over $100,000 (and climbing) to discredit the mayor for no other reason but for political gain.

Residents wants a council they can trust, a council that truly follows their wishes and allows them to have real input on decisions that affect their community and will spend their money wisely.

2. How about zero per cent property tax increases for the next three years? First,I would propose a full “value for money” review of all systems, processes and expenditures of the Township government. A truly efficient government will not only save significant money today but the savings will escalate as an efficient government should grow at a much slower rate than the growth of the population.

I would also support a Property Endowment Trust Fund that would keep future property tax increases at or below the rate of inflation. This has been very successful in Vancouver and allows funds generated from the increased value of Township owned land to be invested. The investment earnings are then used to offset tax increases or be used for the benefit of the citizens.

Rick Manuel, candidate for council

1. Reducing the tax load that residents feel on a daily basis.   We enjoy one of the most scenic and desired locations to live on the planet but also have some of the highest costs of living and associated social obligations as well.  Of these commitments, I believe approximately 57 per cent of property tax collected actually stays in the municipality while the other 43 per cent goes to other entities such as provincial, federal, GVRD, TransLink and associated agencies. With the remaining Township funds, an extensive review with reallocation of funds through re-priorizing may assist in reducing expenditures. Savings may also be realized by;

– Putting off big expenditures until “better times”;

– Research alternative income sources for the Township, as the City and other municipalities have done;

– Encourage the new Municipal Auditor General to assist in financial review and/or cost saving alternatives if possible; and

– Continuing to encourage a healthy and active business climate.

2. The easy answer would be to spend less but the details or what and where are guided somewhat by needs of the community.  As a municipality, we have obligations to external tax outlets such as GVRD and TransLink, which can possibly be minimized through ongoing negotiations, but the balancing act of income and expenses must be adhered to as much as possible, i.e. zero-based budgeting. Capping tax increases by municipal acts is an option as well tried in other communities with varying degrees of success, say two per cent maximum tax increases per year and subsequent years.

If elected, I would strongly encourage an extensive review of all expenditures and programs within the Township and provide municipal employee incentives for cost-saving ideas.

Big ticket expenditures would need alternative sources of income before commencement to offset costs to taxpayers, i.e. provincial/federal grants.  Expansion of revenue generating avenues, like the City’s casino for example, may also have to be revisited as well.

Dorothy McKim, candidate for council

1. There are more than one:

– uncontrolled tax increases with no accountability for how money is being spent;

– transportation within our own community to enable citizens to access limited    facilities within our community; and

– control of landfill applications

2. A full “value for money“ audit of the Township to review how funds have, in the past, been distributed in order to find efficiencies in spending to re-allocate to needed services.

Sonya Paterson, candidate for council

1. Respectful governance at the table is essential. The current negativity at council meetings is having an impact on the public, staff and potentially making it difficult to hire trained professionals. Township residents feel they are not being listened to. Their valid concerns are repeatedly ignored. Several contencious issues have been railroaded (pun intended) even though the citizen majority spoke up against them.

2. I am not going to say any one particular way but rather state that as a council member I commit to reduce annual property tax increases to no more than two per cent.  Balancing a budget and making tough decisions is experience that I have from my six years serving on Langley School Board. I am committed to making tough decisions as well as deliver a balanced budget. Given the opportunity to represent Langley, I commit to work closely with our citizens in all of my decision making.

Ben Penner, candidate for council

1. Considering the size of Langley Township, there is certainly more than one issue. Taxation is highest on my list and every voter’s list, but transportation infrastructure and community planning are very important issues that cannot be ignored. After nine years of excessive tax increases that saw our taxes raised more than double the rate of inflation, Langley needs tax relief.

We also need to address the increasing rail traffic and its effect on vehicle movement; I support bringing Light Rail Transit to the communities south of the Fraser River as well as a healthier bus service to Aldergrove that includes Gloucester. I support insightful long-term planning by designing our community as a whole and not piecemeal as the present practice is. I commit to involving the community proactively at the planning stage of development, rather than what the current council condones of having the developer present his plans first.

2. The Township of Langley has seen massive tax increases burdening its people — taxes up nearly 30 per cent over the last six years. Our individual pocketbooks are in desperate need of tax relief. It’s time to start thinking outside the box.

There is opportunity to access new revenue sources other than the burdened taxpayer. The Township owns millions of dollars of property that sits dormant but has the potential to produce revenue. These assets at the moment are a drain to the Township annual budget.

I support developing a Property Endowment Trust Fund, a Standing Committee of Finance, value for money performance audits, and reducing inefficiencies to allow us to enjoy a zero per cent tax increase. Good stewardship, and not $8.83 million payouts. will ensure tax increases are well below two per cent.  A simple check on a ballot  could mean hundreds of dollars in the family budget.

Carey Poitras, candidate for council

1. The most important issue facing Township council and by extension its residents is the state of the transportation network, or the lack thereof in the Township. The additional two cent per litre TransLink fuel tax, which is to be used to fund the Evergreen Line construction and other TransLink projects, has little to no value to Langley residents who need solutions now. Council needs to look at initiatives that will bring relief today and how to address this shortfall and imbalance with TransLink.

2. The single most important source of municipal revenue is our property taxes.  These funds pay for our operations including police and fire departments, roads, recreation facilities and amenities such as garbage pickup and programs run by the Township. There has to be a real political will to keep tax increases low.  Council needs to keep looking for efficiencies in our operating cost and make the township the best place to do business in Metro Vancouver.  Other ways to improve our revenue without raising property taxes is getting our share of federal and provincial grants for infrastructure.  We need to look at partnerships with these different levels of governments, and investigate partnerships with non-profit organizations to control cost. I myself have signed the Canadian Taxpayers Federation contract with taxpayers, pledging accountability to residents.

Kim Richter, candidate for council

1. We need to hit the “reset” button. We have to live within our means. The biggest challenge facing Township council is the rapidly escalating costs of municipal services with resultant escalating taxes and fees because growth is not paying for itself. A complete reassessment of the balance between spending and growth is required and firm limits need to be established. As taxpayers have to live within their means, so should the Township.

2. If it’s working, keep it. If it’s broken, fix it. If it’s no longer useful, get rid of it. Extensive municipal program review needs to be combined with annual zero-based budgeting. Council has to take the lead and put its foot down by adopting a strong resolution limiting tax increases then directing staff to live within those parameters. We can no longer do everything at once. We need to prioritize and stick to it.

Clive Rippingale, candidate for council

1. I think taxation is big for residents, both for Township spending and TransLink costs.  TransLink is always looking for more with little or no improvements in service. Property taxes are high, but properties sell below tax assesment value.  Can we get assesments into a realm of reality?

I would like the Township to have a piece of the gas tax that we pay already, even a larger share.  Bus terminals should be spread out around the Township.  Maybe we should shrink our government footprint by having one mayor, council and school board, seeing as Surrey is bigger and only has one of each.

2. Keep costs down by sharing some revenue from the casino.  Why not? It  is used to pay taxation and Township residents use it.

Carla Robin, candidate for council

1. The most important issue facing council is to truly address property tax increases, not just automatically assume that they are a given.

2. First, elect a Vote Langley Now council and re-elect Mayor Rick Green. We have pooled our individual strengths and taken the lead, investing  in examining various ways to stop the current level of property tax increases.  We have consulted with professionals, debated the issue and we now propose a strategy wherein a three-point plan can accomplish this.   It would include a Standing Committee of Finance, value for money performance audits and a structured Property Endowment Trust Fund. Innovative thinking and hard work can accomplish this for the Township residents and we’re the ones to get this done.

Dan Sheel, candidate for council

1. It is my experience that the top issue in the Township that residents are concerned about is transit. People don’t like having to get taxed more and not seeing any form of mass transit in return (i.e. light rail, SkyTtrain, even buses out to Richmond or Vancouver). Second is over development and improper development. People are packed in houses and townhomes without the proper space for people and cars to park in the neighbourhood. We need roads to support the development. An example is 208 Street.

Third, people are tired of the mayor and council not being able to do their jobs and agree on important issues. Fourth is City/Township amalgamation. Fifth is taxes in general, they’re too high. Sixth is Aldergrove residents not seeing proper services. A number of people are concerned about the  Hopington Aquifer. Seventh, the school system in general.

These are some of the issues that I am hearing out in the community

2. As for the tax question, I believe we should have referendum questions on the ballot to see which items the community supports.  Then the community would know the cost and decide if they are going to support major projects. I believe this would also get more people out to vote.

Terry Sheldon, candidate for council

1. Show me the books. I want to see an accounting of every department and how the Township is spending tax dollars.

2. There needs to be incentives for Township employees to show areas in which the Township can save money. We need to ask the people working there — how can we economize? I believe they can help council keep tax increases down.

Michelle Sparrow, candidate for council

1. I believe one of the most important issues our Township council faces is managing the growth of our community while being fiscally responsible.

2. Over the past three years I have attended over 50 council meetings.

I have done so because I am committed to educating myself on the issues we face as a Township. But, even with that commitment, I am not as of yet an elected official and have yet to participate in the budget process, so to speculate on how to keep our property taxes below two per cent, would be just that — speculation.

I believe the public deserves more then political promises made by candidates, whose sole intent is to win an election. What I can promise is my integrity, my resolve to listen, to ask questions and to always remember why I am here, my passion for representing your voice and perspective and to make a difference.

Dave Stark, candidate for council

1. I strongly believe that out of control spending, and a lack of accountability, have resulted in unneccesary and excessive tax increases to residents to be the number one priority. The issues and this culture have been carried on over time via multi-term candidates and have formed the “status quo” that residents voted to change last election. They did this by voting in Mayor Rick Green out of nowhere on a platform of change.

I believe, and the voting record of councillors have shown, that they continue to fight change and remain comfortable and content while disrespecting the wishes of the people. I originally started my campaign many months ago as an independent. After months of consulting with residents, it became clear that they wanted to see many of the “old guard” removed from council. I joined a group of independents to make it easier for voters to complete the change they spoke loudly and clearly about last election.

2. First, there must be a political will, and a majority of these individuals on council, to tighten our belts. This does not have to mean a decrease in services. I support the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance from 2009, which identified the simple steps to stop the out-of-control tax increases. A Property Endowment Fund would be created, the committee would continue, and value for money performance audits would need to occur. To ensure the above happening, a majority of Vote Langley Now candidates would need to be elected to council.

In fact, Vote Langley Now has already made a committment to a three-year tax plan of 0-0-0, if the above can be addressed. This approach and opinion has been built on a foundation of due diligence by researching other municipalities and speaking in-depth with financial professionals. Electing a majority of Vote Langley Now candidates will let us get on with the job at hand.

Glen Tomblin, candidate for council

1. Taxes, community planning, TransLink, tolls, transportation, council overriding public opinion

2. It’s time we “hit the reset button on taxes.” For the next three years, I want to keep more money in your wallet.”

Times are tough; I am making a commitment not to shrink your pay cheque. I commit to 0 per cent tax increase with no reduction of any municipal services. Only eight cents of every dollar collected in taxes stays in the Township, with 92 cents going to Victoria. Raising taxes doesn’t work. We own $500 million worth of land that should be a revenue stream offsetting tax increases through a Property Endowment Trust.

Community planning should be citizen led, not from developers. I propose a citizen-driven standing committee from all areas of Langley to approve development plans before staff or council view it.

Misty vanPopta, candidate for council

1. Residents want to see well-planned communities and safe roads.  The planning of such communities comes from a council that can work together for the greater good of its residents and can put in place the tools to accomplish this.  Current processes used to build up communities and new infrastructure are no longer working but are being ignored due to the discord and mistrust amongst the current council. This is the most important issue.

2. A more realistic approach is to keep any tax increases in line with inflation, while taking a hard look at our expenses to be sure we’re maximizing the value the Township delivers to the citizens of Langley. Also, if we bring more businesses into Langley it will bring more tax revenues into Langley, which then can be passed onto residents by way of lower tax increases or can be put back into community infrastructure.

Grant Ward, candidate for council

1. Our citizens are uncomfortable this term, expressing uneasiness, dismay and much dissatisfaction, mainly because of embarrassing top leadership on council as compared with the apparent smooth running of neighbouring  jurisdictions such as Langley City, Surrey, Abbotsford and others.  They want to see respectable levels of confidence and fairness brought back to the Township of Langley.

2. The cost of doing business within the Township and Metro Vancouver is tied with the Consumer Price Index (usually two per cent annually) and population growth at three per cent (up 30,000 in 10 years), requiring upgrades and setting aside of money for these future needs and for our children.

Assuring a reduction to two per cent will likely cause a very high catchup period and pain tomorrow.  It’s best to frugally manage the best we can today, rather than experience the pain of tomorrow.