Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read has cut back online presence. (THE NEWS/files)

A year left in Maple Ridge mayor’s tenure and so much to do

Nicole Read said last fall she won’t try for a second term

The countdown is on, as the months tick by in the last remaining year of the present Maple Ridge council.

After serving just one term, the leader of that council, Mayor Nicole Read, is stepping down after four years on the job.

She recounted her and council’s accomplishments last fall when she first announced she wouldn’t be running in the October 2018 election.

Read campaigned in the 2014 election to end homelessness and tried to get the province to cut the $1 million a year in funding it gives to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries, because she didn’t believe it was effective in finding homes for the hard to house.

Her term saw the start and end of the Cliff Avenue homeless camp, as well as the opening and closing of the RainCity emergency shelter and opening of the Anita Place Tent City, and extended protests over a proposed supportive housing and homeless shelter facility.

She also established task forces on government transparency and homelessness and also oversaw the arrival of transit service to Silver Valley, and got the B-Line moved from a five- to 10-year priority for TransLink, to a one- to four-year project.

She called the city’s new open-government portal “a huge piece of work” that fulfilled a campaign promise.

However, after two proposals for a supportive housing complex and homeless shelter were rejected by the then-Liberal government, Maple Ridge still has no supportive housing complex or modular housing project.

“I have a lot of work still to accomplish. We need to deal with this homelessness situation. We need to get people housed. So there’s a lot of work over the next year,” Read said.

One of the negatives she will take away from her initial foray into politics has been the effect of social media.

After receiving a physical threat to her safety in the spring 2017, and continuing to be the target of online vitriol, she has taken a step back from the online world.

It’s not because she wants to. But the constant attacks from the public from any comment she makes, exacts too high a price.

“I have shut out most of the online dialogue,” she said.

“I don’t how much of it is still going on. I know it is still going on.”

She does so reluctantly, however, because she believes social media is a crucial means by which politicians communicate with electors. She has spoken publicly about the topic and its effect on politics.

“It’s a deplorable state of affairs, in my opinion.”

Having to restrict her presence and curb her comments bothers her.

“Why should she have to do that?” she asked.

“So I need to be quiet in order not to be harassed? I need to be quiet in order not to be threatened? Is that the kind of world we’re going to live in?

“I have been absolutely assaulted online. I should never be in a situation where, as an elected official, I can’t communicate with my public because there’s people out there who have no ability to regulate themselves online and say absolutely deplorable things about me and anybody who supports me. I have had people who have supported me that have been threatened. I mean, it’s absolutely outrageous.”

She is also tired of the division in the community created by such acrimony. Her sense about the most controversial topic, homelessness, is that most in Maple Ridge want to see people housed and that only a small group opposes a shelter or modular housing.

“There’s a lot of damage being created by some people and why there’s not being more questions asked about it, I don’t know.”

“There’s a difference between healthy, strong debate, which I have no problem with, and people who just attack me and say horrendous things.”

Misogny flows through the criticism, she added.

Read won’t say what her plans are as of next October. She wants to see council finally decide on the new recreation projects that are supposed to be built. A public assent process takes place early in 2018 to give the city authority to borrow money for a new ice rink, sports fields an Albion community centre and other projects.

Regionally, she wants Maple Ridge involved in securing the second round of funding for TransLink’s Phase 2 of the Mayors Plan on regional transportation.

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