Maple Ridge neighbourhoods want an inclusive council

Resident tell candidates all meetings should be broadcast on the web

From left

From left

To build a strong community, each area should have a community hall, a place where a bulletin board can note upcoming issues, a place where locals can hash out the issues of the day and, perhaps, make their case to Maple Ridge council.

It’s a concept that works in Thornhill, says Kiersten Duncan, seeking one of six spots on Maple Ridge council in Saturday’s election.

Every neighbourhood should have one, although currently Albion does not have one, Duncan pointed out Monday at another all-candidates’ meeting. Albion Hall was demolished earlier this year after Maple Ridge council said it would be too expensive to repair.

When candidate Sandy Macdougall was first on council, from 1977 to 1983, the municipal council used to hold meetings in neighourhoods such as Hammond, where they’d deal with issues particular to that area.

“It does create a better feeling of inclusion.”

One way to improve communication between politicians and the public would be offer live webcasts of council meetings and allow people to express on screen their feelings about the issues, added candidate Jacques Blackstone.

When people were asked by show of hands, how many people did not have a computer, no one put up their hand.

The evening was presented by Maple Ridge Neighbourhoods, a joint effort involving the Alouette Valley Association, River Road Association, Shady Lane Association, Silver Valley Neighbourhood Association and Thornhill Community Association, at St. John the Divine Anglican Church.

Candidates were given questions before the meeting, then grilled with follow-up questions for the public portion.

“We need to have a council that does listen to the public before they listen to developers,” said Dana Lang.

The mayor and councillors should take a 10-per-cent rollback in salaries, to show their support to the community, in these tough economic times, she added later.

Coun. Al Hogarth, a realtor, was asked who were more important: existing residents or newcomers who’ve just moved in? Hogarth replied that all residents are important and pointed out there are spaces for shopping and amenities in Silver Valley, the new subdivision at the north end of 232nd Street.

Silver Valley is a 30-year plan that’s just completed its first decade, pointed out Craig Speirs.

He wants to put financial incentives to encourage commercial development in the area.

But leapfrog developments, such as Silver Valley, comprise one of the definitions of urban sprawl, pointed out Christian Cowley.

He said about 11,000 homes are located in the area accessed by one road and no sidewalk.

“This is not planning folks. This is nonsense.”

But Hogarth countered to widen a road, the district has to acquire the right of way, by buying private property.

Graham Mowatt wanted to remove stop signs from Abernethy Way to speed up traffic flow, a proposal which Speirs called “ridiculous.”

“Those four-way signs are there for a purpose,” he added.

“Abernethy Way has got to be widened. There’s no other short-term solution,” Macdougall said.