One of the loudest moments at the second Pitt Meadows all-candidates meeting came as a councillor reminded voters of their power.
Coun. Tracy Miyashita said there appears to be a highly engaged public for the 2018 election, evidenced by an 86 per cent increase in the turnout at the advance polls. That, she said, shows the public is interested in what’s happening at city hall.
“When things are going well, most people don’t pay attention to what’s happening in the city,” said the 10-year councillor. “I’ve never before seen so much citizen engagement until this term.”
She noted people have been active in social media, attended council meetings, are making T-shirts and even writing songs about the election.
“A guy I know voted for the first time in 60 years,” she said.
“Why? Because the community is saying ‘I want to be heard.’”
She said politicians work for voters, who have the right to attend council meetings, and they deserve to be respected.
“I am proud of the people of Pitt Meadows because when we are awake, mountains move. Be heard,” she said to a loud ovation at the Pitt Meadows Family Recreation Centre on Monday.
Event organizer Hanna Vorlicek of the Committee for Community Involvement estimated the crowd at over 300 and noted another 200 people were watching it live online at any given time.
Incumbent Coun. Janis Elkerton also said she was glad of the increased community interest. Both she and Mayor John Becker, whom she endorses for mayor, ran on council’s record, including the lowest tax rates in the Lower Mainland.
“Pitt Meadows is very unique in the Lower Mainland, and I am very proud of that,” said Elkerton, a 21-year councillor. “We have protected our agricultural land, and resisted urban sprawl.
“Our future is bright. We need to continue to follow the pathway we’re on.”
She said the city removed itself from partnerships with Maple Ridge “at substantial cost savings.
“We now have our own growing parks and recreation department, and a vibrant, made-in-Pitt Meadows arts, culture and heritage program,” she added.
Nicole MacDonald, who is running for council for the first time, also drew applause.
“I love Pitt Meadows, but I am concerned. I am concerned with the direction our current council has been going, and the style of leadership,” she said.
“Issues such as citizens not being heard and respected, and I believe them not feeling not represented over the Onni [Golden Ears] Business Park, and most significantly the handling of David Murray, when charged and convicted of sexually assaulting a child, are the catalysts for me running.”
Candidates were asked what are your plans to address traffic and safety issues, including speeding and pedestrian safety.
Mayoral candidate Bill Dingwall said the city has a number of high volume areas, including Harris and Bonson Roads and Airport Way that require traffic calming to protect children and pedestrians.
“This is a big one for me, and it includes the Lougheed Highway, and the second biggest collision intersection in the province, and working with the province to try and find solutions that will help our people commute and move down the Lougheed Highway.
Becker said transportation is always a top concern of citizens. He noted the city has committees to deal with local traffic issues, such as crosswalks, while the Gateway Collaborative Transportation Forum deals with the Harris Road underpass and Kennedy Road overpass. He said the city has no control over Lougheed Highway or CP Rail, so “it’s critically important that we maintain the relationships that have been built up over the years and partner with senior governments and agencies to get the kind of transportation improvements that we deserve and need for many years.”
The candidates were asked their strategy to raise revenue for Pitt Meadows.
Becker said spending wisely is key, and the city will also get an additional $2.4 million from phases three and four of the Golden Ears Business Park, which he called a “windfall to the city.”
He said the second strategy would be economic development of the Pitt Meadows airport.
“Currently, we bring in roughly $500,000 [per year] from the airport. We could easily double or triple that over the next decade.”
He said the North Lougheed study area is another key, and Becker is looking forward to the citizen engagement.
Dingwall said the involvement of small business is the key, but there is a lack of ownership opportunities because Onni, with the Golden Ears Business Park, owns and leases the majority of new business space.
“Ownership translates into investment, into equity, into pride, into retirement planning and roots being put down,” said Dingwall.
He called for the city to provide more opportunities for new businesses at the airport and in the North Lougheed area.
Council candidate Bob Meachen got audience appreciation when he said economic development should not all be “in one corner of Pitt Meadows,” referring to the business park.
“Should revenue enhancement come at the expense of quality of life that we all enjoy,” he asked. “Is it all about the dollars?”
“All business types pay taxes. It does not have to be a concrete box, looking like army barracks, like a gulag, just down in south Pitt Meadows.”