A municipal election looms and speculation begins about who wants a seat at the Maple Ridge council table.
All but one of the seven incumbents are running again and three more challengers – Carly O’Rourke, Craig Ruthven and Grover Telford – are nipping at their heals, with the first proposing a headline-catching idea.
If elected, instead of pocketing the 13-per-cent wage increase council approved this year, O’Rourke says she will donate that amount.
Over three years, she says that will add up to about $5,000, which she’d like to donate to a yet-to-be-created community matching fund.
“I feel it’s part of an unnecessary pay raise,” she said.
O’Rourke wants to make the community matching fund a part of her campaign platform and will work to create that if she’s elected. If that doesn’t happen, she’ll give her pay raise to charity.
The fund would be a pot of money the District of Maple Ridge could create and make available to neighbourhoods on a matching basis. The money could be used for local projects if half the money was raised by the neighbourhood.
She’d also like to promote equestrian tourism, agrees with the creation of a part-time equestrian coordinator as called for by the Haney Horsemen Association, and said horse rentals allowing people to ride to Golden Ears Provincial Park would be unique.
But she wants to keep Albion flats untouched by development and to stay within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
O’Rourke is currently constituency assistant for NDP MLA Michael Sather (Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows) and says her political views will naturally come across at council, though she says she’ll be independent. If she’s elected, she’ll cut hours in the MLA’s office back to part-time so she can focus on council.
It’s her second time running for council. In 2008, she narrowly missed election, placing seventh.
“I think there’s a huge system in place to promote growth. It’s run by realtors and developers and we need to have citizens on council with the best interests of the public in mind.”
She supports development, but not at the expense of agriculture or nature or Maple Ridge’s rural character.
She’d also like to see councillors’ expense statements itemized, so taxpayers know exactly what they’re paying for, a part of creating greater transparency.
Craig Ruthven, a part-time high-school teacher in Burnaby, is also running for council.
He got involved with the Albion flats planning process in the fall of 2010 as a member of Residents for Smart Shopping, the Smart Centres-supported group that called for shopping in Albion flats.
He says in a news release he couldn’t make sense “of the very obvious gap between the demand/support (for a shopping mall in Albion flats) that I was seeing in the community and the staggering lack of support in those early planning sessions in what were supposed to be “ ‘open-ended’ explorations of uses.”
He said it was the public demand for more shopping in Maple Ridge that led council to submit a plan to the Agricultural Land Commission for extensive development of Albion flats. The ALC is still deliberating.
Ruthven also raised questions about creating local jobs and asked how can Maple Ridge expands its tax base while still retaining its rural character? And how should transportation be improved?
He pointed out development seems to be focused along Lougheed Highway and Dewdney Trunk Road and that there should be attempts to build off those routes. Alternatives to the auto should be considered and he wants more hours for the West Coast Express. On the other hand, it’s difficult to predict the future of the auto or the how roads will be used.
“It’s going to take a community to solve all of our issues and a council that’s skilled at listening.”
He said later he wants to move beyond polarizing politics and find middle ground so Maple Ridge can keep progressing.
“I think we need leaders who are strong. They’re able to look at the complexities of the issues and find common ground.”
He supports the downtown plan and the extensive efforts made in that area. But he wants the same “kind of care and attention to detail” applied to the suburbs, to prevent a “sprawling nightmare.”
But he wondered about council even considering paying $4 million up front (with later cost recovery) to install roads and sewers in north Albion, an expense usually borne upfront by developers.
Grover Telford, owner of Able Home Services, a home repair and cleaning service, also confirmed last week that he is running for a second time.
He sits on the Ridge Meadows Seniors Society board, on the district’s social planning advisory committee, and is a minor soccer coach.
Telford said he wants council to be more united and wants to improve communication between district staff and council.
Sometimes, he added, it seems staff is setting the agenda rather than council.
Developers are upset because their applications take too long to get approval.
He criticizes the current council for unnecessarily delaying the decision process on Albion flats and says it should have sent in a plan that addresses the Agricultural Land Commission concerns instead of one that calls for development of most of the flats.
“There’s no point putting a proposal together that’s bound to be turned down.”
Telford says his approach is middle of the road and considers both business and community interests.
“There’s a lot of points of view that have to be dealt with.
“I put a lot of effort into the community and I don’t have all the answers. I listen to people, what their concerns are. That’s how I form my ideas.”
His volunteer work leads naturally to serving on council, and after 32 years running his business, it’s time for a change, he adds.
He wants a balanced approach to growth and more business taxation to ease the tax load for homeowners.
If elected, he wouldn’t vote for a municipal budget unless there was a decrease. “I think there needs to be some belt tightening.”
Telford ran in the 2008 election and was pleased with the number of votes that he drew, attributing that to the reputation earned by his business.
He got an early start for the March 2011 campaign, adding that signs and a website are all ready.
“I’ve been planning and working on this for the last two years.”
Long-time council commentator and public relations consultant Claus Andrup also announced his candidacy after initially saying he was going to run in January.
Former councillor and journalist Sandy Macdougall has also announced his candidacy, as has Port Haney activist John McKenzie.
The present councillors seeking re-election are Craig Speirs, Al Hogarth, Cheryl Ashlie, Judy Dueck and Michael Morden, as well as Mayor Ernie Daykin. Linda King is not seeking re-election.