John Becker is sworn in as Pitt mayor.

John Becker is sworn in as Pitt mayor.

Transportation is Pitt mayor’s first task

John Becker facing ‘tsunami’ of paperwork already.

With critical meetings about the looming TransLink referendum set for today, there was no easing into the job for Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker.

He was already in what he called “full mayor mode” when the inauguration for Pitt Meadows mayor and council was held on Tuesday.

Becker has been hit by a “tsunami of confidential briefings” from TransLink.

The simple issue is that transit infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth, Becker explained.

“We need to invest in transit, to play catch-up to our growing communities.”

The region’s mayors put the TransLink referendum on hold until after the Nov. 15 municipal elections. Today, they will begin planning the vote on a $7.5 billion plan. It includes light rail in Surrey, a new four-lane Pattullo Bridge, a subway in the  Broadway corridor of Vancouver, and hundreds of new buses.

Becker said he believes there should be more in the 10-year plan for Pitt Meadows, and he will advocate for such, but added “every jurisdiction probably feels it could have done better.”

He said Pitt Meadows needs improved shuttle service and upgrades to existing bus routes.

Becker has spoken with Maple Ridge’s new mayor, Nicole Read, about their need to present a united voice at TransLink, to advocate for the neighbouring cities.

“We’re small frogs in a big pond,” said Becker. “We need to be credible together.”

TransLink must decide on a referendum question, have it approved by the provincial cabinet, and take it to a public vote this spring.

Becker said the transportation authority will want the region’s mayors to champion the cause.

“It’s the hope of TransLink that mayors will get on the bus.”

However, just last week Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan called the referendum “doomed,” saying it was too ambitious.

The provincial government made the referendum a condition that must be satisfied before TransLink imposes any new taxes on Lower Mainland residents.

Becker and the rest of Pitt Meadows council swore their oaths of office on Tuesday before a council chambers that was packed to overflowing with family, friends and local dignitaries.

He told his council colleagues to savour the moment, because they were in front of “the friendliest group we will ever see in the next four years.”

“I am both humbled and incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to begin the second 100 years of our history, along with my council colleagues,” said Becker.

He paraphrased the Grateful Dead in adding: “What a long, strange trip it will be.”

Becker said council will start to work on initiatives in the key areas that his team identified during the election, as they knocked on close to 4,000 doors: teamwork, transportation, taxation and transparency.

He has asked each of the councillors to submit a list of priorities to him.

“I said what I would do if elected, and now I will do what I said.”