The two different slates running candidates for White Rock City Council present two very different visions of what the city is and what it should be. On one hand, the Coalition has time and time again ignored their own Official Community Plan to authorize highrise developments without taking into account the needs of White Rock's current citizens and the city's infrastructure needs. I want to ensure that council remains supportive of moving White Rock forward with sensible development, and is welcomeing to new residents while supporting the needs of those that already live here.
The reality is that White Rock is going to continue to grow but that it should be done in a sensible manner that protects the needs of our current residents while expanding infrastructure, services and transit options for citizens who've lived here their whole lives and those that have just arrived. Paramount in that is ensuring that council does its best to protect the existing rental market for long-term rentals and encourages the construction of new mid-to-lower income rentals units to allow young families and working professionals to make White Rock home.
If elected I'll promote the following developmental policies:
Protecting Rental Stock: White Rock should follow the lead of other lower mainland cities such as Vancouver, and proactively protect our stock of rental units. Demolition of purpose-built rental units should be discouraged, and in some areas prohibited unless replaced with new units on a one-for-one basis, with displaced residents given priority on the new units.
Encourage Purpose Built Rental Units for Seniors & Middle-Income Families: From co-op housing to new rental units development in White Rock cannot be primarily driven by expensive luxury condos that sit empty or unsold. White Rock should be promoting the construction of new rental units, through the use of zoning, wavers of certain city fees, parking regulations, expedited processing of permits and more.
Follow the Official Community Plan (OCP): The current council is regularly allowing exceptions to its own Official Community Plan which results in taller highrises and less green space for citizens. Until a new OCP is developed exceptions to the current plan should be exceedingly rare and require developers to provide the city and White Rock residents with something in return. If a developer wants to build a higher building then there needs to be more green space, a public park, a number of rental units or some benefit that council can point to for making the exception.
A Voice for Transit: Given that a large percentage of White Rock residents work in surrounding municipalities, as the city grows our connection to Translink's services must also grow. From the Massey Tunnel replacement to Surrey's LRT and possible future Skytrain expansion, the city needs a strong advocate on transit issues. We can not simply keep adding cars to Highway 99 without adversely affecting the quality of life of working people. As someone who commutes to Vancouver for work, I understand the issues facing White Rock's commuting class and will be a voice in the region for improved transit to and from White Rock.
Prioritize low & mid rise development: While White Rock is going to grow, regardless of the "turn back the clock" rhetoric of some candidates, city council should be guiding just how that growth occurs. Low and mid rise development allows for new residents to join our community without many of the negatives of high rises. While there is little that the city council can do to stop development in progress, future development should avoid high rise development.
A Council For White Rock: I believe that White Rock's City Council should above all else serve the people who live and work in White Rock. That means all decisions should be viewed through the lens of how they will affect those of us who make our homes here and who earn our livings here. What's best for us, and for our children and future generations of citizens of this city?
A Future For White Rock: Future development should be approved only if it's clear that it benefits the citizens of the city. Like many of you I live in a relatively recent development, but I came to White Rock because I want to raise my family outside of the big city. Even as it grows I want to maintain White Rock's small town appeal, and ensure that everyone has access to parks, good schools, and community resources which will have to grow alongside the city.
Short-term Rentals (Airbnb): With a housing affordability crisis facing White Rock, council's primary responsibilty is to ensure the maintenance of a healthy stock of long-term rental units, as well as the needs of existing residents and strata councils. Yet we also should allow for innovation and new homeowners to use their primary residences for well run, properly licensed short-term rentals. I propose four policies that will help achieve this - click to see more.
Note: Since proposing these policies the City of White Rock has passed a bylaw that incorporates two of my four proposals and the province has adopted another one. Most likely this was following Vancouver’s lead and not mine. I still believe that two of the proposals are needed, as is stricter enforcement of the current bylaws.
I believe in an accountable and transparent city government. I will work to reinstate Question Period for all regular White Rock City Council meetings. I will also push to bring greater transparency, to keep the citizens informed. There have been great advances in technology and social media that allow other cities to be more open and accountable and I will work with the rest of council to bring similar tools to White Rock, or in some cases resuming using the tools that the city has already invested in. I will be talking more about this closer to the election.
Closed meetings should be rare for White Rock City Council and only in specific circumstances when required by law. I will also push to establish a minimum of two Town Hall Meetings a year where White Rock citizens and business owners are able to come and ask council questions directly.
I also will continue to be reachable via social media where I have a public Twitter account and a newly launched Facebook page where I can be reached and will respond. I know that not everyone is going to agree with every vote I cast, but you should feel like you can share your views with me and understand why I cast that vote.
Please also see my Modernization policies below which also touch on government transparency by indicating how White Rock should be making all Freedom of Information Requests available online, and how the use of modern issue tracking software and procedures within the city can make our city more open and accountable.
White Rock is a beautiful city. With a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean we are privileged to be surrounded by natural beauty. As a member of City Council I will work towards preserving that natural beauty. This means a considered and cautious approach to future development and ensuring that we do our utmost to preserve our natural assets including the city's tree population.
I will also look to encourage transit usage, sensible commuting strategies for those who, like me, travel from White Rock into Vancouver for work and working to make our roads better for cyclists and pedestrians. Supporting the expansion of Translink's routes into and out of White Rock as well as new services is a priority for me.
To further reduce waste and make White Rock a more environmentally conscious city, I am calling for a ban on single use plastic bags similar to what the city of Victoria has put in place.
As part of my commitment to the environment I am running a Zero Waste campaign, and will not distribute campaign handouts, door knockers or plaster White Rock in flyers which will only end up as trash on our streets or in a landfill. Other candidates may talk about being a green choice, but I'd rather lose a few votes than create needless waste.
As a growing city with an increasingly diverse population, the City of White Rock needs to take more steps towards modernization. Our method for reporting streetlight outages, potholes and other civic deficiencies is outdated and inefficient. We need an overhaul to adopt best practices for bringing these issues to the city and tracking their progress to completion.
What does this actually mean? Well check out this post on how we should be handling something as basic as burnt out streetlights.
If elected I will push for:
Modern Reporting of Civic Issues: From making a phone call, to going online to use the City of White Rock's website, to using a City of White Rock app on their phone, residents should be able to report deficiencies to the city in any way they choose and expect prompt responses.
Adopt Public Best Practice Issue Tracking Management: In software and game development we are able to track an issue from when it's reported by a user all the way to when it's fixed. A White Rock resident should be able to report an issue (like a burnt out streetlight) and remain informed of how the city intends to address the issue right through to when it's actually dealt with. There are federal grants for cities to adopt these practicies that could cover the cost.
Independent Review of City's Cybersecurity: Following the news that the District of West Vancouver’s had been hosting to malicious software for over 5 years, potentially allowing identity thieves to anyone who entered personal information into the website, it’s vital that city governments re-asses their security vulnerabilities. The City of White Rock has never had an independent review of its security, and maintains information such as citizens’ names, addresses, contact info (telephone numbers, email addresses) and driving license data. While credit card details are handled by a third party (Moneris) the data on hand could be used for identity theft if it became public. White the city does have a Certified Information Security Professional on staff, a trusted external review may turn up vulnerabilities that may have been overlooked.
More City Courses on Online Security: Whether it's seniors worried about online scams or parents wanting to know how to protect their children in an increasingly connected online world, the White Rock Recreation & Culture department should provide a variety of courses in keeping ourselves safe online, expanding on their current fraud prevention course. As with the city's fraud prevention course, these can be conducted in conjunction with the local RCMP detachment to ensure that those who want to learn about new modern risks to their security can stay informed. As an example of this kind out outreach check out what the City of Surrey is doing to protect their citizens.
Freedom of Information Requests Online and Public: Currently, if a citizen wants to find something out from the city that isn’t routinely available they file what’s called a Freedom of Information Request at a cost to the person asking for the information. Once completed all information presented in a Freedom of Information Request should be made available to all citizens on the city’s website.
Online Updated Water Quality Information: With the new program in development to ensure that White Rock’s water is safe the city should provide regularly (weekly or better) information on the quality of our water. There should be a dedicated water quality page on the city’s webpage that is updated with the current levels of the toxins in our water including Arsenic and Manganese. This way all residents can check and see what our current water quality is before drinking the water.
eSports: Competitive video gaming is still in its infancy but is becoming big business with Vancouver bringing nearly 8 million dollars into their economy by hosting The International this year and with the Canucks' owners the Aquilini Group bringing an Overwatch Team to Vancouver. While White Rock should not invest in a purpose-built eSports stadium, which is becoming increasingly common, we should look at how to either host or co-host with Surrey lower tier competitions in much the same way as we play host to cycling, curling, hockey and other events.
My concern over the quality of White Rock's drinking water was what first drew my attention to the actions of City Council. If elected I will work to ensure that the city's current plan for dealing with the water will provide the safest water for our families as well as being the most cost effective solution. Depending on the level of the City's financial investment by the time the new Council takes office, contingent on financial viability, I would support an independent study of the city's current plan. If another option, such as connecting White Rock's water supply to that of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, will provide better outcomes then I will push for that option.
I am not an expert on water. I am not a scientist, but then you and I shouldn't have to be. We should be able to trust that the water the city provides us, that flows from our taps, is safe. I promise to work towards that, and do so in an accountable, fiscally responsible and transparent way.
Providing safe drinking water is one of the fundamental roles of a city's government.
The following are other policy proposals that I would bring to City Council. Unlike transparent government and ensuring the city provides safe drinking water there are proposals that I'm willing to work with other councillors on, solicit feedback from the public and adapt to best fit White Rock.
Allowing Dogs Along The White Rock Promenade During the Off-Season: For many in White Rock dogs are an important part of our families. In our family we try to take our dog Max on family outings and often like walking along the waterfront. However currently this is not allowed as dogs are prohibited on the White Rock Promenade and the pier. This means we often end up in Surrey where we walk along Crescent Beach and later go for lunch or coffee. Allowing dogs along the Promenade would bring more citizens and visitors to enjoy the city's natural beauty and subsequently frequent the restaurants and shops along Marine Drive. As a trial to allow dogs onto the Promenade I propose that the City alters the relevant sections of Bylaw 1959 (which would need to be altered to allow dogs on the Promenade and pier) to allow dogs on the Promenade and pier between September 16th and May 14th. These dates mirror the rules in place at Crescent Beach and will provide another reason for people to walk the waterfront during the off-season.
More to come...