Re-Elect Teri Towner to Coquitlam City Council

My Speaking Notes During 2017 Council Meeting: Arena Services & Facilities Strategy

I was going through all my website blog posts tonight (Oct 8, 2018) and I discovered that this blog post re: the 2017 Curling decision was never “published”.  It was still inadvertently saved as a “draft”.  It’s an important issue so I decided to publish it now.

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I’m going to try not to repeat much of what’s already been said by my colleagues.  I do have lots I’d like to say and I will start with this:  I promised if I got elected, I’d serve my community with a dedication to being practical, reasonable, logical and sensible and make decisions based on what I feel is in the best interest of Coquitlam residents.  I have been approaching the issues this way, and I will continue to do so.

Sometimes civic issues require tough decisions.   We are elected to explore challenging issues and to make difficult decisions.  We, as a Council are elected, amongst other things, to make decisions on the optimization of the usage of municipal facilities.  We have to consider the community as a whole and make decisions that will bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number.

Some of you will be supportive of my decision here tonight, some of you won’t.  That’s democracy.  I must say that I truly think it’s wonderful that so many residents have been engaged, shared their input, their thoughts and ideas, their passion.  I thank each and every one of you for your involvement in the democratic process.

Speaking of democracy, I also want to take this opportunity to tell you all about correspondence we received insinuating that hockey players don’t vote but curlers do so if we want votes in 2018 we’d better vote this recommendation down.  Well, even if I agreed with that sentiment, I don’t view my role that way.  Decisions aren’t made at this table to simply “get votes” during the next election.  Decisions must be made for the well-being of the city – both present and future.  I encourage each and every one of you to stay engaged and make sure you come out and vote in 2018.

I also want you to know I will never play games or be “political” with my voting.  I will never vote for/against something that I KNOW is going to pass/fail based on my colleagues speeches so I can, on the doorsteps at campaign time say to someone with same view as my vote, “I voted against it”.  I will always support or not support recommendations to Council based on what I feel is in the best interests for ALL Coquitlam residents as a whole – for the present and future of our city. And even if a citizen and I disagree on something, that resident will always know my reasons, in a transparent way, for voting the way I did.  I don’t take decisions like these lightly.

We also received correspondence stating that hockey players have “steamrolled” us.  Well, to be entirely honest, my e-mail inbox wasn’t bombarded with e-mails from hockey.  In fact, I didn’t receive ANY emails or phone calls from hockey players.  Or skaters either.  They, as all arena users were told to do, submitted their feedback on the recommendations through their user association.  So, no emails or phone calls were made.  I take offense to the idea that I make decisions based on being steamrolled.  And in fact, with respect to this particular issue before us, any “steamrolling” that may have taken place has most certainly NOT been from the hockey/skating side of this equation.  If any of you think we’ve been steamrolled by hockey, you are incorrect.

Now that you know where I am coming from, I have some more things I want to say:

I’m not going to address every statement or the variety of reasons provided in the emails we received – I’m not going to respond to every concern. I’m not going to speak to the numbers. I will tell you however, that I have read each and every bit of input we received and have taken it all into consideration.

I will share this as a point to ponder:  this weekend I was at an Awards Night/Volunteer Appreciation event for the largest sports organization in our city.

There were speakers and a Q & A session on stage and one of the speakers shared a story with the crowd in attendance.  He stated that when he was involved as a parent in this league, he didn’t like many of the decisions that were being made by the Board – the people elected to make the decisions – and he admitted that he referred to everyone on the Board as “Muppets”.  So he put his name forward, and got elected onto the executive.  He then realized how much more complicated the decision making was; how much more there was to it.  He was astonished. 

He learned that balancing the needs and wants of the coaches and players with finite resources was challenging.  I’m telling you this because while listening, it struck me:  it’s true.  It’s OK to have opinions of course but others don’t always know or understand all the information and all the reasons for a decision when balancing needs of an entire league or in our case, residents. If anyone thinks we are taking our decision here tonight lightly and that it’s as straightforward as some may have presented it, I can’t speak for everyone, but those assumptions are incorrect.

We received numerous e-mails expressing outrage that if the two curling clubs are partnered, we, as Councillors, don’t support an active lifestyle for seniors:  I want you all to know, I FULLY support the active living lifestyles of our senior population – of all residents!  I’d like you to know the following:  When I was a SunRun training clinic manager and leader, I coached numerous people considered to be in that demographic.  As well, I’m proud to have supported the Seniors Strategy currently underway that will assess and make recommendations for ways our city can better address the recreational needs of seniors in our city.

In addition, Coquitlam has shown itself to be a leader in terms of supporting seniors’ activities.  Our city bid on and won the opportunity to host the 55+ BC Games and you may know we hosted it in September.  A city that doesn’t support seniors doesn’t do this.  And, just so you all know, I volunteered numerous of my own personal hours at our BC 55k+ Games.  In the pouring rain I was out there at the track measuring shot put and discus throws and many other tasks, in a week where my health and the demands of my family and Council duties didn’t really allow me the time.  I did it because I absolutely support an active lifestyle and the connections and camaraderie and friendships that grow from activities.  I found it to be incredibly inspiring.  I had the honour and the privilege to award 6 or 7 groups of athletes with their gold, silver and bronze medals and I was inspired by the athletes.  I didn’t commit this amount of volunteer time to these Games for any sort of recognition or acknowledgement.  I did so because I am not only in support of active seniors, I embraced it at every opportunity. I plan on being a participant in the Games in 7 years – and beyond.

My dad and mom used to curl.  My dad has since passed but I am in possession of his numerous curling trophies.  I was always intrigued by the sport and have even played it – as part of a league at Royal City.  Of everyone I curled with, at the Royal City club, no one lived in New Westminster.  We all came in from Surrey, Langley, Burnaby, Coquitlam and Vancouver.  People drive to locations where they can pursue their activities of choice; their interests.

I attended, throughout the weekend, the Scotties tournament that our curlers did such a fantastic job hosting earlier this year.  I promoted it on my social media pages, purchased raffle and 50/50 tickets and embraced all elements of our city hosting such a tournament.  I support the sport of curling.

All this said, I know this issue isn’t about me.  I’m sharing this with you so you know where I’m coming from. I support Coquitlam residents, active seniors and the sport of curling.

I think it’s extremely unfortunate that this issue became so adversarial, so “us versus them” and so full of misleading information.  Not once in any staff report that I read did I see the word “evict”.  Centralizing curling services by partnering with another club whose numbers are also struggling and converting two struggling clubs into one robust club only a handful of minutes away from where it is now makes sense – when one is looking at this from a practical point of view.  Two underutilized curling rinks within very close proximity to each other IS a concern.  Cities all over the world already share services: aquatics, senior centres – I’ve even known other groups within our city to consolidate for efficiencies and economic reasons when numbers are lower than optimal.  I’m aware of Girl Guide groups having to consolidate when numbers were low.  Schools do it too.  I bought my house on a street with an elementary school thinking that my kids could walk to school.  A couple years later, because numbers were low, the school closed.  This isn’t a new concept.    And, if the recommendation passes tonight the curlers aren’t being evicted.  No one has stated that anyone has to stop curling.  Two clubs will form a partnership.  Partnerships – achieving more together – is something I value and I believe our city AND our residents value.  It appears that Coquitlam curlers are a passionate bunch very keen on playing their sport.  I’m confident that the passion shown by the curlers in their correspondence with us, their enthusiasm and love for the sport, will result in a healthy, vibrant, engaged club that will reap many positive spinoffs.     Based on what I’ve heard, I’m entirely confident Coquitlam and Port Moody could – and will – achieve this.

We all want our kids to be successful in school, sport and extracurricular activities.  We want ALL residents to thrive.  Civic facilities have to provide the greatest good to the greatest number.  I understand the gist of the concerns expressed by some of the curlers – human beings by nature don’t like change – and I empathize.  I do.  But when I take a step back and look at the issue, what is in the best interest of our citizens?  Nothing has convinced me that having two curling clubs in such close proximity to each other is justified at this point in time.

I wish our city had more ice.  I want our city to have more ice.

I absolutely want to investigate the idea of a standalone facility for curling.  Absolutely.  I want us to continue to explore options to meet the demand for ice in our city. When door knocking in 2014, I heard from residents over and over again how badly we need more ice in Coquitlam.  I always want us to evaluate how to make the most efficient use of scarce resources to serve residents as well as possible. As I stated earlier, that’s always been my goal.

Based on the numbers, the input from the curlers, the input from the sports centre users association and after speaking with its members – and based on what I’m elected to do in my role as a city councillor – a role I take very seriously – I support the recommendation as outlined in the report before us.

This change will still only bring Coquitlam to a “basic” level of service with respect to ice arenas but the way it’s been thought out, and in balancing the needs of our growing, changing community, it’s a good start. 

Thank you.

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