Re-Elect Teri Towner to Coquitlam City Council

When I ran for a seat on Coquitlam City Council back in 2014, one of my campaign promises was that I would serve in a community-centred way. I am pleased to tell you that I HAVE been serving residents in a community-centred way. If the people of Coquitlam place their trust in me and re-elect me for another 4-year term, I promise to continue to serve the residents of Coquitlam with integrity and commitment AND with a continuing focus on our community; the people. You.

I am always out in the community, listening to people who love this city, and like me, who want Coquitlam to continue to be a great place to live and raise our children. 

Some examples of how I’ve served with a focus on community:

The Coquitlam Public Library hosted an All-Candidates “Meet & Greet” meeting earlier this month.  It was fantastic! I was very pleased to see such a high level of engagement on behalf of Coquitlam residents. 

I chatted with residents about zumba classes, bear aware education, speeding cars on our streets, densification, land use, “good neighbour” behaviours, the Riverview lands, cannabis regulation, assisting newcomers – and more!  I enjoyed every moment of it.

One member of the public told me he received an email from a Federal-level elected official endorsing a Coquitlam municipal candidate and he was disturbed by it.  He didn’t think that federally tax-payer paid politicians should be getting involved in municipal elections – that it’s not their job, not what they are elected and paid to do.  He then asked me what political parties and groups I had working with me and for me. 

My answer: 

I have no endorsement from or “towing of the line” affiliations with any political parties. I am independent with respect to my role as Council candidate.

I am not endorsed by an elector organization.

I am not endorsed by any political advocacy group.

I am not endorsed by any electoral slate.

I have no endorsement or support from a Federal or Provincial party, constituency or riding association or affiliated group. 

I am not endorsed by any labour union, labour congress or labour council. 

I am not endorsed by any special interest group.

There’s no organization, party or federal/provincial politician sending out spam emails or doing robo-calls telling people to vote for me.  

I’ll admit, I was encouraged to meet with a Labour group with respect to my re-election because I’m so “non-partisan”, “smart-growth oriented”, “inclusive” and “vote on the issues as they relate to Coquitlam residents – not according to towing any political ideology”.  I was curious so I took an hour out of my day and went to the interview.  During the meeting I was actually asked to do things, in my role of Councillor, that are against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms!   I pushed back during these requests and of course didn’t receive the endorsement. Even if I did, I would have said “Thanks, but no thanks”.  I honour the Canadian Charter – and myself. 

I serve my community to do just that: serve.  I don’t serve to push the agenda of any organization that isn’t simply the residents of Coquitlam.

I thanked this resident for his question and the opportunity to articulate all I had to say about this topic with respect to my candidacy.  

An active community is a healthy community.  Being involved in organized sports benefits the participants, our community and society on a whole.  Our children build character learning how to win and lose with grace, be committed, be a team member.  Organized sport provides volunteer opportunities for many wanting to give back and sporting events build community. 

This is, in my opinion, one of the key functions of local government.   People think of pipes, roads, garbage, police and fire etc. but healthy and active lifestyles – particularly for children and youth – have a huge and positive effect on the quality of life in our communities.  Sport provides vital life lessons, encourages achievement and teamwork, commitment to goals, personal discipline and hard work, leadership, sportsmanship, etc.  The leadership opportunities and contributions made by volunteer coaches and others to improving the lives of our youth are invaluable. 

Community sports organizations also do just that – build community.  Sport brings people together, provides social opportunities, a common point of contact and new relationships that within the realm of organized community sport helps form a backbone of the city. 

There are also economic benefits to organized sport. Tournaments and large-scale events inject dollars into our local economy.   Amongst other large sporting events, I have participated in the BC Summer Games twice and know how, in addition to everything outlined above, these games bring economic benefits to the host city and region.  I was thrilled to volunteer my own personal time to help measure discus and shot put throws during the Track & Field events at the 2016 BC 55+ Games hosted by Coquitlam. 

Promoting the 55+ Games

Of course, I also have to address that being active in sport provides health and fitness for those involved.  ESPECIALLY in this day and age where far too many children and youth are overweight and sedentary – and spend too much time on their screens – which doesn’t provide any of the desired outcomes outlined above.  

I have been very active in community sports my entire life – as an athlete, coach, volunteer, team manager, tournament volunteer and parent of athletes.  The experiences I have had – as well as the ones of my own active kids – had added to our lives immensely.  Because I know first-hand the vast benefits of being involved in community sport, I have always supported initiatives to increase participation and involvement. I have personally been involved in supporting/spearheading participation of low income residents, refugee newcomers etc. When citizens are active and connected to something, our community is richer for it and we all win.  

As a City Councillor I will continue to advance the increase in sporting amenities that are needed based on the Parks Rec & Culture Master Plan and demand in the community.

As vice-chair of the Sports Advisory Committee I have engaged with and listened to the various sports user groups and will continue to do so.  I am currently advocating for the Coquitlam Curling Club to get to yes towards building a regional curling centre in our city. 

During my term on Council the city has opened and/or upgraded numerous parks – including the revitalization of 12 parks in southwest Coquitlam.  The projects bring immeasurable benefit to our neighbourhoods and after I’m re-elected I will continue to ensure our existing facilities, parks and community spaces are maintained and new facilities are sought after where current demand is not being met.

I am committed to the well-being of youth, seniors and families.  I support initiatives and policies that promote accessible, quality recreation programs, support for team sports, cycling infrastructure, library services, youth programs, arts centres and festivals. 

I believe that a municipality should provide a wide offering of programs and activities that promote and encourage active participation for all ages and ability levels – ranging from set programs to drop-in classes.  I am also a fan of “Try it” events so residents can be exposed to new activities. Over 70,000 participants registered in Coquitlam recreation programs in 2017!  I will continue to support all of this! 

I want increased opportunities for our children to be active – unstructured activities such as what is offered in adventure playgrounds, (for more info: https://www.teritowner.ca/toggle/adventure-playground/ ) pop-up play, impromptu gatherings, connected, social neighbourhoods.  I will keep advocating for cycling infrastructure (multi-use paths, dockless bike sharing, more bike racks) and maximizing indoor and outdoor facility use. 

I believe that a connected community is a strong, healthy community and will continue to support initiatives that provide opportunities for impromptu gatherings and social connectivity amongst residents: grants for block parties, Neighbourhood Nights, Lights at Lafarge, Summer Concerts and the like.  Coquitlam has seen much success with the Block Party program and I hear from residents regularly how much they benefited from their neighbourhood block party: new friendships, increased safety and awareness – and fun!

The Coquitlam Crunch has up to 50,000 visitors each month in the summer!  This amenity is free of charge and is very much loved!  I was pleased to support the twinning of the stairs and I also support future improvement with respect to washrooms, water fountains, parking and expanding the trails.

The Burquitlam YMCA project is underway (a significant partnership) and so is a replacement for Place Maillardville.  I was one of the Councillors who pushed for a recreation centre on Burke Mountain to be built – sooner.  The shared use with SD43 at the recently-opened Smiling Creek Elementary school brings a variety of programs to northeast Coquitlam.

Over my term on Council, dozens of parks were built or revitalized – including the Southwest Park Blitz, the Foster Ave tennis facility was renovated, Porier Rec Centre made changes to enhance the usage of space, the Poirier Forum was open – just to name some.

Mental health challenges need more attention – more funding, more support, more treatment.  I will continue to advocate to the Province for more mental health-related resources in Coquitlam.

Another way for a city to be healthy and active is to promote and celebrate volunteer opportunities.  I am out at least once a week with different volunteer groups for a variety of causes and I truly believe that having access to rewarding volunteer activities helps with connectedness, social isolation and of course helps build a caring, connected community.  I especially love it when I see how involved our seniors can be in our community – through volunteerism.  It’s win/win/win.

Given my own background, I can personally relate to the challenges people face trying to make ends meet living in Metro Vancouver. Not only am I not detached from the reality of most working citizens, I am one of them.

Housing is a challenge facing every community in Metro Vancouver and Coquitlam is making progress incentivizing the development of a wider range of housing options – housing that will enable families to stay in Coquitlam, for people to put down roots in our city.  One example of the progress we are making:  as of April 30, 2018 there are an anticipated 3159 new purpose-built rental units and 986 new below-market and non-market in stream.  Other cities are looking to our strategy as a model to address housing affordability in their communities.  

But affordability isn’t just housing. Citizens need options for transportation, childcare and recreational opportunities. 

Dropping off 66 lbs of freshly-picked blueberries at the food bank

I will continue to advocate for more buses coming through our neighbourhoods, for cycling infrastructure and for more car-share programs in multi-family developments.  Many families can forego their second car and simply utilize car sharing for the “extra” required trips.  This is said to save families upwards of $10,000/year. 

I am an avid supporter of the development of childcare opportunities in our community – through schools, rec centres and park spaces, through density and regulatory incentives for daycare providers, and through zoning and land use requirements for developers.  I am also in favour of looking at ways in which the City can streamline the process for operators to obtain appropriate licenses and looking at ways we can assist groups wanting to operate a child care facility in Coquitlam. 

I am also an enthusiastic supporter of affordable recreation opportunities.  I support the various Parks and Recreation programs designed with affordability in mind, the Get Connected, Get Active, the One Pass and the Low Cost, No Cost programs – and more.  I  believe that access to affordable recreation is important for the health of a community. 

I support public policy initiatives that help address affordability and will loudly advocate to other levels of government for necessary changes and programs helping to address this challenging issue. 

Assisting a child with new clothing after a fire displaced her family

 

I support excellence in police and fire response. I am very proud of the work both Coquitlam RCMP and Coquitlam firefighters provided to assist with the BC wildfires during the provincial states of emergency these past two years.  Their commitment and dedication to our community is top-notch.    

Coquitlam is a safe place to live and raise our children and we are fortunate to have effective public safety strategies, initiatives and dedicated, professional police and fire personnel. 

Because of proactive policing and the work of the Uniformed Crime reduction Unit (UCRU) crime did not increase with the introduction of the Evergreen Line to our city. 

But public safety isn’t just about police and fire response.  I have been advancing traffic safety initiatives, particularly around our schools,(for more info: https://www.teritowner.ca/teris-platform/community-centred/ ) as well as road infrastructure improvements.  From small changes such as suggesting “No Parking” signs where I see a hazard to larger, more significant changes such as improvements along the Lougheed Highway corridor and the Brunette Interchange.  I will continue to work with our Traffic experts to make changes to improve safety and will continue to advocate to the levels of government responsible for the larger road infrastructure projects. 

Crosswalk flags on Mundy Road

Speeding vehicles in our neighbourhoods is a significant concern.  I will continue to advocate for the Speed Watch initiative, for more flashing signage reminding drivers to slow down and for an increased police presence on our streets where speed is prevalent. We have more residents, more traffic and it makes sense to also have more enforcement of driving behaviour on the roads. 

I attended the Sept 18, 2018 news conference launching Project Scarecrow – an initiative that is aimed at slowing speeding motorists down.  I enthusiastically support any and all initiatives aimed at addressing the issue of speed in our neighbourhoods.  https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/09/a-creative-tool-to-address-speeding-in-our-neighbourhoods/

Sadly, we are in the midst of an opiod crisis and Coquitlam is not immune to it.  The Riverview site should be re-purposed to provide an increased level of mental illness and addiction treatment.  With respect to safety, we must take measure to address the public safety aspects of addiction.  This includes improperly discarded needles.  It breaks my heart to hear that some families avoid certain parks and green spaces because of the fear of coming across a discarded syringe. Through my work on the 3030 Gordon Emergency Shelter Task Force, I will be advocating to harm reduction agencies to help address this concern.  I will also push to have more sharps collections containers installed in our community.  One pricked person is one too many. 

Living safely with our city’s wildlife is also very important.  We are blessed to be surrounded by mountains, a river, streams, forests and an abundance of green space.  With that abundance of beauty comes wildlife.  I have been very vocal with respect to education and outreach efforts informing residents how to live safely and I will continue to do so.  For more info: https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/07/using-a-dead-habituated-bear-for-educational-purposes/

Coquitlam is a safe place to live and raise a family and I believe we can all work together to keep it that way.

 

I want Coquitlam to continue to be a welcoming and inclusive city for all.

Although I could provide numerous examples how I am passionate about building community, creating connectedness and opportunities to be welcoming, I will only outline a few.  I truly believe that it is the PEOPLE in our city that are the most important and that everyone who wants to be here, feels they belong.

I support a range of housing from our 3030 Gordon Emergency Shelter all the way to single family estate homes.  (although I desperately wish we didn’t NEED homeless shelters. . .  .) We have to offer the entire spectrum of housing to ensure anyone who wants to live in Coquitlam, can. 

I want our city, at the grassroots level, to be more connected. We do seem to have a connected, involved community but I believe we can do more.  I support more initiatives such as the Block Parties grant, the weekly “Neighbourhood Nights”, the “Welcome to Coquitlam” event and the various programs that provide outreach to residents.   

Over the years I have been invited to numerous block parties and impromptu street hockey games and gatherings.  I strongly believe we need to encourage more opportunities for this type of impromptu play and connection.  It’s these types of grassroots activities that truly build a sense of community. 

At the 2016 Welcome to Coquitlam event

I think making residents aware of “Good Neighbour” initiatives also helps.  For example: the Snow Angel program that encourages residents to help clear the sidewalks for elderly, disabled or ill neighbours.  Also, why not assist your neighbour take his/her waste collection carts to/from the curb?  All these initiatives, which can be promoted by the City – and ultimately your municipal leaders – can do wonders for building a connected, caring community.

I attend and embrace all the multi-cultural events and festivals that take place in our city:  Festival du Bois, Nowruz Festival, Chinese New Year, the BC Highland Games, Swiss National Day, the Iranian Fire Festival, Diwali-related events, Eid and more.  I love that our city is so celebratory about our diversity!

Through my work as co-founder and chair of the TriCities Friends of Refugees Task Group I had the opportunity to hear this young Syrian boy’s speech.  After asking for his permission, I shared his speech with the TriCity News so TCN readers could enjoy his sentiments, learn his story and perhaps gain some understanding. Sharing these types of stories is also one way to promote a sense of welcoming and inclusion in our city. 

https://www.tricitynews.com/news/i-have-a-good-life-here-student-says-1.23352325

For more info on the welcoming work of the TriCities Friends of Refugees: https://www.teritowner.ca/media-coverage/

The story printed in the TriCity News

Accessibility is important for communities, for our society.  Our city must be inclusive and accessible to all and of course that includes individuals living with accessibility challenges. 

I had the opportunity to be vice-chair of the City’s Universal Accessibility Advisory Committee and heard from many in our community facing accessibility challenges. I am always pleased to hear how we can make our facilities and events more accessible and am proud that in the summer of 2018 a new wheelchair accessible dock was installed at Como Lake Park. 

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/wheelchair-bound-seniors-relive-fishing-como-lake-1.4746536

I have been a very vocal advocate for more transportation options and that includes more accessible taxis and ride-sharing options that are wheelchair-friendly. http://bit.ly/2PSd49c

I have played wheelchair rugby, aka murder ball, at a neighbouring municipality’s rec centre.  I fully support more wheelchair recreation opportunities in Coquitlam.

I am receiving a high quantity of emails, phone calls and questions on the door steps pertaining to the upcoming legalization of cannabis.

The specifics of each question vary.  Below are some facts and my thoughts on the topic.

Earlier this year, Council took the initiative to change Coquitlam’s zoning regulations to prohibit the sale of non-medicinal cannabis in Coquitlam. We did this because of the impending legalization of cannabis by the federal government and the complete lack of regulatory framework on behalf of both the federal and provincial governments. 

Medicinal cannabis is permitted in specific zones and all other cannabis-related uses are prohibited – in all zones. Following the finalization of the federal and provincial legislation and regulations, the City of Coquitlam  will develop a consultation strategy to gather public input. Feedback from the public will then guide how non-medical cannabis is regulated in Coquitlam in the future.

To summarize, cannabis will soon be legal in Canada, but it will not be possible to sell non-medicinal marijuana in Coquitlam. 

I share many of the concerns I’m hearing about the possible unintended consequences of the legalization of cannabis. I feel very strongly it has to stay out of the hands of young people and I have concerns around public safety when it comes to operating motor vehicles.

Many are asking me about the public consumption of cannabis.  Coquitlam has a Bylaw that doesn’t allow smoking – of anything – in our parks. I’d like to see the regulations about public consumption go farther. 

Cities are going to be faced with the enforcement of the various issues around the legalization of cannabis.  In essence, it is another downloading of responsibility and costs from higher levels of government on to cities. 

For more info: https://www.coquitlam.ca/city-hall/news-media/news-media/2018/04/10/coquitlam-to-implement-interim-measures-on-cannabis

We have more seniors in our community now than we’ve ever had before and this population group will double in size over the next 10 to 15 years.  It’s important for city officials to recognize this demographic change. 

Enjoying lunch at the Glen Pine Pavilion

I supported the City developing a Seniors Strategy focusing on goals and related actions intended to meet the recreation needs of older adults and seniors. I also support our two seniors centres, the Dogwood and Glen Pine Pavilions, continuing to provide programming and services for seniors, and the larger recreation centres adapting their offerings to meet the growing needs of older adults and seniors in our community.

I fully supported the proposed development of seniors housing on Johnson Street.  I was dismayed to hear from surrounding residents that they didn’t want the project because of the perception there’d be more emergency vehicles and sirens in the neighbourhood, disrupting their quality of life.  Seniors are the pioneers of our community and we absolutely MUST provide housing, services and amenities to meet their needs. 

I attend Seniors Planning Network meetings, help out at the Dogwood and Glen Pine volunteer appreciation days and took it upon myself to engage the Dogwood woodworking club to build the Little Library I recently installed at the Burquitlam Community Garden.  I absolutely love going into the pavilions and chatting with the seniors in our community. 

Chatting at the Dogwood Pavilion

I enthusiastically support opportunities for seniors to be active and I embraced Coquitlam’s hosting of the 55+ Summer Games.  I volunteered numerous hours of my personal time to volunteer at the Track and Field events – measuring women’s shot put and discus throws!  I was also overjoyed for the opportunity to present medals for numerous 55+ Games events. 

Awarding a medal at the BC 55+ Games

There are a high number of seniors living in poverty in Coquitlam.  I support more affordable senior-friendly housing solutions, affordable recreation opportunities, transportation solutions and the promotion of “neighbourliness” – encouraging residents to be involved in the Snow Angels program, help with garbage/recycling carts. 

My thoughts on accessibility: https://www.teritowner.ca/toggle/a-universally-accessible-city/

Serving coffee at the Dogwood Pavilion 

Over my first term on City Council I learned how much cost pressure is added to the City budget because of senior levels of government downloading costs and adding increased regulations.  Some examples that come to mind include the downloading of policing DNA analysis costs, costs pertaining to the maintenance of dikes and now more recently the provincial employer health tax being implemented January 1, 2019.  There has also been a downloading of senior government responsibilities related to housing. . . . . . .

Add to this such things as a changes in the national lifeguarding standards and the requirement to hire more lifeguards, new storm water management requirements, new streamside riparian area protection regulations, climate change risk management, GHG Emission reduction issues and more, much more.  These are but a few examples of costs that get added to city budgets. These are all important safety requirements, environmental initiatives and the like but property tax-payers can only bear so much. Especially right now. The extra financial burden being placed on local taxpayers, especially those on fixed incomes, simply isn’t feasible.  

Another learning throughout my term on Council:  City Councillors certainly don’t have the “power” to assist residents with all their concerns!  The Local Government Act and other legislation is quite prescriptive and I discovered many times that although I WANTED to solve an issue for a resident, I couldn’t.  Some examples of this include: having an empty, boarded up, derelict house demolished or limiting the time between sale and re-building; being able to address concerns resulting with “unneighbourly” tenants in a house owned by out-of-country landlords, quantitative measures to address disturbing noise pertaining to mechanical equipment in surrounding yards – and more. 

Taken from a video I did on unsightly premises

I am doing my best to advocate to gain more tools to deal with some of these challenges that residents face.  I would like to see changes to how BC Assessment classifies and assesses properties for taxation.  I would also like to see turf fields made eligible for funding by development cost charges (DCCs).  Both these issues are legislated provincially but affect local governments and residents/businesses in our municipalities. 

 

One of the characteristics of Coquitlam that many love is its vibrancy.  But we can do more! 

I have been pushing for more restaurants, more patios, more street and social connectedness.

I fully supported Coquitlam changing its zoning bylaws to allow craft breweries and have embraced all that a craft brewery in our city has to offer.  I would love to see more!  People are living in smaller homes with less room to entertain, have people over.  Therefore, many look for opportunities to connect with people outside of their home and I believe Coquitlam needs more of these opportunities. 

I support staying a “City of Festivals”.  We have lots to celebrate and celebrating is one way to be vibrant, connected and welcoming.  

I fully support more amenities and public spaces for all to enjoy – including off-leash dog amenities.  

Our beloved Town Centre Park performance plaza is something I was proud to support.  This amenity is instrumental for bringing people together and celebrating music, art, cultures and more – much more!  A blog post I wrote about this: https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/07/why-i-supported-the-town-centre-park-performance-plaza/

I couldn’t afford to live in Metro Vancouver if I didn’t already – not even as a renter. Chances are my kids won’t be able to afford to live here.  Many families are in the same position.  Living in a region with natural beauty, a strong economy and many reasons that make it an attractive place to live has really distorted the market with respect to affordability.  I am passionate about implementing solutions whereby this can be addressed.

A Housing Affordability Strategy was implemented during my term on Council – a strategy we worked very hard to create – and is proving to be successful. For example, in 2017 alone, over 700 units of purpose-built rental housing units were approved. As at April 30, 2018 there were an anticipated 3159 new purpose-built rental units and 986 new below-market and non-market units in stream.  

A primary goal of the HAS we adopted back in December 2015 is to work with partners in the non-profit, private and public sectors to ensure that a variety of housing types, sizes, tenures and prices will be available in Coquitlam in the years ahead of us. Rental housing is one of these and I am pleased that rental housing is going to become a more predominant from of housing in our city.  Many people want to live in Metro Vancouver but owning a home is not something that will be within their reach in this housing market.  Having an adequate supply of rental housing gives people an option to stay in Metro Vancouver, to stay in Coquitlam if that’s what they choose to do.

I want to continue to refine our successful HAS – attracting more affordable housing options for families and seniors – and for those whom a single-family house is out of reach. 

I have been addressing housing affordability by encouraging/supporting different housing forms and pushing for and supporting proposals for housing options that aren’t the too small condo or the too expensive house. One of the main responsibilities of a City Councillor is to make decisions regarding land use.  I take that role very seriously and want to ensure our City Council makes the best decisions for the community with respect to the use of our limited land.  

A blog I wrote earlier this year: https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/02/coquitlams-focus-on-addressing-housing-affordability/

We need to keep providing incentives to secure a wide range of housing options and solutions.  I support incremental density in neighbourhoods where it fits.  Our Housing Choices program has seen some success with fourplexes, laneway housing and 2-lot splits and I look forward to more creative options and better use of our precious land as we go forward.  

I aim to keep incentivizing and supporting rental projects so we can achieve a minimum 3% rental vacancy rate here in Coquitlam.  Increasing the supply of rental housing and addressing the vacancy rate will help stabilize rental rates and will provide more opportunities for those “harder to house” to find housing.  Increasing the vacancy rate will also hopefully encourage landlords currently refusing to maintain their rental units, to improve them – so the quality of the rental homes improves.  3% isn’t a fantastic number with respect to rental vacancy rates, but it’s a start.   

There’s some angst in our city regarding the possible re-development of our mobile home parks.  I believe we need this type of housing in Coquitlam and will be a loud voice at the table to ensure this type of housing remains.  

A housing solution I am VERY proud to have spearheaded:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/volunteers-find-creative-solution-to-house-refugees-in-coquitlam-b-c-1.4144384

The first housing project utilizing the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund https://www.facebook.com/notes/teri-towner/coquitlams-first-partnership-using-the-affordable-housing-reserve-fund/10153815675892182/ 

To read the City of Coquitlam Housing Affordability Strategy, adopted in December 2015 : https://www.coquitlam.ca/planning-and-development/resources/affordable-housing.aspx

A post I made back in summer of 2017: https://www.facebook.com/notes/teri-towner/realizing-rental-housing/10155026612322182/

 

I’m seeing a number of municipal candidates focusing their election efforts on issues and causes completely out of the realm of municipal government. I admire everyone who has passion for issues – and I am passionate too – but I take my role as Coquitlam City Councillor very seriously and promise to stay focused on what I’m elected to do: represent you and make decisions on your behalf in the City of Coquitlam.  I will of course advocate to other levels of government and other organizations (for example Translink) when advocacy is needed, but my mandate as a municipally-elected official is to serve as a municipally-elected official.

The mandate of Coquitlam City Council as stated on the city website is as follows:

“Coquitlam City Council is responsible for local government leadership and decision making in the City of Coquitlam. The primary function of City Council is to consider the interests and well being of the public and the City and to use its powers for the benefit and protection of its citizens. The Council does this through the establishment of administrative policies, the adoption of bylaws and the collection of taxes.”

As your City Councillor, you can expect me to ALWAYS consider the interests and well being of you, the taxpayer, and to ALWAYS make decisions that will benefit and enrich residents’ quality of life here in Coquitlam. This is very important to me.

Additionally, I want you to know, that serving as Independent City Councillor I won’t waste your time, tax dollars, or trust by focusing my attentions outside of my elected role or being influenced by forces outside of the local democratic process. I will continue to represent the public on civic issues within the local government by seeking the residents’ input and acting on their behalf. Yes, there are many important matters at the provincial and federal level, but my civic duty will be to continue to serve local residents about local matters. It is within this role I will continue to work to build relationships with all government in order to benefit residents.

A few examples where I’ve respectfully advocated to other levels of government – and will continue to do so – include: 

1.)  a notice of motion I put forward asking the provincial government to open the door to ridesharing in BC and to establish a framework for this transportation option and

2.) speaking directly to the federal immigration Minister about the challenges involved finding appropriate housing for refugees in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country – and a market with the lowest vacancy rate.  

After this meeting with the Immigration Minister & MP I spoke about the challenges of housing in our region

3.) collaborating with SD43 with respect to partnerships involving public amenities

4. advocating at every opportunity to the Provincial government for more mental health services and supports, more resources for the treatment of addictions and more resources for supportive housing. Through all my work on the Homelessness & Housing Task Group and the 3030 Gordon Emergency Shelter Task Force and I am VERY aware of the many gaps in what is needed in our community.

I take my role as a community leader in local government very seriously.  I was awarded at the Union of BC Municipalities convention with this certificate:

 

I want to hear from you!  I want citizens of Coquitlam to have a strong voice. I want people to feel they have more control over changes happening in their neighbourhoods. I want more citizens to have more engagement and participation when it comes to changes taking place and I want this participation to be PROACTIVE rather the REACTIVE.  I want us to have more conversations with residents regarding the future of their changing neighbourhoods.

Residents indicate they don’t receive or read the local paper so they miss important announcements about public hearings, public consultation opportunities.  I’d like to figure out a way to get more residents to subscribe to the city’s email alerts.  Most households have an email account – we just have to let them know of the various email subscriptions that are available.

The City mails out thousands of letters each year to residents advising them of various hearings etc.  I think that signage is a great way to complement this.  I keep hearing from residents that they weren’t aware of a pending change in their neighbourhood because they didn’t receive the notice in the mail. Signage assists for these instances where the letter gets lost in the mail, doesn’t get opened etc.  I’m optimistic we can figure out ways to bring awareness to citizens who want to have input. 

I value all input from residents and listen to every single piece of input I receive.  My favourite part of my role as a City Councillor – hearing from residents about issues that are important to them.  I believe better decisions are made when we hear from a high number of residents. 

I have been doing my own personal outreach campaign encouraging people to get out and vote in October!  Your vote is your voice and I want all citizens to have a strong voice.  Please, let your voice be heard and vote on October 20.

During the 2014 election campaign, I ran afoul of some members of Council for raising questions about the decision to establish a temporary trial Truck Route designation for Mariner and Como Lake without consulting residents.

I truly believe that we need to seek input from residents when decisions are made at the Council table and I have served the community that way over these 4 years as a City Councillor.  When there’s a change being proposed for a neighbourhood, because I am aware that not all people read the newspaper or subscribe to the city’s email lists, I knock on doors so I can hear from residents directly.  I read and respond to all correspondence I receive via my social media channels, via email and in person. And I visit residents at their homes when their concern or question involves their property, their neighbourhood. 

I will continue to serve the Coquitlam community this way.  I want to hear from as many residents as possible – on both sides of an issue.  That’s when the best decisions are made.

 

I believe that taxpayers expect us to work respectfully and collaboratively with each other as well as with other municipalities, levels of governments and stakeholders to address challenges, find solutions and get things done.  Playing politics, being partisan, causing divisiveness and being adversarial is not productive, not effective and is not my style. 

I consider it an honour to be elected by Coquitlam citizens and to represent them at the council table  It truly is a privilege – one I take very seriously.  Over my first term on Council I have witnessed all sorts of non-collaborative, very political, “game playing” behaviours.  I will never publicly call people out but instead, promise Coquitlam residents that I will always work hard, be respectful, create a space to find solutions and not promote divisiveness pitting people, groups or levels of government against each other. 

One example:  I will never vote against something that has a bit of opposition that I know will pass so I can reap the benefits of getting support from residents who are happy it passed (because Council passed it) AND the support of the people who were against it.  Being able to stand on the doorsteps and take credit for being on Council when something passes and the resident is happy (residents don’t remember who voted against it when it passes) as well as when a resident is upset something passed and being able to say, “I voted against it”.  I will always vote for or against something based on what I think is the best decision for the community at large – not to gain political points or support on the doorsteps.    

This is just one example as to how I WON’T behave.  You can always count on me to act with integrity, not play political games (I don’t believe in making a mockery of democracy) and respecting the trust the residents placed in me by electing me.   I ALWAYS have the community’s best interest in mind and that will always show through.

Our community will be a better place when we all work together toward a common goal rather than against each other.  Let’s keep Coquitlam the great place it is by staying focused on what the residents elect us to do! 

 

There is nothing more important than our children.

We need to make sure they are kept safe. With the growth of our community we are seeing more vehicles on our streets and unfortunately we are also seeing drivers who are often distracted or driving in an unsafe manner. There is more traffic around schools than before.

More children attend schools cross-catchment to participate in the wide variety of program options available to us in our School District 43 (SD43) education system. This has resulted in fewer kids walking to school, more kids being driven to school, which leads to more traffic around schools. Many of our older schools were built in the day when children walked and therefore very little parking is available. I’ve witnessed first-hand the mad scramble at drop-off and pick-up at numerous schools and some of the existing safety hazards that this type of situation creates.

Prior to being elected in 2014, I worked with schools to address traffic and pedestrian safety issues.  As an active executive member of the District PAC (DPAC43), I sat on the TriCities Traffic Safety Committee with representatives from SD43, each city and the RCMP.

Since being elected, I supported the School Traffic Safety Improvement program and the School Walkability program that the City of Coquitlam implemented. I also worked with HASTe BC (Hub for Active School Travel) and the Montgomery Middle School PAC and spearheaded having crosswalk flags installed on Mundy Road at two crosswalks.  These flags increase the visibility of the crosswalks dramatically and improve the safety for the kids who have to cross Mundy Rd. to get to school.  These crosswalk flags are the first to be installed at school in SD43 school. https://hastebc.org/.   I have since met with representatives from other schools who are starting the process of having these crosswalk flags installed near their children’s schools. 

A blog post from last December:  Crosswalk Flags – See & Be Seen (Dec 1, 2017)

Speaking to middle schoolers about safe, active routes to school

I also engaged with middle schoolers and spoke at a variety of assemblies, met with the “Cool Routes to School” and leadership groups promoting active transportation, Bike to School Week and being safe en route to school. 

The sooner all improvements to traffic and pedestrian safety around schools are realized, the better.

 

I Initiated and spearheaded Coquitlam’s participation in the Canada 150 Mosaic Mural project. There were numerous obstacles to overcome to make this community-building and permanent art project come to fruition and I’m proud that I persevered and that my Council colleagues supported my idea! 

Having over 550 members of our community come in to the library and help create a permanent art piece that commemorates Coquitlam and it’s history, in my opinion, is what “community building” is all about.  I was happy to participate in two of the tile painting sessions and was elated to see youngsters and grandparents, newcomers and lifelong residents taking time to paint a tile and help create this beautiful public art that will be enjoyed for decades to come.  

A blog post from January: https://www.teritowner.ca/2018/01/celebrating-canada-150-building-community/

 

During my first term on Council, the Evergreen Line opened! Coquitlam will need to continue connecting our bus, bike, and pedestrian networks to the rapid transit to allow residents to increase their mobility while decreasing their dependence on automobiles. I’m hearing that many feel they wait too long for a bus to arrive so they turn to their car.  

I will continue to advocate so transit options are delivered to where there’s demand and seamless connectivity is provided throughout our entire community.

We have made progress and I will continue to work to ensure that bike and pedestrian networks are a safe and accessible way to provide opportunities for residents to use healthy and eco-friendly transportation modes.

I will also continue to work to make certain that new development around Evergreen Line stations includes appropriate densities, streets that are pedestrian-friendly, and perhaps a creative blend of land uses, in order to maximize the fundamentals of transit-oriented development. The more residents we have living and working close to our up-and-coming high-quality rapid transit, the better.

I also think that Coquitlam’s transportation challenges should be made a higher priority amongst the region in order to deliver the appropriate levels of transportation options to all areas of our growing city. Continued advocacy and collaboration with all relevant parties involved to achieve these successes will be what’s needed. I am dismayed at the delay in the upgrades to the Brunette Interchange.  I will continue to advocate for the improvements to be made as quickly as possible.  

I am a firm believer that more gets accomplished when relationships are good, and I will continue to have positive working relationships with TransLink and all stakeholders involved in addressing transportation issues and challenges.

I believe that more must be done to incentivize people to get out of their single-occupancy car.  Our region is growing, with growth comes more cars on our roads.  We absolutely MUST increase our options to get around efficiently: buses, car sharing, ride hailing, u-bikes, pedestrian-friendly, connected neighbourhoods.  

When looking at multi-family development proposals, I ask what the plans are for car-sharing if that information isn’t provided in the report.  I want more opportunities for families to be able to abandon their second car. 

I want more infrastructure for cycling and have been a very loud advocate for ride hailing in our region/province – including having our Council send a letter to the Province asking to implement a framework for ridesharing.  We’ve sent that letter to both governments that have been in power over my term.

We need more options on how to move around our region.  

Coquitlam is a beautiful city containing many waterways, green spaces, forests and natural habitats and we need to work hard as a community to protect and preserve these. We need to balance the region’s development with preservation and enhancement of the natural environment. I am fully supportive of the Metro Vancouver Urban Containment Boundary and ensuring all future development – based on growth projections to 20141 – is accommodated inside this boundary.  

I will continue to work with Council and the stewardship groups to ensure we protect, enhance and preserve our streams and natural environment.

I will also work to ensure the local stewardship groups receive the necessary funding to continue doing the great work they are currently undertaking.  I absolutely love attending the Environmental Awards luncheon every year and hearing about all the great work groups in our community are doing for our green spaces and natural habitats. We have so much to celebrate! 

A tremendous asset to residents of Coquitlam, the region, and entire province, in more ways than one, is the natural beauty of the Riverview Lands. The treasured botanical garden and irreplaceable arboretum most definitely need to be preserved so it can always be celebrated and enjoyed.

Environmental Initiatives:  I pick up litter regularly and organize community litter pick-up events – that are very well attended!  I’ve also become known by many residents as the “Councillor to call/email” when illegally dumped garbage/junk is discovered. I’ve had “No Smoking” signs installed at gathering areas in parks where I discovered discarded cigarette butts in the bark mulch, the dry grass etc.  (even though smoking is not permitted in Coquitlam parks) 

I proposed a “Curbside Giveaway” initiative to increase recycling and keep more items out of the landfill.  Engineering & Public Works is currently working on a report for Council about this idea.

I attend tree planting, invasive weed pulling and shoreline clean up events that are organized throughout the year. Anything to keep our natural environment protected – and beautiful.

I believe trees are very important natural assets. The issues pertaining to urban forests and an urban tree canopy aren’t simply about the beautification of our cities. The issues are around human health and the health of our planet. In other words, it’s not just about the trees but also about the people. 

It’s very important for municipalities to have policies that balance private property rights and the protection of trees and to have effective practises for engaging the community with respect to trees.

 

My family lives five minutes from this magnificent property and we truly cherish it as a sanctuary and a remarkable asset to residents of Coquitlam, the region, and the entire province. The tremendous heritage buildings and irreplaceable arboretum need to be preserved and celebrated. We need to work firmly with the province to see the site properly maintained, consistent with the Heritage report completed by the province.

I have long supported efforts to preserve the full 250-acre Riverview site, in public hands and for public purposes, and as your City Councillor I will continue to do so.

I am in full support of re-purposing Riverview hospital. There is an obvious critical need and overwhelming public demand for mental health care services.

We desperately need more treatment options for mental illness and addictions and these valued lands are the perfect spot for this type of care. I will continue to do whatever I can to bring sufficient and necessary mental health care back to Coquitlam at the Riverview site. 

I will also continue to advocate for other important issues on the site including preserving the green space and the arboretum. 

I was pleased when the provincial government announced $175 million in mental health facilities for the Riverview lands – the relocation and expansion of facilities from Burnaby.  These buildings are currently under construction. 

A lot of work still needs to be done to address the mental health needs – and the opiod crisis – in our community and the Riverview site is the optimal site for these services and supports.

I was one of the Councillors who supported the funding and construction of the Town Centre Park performance plaza – now named the TD Community Plaza.  This outstanding community amenity brings people together, helps to build community and provides a top-notch opportunity for our city to congregate to celebrate the arts, cultural events and festivals.  It truly is an outstanding public space, a jewel in our city.  

Town Centre Park won the Canadian Institute of Planners 2017 “Great Place in Canada” award: https://bit.ly/2o7bLY2  

A previous blog post “Why I Supported the Town Centre Park Plaza: https://bit.ly/2P8hYOV