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 the residents of today but also have a vision for the future.  I am pleased to tell you that I have been serving residents in such a 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 dedication.  I also commit to focusing on today’s citizens but also to making good decisions for a strong, viable future.

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 being future-minded:

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.  

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 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

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/

Local businesses are the driving force behind our community. A strong, thriving business presence is fundamental to Coquitlam not only in providing employment but by also adding livability and vibrancy to our neighbourhoods.

I want fewer people hanging their hat in Coquitlam at night and leaving the city to work elsewhere during the day. I will continue to do as much as possible to create more local job opportunities so more residents can live AND work here. I will continue to support regulations and zoning that are business-friendly and streamlined – less “red tape”–and continue to work to create conditions, including modifications to commercial taxes/fees, for small business opportunities to develop, grow and prosper.

Entrepreneurs are the driving force behind our community. More and more people are taking this route and creating businesses and ultimately, jobs. I think incentives and policies need to be created to make it easier for this to happen – for a business to succeed.  I’m proud that the City of Coquitlam recently established Business LinQ – a One-Stop Business Resource Centre that links existing or prospective Coquitlam businesses to the resources and support they need. http://www.coquitlam.ca/city-services/starting-a-business/business-linq 

 

As a Council we are currently looking at strategies to attract more office space to our City – and in particular to the areas served by rapid transit. We are making progress and I look forward to continuing with this initiative.  I discovered that Coquitlam has a history of allowing developers to bank office space. I don’t support that happening in the future.  I will ensure that no more office space is deferred and we get the office space we need to generate employment growth.  https://www.tricitynews.com/real-estate/developers-bank-too-much-office-space-city-1.23344616

As a resident, a mother, and someone involved in coordinating events–big and small–I’ve always supported and promoted our local businesses. My family and I shop local as often as we can–including the Farmers’ Market and U-Pick blue berries at Coquitlam farms.  I attend Chamber of Commerce events so I can connect with even more local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Throughout my term on Council I have been involved with and supportive of the Coquitlam Youth Council.  I have attended their meetings and events, picked up litter with them and acted as a mentor.  I am assisting the group and am the adult sponsor for the TedX event – Coquitlam’s inaugural TedX event! – they are organizing for November 17, 2018. Save the date!  For more info: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/tedxyouth-lafarge-lake-tickets-49114152753 

I attend and speak at youth-organized events such as Talk to Me 2.0, youth public speaking contests, Slam Jam and more.  The leadership, talent, organization, compassion and humour these youth all exhibit, and the causes they support, are outstanding! 

I plan on advocating to form another City of Coquitlam advisory committee – a Youth Advisory Committee.  We need to ensure we make decisions that will benefit our youth of today but also our future generations. Their input towards a wide variety of issues will be valuable.  For more info on the current committees: https://www.coquitlam.ca/city-hall/mayor-and-council/Committees-Task-Forces-and-Boards.aspx

I am also doing proactive outreach to the youth in our city to try and increase their engagement in civic affairs, local government and to increase their participation with respect to voting in the election. It’s been shown that when young people vote in the first election they are eligible to vote in, they are more likely to remain engaged citizens as they go through life.  

 

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 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.

 

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.

Did you know that 70% of your tax bill goes to the City of Coquitlam to fund local municipal services? Coquitlam provides the following services with your tax dollars: police, fire, parks, recreation, arts & culture, traffic management, street maintenance, planning and development, sewer and drainage, water, and solid waste—otherwise known as garbage.

Responsible municipal finance involves engaging with the residents to confirm the spending priorities and ensuring that the costs are known and accepted. There are always competing requests for funding at the City, and residents need to be part of the conversation. I am pleased that public engagement with respect to the budget process has dramatically increased via the interactive Citizen Budget tool. Resident input is very important to me and I listen to and truly value what residents have to say about where their tax dollars will be spent. I will continue advancing strategies to engage even more residents in the process. 

I believe in protecting taxpayers’ interests, focusing on the priorities of the taxpayers and making the best possible use of available resources. I also believe that responsible local government uses dollars wisely in allocating for infrastructure for future generations. We have to plan well.

Heading into a Budget meeting at City Hall

As your City Councillor, you can expect that resident priorities are considered in the budget process and that spending decisions are made in the best interests of the taxpayers.  I’m pleased that over the course of my first term on Council, Coquitlam has had a consistent percentage decrease in property tax increases.  

I will continue to be diligent in looking for process improvements and identifying opportunities for budget improvements so that services and programs are run as efficiently and effectively possible.