Controlling taxes key for Colwood mayoral hopefuls

Campaign signs have popped up, signaling the time for residents to choose a new council.

  • Nov. 3, 2011 8:00 a.m.

Carol Hamilton

Three veteran politicians vie for the top seat in Colwood

Campaign signs have popped up, signaling the time for residents to choose a new council.

In Colwood, with the mayor stepping aside and two councillors leaving their seats, there’s guaranteed to be some new faces at the council table next term.

Each of the three people vying for the mayor’s chair have served on council. All say more transparency is needed regarding what goes on in the chambers of city hall. The Gazette talked to each candidate about this and their other priority issues.

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Carol Hamilton, 56, is running for mayor for the second time. She served one term as councillor, then was defeated in the 2008 mayor’s race, but stayed active on City committees waiting for her chance to return to the council table.

During her council term, Hamilton supported the Colwood City Centre high rise development and the official community plan. She said she is in favour of high-density development and would also like to focus on attracting more commercial development to Colwood.

“I’m realistic about the needs of this community,” said Hamilton, a businesswoman and owner of Joe the Bartender. “It’s not realistic to promise no tax increase or to say we’ll stop development. We need to get money somewhere.”

She says government transparency could easily be improved with better communication.

“Maybe it means improving the Alcatraz of a website the City has,” Hamilton said, noting she’d like to see the website redesigned and to have draft minutes from meetings to go online as fast as possible.

She’d work to engage more members of the public and invite them to participate in council committees.

“I want to foster a spirit of co-operation with whatever council is elected,” she said. “I welcome a diversity of ideas and views from councillors and the public. I’d encourage discussion of everyone’s ideas.”

That includes taking a serious look at the question of amalgamation. Hamilton would have City staff look into the issue and, if warranted, take the question to a non-binding referendum vote.

Hamilton said Colwood is at a crossroads and needs a strong, committed leader — such as herself — to guide it into the future.

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Jason Nault, 58, is hoping to return to politics after taking the last council term off for travel and to wrap up his career as a research scientist with the BC Forest Service. Now retired, he said he’ll finally have the time to dedicate to being mayor.

“People asked me to run last term, but the timing wasn’t right,” he said.

Nault served three terms as councillor before resigning his seat. In that time he served on every major committee, including as chair of transportation committee, and was an alternate director on the Capital Regional District board.

As a councillor, he advocated for lower-density development, and holds onto the view that Colwood’s skyline shouldn’t be filled high rises. He doesn’t think Colwood should allow buildings higher than eight storeys.

“I tried to have maximum building heights included in the official community plan, but the idea was voted down,” he said, noting he would ask the new council to amend the OCP to stipulate building heights, if elected.

Like fellow candidates, Nault said increasing government transparency is important. As mayor, he said he’d limit in-camera discussions to the legal minimum.

He also vowed to post online a detailed list of his expenses as mayor, as well as a list of the meetings he had scheduled on a weekly basis.

“If we’re considering development proposals — like the current council is doing for Royal Bay lands — it shouldn’t be behind closed doors,” Nault said. “The public should be involved early.”

To keep taxes down, Nault said he’d review current spending on City services and look for ways to save money, potentially by contracting out inefficient operations.

“I don’t expect there’s a lot of frivolous spending, but there’s always room to improve,” Nault said.

Nault would like to see money set aside to make Colwood City Hall more welcoming to the public.

“Going in there, it’s like walking into a morgue,” he said. “I don’t think we’d have to spend a lot to improve it.”

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Brian Tucknott, 69, is serving his first term as councillor and hopes to return to the table as the mayor. He promises a more open and transparent government and no “municipally-generated” tax increases.

Tucknott has consistently voted against adding new items to the City’s budget. He says taxes are too high and, while he admits he can’t control increasing RCMP and CRD costs that are paid through municipal taxes, he said he wouldn’t add any new costs in municipal operations.

New programs would be funded by cuts, or increasing efficiency, in other areas. For example, he says the City could save a lot of money by integrating its services with other municipalities. He would like to share public works operations with Metchosin and contract all of Colwood’s IT needs out to Langford.

Ultimately, he supports the idea of amalgamating the municipalities and would hold a referendum on that issue: “It’s time we start asking those questions,” he said.

To increase transparency, Tucknott said he would encourage more public engagement by holding informal public drop-in times on Saturdays at City Hall.

He would minimize in-camera meetings to only what’s legally necessary and, for regular meetings, he’d hire a stenographer to take more detailed meeting minutes.

“I would encourage opposition,” Tucknott said, citing this as something the current administration doesn’t do.

Tucknott was removed from all council committees and task forces last year for making disparaging remarks about how the City is run.

But he says, while he struggled with the leadership style of current mayor Dave Saunders, he has a background in negotiations from a career as an airline pilot.

He headed a union of pilots and became an advisor for the International Federation of Airline Pilot Associations. He is now a semi-retired aviation consultant.

Tucknott said there are many things he wants to do to spruce up Colwood, including turning the lawn of City Hall into community garden allotments and beautifying the boulevards.

“People I talk to call us ‘the dog patch of the West Shore’ … Our community looks scruffy and run down compared to Langford and View Royal,” he said, adding that the public works department is under utilized. “It wouldn’t be a huge expense to make things a little nicer to look at.”

B.C. municipal elections are Nov. 19, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Advanced voting is Nov. 9 and 16, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Colwood residents vote at Colwood city hall, 3300 Wishart Rd.

reporter@goldstreamgazette.com

 

 

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