More Than Ever, Abbotsford Needs Change

By November 11, 2014Hot Topic, Mike Archer

By Mike Archer. This has been, without a doubt, the nastiest, most personal and dirtiest municipal election in recent memory in Abbotsford. It has also been the nastiest I’ve seen in my 25 years in the media.

Perhaps the fact that so many powerful, well-heeled and well-connected people in Abbotsford stand to lose their connections at City Hall has something to do with the nastiness.

As both Don Campbell and Henry Braun have said during the election campaign, there is a small group of people who benefit from very close relationships with City Hall. There are also two un-elected business organizations which have ties which are far too close to the decision-makers at City Hall.

There is something which even some of the incumbents seem to be able to agree upon.

We need to do better.

Despite the bizarre attempts of incumbents Dave Loewen and Bill MacGregor to misuse statistics in order to show that everything is fine (at one point even blaming Aboriginals for our high unemployment), most people seem to agree that everything is anything but fine in Abbotsford.

Contrary to what our two school-teacher incumbents tell us, with or without our aboriginal population, we still have the highest unemployment in Western Canada.

Abbotsford has unusually high levels of Hep C and HIV and some of the highest levels of drug use in our high schools.

Abbotsford has nothing to offer its bright young graduates in terms of meaningful employment in their home town. Our children must go elsewhere for meaningful employment. That’s a big problem.

We have built a city with no coherent approach to zoning which is completely dependent on the automobile. People need to drive to shop and too many need to drive outside of the community to work.

For over a decade Abbotsford has offered investors, developers and businesses little reason to move here other than tax breaks, incentives and deals on zoning to make up for the fact that only certain established and connected businesses seem to be able to make any money in Abbotsford.

Our water rates have skyrocketed despite the revelation that we have no water shortage and without any increase in service. The cost of water in our rain forest community is one of the first heart-stopping surprises which awaits families who are brave enough to move here.

When interest rates start to rise in 2015 middle class homeowners are going to be squeezed even more than those in neighbouring communities who enjoy lower water rates.

Our worldwide reputation for criminalizing homelessness and using cruel, abusive and illegal means to convince them to move around rather than help them rebuild their lives, will not be resolved by further criminalization, legal battles, injunctions or appeals. This community has to come to terms with the fact that it has a significfant homeless problem and that it has allowed politicians, staff, representatives of the care community and the police to do some pretty awful things to them.

I could go on but, if you have read Abbotsford Today over the last six years you know that I do not believe all is well in Abbotsford.

It isn’t.

I’ve been accused of being mean, insulting, angry and of crossing the line in making fun of politicians and those who would join their ranks.

When I have stepped across that line I have apologized. When we have made mistakes we have owned up to them immediately, honestly and openly.

To attempt, as Mayor Bruce Banman did at the mayoralty debate, to blame all of Abbotsford’s nastiness and negativity, which emanates primarily from the bully culture at City Hall, on me in my role as Managing Editor of Today Media, is simply mind-boggling.

Especially when he followed it up with a social media onslaught against Henry Braun for which he and his team should be ashamed and for which he owes Henry Braun a very public apology.

To try to claim the excellent work of City Manager George Murray as his own and then to lash out at those who criticize him or disagree with him is an unseemly side of the man we accidentally ended up with when we were so determined to get rid of former mayor George Peary for his part in the great water referendum lie.

During his three years as mayor Banman has done nothing to deserve re-election and, during the last weeks of his term his performance in a desperate attempt to get re-elected has proven an even bigger disappointment.

There are only two incumbents who deserve to stand a chance in Saturday’s election.

Patricia Ross, who, despite her lack of depth or understanding on many issues, has at least allowed herself to be convinced by more powerful councillors on those issues, and because of that, there is at least the hope that, if she is surrounded by a good council, she will vote for positive change.

While Ross has tended to be a one-issue candidate – the environment – it is nonetheless an important issue. I have been critical of Ross for failing to show the depth of research and understanding on issues of crucial importance to Abbotsford. I nonetheless believe her political motives are pure and that she can be relied on to do the right thing once properly informed.

Henry Braun has proven himself a councillor who gave a damn about his job and understood his role as a representative of the citizens of Abbotsford. Despite the significant pressure brought to bear against him by Mayor Banman, as well as councillors Smith, Barkman and MacGregor, Braun did the right thing time and again and voted in the interest of the citizens who paid his salary instead of the narrow self-interest of the lobbiests who seem to have taken over local government in this city.

He has proven that he makes principled political decisions and is prepared to risk his political future for his principles. He understands how to manage a large organization and he knows that Abbotsford citizens are sick and tired of hearing political pablum in response to their legitimate concerns about what has happened to their community.

You may not like me because I say things which you believe shouldn’t be said in public.

That’s fine.

You may not like Vince Dimanno because he has stood by and allowed me to say some of the things I have said.

That too is fine.

But if you allow what someone has told you about me or Vince Dimanno to warp your sense of reality to the point where you decide that what we need is more of the same … then the political process in this community has truly been hijacked by the self-interested and the yahoos.

If you recognize names on Saturday’s ballot because you’ve seen them in the newspaper or elsewhere and you recognize them as an incumbent councillor … do the opposite of what you have done in previous elections – don’t vote for them.

Vote for anybody else and we will have a better community.

Find ways to express your anger at me or Vince Dimanno, but don’t punish future residents by re-electing the people who have done such damage to this community and made it such an embarrassment to its citizens.

I happen to believe that there are candidates running in this election that represent the last, best hope for significant change in this community for years to come. Vince Dimanno is one of them. That’s not because Vince Dimanno is my business partner … it’s because I’ve read his platform, as you should do so too … in order to vote responsibly.

There are several other excellent candidates who deserve a chance to serve as well. There is room for most of them if we do the right thing and retire those who have been living in denial for far too long.

If you believe all is well in our community and that we need more of the same then by all means vote for the men and women who have given you the community we have.

If you believe change is needed, don’t vote for those who, despite years in pubic office and enormous amounts of evidence of their mistakes, have shown no interest in admitting their mistakes or, more importantly, in changing course.

Whatever you do … get out and vote. If you intend to stay in Abbotsford, this could be the most important election in your determining your future.

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • The Editor says:

    Jeff Klassen Says: The latter of this article couldn’t be more on point! If we get this wrong this time it’s shame on us… And my family discusses moving with more intent.

    Enrique Rempel, If Henry Braun is our mayor, your concerns about A1 will be mostly moot! He truly intends for there to be transparency, as he had already modeled in his platform, and will model to council. Meaning we should see their actions and see accountability to those actions. No more hiding behind closed doors!
    I believe full scale change is needed. The incumbents are motivated by the business few and their stroking of egos for their own financial gain. Henry is motivated by the resident many, whom he has actually sought out to understand their plight. He has made his money and gains nothing from the stroking of his ego. He knows what business needs. Heck! he has been one of them! He will not line the pockets of a few in the business community. But rather he will forge equal opportunity for all business to flourish!
    And in order to right the ship quicker all incumbents should perish so the resistance to proper change is minimized and all hands are ripped out of the pockets of the city…

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  • The Editor says:

    Debbie Knighton Fortnum Says: Loved your closing statement: “He (Henry Braun) has proven that he makes principled political decisions and is prepared to risk his political future for his principles. He understands how to manage a large organization and he knows that Abbotsford citizens are sick and tired of hearing political pablum in response to their legitimate concerns about what has happened to their community.” As a friend, and musician who has benefited from his his quiet support and generosity, I can vouch for his character. Unfortunately, there’s only one reason this election got so nasty: When someone is desperate enough to sling mud that doesn’t exist, it raises way more questions than answers when it comes to the underlying character of someone leading the city. Clowns belong in the circus. Actors belong in the theater. But Henry belongs in the Mayor’s seat.

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  • Observation says:

    ” I nonetheless believe Patricia Ross’ political motives are pure and that she can be relied on to do the right thing once properly informed.”…I couldn’t disagree more. Yes, Patricia Ross may speak well on environmental issues but having sat on committees with her my experience is that she is mean and overall incompetent. She is all about Patricia Ross. High maintenance and utterly arrogant.

    Unless you have personally worked with her you wouldn’t know…She does not deserve to be re-elected and I for one will not waste my vote on a person I have had direct negative experience with and can with 100 percent confidence call rotten to the core and a bully.

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