By Ken Wuschke.
When looking for people to be on council most voters look to candidates that have experience as business and community leaders. I am a bit different, but I feel my background will help to bring the diversity to Abbotsford city council that we are all looking for.
Over the past thirty years I have been involved in community building.
Community building is where you work with a wide range of people and groups to create a better place to live in. The most important part of community building is seeing the opportunities that others do not. Then bringing people together to talk about if this will work for them. Finally, as a community builder, you step back and let those people take the idea from concept to implementation.
This is not an easy thing to do. It requires a lot of work. It requires the ability to actual listen to people.
A core part of community building is consulting those people who want to create something new for themselves and the city as a whole. Presently I find this to be lacking in our City Hall. All too often we find out about projects far too late to bring in the community to help guide the process. Look at Stave Lake, the YMCA, and the homeless. Few of these projects brought in the community until we were facing final decisions before city council.
I disagree with this process. The community should be consulted right from the start.
But if you have not been a community builder it is hard to understand this.
Take a look at business. Because of competition you do not create your business plan by talking to hundreds or thousands of people first. It is too easy for someone to take your idea and steal it. Once a business owner is up and running he or she tweaks the business plan as sales go up and down. But again only the business knows if they are doing well or not.
City government is different. In Abbotsford, for example, there are 139,000 shareholders. Every person who lives in Abbotsford owns a part of this city. Unless you are a child, everyone who owns and rents property pays taxes to City Hall.
So if there are 139,000 of us owning a part of the city, then City Council should be consulting with us first. Not when we, as in the case of Stave Lake, are asked to vote on a binding question.
Back in 2011 I took an idea to save the MSA Centennial Library and convert into an arts centre. I worked with different groups to develop a plan. I lobbied city councillors. I talked with senior staff at City Hall. It paid off for you. This coming week the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association and the Abbotsford Arts Council are going to be unveiling the Future of the Centennial Building.
You can read how I worked with many groups to help save the MSA Centennial Library from demolition so the Centennial Building could be there for you and your children’s future.
This is what I would bring to city council if elected. The ability to make opportunities for the community even when others don’t see them. The courage to say, “Here is an idea. Let’s dream and plan together.” The skill to find other partners who have the ability to provide sustainable funding and support to make the opportunity thrive for the whole community.
We need a range of people on our city council to reflect Abbotsford. From business people to those with sustainability backgrounds. And we need community builders.