In order to get beyond the election signs and the candidate profiles Abbotsford Today has put together a series of questions for candidates in the upcoming municipal election. We will be publishing answers provided by all those who participate.
Abbotsford Today: What do you know about the way civic government operates?
David Sahlstrom: I have shadowed Council for the last 3 years and have read the applicable provincial legislation. As part of shadowing council, I read the agendas, reports and background information and then watched the council meetings. Often times I would do additional research referencing other municipalities and professionals..
Shadowing council taught me that council deals with a lot of issues; some of which are rather mundane and some are tedious. Some issues move forward through the process step by step without critical analysis by council until it’s time for a final decision. At this time it is often too late to say no as there have been commitments and investments made that can’t be withdrawn.
I believe we need councillors that can provide critical analysis of the issues and say no to those that do not support our vision for Abbotsford or create unfunded liabilities.
AT: Why did you decide to run?
DS: I have followed City politics since shortly after moving to Abbotsford 20 years ago. My friends would often encourage me to run. During Plan A implementation and the Stave Lake Water Plan (which I first started reviewing in 2009) I began to get concerned by the lack of critical management and the poor treatment of residents by City Hall. Plan A saddled us with a huge debt and facilities that don’t meet our needs and are costly to operate. During the Stave Lake Plan, council, with the exception of Ross, ignored the concerns of the residents and pursued the project which was rejected by 75% of the voters.
I contemplated running in 2011 but decided that the City would be better served if I learned more about the process of governing the City and I started shadowing council. There have been improvements in Council this term but there is still a lack of critical analysis. A case example is the proposal to support the establishment of the YMCA with a $17.5mil contribution and tax exempt status. Aside from whether or not Abbotsford should be funding a business the questions that were never asked included: “Do we need another pool the size of the YMCA?” and “Is this an appropriate location?” Reviewing published literature on these questions, I determined that the answer to both was “NO”. (Contact me for more info).
The need for critical analysis of the issues has never been more important than now. With the rewrite of the OCP, council is determining the future of our City and we need to ensure that we provide a clear and defined framework that encompasses our vision for the City. There are many interests that are competing for the freedom to develop our City. The pressure to densify our neighbourhoods is strong. While I support densification, there is the need to balance it with protecting our neighbourhoods and developing a plan that enhances the livability and community spirit of our City.
AT: What does social responsibility mean to you as an elected city councilor?
DS: With a seat at Council, I am assuming the responsibility for the fiscal, economic, environmental and social needs of our City. I am assuming the responsibility to do the City’s part in providing for the social needs of all sectors of our community including both those who have homes as well as the disadvantaged who have no homes. I need to protect those who have homes and enhance their ability to maintain their homes and I need to protect those who don’t have homes creating an environment where they can end their homelessness. I have a responsibility to work with, and support, the care community in providing assistance to the homeless.
AT: What do you want to accomplish and how will you get it done?
DS: I want to get Abbotsford working for those who live, work, and play here. For those who live here, I will work for fair taxation and user rates that are justifiable. For those who work here I will work to strengthen their businesses through reducing unnecessary red tape, restrictive policies and subsidizing their competition. For those who play here, I will work to improve their opportunities and choices. I will work to engage, support and enable our communities to help them realize their dreams.
AT: What should the City of Abbotsford do with Abbotsford Center now that the Heat are gone?
DS: This is a difficult question. In many respects, the Abbotsford Centre is too large for a community of our size so its usability is limited. I would love to have a home grown hockey team play there but I think it’s too large. We probably need to secure a larger franchise but one that makes economic sense and draws a large enough crowd to fill it. Possibly a WHL expansion team. We also have the opportunity to repurpose parts of it for use as community space while maintaining the large venue for special events. Much like the Langley Events Centre.
The one thing that I do believe is that we should be using it as much as possible for both commercial productions as well as for community participation events including hockey, basketball, soccer, etc.
AT: What should Abbotsford’s approach to homelessness be?
DS: I believe that the City should support the care community (which has the passion for the homeless) along with the federal and provincial agencies (whose mandate it is to provide the funding and services). If elected, I would re-examine the hiring of a homeless coordinator as the City has no expertise or experience in this area. It was a quick decision to proceed in this direction and I think there needs to be a sober second thought.
I would re-engage the homeless task force with a modified membership that included more of the stakeholders and a new terms of reference that included the responsibility to co-ordinate the services and funding. The City would take a support role.
AT: If elected what would you do about the law suits faced by the City of Abbotsford by members of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors through Pivot Legal Society?
DS: Good rarely comes out of legal action and if it does it comes at a high cost both in terms of dollars as well as social. The City has gotten into this mess through a series of very poor decisions and actions. It’s time to put a stop to this and pursue a new direction. The DWS has stated that they would rather participate in reconciliation and a process to develop an appropriate solution to the issue. I believe the City should pursue this option and find a solution to the tent camps throughout the city
AT: Abbotsford suffers from the highest unemployment in Western Canada and has for years. What would you do about that?
DS: Abbotsford has been chasing developers for a long time providing tax credits and offsetting the costs of development. The costs for doing this have been borne by our residents and businesses The effect of this has been to make our businesses weaker even to the point of failure. Empty spaces from failed businesses can be seen throughout our City. Instead of chasing new business that competes with those here, I believe we need to strength our businesses. Strong businesses will attract new strong businesses and our economy will grow providing new jobs here in our city.
AT: How would you resolve the commercial truck parking issues here in Abbotsford?
DS: One of the problems that plague our City is the lack of balance in enforcing our bylaws and this applies to the issue of commercial truck parking. One trucker parks his rig (and maybe others) at his place while a neighbour continually gets issued bylaw infraction notices. I believe we need to provide adequate zoning for truck parking. There are areas where truck parking can be accommodated but it against the bylaws. I believe that we could provide bylaw relief for commercial truck parking in specified areas.
AT: Abbotsford has no animal control and care facility. Will you address this issue when elected and how will you do so?
DS: I understand that we have a working relationship with a facility in Chilliwack. As it is working and not broke then I have to question whether it needs fixing. I would be prepared to consider the issue if there was presentation that it was “broke”.
AT: Is there anything we should have asked that would better demonstrate your value as a candidate.
DS: I should have been asked about my vision for Abbotsford.
Abbotsford is blessed with a unique setting. We have a compact city core surrounded by agricultural land and Sumas Mountain. Because it is in the ALR, the city has not been allowed to sprawl as others have. Our University, Airport, Hospital and Cancer Centre, closeness to the US Border and the proximity to natural recreational opportunities are features that are envied. We have the opportunity to capitalize on these assets and by protecting our natural setting, enhancing our agriculture, creating a livable city and developing cultural opportunities in the City, we can become the preferred location for Good Businesses.
My vision is to create a culture in City Hall that engages, supports and enable our communities and community organizations to realize their full potential.
Abbotsford Today has put together an extensive section on the 2014 Municipal Election. In addition candidates announcements, profiles and Q&A as well as news stories, columns and pieces contributed by candidates it includes:
Contact Your Candidates
List of Candidates
Municipal Election Guide
New Local Elections Legislation
The Municipal Election Guide is made up primarily of information and links from the City of Abbotsford’s extensive information section on the City website which provides all of the information you will require in order to exercise your franchise.