Q & A – Ken Wuschke

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?

Ken Wuschke City Council must function within the bounds of provincial legislation such as The Community Charter. The primary role of City Council is to work with the residents and taxpayers to create policies and strategies that help prepare for the next five to fifteen years of growth. These strategies are often developed through the different civic committees where they can be discussed at length. City Council then approves the various policies and strategies and, through the City Manager, these documents direct staff on how to achieve the goals of City Council.

AT Why did you decide to run?
KW I want Abbotsford to create a solid foundation today so that our children will have a great future here. However, the only way I can see creating this future is by opening up City Hall and inviting in everyone who wants to participate in shaping our community’s future. From my experience being on civic committees in Vancouver, Burnaby, and Abbotsford I have a good understanding of what works and what does not work in making a better city. We have to build trust with City Hall to build our community.

AT What does social responsibility mean to you as an elected city councilor?
KW Ensuring that all vulnerable communities in Abbotsford have a voice at City Hall. To me vulnerable communities means the homeless, seniors, youth, and the disabled. If you design your city to include these groups then you have accommodated everyone. An important goal of City Council is to make sure the vulnerable groups in our city are heard and accommodated for.

AT What do you want to accomplish and how will you get it done?
KW I would like to start by reviewing the civic committee structure. This would be a comprehensive examination of all the existing committees to determine if they are accomplishing their objectives according to their terms of reference. This process would take about a year to complete.
In addition, I believe if the City of Abbotsford introduces neighbourhood committees that review new developments, planning, parks, traffic management, and other issues the residents will be more involved in shaping their part of Abbotsford.
I would also like an audit of all current strategies see if staff have been able to complete the tasks as set out by previous city councils. Then evaluate if the objectives still remain a part of what the community wants. We are still working off of documents that are 10-years old. Examples include the 2004 Arts & Heritage Master Plan or the 2007 Transportation Master Plan. We need to bring all strategies and master plans up-to-date. I can see this process taking about a year to complete.

AT What should the City of Abbotsford do with Abbotsford Center now that the Heat are gone?
KW It would be good to look at a private purchaser for Abbotsford Centre, however as of December 2013 the City owes $47 million on the building making it unlikely someone would come forward to purchase it. At the same time the City of Abbotsford should look for a new anchor tenant that can utilize the building effectively. However, City Council should not approve any contract where the taxpayers are subsidizing a future anchor tenant.

AT What should Abbotsford’s approach to homelessness be?
KW We need to have both a short-term and a long-term goal.
The short-term goal would be two to three years long by creating a housing solution that helps those that want to leave the streets find shelter, job training, and ultimately find employment. This could be the Abby Digs concept on Valley Road.
The long-term goal would be to bring in existing non-profits that help stream the homeless into programs focused on mental health support, drug addiction recovery, and job training. The City of Abbotsford’s role is not to run these programs but to help coordinate and make sure that we are able to be effective and efficient in helping people who want to get off the street and get the hand up they need.

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?
KW My first step is to fully review the status of the law suits with the City of Abbotsford’s lawyers. I would ask if the City’s argument is sound with regards to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, based on what I have read of the ruling of Chief Justice Hinkson in B.C./Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors v. Abbotsford (City), 2014 BCSC 1817 it appears this might not be the case.
With that in mind rather than pursuing a costly court case it may be a cost effective approach for the City of Abbotsford to sit down with BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors and work on a solution that is balanced for everyone concerned outside of the court system.

AT Abbotsford suffers from the highest unemployment in Western Canada and has for years. What would you do about that?
KW One of the issues is that low-income wage earners do not have access to employment. One example is the Gloucester Industrial Park in Langley. We need to have the FVRD’s proposed Fraser Valley Express bus route stop there so that there is better access to these jobs. We have to improve our transit system to provide better access to jobs in the Peardonville Industrial Area and at Abbotsford International Airport. It seems that our transit system is not designed to get people to where the jobs are.
But we also have to invest in the City of Abbotsford’s Economic Development staff to be assertive in attracting businesses to Abbotsford. We have a great location – the airport, the border crossing, four railways serving our city and Sumas, a freeway. Yet we do not seem to have a proactive plan to bring to Abbotsford businesses that can employ people. We need to change this approach.
And we have to develop a long-term plan of bringing in high tech industries to Abbotsford. We have all the right elements to be an incubator community for start-ups – close access to important high tech centres in Vancouver and Seattle, great recreation destinations within an hour’s drive, a family orientated community, and relatively affordable housing. But we seem to not use these assets to promote Abbotsford as a great place to do business. We have to change this marketing strategy.

AT How would you resolve the commercial truck parking issues here in Abbotsford?
KW The first step would be to see if the August 2011 recommendations from the Mayor’s Task Force on Commercial Truck Parking have been implemented or have been stalled. (http://www.abbotsford.ca/Assets/2014+Abbotsford/Communications/Master+Plans+and+Strategies/2011+Commercial+Truck+Parking+Strategy.pdf)
Once this review is complete it may be necessary to revisit the issue a second time and see how the trucking community would like to move forward.
I do feel some steps have been implemented, for example the new private commercial truck park facility on Mt Lehman Road. However as much as I want to move forward as soon as possible it may have to be revisited in the first two years of the new City Council term.

AT Abbotsford has no animal control and care facility. Will you address this issue when elected and how will you do so?
KW City of Abbotsford’s staff is recommending to City Council on November 3rd, 2014 through Report No. COR 86-2014
( https://abbotsford.civicweb.net/document/42851/COR%2086-2014,%20City%20of%20Abbotsford%20Animal%20Control%20Program.pdf ) that the service be a part of the FVRD’s service. The animal control operation will continue to be based in Chilliwack even though FVRD Bylaw No. 1827, 2014 clearly states the City of Abbotsford is to pay for 63.1% of the total operations costs.
The main concern I have is that if there is an animal control call in Glen Valley it is over 50 km from the animal control centre in Chilliwack.
I believe that under the proposed agreement an animal control centre should be located close to the Vedder Canal. An alternative is to divide animal control into two zones and have the FVRD maintain services for the east half and the Township of Langley maintain the west half. The Township of Langley’s facility is located close to 264th St and Highway 1.
My preferred option is for City of Abbotsford staff to look at bringing in a non-profit organization such as the BCSCPA under a fee-for-service agreement. And that this concept would have an animal control centre that is central to all of Abbotsford.

AT Is there anything we should have asked that would better demonstrate your value as a candidate?
KW I want to bring all of the City’s strategies, plans, and policies up to date. Essentially to make sure no plan is more than five years old. Through having a holistic strategic vision for Abbotsford we will be able to better compete for attracting businesses.
Abbotsford is going to have many difficult issues come forward as our population is expected to increase from 139,000 to 164,000 by 2021. I want to bring to the discussion my understanding of the importance of balancing our urban and agricultural communities so that we working together on keeping to our current urban growth boundaries. This is where I would like to bring consensus building to City Hall.
One of my strengths is being able to listen to different views and bring various groups to consensus to move a community forward. I do this through facilitating discussion so that different groups can learn what the other needs and then discussing as a group what can be done to solve the problem at hand.
I feel that we have to find relatively low cost but effective solutions. For example, while a new traffic signal may be desirable at an intersection installation can cost $170,000. However, as a short term solution we could install four-way stop signs for under $20,000. This is the type of approach I want to bring to City Council, the ability to look at a problem and then suggest a range of solutions. Finally to think about the taxpayers in coming up with a way forward.

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.

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