Jesse Ketler: a progressive voice on a supportive council

Jesse Ketler: a progressive voice on a supportive council

Cumberland Councillor Jesse Ketler championed social procurement in her first term, and now she’s got more “crazy ideas” for homelessness, energy sources and fire halls that she hopes to pursue in a second term

 

Jesse Ketler is seeking a second term on the Cumberland Village Council because the last four years have shown her how much can be accomplished with a functional council, and how much more there is to do.

Ketler, who has a masters of science degree in bioresource engineering from McGill University, likes to think long-term and out of the box.

“I feel lucky that the council has supported my sometimes crazy ideas,” she told Decafnation. “And that my introduction to politics has been among respectful councillors.”

Ketler brought the idea of leveraging the Village’s major expenditures to obtain community benefits — a concept known as social procurement. She discovered it while living in Scotland and how it could work at the local government level during conversations with Sandra Hamilton, a social procurement specialist living in Comox.

Cumberland became the first local government in Canada to adopt a social procurement policy, and in its first two years has produced multiple improvements for the village.

What is social procurement? Read about it here.

Cumberland’s success with social procurement has resulted in the creation of a province-wide Social Procurement Hub, to be located in Victoria, that will launch in October and provide resources and templates of policy enacting bylaws to help other B.C. municipalities get on board.

Now, Ketler has some new “crazy ideas” for her second term.

She wants the village to explore the possibility of using the old Cumberland coal mines as a heat exchange system to service commercial and residential buildings. Nanaimo and other cities across Canada, including a similar-sized village in Nova Scotia, have tapped into geothermal energy.

“We already have the most expensive part of geothermal energy creation, the coal mines,” she said. “My goal for the next term is to hire a consultant to study its feasibility.”

FURTHER READING: For more interviews with candidates, go to our Elections 2018 page

She also wants to initiate a Ecological Asset Management program that assigns monetary values to its green infrastructure — parks, waterways, forests, etc. — and create management plans for them like the village’s other tangible assets.

Ketler isn’t afraid to nudge the council toward positions she holds alone, such as including multi-use housing on the second floor of the proposed new fire hall. Other communities have made this unique combination of uses, she says, including one that located a women’s domestic violence shelter in a fire department building.

Ketler chairs the village’s Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee and has served on the Comox Valley coalition to End Homelessness since its inception, which she calls “an amazing story.”

She takes pride that it was Cumberland’s 77 percent yes-vote that tipped the 2014 Homelessness Support Service referendum in favor of an affordable housing tax. The final overall CVRD vote was 53 percent in favor.

She believes the village is close to completing a deal for supportive housing units, and a possible four-story, 24-unit building with retail on the street level that would provide affordable small-sized apartments. The latter project is still under discussion over parking requirements.

Ketler urges village voters to approve a referendum on this year’s ballot that would authorize the municipality to borrow $4.4 million, which she says is needed to fund provincially-required improvements to its $9 million sewage treatment plant.

The village has been out of compliance with provincial sewage treatment standards for a decade and is at risk of being assessed large fines if they don’t upgrade soon.

“The sewer project is already a success story,” Ketler said. “When the South Sewer Project failed last year, the engineers said we couldn’t go it alone — but we have found a solution, and a green one.”

The village has an approved plan to upgrade its existing lagoon system, adding UV treatment and ultimately a reed bed that would clean the effluent of pharmaceuticals and to the Greater Exposure Potential (GEP) standard. That means the effluent could be used for stream augmentation and other purposes, such as agriculture.

And Ketler is quick to point out that the village’s plan to meet and exceed the provincial sewage treatment standard will cost only half as much as the failed 2016 CVRD South Sewer proposal would have cost Cumberland homeowners.

Read the village’s Factsheet about the referendum question here

Recently, Ketler introduced her second successful resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities. The first was to create the Social Procurement Hub.

Her new resolution, which she presented to the UBCM annual convention last week and was approved by delegates, asks the province to not reduce income assistance for people who enter recovery programs. The loss of 50 percent of their income subsidy puts people at risk of losing their housing.

Ketler and her husband moved to the Valley in 2007 and to Cumberland in 2009. They have two children.

 

Leslie Baird: seeking a third mayoralty term in Cumberland

Leslie Baird: seeking a third mayoralty term in Cumberland

After 28 years of continuous service on the Cumberland Village Council, Leslie Baird still has goals to accomplish in a third term as mayor. Besides finishing big projects like sewage and water treatment upgrades and a new fire wall, she also want more daycares and senior housing. Her secret? Helping her councillors achieve their own goals

 

Leslie Baird “completely loves the job” as mayor of Cumberland. There’s little about that because, after 28 years of continuous service on the Village Council, she’s running again.

Baird was first elected to council in 1990, at a time when there were few women in municipal office. She ran unopposed for mayor in 2011 and was acclaimed again in 2014. This year, she has an opponent.

The Village of Cumberland has changed dramatically over her two terms in the mayor’s office — businesses are thriving, the population is growing and the Village Council’s progressive approach has put it in the national and provincial spotlight.

And yet, the village has several serious issues to resolve and major infrastructure projects in the works. Baird is seeking re-election to see those through to completion.

At the top of her list are funding and constructing improvements to the village’s sewerage system, which fell out of compliance with Ministry of Environment standards a decade ago. Then there’s the upgraded treatment and capacity of village drinking water, and continuing to separate sewer and stormwater systems.

FURTHER READING: For more interview with local government candidates, go to our Elections 2018 page

And she adds the building of a new fire hall into her top priorities.

Those are big issues for a small village that relies mostly on a residential tax base from about 1,400 homes.

Two months ago, the village hired an economic development coordinator to help develop the Bevan lands as an industrial park for light industry. It’s already properly zoned, and the village would benefit from an increase in commercial taxes.

Baird says her secret for getting things done is fostering a functional village council. For her, that’s the main job of a mayor.

“I always remember that there four other people at the council table who were elected by the people for their own priorities,” she told Decafnation. “I work with them to get those (priorities) to the table.”

In other words, Mayor Baird helps her councillors do what they said they were going to do.

“It’s important to listen to the community, to hear what they need, and act on that,” she said. “When I was first elected, I tried to make everyone happy, you can’t. Now I do what’s best for the whole community.”

Baird also tries to find a good fit with each councillor’s interests and the committees she recommends for them.

But she would never appoint herself to the Comox Valley Regional District.

“I have never sat on the CVRD board as mayor, although I did as a councillor,” she said. “Because at the CVRD you have to look at issues from a regional perspective. I have to keep my focus on the village.”

Baird thinks it’s difficult today for a mayor to do the job properly with another full-time job.

“People used to come to the mayor to get things done,” she said. “Now it’s more complex, there’s so many factors to consider … and you need a good staff.”

There are more items on Baird’s list for a third term than the big projects of sewer, water and a fire hall.

She hopes to provide better daycare services in the village. There’s currently a one-year waiting list. She’s exploring provincial funding and bursaries for day care worker education, and she would like to see a 24-hour facility for the village’s shift workers.

Baird wants to address affordable housing — the village’s house prices are second only to Crown Isle, she says — especially for seniors. She says several private operators on the Island are interested and the village has land already zoned for affordable seniors housing.

“There’s a renewed interested in Cumberland because of the expected population growth” she said. “We have major grocery stores expressing an interest. There’s a change in attitude about everywhere north of Nanaimo.”

Village staff is doing a full report on the banning of single-use plastic bags and straws for the council to consider next year.

And, believe it or not, Baird says traffic and parking issues are a hot topic in the village right now.

“People aren’t stopping at stop signs, and this includes bikers,” she said. “I hear about it all the time.”

Baird urges people to vote yes on the sewage system funding referendum that is on the ballot this year. While the village still has to acquire external funding for the project, village voters can kick start the project by authorizing the village to borrow $4.4 million.

 

Theos on Facebook: light-hearted and fun or angry and immature?

Theos on Facebook: light-hearted and fun or angry and immature?

As Courtenay City Council candidate Mano Theos found out, social media can be a dangerous place for current and aspiring elected officials. And are anonymous commenters committing election tampering?

 

Social media have influenced British Columbia politics right down to the local government level, and not always in a good way.

Negative and mean-spirited attacks on elected officials, sometimes from anonymous sources using fake names, have caused candidates and elected officials to drop off the social media grid.

Courtenay City Council candidate Mano Theos feels he was attacked last week, on a Facebook group page called Comox Valley Politics, for posting comments that he says were meant as light-hearted and fun.

Others in the group felt Theos expressed “anger” and acted “immature” for a municipal councillor.

In response to a post by Diana Schroeder, Theos added this comment: “Sounds as though you need a really big hug from one of your Dogwood supporters.”

Schroeder: “My Dogwood supporters? Your assumptions often lead to false conclusions.”

Theos: “Smiling is good for the soul.”

Jamie McCue: “Not surprised your first response in this group is to be condescending to an engaged citizen. You think that sort of attitude will get you elected? You’re sorely wrong!”

And the conversation continued in this vein with 32 separate comments.

“I was trying to inject some light humor into the discussion,” Theos told Decafnation. “People take things way too seriously sometimes.”

The incident with Theos, who is seeking a sixth term on City Council, was minor compared to the bullying and threats directed at elected officials elsewhere in the province and on the Island.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, for example, announced in March that she was quitting Facebook, calling it a “toxic echo chamber.”

And she was recently quoted in the Victoria Times-Colonist saying the downsides of social media outweigh the upsides.

“The downsides are it’s really, I would say, a threat to democracy and the ability to have face-to-face conversations about important issues,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.

Theos agrees that face-to-face conversations are more productive.

“If anybody wants to talk to me, my number is in the phone book,” he said.

After his initial foray onto Facebook, Theos has decided “Social media is not something I want to be a part of.

“Trying to talk with people on Facebook, I don’t even know these people, and some of them are not even real. They’re fake names,” he said.

View Royal Mayor David Screech told the Times-Colonist that commenting about candidates through anonymous Facebook pages might constitute election tampering.

“It’s not acceptable under the election rules to deliver leaflets anonymously. I don’t see why it should be any different on social media,” he told the newspaper.

The practice of using fake Facebook accounts to comment on websites and other social media platforms has made it’s way to the Comox Valley.

A frequent poster on the Comox Valley Politics site is “Peter McGillicuddy,” which appears to be a fake name and fake Facebook profile for someone making anonymous comments.

 

Russ Arnott: “People are generally happy” in Comox

Russ Arnott: “People are generally happy” in Comox

Two-term Councillor Russ Arnott feels ready to step up to the mayor’s chair and hopes to continue the town’s downward trend in taxation and create more waterfront enhancements; waiting for a court decision on whether town can demolish the ‘Shakesides’ house

 

Russ Arnott is taking a simple approach in his campaign to become the next mayor of Comox: He likes the direction the town has been moving the last four years, and he feels that his two terms of council experience make him ready for the job.

“Things are going well and people are generally happy,” he told Decafnation. “Businesses are taking a chance with us, developers like working with the town and we’ve got a downward trend in taxation.”

Arnott says he running for mayor because “I’m afraid to lose that momentum.”

But he has also set three broad goals for his first term as mayor.

First, Arnott says keeping commercial and property taxes “fair and affordable” is one of his top priorities.

Second, he wants to “make Comox a vibrant and accessible community for all ages.”

Third, Arnott would continue to promote projects that enhance the town’s waterfront and connect it to the downtown core. For example, he’d like to see a walkway from the marina to Goose Spit.

FURTHER READING: For more interviews with candidates, go to our Elections 2018 page

He’s proud of the waterfront enhancements the town has made recently with a splash park for children and opening up Marina Park to food trucks.

Arnott acknowledges that the two sail buildings recently built at Marina Park “pose a challenge.” But he says they were approved and planned when he wasn’t on council.

“I asked questions about the project, but the grants had already been received,” he said.

Despite his promise to keep steering the town in its current direction, Arnott says he’s not just promoting the status quo.

Arnott would hopes to phase out all wood burning devices from new and existing homes over the next five to 10 years. Wood stoves negatively impact air quality.

And he’d like to help create more affordable housing, perhaps by requiring more developments with smaller houses and smaller lots, like the town has done in the Torrence and Noel neighborhood.

Comox has already implemented an easy process for homeowners to create secondary suites, he says, and provides incentives for developers to build housing, such as the Ambleside development along Comox Avenue.

During debates about how to solve the city’s traffic problems, especially congestion at the 17th Street bridge, several Courtenay candidates have suggested that Comox and even some rural areas should help pay for improvements.

Arnott says he wouldn’t saddle Comox taxpayers with that cost.

“I wouldn’t entertain that idea, not without more discussions,” he said. “Comox has amenities that people from other areas use, let’s not nick-pick back and forth.”

Arnott is “okay” with marijuana retail stores in Comox, “if they’re located in the right place.” But he’s concerned about all the unknowns that will arise, like how people will react to the unique pungent odour of cannabis.

“We already discourage people from smoking cigarettes in parks,” he said. “But we have only one person in bylaw enforcements, so it will probably be complaint driven.”

Asked why the town hasn’t updated its 2012 Official Community Plan in nearly seven years, Arnott there’s no need to do it.

“In that time we’ve only had three amendments and few complaints, so it’s working,” he said. “Why spend $250,000 to fix something that’s not broken.”

In regards to the town’s application to the BC Supreme Court to alter the terms of the Mack Laing trusts and demolish his heritage home called Shakesides — the celebrated naturalist left gifts of money and property to be used to create a museum or nature house on Comox Bay — Arnott is guarded. He has supported the town’s action in several council votes this year.

“We’re just following the (citizen advisory) committee’s recommendation,” he said. “I don’t know what went on back then (in 1982 when Laing died), there’s so many interpretations. We’ll see what the court says.”

Arnott spent 25 years in the Canadian Coast Guard, including management positions, and is currently the manager of military housing on CFB Comox. He’s a former regional vice-president of the Canadian Auto Workers union.

And he’s an avid volunteer with the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre, the Salvation Army, the Comox Business Improvement Association, YANA and Rotary.

Arnott says his volunteer activity makes him a better council member.

“By getting out into the community and having discussions with diverse groups of people, it helps educate me,” he says. “And that informs me to make decisions at the council table.”

Arnott believes no one should stay too long in municipal office, and moving up to the mayor’s chair feels right for him. He says it also makes room for other people in the community to join the Town Council.

“At the end of the day, I don’t hear a whole lot of issues in our town. People are generally happy.”

 

City mayors dropping in and out, a Comox councillor failing to make the ballot and more!

City mayors dropping in and out, a Comox councillor failing to make the ballot and more!

A feud develops between Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula and challenger Harold Long over a broken four-year old promise. Barbara Price fails to make the ballot in Comox. Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird finally has an opponent, poor fella, so there’s no end of fun in this year’s election campaign

 

This article was updated Tuesday morning to add new information about a Comox candidates meeting and to correct information about the School District 71 elections.

Who says local government elections are boring? Here’s what happened in the last week of nominations in the Comox Valley:

The Courtenay mayoralty candidate that many assumed was the front-runner curiously dropped out of the race in a bid to stay on the City Council.

A long-time former City Council member jumped into the Courtenay mayoralty race and strongly criticized the incumbent mayor for breaking a promise he made four years ago.

In Comox, the Town Council and mayor’s chair will get a near-total makeover because only two of seven incumbents are running for re-election.

But that wasn’t entirely planned. One Comox councillor, who fully intended to run again, failed to file her completed nomination papers in time and won’t be on the ballot.

In School District 71, four incumbents chose not to run for re-election, an indication of some of the pressure on school boards, perhaps as a result of years of underfunding by the provincial government.

And, finally, Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird has drawn a challenger. It’s the first time she’s had an opponent, having been acclaimed to office twice. Not that anyone is expecting a close vote.

But, all in all, the next four weeks of local politics looks like fun.

FURTHER READING: For more interviews with candidates and a full list of who’s running for councils, regional district and school board, go to our Elections 2018 page

Harold Long and Larry Jangula will feud it out. Long wanted to run for mayor in 2014, but made a deal with Jangula to support him last time, if Jangula would support Long in 2018.

Except it’s going to be hard for Jangula to keep his promise with his own name on the ballot.

According to a reliable source, Jangula justified breaking the deal to Long in a phone call: “I can change my mind if I want to,” Jangula reportedly said.

Jangula has yet to respond to Decafnation’s request for an interview.

David Frisch, the top vote-getter in the 2014 election, looked like the front runner for the mayor’s job in Courtenay. Even late-entry mayoralty candidate Harold Long thought Frisch was the odds-on favorite.

But Frisch dropped out suddenly because, according to him, he didn’t want to split the progressive vote three ways (between himself, Bob Wells and Erik Eriksson) making a Jangula victory more likely.

But he dropped out before Harold Long jumped in, who is sure to take a big chunk out of Jangula’s vote total, which leaves local political observers wondering who will emerge from this two-on-two free-for-all.

Comox Councillor Barbara Price meant to file for re-election. But while at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in Whistler last week, she got word that her nomination papers weren’t properly filled out.

Price tried to correct the problem while travelling back to the Comox Valley, including trying to find a Notary Public on the BC Ferry trip from Horseshoe Bay, but to no avail. She didn’t make the ballot.

That has the potential to realign the balance of power in Comox, especially on issues like the rewriting of Hamilton Mack Laing’s Last Will and trusts to the town.

Decafnation will do its best to inform voters about the candidates, and we’ll make our own recommendations soon. But there are only a few opportunities for voters to hear the candidates speak in person and debate each other.

There’s a Comox Valley sustainability forum tomorrow night, Thursday, Sept 19, at the K’omoks First Nation Community Hall, and an all-candidates meeting for the City of Courtenay only on Oct. 16 at the Sid Williams Theatre. Comox voters will get to meet their municipal candidates at 7 p.m on Oct. 12 at the Comox Recreation Centre.

 And surely there will be a public debate for the Cumberland candidates. But will regional district and school board candidates get a chance to debate in public?

Watch The Record and TideChange.ca and our Morning Briefings column for announcements of additional events. We’ll be posting new events on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/decafnation.

Meanwhile, enjoy the show, support your own favorite candidates and, most importantly, VOTE on Oct. 20.