Former council member Murray Presley blames the current mayor and council for overspending and wandering from its core functions into pipelines, GMOs and running daycare centres. He wants to contract out more city services and get the Stotan Falls park
Murray Presley, a retired accountant who served on Courtenay City Council for 15 years, is making a comeback in order to reduce the cost of local government.
Presley, who retired from his practice at Presley and Partners earlier this year, said he’s disturbed by what he’s seen happen at City Council the past four years.
“It’s two against five every time; Jangula and Theos get outvoted,” he said. “We need four like-minded people on council. I’m hoping two will join me (and Theos) in getting elected.”
Presley says the council has wandered off its core function into things like a nuclear-free zone, GMOs, the TransMountain pipeline debate and other irrelevant issues.
“Why is the city running a daycare and a fitness centre (at the Lewis Centre)?” he told Decafnation, though admitting his own kids went there. “We should ask what services the city should provide — water, sewer, public safety, roads — and stop doing the rest.”
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Presley, who calls himself a fiscal conservative, uses a Yellow Page phone book analogy to explain his position.
“Open up the Yellow Pages, if there’s a service listed there that the city is also doing, we should consider contracting it out,” he said.
That’s because local government’s priority is to not get sued or screw things up, he said, while a private business is driven by a desire to do things more efficiently.
“We have great employees at the city, but we don’t have good management up top, at the council,” he said. “Council makes policy, but if it’s not doing a good job and without a strong mayor, the staff will step in and set the policy.”
Presley says the cost of government is too high. The tax increases over the last five or six years have exceeded the cost of living. “It’s not sustainable,” he says.
The housing market is one area that has suffered from too much government interference, he says.
“We have to reduce the amount of red tape or make the development process faster, that will bring down housing costs.” he said. Presley also supports smaller lots and smaller houses and permitting secondary suites.
In the City of Langford, Presley says a building permit takes only three days and a development permit just two months. But in Courtenay that kind of turn-around is unheard of.
Meanwhile, the city spends time on a tree bylaw, which Murray says he agrees with in principle, but counts as an added layer of bureaucracy that just adds to the cost of housing in the city.
“I like the idea of a green canopy,” he said. “But take a drive down Ryan Road hill. What do you see? Trees all over, we’re surrounded by a green canopy.”
Earlier this year, Presley widely promoted the idea of an Agriplex for the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds, and helped raise money for the project. But he realizes that could be a conflict of interest if he’s elected, and insists he’s pulled back from it now.
“I’m not running on this issue or to promote it,” he said. “And, in any case, it would have to eventually go to a referendum … to see if the public has the appetite to take on the debt.”
But Presley is not pulling back his support for 3L Developments 700-house subdivision along the Puntledge River near Stotan Falls.
“The park is more important than the subdivision,” he said. “If that’s what it takes (green lighting the subdivision) to get the park, I’m okay with that.”
Presley points out that under existing zoning, the developer can proceed with 10-acre lots and “then we won’t have access to the falls.”
Presley said he doesn’t plan to knock on doors or campaign aggressively before Oct. 20, because he doesn’t care if he gets elected or not. But he does want to raise awareness that Courtenay’s spending needs to be controlled.
And one way to make all Comox Valley governments more efficient is through amalgamation, he says.
“We’d be better governed as a district municipality, or at least Courtenay, Comox and maybe Area B,” he said. “Why do we need three public works yards, three city halls?”
Presley was born in Scarborough, England. His father was in the Canadian Air Force and his mother was in the British Air Force. They met and married, and were stationed to Sea Island in 1954 (the site of the Vancouver airport).
The family moved to the Comox Valley in 1961, and Presley graduated from Courtenay High School in 1964.
Presley says that he also running to help create more jobs by adding more industrial land and encouraging clean industries. That, he says, would help young people stay in our community.