Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Langley Times City Candidate Questions

As I am running for Langley City Council, the Langley Times sent a list of questions for me to answer. I’ve shared my answers to their questions in this post.

1- What is the most important issue facing the City, and how would you propose to deal with it?
The most important issue facing the City of Langley is revitalizing the community. I will work to revitalize and renew our streets; keeping them in a state of good repair. I will support investing in our sidewalks, ensuring they are safe and meet modern standards. I will work to make cycling safer for people who live in our community. Being heavily involved in promoting better transit for the region, on council I will tirelessly advocate for our community to receive its fair share of transit service. As a long-serving member of the City of Langley’s Parks and Environment Advisory Committee, I will continue to work to make our parks more inviting spaces.

In Downtown Langley, I will support improving the quality of the public realm. This means improving lighting, sidewalks, and the street. Simple things like installing more benches will make Downtown more accessible.

I will work to change sections of our zoning bylaws which make it expensive to redevelop in Downtown Langley. Our current zoning is limiting the economic potential and walkability of Downtown Langley.

I believe in the power of partnerships. I will work with the Downtown Langley Business Association, supporting cost-sharing initiatives that will help grow small business, which in turn will create a vibrant community and support a strong local economy.

The City has spent 4 to 10 million dollars annually in recent memory on overpasses and bridges. With these projects complete, I will work to shift this funding to help revitalize our community.

2- What is the best way to deal with the crime issues in the City?

Policing is the single largest expense for the City. In 2013, the City collected $21.8 million in property tax and spent $10.1 million on policing. Langley City has the highest ratio of police to residents in Metro Vancouver. Throwing more money at policing is not the solution and will only raise people’s tax bills.

Addressing the root cause of crime is key. Social programs are the responsibility of the provincial government. That being said, I believe in partnerships. I will work with the province and local non-profits to ensure that as a community we are addressing these complex issues.

Revitalizing our community is a key way to address crime. My plan to revitalize Downtown Langley and the surrounding areas will create safe and inviting spaces during the day and during the evening attracting more people to shop and enjoy Downtown Langley; crime likes to be hidden. More people choosing to shop and explore downtown Langley will improve safety in the area.

Growing a strong local economy creates opportunity in the community, as well. Giving people opportunities to succeed is what will help reduce crime.

3- Should the city apply most if not all of its annual take from the casino to upgrading its aging infrastructure, such as water and sewer lines?
There are various projects that the City must invest in. Dedicating most of the casino revenue to replacing aging water and sewer infrastructure will mean that little money will be available to improve our parks, streets, and Downtown.

Revitalizing Downtown Langley is key; developers pay money to the City whenever a new project is built. The City can do more to leverage current and future money received from developers to support replacing aging water and sewer infrastructure. I will work to make sure that developer dollars go further to keep our underground infrastructure in a state of good repair.

4- Do you support term limits for members of council?
Only the province can impose term limits on council; this would require a change to provincial law. As the province just completed a review of local government in BC, I don’t see term limits happening any time soon for councillors in BC.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Status of the Agricultural Land Reserve in Metro Vancouver

Metro Vancouver occasionally issues “Metro Facts in Focus/Policy Backgrounder” about important topics that impact the livability of our region.

At a recent Metro Vancouver Regional Planning and Agricultural Committee meeting, Metro Vancouver released a backgrounder called “Farming in Metro Vancouver.” The background starts on page 189 of the committee meeting agenda.

The backgrounder starts with some general information and an overview of farming in the region.

Besides forage and pasture land, Metro Vancouver is a large producer of blueberries, cranberries, and potatoes.

Cultivated Field Crops in Metro Vancouver, 2011. Select image to enlarge.

Metro Vancouver is also home to more chickens and turkeys than people!

Livestock type and numbers in Metro Vancouver. Select table to enlarge.

What I found most interesting was the amount of land in Metro Vancouver, within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), that is actively farmed. Richmond, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Delta, and the Township of Langley all have more than 1,000 hectares of land within the ALR. The Township of Langley contains over 1/3rd of the region’s agricultural land. Looking at the following map, you can see that a good amount of ALR land within Langley is not actively farmed. In Delta, 76% of ALR land is farmed while in Richmond 59% of ALR land is farmed. 56% of ALR land is Surrey is farmed while only 44% of ALR land is the Township of Langley is farmed.

Farming status of parcels within the Metro Vancouver Agricultural Land Reserve. Select map to enlarge.

The backgrounder noted that there are five key issues that need to be addressed to protect the long-term viability of farming in Metro Vancouver.

The first major issue that needs to be addressed is farmland speculation. Some people purchase farmland in the region under the hope that it will eventually be allowed to be developed with non-farm uses. This drivers up the cost of farmland, limiting access to actual farming.

The second major issue is getting farmers access to the capital needed to purchase farm equipment and improve the productivity of land.

The third major issues that needs to be address is the marketing of local food. In Metro Vancouver, this means finding better ways to make more local food available in grocery stores. It also means integrating locally produced food into Vancouver’s food culture.

Farmland in Metro Vancouver provides ecological services in the region; providing habitat for wildlife, managing flooding, and regulating the climate as a few example. Metro Vancouver, the province, and local governments need to ensure that farmland can still provide these important services to the region.

Finally with our climate changing, policies and strategies need to be adopted to allow farming to continue, even as our climate shifts.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Langley Advance City Candidate Questions

As I am running for Langley City Council, the Langley Advance sent a list of questions for me to answer. The Advance was looking for yes/no answers to their list of questions, with the option to provide expanded answers to some questions.

Looking over the questions, I thought that most of them warranted more than a simple yes/no response. While I will submit my answer to the Langley Advance in the format they requested, I have provided full answer to their questions in this post.

Do you currently live in Langley City?
Yes

How long (in years) have you lived in Langley City?
I have lived in the City of Langley for over eight years.

Should the Official Community Plan allow increased density in all areas of the City?
I believe that the current City of Langley official community plan is good the way it is when it comes to density. There is lots of potential for redevelopment in Downtown Langley and the surrounding area with higher densities as envisioned in the OCP. I see no reason to increase density in other neighbourhoods in the community.

Would you support tolling ALL Metro Vancouver bridges to fund transit?
Tolling all Metro Vancouver bridges is something that only the province can do. While I personally support fair tolling across the region, there is very little I could do as a City Councillor to make that happen. I think that the current tolling policy is unfair and creates traffic issues by having only some crossings tolled.

Would you support removing tolls from all Metro Vancouver bridges?
The tolling of bridges is the responsibility of the province and TransLink. TransLink is directed by the Mayors’ Council. A Langley City Councillor would have no say in this matter. Tolling is an important way to fund bridges; these are multi-billion dollar projects. When it comes to major transportation systems (whether bridges or transit), the cost should be split between taxes and direct-user fees. People who use these costly systems should pay their fair share. User fees also help people make smart transportation choices, reducing congestion, and ultimately saving them money.

Would you support road pricing to fund transit?
No. I believe road pricing should be used to fund roads. Road pricing lets people know how much they are paying for how much they drive. This will reduce congestion and save people money. I would support reducing gas tax if road pricing was introduced, but road pricing is under the control of the province. There is very little a Langley City Councillor could accomplish.

Would you support increasing property taxes to fund transit?
No. You can read Leap Ahead: A transit plan for Metro Vancouver which I co-authored. How to better fund transit is detailed in that report.

Should a tree protection bylaw be brought in?
A proposed tree protection bylaw was introduce by the City of Langley in 2010. It was flawed. More trees got cut down because of that proposed bylaw than at any other time I can remember. That bylaw didn’t pass. It seemed like it was a solution looking for a problem. Before supporting a new tree protection bylaw, I would want to see that there is a clear problem that needs to be resolved, and that it has the broad support of the community.

Should developers be required to provide more low-income housing in the City?
Providing low-incoming housing is really a responsibility of the province. Langley City is one of the most affordable communities in Metro Vancouver. That being said, I’d work hard to partner with community organizations and the province to make sure that more affordable housing is provided for people that need it, including seniors. I would also work to ensure that major new developments include housing options at a number of different price points.

Should the City create more bike lanes and public cycling infrastructure?
I believe the City should invest in creating greenways and protected cycling lanes. Cycling lanes and greenways are cost effective. They provide the safety needed to help people feel comfortable cycling in the community giving people transportation choice.

Should more of the City’s casino revenue be used to directly reduce property tax rates?
The City uses casino revenue to pay for capital projects. If the casino revenue was used to lower property taxes, the City infrastructure would start to crumble. Deferring maintenance to future years would cause a deterioration of the quality of life in our community. It would also stop Downtown Revitalization. Finally, it would pass the cost of replacing and improving infrastructure to future generations at a much higher cost. It would be a lose, lose, lose.

Was building the $14 million Timms Recreation Centre the right decision?
Yes, the City needs to continue investing in our Downtown, providing high quality facilities that will improve the quality of life for people that call Langley home. This investment will also provide a catalyst for revitalizing Downtown Langley which will create a strong local economy.

Does the City need more public green space?
The City has a good amount of green space today. I support enhancing our current parks, trails, Brydon Lagoon, and the Nicomekl floodplain, creating safe and enjoyable public spaces. I want to make our park system a point of a pride for our community.

Does the City need more sports and recreation facilities?
I support the City of Langley working with the sports community to ensure that our amenities are meeting the needs of its users.

Does the City do enough to support business?
I believe the City of Langley could do more to support business in Downtown Langley. I would work to create a stronger working relationship and create new partnerships with the Downtown Langley BIA.

Does the City do enough for its seniors population?
No. I believe that the City needs to partner with community organization to ensure the City it doing enough to support our seniors.

Does the City do enough for youth?
No. The City of Langley needs to work with the school board and other community organizations to make sure that this City is delivering the right programs that support young people.

Does the City provide adequate cultural services?
I believe that we are missing an Arts & Cultural Centre. I would support such a centre in Downtown Langley. It would help revitalize Downtown Langley which would, in turn, help reduce crime.

Does the City provide sufficient fire/rescue service?
Yes.

Are you satisfied that the City receives its fair share through the Township/City policing service agreement?
The City of Langley has about 1 police officer for every 500 citizens. This is the highest ratio in Metro Vancouver. The City is receiving its fair share.

Does the City have a good working relationship with the Township?
Yes, but I believe the City and Township could work closer together on Parks and Recreation. Where I grew up, both Vernon and Coldstream —two communities of vastly different sizes— partnered to deliver parks and recreation serves. It served both communities well and saved money; I believe it would also serve Langley well.

Do you believe Langley Township and City should be amalgamated into one municipality?
No. I’ve done some research on this. Financially, amalgamation drives up property tax for all taxpayers. Larger municipalities are more bureaucratic. Larger municipalities also makes it harder to have a voice as a citizen. I can call the Mayor of Langley up any day and get a meeting within a week. Could the same be said if I was living in the City of Vancouver?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Getting the word out: I need your help this weekend

Over the next several weekends, my campaign is doing a major distribution of Elect Nathan postcards and will be canvasing selected neighbourhoods in the City of Langley. This will help let people know about my vision for Langley, and the reasons why I’m running for council.

We have a core group of people that are committed to helping out rain or shine, but I could use your help on Saturday, October 25th and November 1st.

Here are the details:

Date: October 25th & November 1st
Time: 10:30am to 1:00pm
Meeting Location: Frosting Cupcakery & Bake Shop at 20411 Fraser Hwy Langley

We will meet back at Frosting Cupcakery after for a little treat to wrap up the day. If you would like to volunteer, just show up at 10:30am and look for myself. If you would like more information, please email me at nathan@nathanpachal.com or call 778-288-8720.