With just a few days left before Langley City’s first byelection, all nine candidates were jostling for position in front of nearly 100 people who attended a Tuesday afternoon all-candidates meeting at the Langley Seniors Resource Centre.
Homelessness, crime and crumbling infrastructure were the issues that attracted the most attention, both from the candidates and the audience.
“Some seniors do not feel safe, even in their own homes,” said Shelley Coburn, a school trustee who has said she will remain on the school board if she is elected to council.
Coburn said having one person serving on both bodies would be “value-added for taxpayers.”
Carol Gran, a former Langley MLA, said the problems of homelessness, crime and a declining downtown were tackled with some success in Kelowna when she was a member of that council.
“It can be done,” Gran said, pointing to the construction in Kelowna of “supportive housing” as something the City could do to get homeless people off the streets.
Kiernan Hillan said the problems facing the City are solvable and as a retired municipal manager with decades of experience, he has a “unique set of skills” to solve them.
“We can turn a corner on crime,” Hillan said.
Mel Kositsky said he may not live in the City, but his 18 years as a Langley councillor, his work on various Langley City initiatives like the seniors centre and his time covering City council as a reporter mean that “I know more about Langley City than most people.”
Rae Maj said there were no simple answers to the issues the City faces, but introducing uniformed security staff, police foot patrols and better lighting would help.
As it is now, Maj said, her parents would feel “uneasy going downtown at night.”
Sharon Newbery, who operates a business in the City as well as living there, said businesses and jobs are leaving the downtown core, but the trend can be reversed.
“I love this city,” Newbery said. “I want to be part of its future.”
Serena Oh said she would press to build more shelter for homeless people, do more to clean up downtown and promote “respect for elders.”
“I’m not a good speaker, but I’m a good doer,” Oh said.
Nathan Pachal, who missed getting elected to City council in the last municipal election by a handful of votes, said he would work to make sure people feel safe when they go downtown.
“All is not lost,” Pachal said, calling for steps to clean up trash and graffiti and fix up crumbling sidewalks, among other things.
“We need to double down on our infrastructure,” Pachal said.
George Roman called for more foot and bike patrols by police, creating a special team to help homeless people get off the street, and fixing up downtown Langley City.
Roman wants to “redesign the entire downtown core” the way Fort Langley and Leavenworth, Wash. added heritage elements to attract visitors.
Four members of Langley City council attended the meeting, including mayor Ted Schaffer and councillors Paul Albrecht, Rudy Storteboom and Gayle Martin.
During the question and answer session, Martin asked the candidates “how many would be willing to raise taxes to put your ideas into practice?”
No one said yes, and all of the candidates who did respond said it was a matter of prioritizing spending, not raising taxes.
The byelection vote will take place Saturday, Feb. 27, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Douglas Recreation Centre 20550 Douglas Cres.