Editorial — Local governments face many challenges
Three inaugural meetings on Monday marked the beginning of the next three-year term for the three local governments.
At the Langley Board of Education and Langley Township council, change is on the horizon. The board has a new chairperson, Wendy Johnson, who is backed by a majority of the board.
While that board majority is backed strongly by employee unions and, to a lesser degree, parents’ groups, it has its work cut out for it.
The school district still has to pay back an accumulated deficit over three years. It has to abide by conditions set out by the provincial Auditor General. And at the same time, it has to endure an ongoing strike by teachers that seems likely to drag on for much, if not all, of the school year.
This prevents parents from knowing how their children are doing in school and will have a dramatic effect on Grade 12 students who are seeking to apply to universities and other post-secondary institutions.
Almost all of these issues are far beyond the control of the board, which is much more closely tied to provincial happenings than the two local councils.
Langley Township has a new mayor and two new councillors. Mayor Jack Froese has brought a positive and straightforward approach to his office, and it is unlikely that the next term will descend into the personality conflicts that marked much of the past three years.
Still. there are many serious issues ahead of council. Among these are labour contracts with employees and tax increases — two closely-connected issues. Both were mentioned in passing Monday by several councillors, and the challenge of keeping property taxes affordable will be a major one for council.
Langley City has the most stable government in this community, largely because of strong leadership from Mayor Peter Fassbender, a council that works together well and a clear and workable vision. However, it is affected deeply by regional issues like transportation, and council will also have its hands full keeping taxes at an affordable level. Some of those taxes, which come from regional bodies, cut deep, yet the City’s voice is very muted due to its size.
Elected officials will need to demonstrate the wisdom of Solomon as they deal with continuing challenges on behalf of all of us.