“Without choice, there is no democracy.”
That, in a nutshell, is the reason auto technician Ron Abgrall has decided to make a second run at the mayor’s chair in Langley City.
Although his chief concern is ensuring that sitting mayor Peter Fassbender doesn’t run unopposed, Abgrall has given some thought to the issues facing Langley City and the changes he’d like to see happen over the next three years.
“People always complain, but we keep hiring the same men over and over and expect them to be different,” said Abgrall, chatting over coffee in a Langley City coffee shop near his apartment.
This is as close to a campaign headquarters as the 49-year-old candidate has. He is courting votes through what he describes as a “fiscally responsible” campaign.
“I’m not spending any money. It’s all word of mouth.”
And that’s not the only way Abgrall is different from your average municipal candidate, he insists.
“I’m not a politician, I’m a community-minded person,” said the father of two who has lived in Langley City for the past 20 years.
The City’s official motto is The Place to Be, but as far as Abgrall is concerned, it should be “The Place to Belong.”
He envisions a City that includes an extensive arts and culture facility, complete with a playhouse, museum and recreation centre.
Making Langley City a destination in the Lower Mainland for something other than a casino is a priority.
“Instead of earning money here and spending it elsewhere, let’s have Langley City be a focal place for families to come to,” he said.
“A casino — it’s a sad state of affairs if that’s what we have to draw visitors.”
Though he concedes it’s hardly unique in this way, the City has problems with prostitution, drug dealing and youth violence, Abgrall said.
“What do children need to feel comfortable and safe?”
There need to be enough family-friendly activities to keep kids engaged and off the streets, he said.
He envisions a place in the City’s light industrial area for an indoor go-kart track, for instance. “I’d spend time there with my kids.”
However Abgrall believes that any growth must be funded through Development Cost Charges (DCCs), not through increased taxation of residential or business property owners.
“We need to ensure developers foot the bill for infrastructure,” he said.
The former provincial Green Party candidate would like to see more focus on the environment than on more roads and buildings.
The first step to achieving any of this, he said, is engaging the community through an open and transparent government.
“If you’re only getting 10 people out for a public information session, you’re doing a poor job.
“How do you make people care more in the City? When the food’s a little bland, you have to spice it up.”