"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A strong second

Well, the results are in and I finished a strong second. Congrats to winner Neal Nicholson and all the other candidates. And thanks again to everyone who voted for me and helped with the campaign. Detailed results here.

Thanks to all!

Just a quick note to thank everyone who voted for me today and everyone who pitched in by phoning, driving and campaigning. Polls close in less than half an hour now, and we'll be heading down to city hall to watch the results being posted.

Whether I'm elected or not, this campaign has been a winner. Thanks again to all the people who worked so hard and supported me with so much enthusiasm. This has been a true team effort.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fighting for lower and fairer taxes

We're running some new ads in the two community newspapers today which are adding a new wrinkle to our messaging.

In the past, we've been concentrating more on telling people who I am. Now, we're focusing on one particular message: lower and fairer taxes. Everywhere I go, people are upset to hear that city council is raising property taxes by 5.28% this year.

People also don't want special new taxes put on homeowners or motorists to pay for the Evergreen Line.

And, of course, most people are opposed to the provincial government's introduction of the HST. This isn't a municipal issue, but I'm still hearing about it everywhere I go.

I continue to tell people that I am deeply disappointed that the provincial government introduced this harmonized sales tax regime after promising not to; that Victoria failed utterly in explaining how the tax will work and why it's supposedly needed; and that the provincial government decided to proceed with this legislation in the face of massive, widespread public opposition.

I believe that, in the face of this tsunami of opposition, the premier and his cabinet should have taken a step back and reevaluted the province's position and really listened to and then attempted to answer the questions and meet the concerns.

Their failure to do so has not only hurt the government politically, but also shows a disrespect for the public.

I continue to believe that, as most major economists say, the HST will have a long-term beneficial effect on the provincial economy by making businesses more competitive, thereby creating jobs and wealth.

Nevertheless, for now at least, the government needs to back off, rethink everything, and develop a better implementation plan -- possibly one that has a phase-in period that lessens the short-term impact on consumers.

Meantime, here's a link to the Coquitlam Now's editorial on the by-election.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Looking forward to higher voter turn-out



I've just spoken with the city's Chief Election Officer and she has informed me that turn-out to the advance polls, which ended yesterday, was significantly higher than in the most recent by-prior by-election.

A total of 834 people cast ballots over the three-day advance poll leading up to Saturday's by-election. That's well over double the number (368) of people who voted in advance polls the last time the city staged a by-election.

That earlier by-election ended up attracting only 5% of registered voters, with the winning candidate taking less than 1,300 votes.

I've long believed that high voter turn-out worked in favour of my campaign, and so I'm very pleased by today's news.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Advance turn-out stronger than last by-election


The final advance poll before Saturday's general voting is today, until 8 p.m., at the Poirier Community Centre. If you are unable to vote on Saturday, please vote today--and bring a friend too.

Meantime, the Tri-City News' headline today says that voter turn-out to the first two days of advance polling was "not promising" compared to the advance turn-out during the last civic general election.

But compared with the advance turn-out at the last by-election, the turn-out this year is actually is exceptionally strong; in fact, more voters cast their ballots in the first two days this year than in all three days last time around. I take this as a good sign!

Mainstreaming the message




It's not even noon yet, and the campaign has already enjoyed some great publicity. First off was our 'Burma-Shaving' (display of roadside signs) at the intersection of Como Lake and Clarke this morning. Thanks to Dave, Andy and Roger for helping me out.

Next, I learned that the BCIT broadcast journalism feature on me had been posted on the school's website. Here's the direct link to the story. Thanks to Rob and Zameer for their great work! I must say, it was certainly odd being on the other side of a camera and a reporter's questions. In the end, I'm very pleased with the results.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Going live tonight on Roadkill Radio


I'm going to be talking with Kari Simpson and Ron Gray on RoadkillRadio.com this evening at 8:10 p.m. We'll talking mainly about my campaign and the by-election, but we'll probably veer off in other directions, too. If you're a Canucks fan, you might want to listen to Roadkill on the computer and watch the game on television with the volume muted. Just a thought....

Some candidates aren't taking this seriously



UPDATE: I'm happy to now report that several of the candidates I mentioned, below, have now taken the opportunity to engage the public by answering the questions posed by TheV3H.com.

In a municipal election, the general rule is that any publicity is good publicity. That's one of the reasons I have been conscientous about replying to media questions and surveys about the campaign and my candidacy. It certainly paid dividends when I promptly submitted a requested op-ed to the Georgia Straight, and was rewarded with a very positive mention in The Province.

Today, it's been disclosed that I'm the only candidate to have answered a series of questions posed by the Tri-Cities-specific e-news site, TheV3H.com. Frankly, it astonishes me that candidates who say they are serious about running don't take the time to engage the public by answering such questions.

My leading rival, Neal Nicholson, apparently thinks TheV3H.com is important enough to advertise on it, but not important enough to give it (and the voters of Coquitlam) the courtesy of answering its questions.

Let's name some other names here: Brian Babcock did not attend a single all-candidates meeting, and didn't answer questions for V3H. His excuse for missing the meetings? He was out of town on a sport-fishing trip.

Massimo "the mystery man" Mandarino has also been a complete no-show, with no explanation, and has written nothing.

Andy Shen, the very young SFU student, appears to be running for the sport of it and to brag about his 2,000-plus Facebook friends. He attended the meetings, but didn't write for V3H.

Owen Coomer, a 20-something bar manager, admits he ran for mayor in the last general election merely to get his name better-known. He attended two of three meetings before saying he was too ill to appear at the third. He seems to be serious in his candidacy this time out, yet he didn't respond to TheV3H's invitation.

Ralph Banni attended all three meetings, responded to the Georgia Straight, but apparently ignored TheV3H.com request.

Andy Wickey and Nicholson were at all three meetings but wrote nothing for V3H.

Being a good city council member means being direct, honest and willing to communicate with voters. Is the silence from the majority of council candidates an indication of their unwillingness to communicate with the residents of Coquitlam? If so, what does this say about what sort of council members they will be?

Everyone is complaining about the fact voters don't take these by-elections seriously. Perhaps if all the candidates who have entered the race treated the by-election seriously themselves, the voters would follow.

Click here to read the questions and answers at the site, or simply scroll down.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and why you are running for council?
My candidacy is a natural extension of both my interest in public policy and my growing commitment to community service. As a professional journalist, I have specialized in commentary about political matters; the time now seems right for me to move from talk to action. As a long-time activist, I have worked to improve not only my neighbourhood but also the whole of Coquitlam. A seat on Coquitlam Council would facilitate this passion.

2. What do you see as the most important issues currently facing the City of Coquitlam?
Owning and maintaining a home in Coquitlam is becoming increasingly difficult, and I believe that Council should act where it can to lessen the financial burden on residents. Consider property taxes. In the year 2000, my wife and I paid $1,699.07 in property taxes. In 2008, we paid $2,328.87—an increase of 37 percent. That dramatic rise is unacceptable, especially at a time when inflation was running at only one or two percent a year. Utility bills are also a problem. This year, our bill increased by 17 percent, and it’s gone up 84 percent since 2004. Again, this is simply unacceptable.

These increases seem to be driven, in part, by over-spending. According to a recent study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Coquitlam had a dismal record of overspending on operating costs in the years 2000 to 2007. The Federation calculated that, if operating expenses had simply kept pace with population growth and inflation, Coquitlam’s spending should have grown 20 percent in that time. Instead, spending grew at more than twice the expected rate, or 41.9 percent. Once again, this is simply unacceptable.

3. How will you work together with Mayor Richard Stewart and Council to make Coquitlam better?
Throughout my years of community involvement, I have a record of collegiality, hard work and good humour. While I am most noted in the Tri-Cities for a weekly political debate column in one of the local newspapers, my friends, associates and colleagues know that I embrace team work and striving for common goals. I have no doubt that I will be able to continue this approach once on council.

4. How will you encourage more people to become involved with their civic government?
The key is communication. Most of us lead busy and complex lives. Many of the people I’ve talked with while going door to door in Coquitlam over the past month say they have no time to keep up with civic affairs. City Hall can and should find ways to communicate simply and efficiently with residents in order to encourage greater engagement

Monday, May 10, 2010

Interchange information


You might remember my earlier posting about Maillardville's concerns about the lack of a consequential upgrade to the Brunette/Highway 1 interchange.

Well, a communications person with the Port Mann Bridge project noticed the item and sent me an email explaining that the current plans don't call for major changes because, essentially, other "regional transportation improvements", including some impacting the Brunette-Blue Mountain-Lougheed Highway intersections, may be in the works; therefore, it wouldn't make sense to plan major changes to the Brunette/Highway 1 interchange at present.

Here's the full text of the note:

Dear Mr. O'Neill:
I read your blog this weekend regarding the Coquitlam All Candidates Meeting held last week and would like to point out that the information contained in your blog is not quite correct [http://electterryoneill.blogspot.com/2010/05/battle-brewing-over-bridge-traffic.html].
In fact, there will be some safety and efficiency improvements in place at this interchange by 2013 to address short- to medium-transportation demand. Current plans for Brunette include a staged approach so that additional improvements can be made based on scope and timing decisions for a number of other regional transportation improvements such as the North Fraser Perimeter Road and potential improvements for the Brunette-Blue Mountain-Lougheed Highway area that could be integrated with Highway 1 and the North Fraser Perimeter Road. It would not make sense to spend public funds reconstructing the Brunette Interchange today only to have it become redundant in the near future. It is for this reason that the preliminary design concept has changed.
Many decisions about the local and regional lie with other planning agencies and we work closely with them to ensure our project designs consider this bigger picture.
I welcome you to attend our Cape Horn informational open house at Coquitlam City Hall on May 18 if you any questions about the Port Mann/Highway 1 Project.
General inquiries can also be directed to:
Web: www.pmh1project.com
Email: info@pmh1project.com
Tel: 1-877-999-7641
Yours truly,
Pamela Ryan
Communications Counsel
Port Mann/Highway 1 Project
Transportation Investment Corporation
Suite 1420 - 1111 West Georgia Street, Vancouver BC V6E 4M3
pryan@ticorp.ca

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Big Labour's big problem?


With less than a week to go now before the by-election, it's clear that the contest is shaping up as a battle between the single Big Labour/NDP candidate and everyone else on the centre-right. The only problem is that the majority of Coquitlam voters don't realize it.

The Left's champion is Neal Nicholson, who is backed by the NDP machine, endorsed by NDP politicians and the firefighter's union, and supported financially by CUPE.

With all this union support, one wonders about Nicholson's statement at last Wednesday's Maillardville all-candidates meeting (pictured), in which he agreed with my idea that, as a budget-control measure, we should reduce the size of the city staff through attrition and retirements. In other words, we should institute a hiring freeze until we get spending under control.

Does CUPE know about this? Has the New Westminster Labour Council heard? If so, do they agree? Not likely.

I have no reason to doubt Nicholson's sincerity, but I can't see how Big Labour can support a man who backs a reduction in the city's work force. That just ain't Big Labour's style. I await an explanation.

Meantime, I believe that I have emerged as the leading non-Big Labour candidate. My policies are aimed at providing the most good for the broadest range of Coquitlam residents, not just for special interests. I believe that using common sense, we can find common ground on most of the big problems facing us.

By the way, those doubting my memory of Nicholson's statement need only listen to the audio recording of the proceedings, which is now conveniently on-line here.

Fighting the five-percent tax hike


Here's my newest press release, which I'm distributing door-to-door today. It's going over very well.

O’Neill calls for city hall cuts & lower property taxes

COQUITLAM – With yet another huge property-tax hike looming over Coquitlam, independent candidate Terry O’Neill has called for immediate steps to protect homeowners.

O’Neill, who is running in the May 15 by-election, points out that council adopted a budget on May 3 calling for the average homeowner to pay an additional 5.28% more property tax this year.

Added to last year’s 7% increase, the two-year total is quadruple the rise in the cost of living over the same period.

“The average worker or small-business owner certainly hasn’t received 12% in raises or earned 12% more profit over the past two years,” O’Neill says. “It’s unacceptable for council to continue saddling the citizens of Coquitlam with this sort of tax burden.”

He said council must immediately freeze hiring and re-examine all aspects of the budget. “The city has to cut its spending, starting immediately,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill recently wrote a passionate plea in defence of homeowners, housing affordability and lower property taxes in Coquitlam. The article, published by the Georgia Straight, drew praise from Province columnist Jon Ferry.

“…I was happy to see that Terry O’Neill, a candidate in the May 15 Coquitlam city byelection, has been vigorously defending the suburban lifestyle he and his wife have enjoyed for the past 30 years,” Ferry wrote in his paper’s May 3 edition.

O’Neill has had a distinguished career in journalism and communications. He is also a past president of The Eagle Ridge Residents Association and currently sits on the boards of several non-profits, including the Coquitlam Foundation.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Eight candidates, one choice


Both local papers have published some coverage of the all-candidates meetings that took place earlier this week. Here's a link to the Tri-City News' story. And here's a link to a story in The Now.
The News has also published a handy guide to all eight candidates.
Remember to vote: May 8 at Pinetree Community Centre; May 12 at Poirier Community Centre. May 15 at any of 11 schools. See the city's website for details.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Burquitlam meeting a big success


The third and final of the all-candidates' meetings is now over. I'd say it was another great success for the campaign, and probably my best performance of the three. The photo shows the little display I set up in the gym of Banting Middle before the meeting began.

Here's the text of my Opening Speech.

I’d like to begin by thanking the Burquitlam Community Association for hosting this meeting. Thanks, also, to everyone in the audience for attending. It’s great for democracy.

You know, I’ve been talking to hundreds of voters over the past month, and many ask, “Why are you running?”

My answer is simple: After a long career in journalism writing editorials and opinion pieces like the Face to Face debate in the Tri-City News, the time has come to stop talking and start doing.

I’ve always dug for the truth and taken strong stands. Indeed, my job was to spark debate. Now, I'm ready to put down my reporter’s pencil and serve my community in a different fashion, as a city councillor.

Now is the time to listen more intently.
Now is the time to collaborate and seek common ground.
Now is the time to work with my neighbours, my community and all voters to make Coquitlam an even better place than it already is.

My priorities are not unlike those of the majority of voters:

*We want sound management of our city’s budget, keeping tax increases to a minimum while protecting key services. I’m happy to report that there’s wide agreement among my fellow candidates on this point.

Mr. Nicholson, for example, agreed with me last night that council should reduce the number of workers on the city payroll, using attrition and retirement.

*There’s also broad agreement on an issue that’s of great interest to Burquitlam: completion of the Evergreen Line. Here, however, Mr. Nicholson and I disagree. I want all B.C. taxpayers to pay equally for the shortfall. Mr. Nicholson, however, favours raising funds by slapping a special charge on motorists using the Barnet Highway.

[Note: later in the meeting, Mr. Nicholson attempted to explain that his toll or user-fee idea was actually more of a general, long-term thought, and not directly related to paying for the Evergreen.]

I’ve been involved in community affairs since I helped found The Eagle Ridge Residents Association 30 years ago.

I can be trusted to make the best decisions for all Coquitlam.

And I promise to be accountable for my actions in office.

Please vote “Terry O’Neill” on May 15. Thank-you!

Battle brewing over bridge traffic


To no one's surprise, last night's all-candidates meeting in Maillardville centred on issues directly relating to this most historic of Coquitlam's neighbourhoods.

But, while it was no surprise that issues surrounding community planning, recreation, heritage, arts and culture, and crime figured prominently in the discussion, what caught most of us off guard was the news that the provincial government is planning no upgrades* to the Brunette interchange as part of the Gateway Program , even though construction of the new Port Mann Bridge will greatly increase traffic.

Several members of the audience complained that an already-difficult traffic situation in and around Maillardville would become intolerable once the new bridge starts pouring more traffic onto the freeway and, ultimately, over the Brunette interchange.

In response to the concerns, I made it very clear that I would do my utmost to see that the community's concerns are addressed. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," I told the audience, and I plan to be one squeaky wheel!
*[Update: I should have written 'no significant upgrades']

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Opposed to punitive Barnet road usage fee

From funding the Evergreen Line and lowering business taxes to expanding library services and maintaining support for local non-profits, our first all-candidates meeting covered alot of ground.

To my mind, the defining moment of the debate was when Neal Nicholson said that, if elected, he would support the imposition of a road usage fee (a toll?) on motorists using the Barnet Highway. The proceeds, he said, would help pay for the Evergreen Line. If memory serves me correctly, he declared he wanted to ensure it would "cost a lot" (or something to this effect) to drive the Barnet.

Luckily, I followed Nicholson in the speaking order and said, in no uncertain terms, that it would be unfair to penalize motorists who, by necessity, have to drive to and from downtown Vancouver from Coquitlam. Moreover, I pointed out that the entire region, if not the entire province, will benefit from expansion of rapid transit.

This being the case, the burden should be shared by all, not shouldered disproportionately by one segment. The video that's part of this posting is of my complete answer. Please visit my Facebook page for more videos.
video

Here's my home-stretch ad


Here's an advance look at the ad that'll be running in tomorrow's Tri-City News. We're in the home stretch now!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Defending suburbia and suburbanites


As I informed readers last week, I recently submitted an op-ed column to the on-line edition of the Georgia Straight newspaper, after the editor put out a request to all eight candidates.

I quickly agreed to write the piece, but didn't think it would be widely read by Coquitlam voters. I did conclude, however, that the column would allow me to elaborate on an important part of my campaign platform: defending suburban homeowners. (The picture shows central Coquitlam on a foggy fall morning a few years ago.)

The Straight published the piece last week, and I figured that was the end of it (although I did check the paper's website from time to time to see if anyone else had written a column; as of today, only one other candidate had done so).

Imagine my pleasant surprise, then, when a friend called me a few hours ago (while I was in the middle of door-knocking in Ranch Park) to deliver the great news that my column had caught the interest of Jon Ferry, the Vancouver Province newspaper's front-section columnist and, furthermore, that Ferry had written in today's paper that he was in complete agreement with my position.

All in all, it's great news for the campaign, especially as we head into the three consecutive all-candidates meetings this week. Here's the Province column, below:

Suburban living offers quality over quantity


Out in Langley over the weekend, I was struck by just how pleasant life in the Lower Mainland suburbs can be with a large lot, a sizzling barbecue and a backyard full of kids.

And I thought how it wrong it was for politically correct politicians and transportation "experts" continually to rail against suburban sprawl as it were some form of disease.

Not everyone loves downtown living, at least if they have a family to raise or an animal or two to feed.

Nor do they thrill to the mantra of forced housing densification, or eco-density, that's become so fashionable among academics and urban planners.

For many Lower Mainland residents, the dream is not to live in a luxury condo in Vancouver's West End or Olympic Village. They'd much prefer a single-family home in the Fraser Valley with a decent-sized backyard, approachable neighbours and some trees their children can climb.

But too often their voices go unreported in civic reports, university studies . . . and B movies that invariably give the suburbs a bad rap.

That's why I was happy to see that Terry O'Neill, a candidate in the May 15 Coquitlam city byelection, has been vigorously defending the suburban lifestyle he and his wife have enjoyed for the past 30 years. "This is our home. This is where we live," the longtime journalist wrote in a Georgia Straight op-ed. "And this place . . . despite what some downtown urbanites might think, is not some sort of suburban blight. It is the manifestation of our hope and dreams."

It was much the same point that retired Maple Ridge teacher Dan Banov made recently in taking issue with patronizing remarks by local city Coun. Craig Speirs about the alleged inactivity of those who lived on large suburban properties. "The kids are less healthy, more obese," Speirs was quoted as saying.

Banov, who lives on acreage in Whonnock, quite rightly questioned where Speirs had got his information. "I always thought children living closer to nature would give them a healthier life, climbing trees instead of monkey bars," he fired back in a letter to the Maple Ridge News.

Certainly, life in the suburbs isn't all peaches and cream. And suburban motorists increasingly are being taxed to death. But despite the media hype about people moving into the urban core of Vancouver and other large cities, there's little or no evidence suburban living is becoming any less popular in North America.

High-profile U.S. geographer Joel Kotkin says the reason is that the suburbs represent for most people the best, most practical and most community-minded choice for raising their families.

"Indeed, for four decades, according to numerous surveys, the portion of the population that prefers to live in a big city has consistently been in the 10-to 20-per-cent range, while roughly 50 per cent or more opt for suburbs or exurbs," Kotkin noted.

The bottom line? Lower Mainland community leaders need to stop fixating on the supposed virtues of densification and downtown living . . . and start sticking up for the burbs. After all, they're where most of us live.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Successful reception energizes campaign





Almost 100 supporters and potential supporters, friends and family members gathered with my team and me last night at a campaign reception at the Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club. The photos show some of the gathering.

It was a great success! Bringing so many concerned and involved citizens -- including four members of city council -- together to talk politics and campaign strategy or simply to network and get to know one another made for a memorable evening. My thanks go out to my team and to everyone who attended.

One of the many highlights for me was the short speech I was able to deliver. Upon conclusion, I realized that it was the first actual political campaign speech I'd ever delivered. Yes, I've given dozens of political addresses in the past, but they were all as a journalist looking at or analyzing politics. This one was different because I'm now actually running for office.

The audience gave me a great reception, including several bursts of applause during the speech and enthusiastic applause upon conclusion.

I've included many of the themes that I touched on in the address in an e-mail I've been sending out this morning to supporters and potential supporters. Here's the text:

Hello Coquitlam Voters,

We’re in the home stretch now! Just two weeks are left until the Coquitlam Council by-election on May 15. And we’re closer yet to the Advance Polls:

 May 5, at Poirier Community Centre, 630 Poirier Street.
 May 8 at Pinetree Community Centre, 1260 Pinetree Way.
 May 12 at Poirier Community Centre, 630 Poirier Street.

All polls are open 8 a.m. til 8 p.m.

I hope that, by now, you’ve had time to consider which candidate to support. And, of course, that you’ve chosen me. If so, thanks very much. Every vote is crucial in what is shaping up to be a tight race.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve met hundreds of residents during my daily walks through Coquitlam neighbourhoods. Rain or shine, I’ve listened, taken notes, and promised to act responsibly to find solutions.

If you’re still undecided, please check out my website at www.terryoneill.ca, and you’ll see that I stand firmly for fiscal responsibility, action on transit issues, better strategies for dealing with street-level crime, and a commonsense approach to the homeless problem.

You might also want to read my blog, http://electterryoneill.blogspot.com, where you can find my insights on campaign-related news and other issues.

I’ll also be attending three all-candidates meetings next week. They take place:

 May 4, 7 p.m. at David Lam Campus of Douglas College, Lecture hall A1470 (sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce);
 May 5, 7 p.m. at Place Maillardville, 1200 Cartier Ave. (sponsored by the Maillardville Residents’ Association);
 May 6, 7 p.m. at Banting Middle School, (sponsored by the Burquitlam Community Association).

Please let me know by return email if you have any questions or need help in getting out to the polls. Thanks for taking the time to get involved!

Terry O’Neill
Involved. Trusted. Accountable.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Living the Great Canadian Dream


The Georgia Straight's online edition has just published my op-ed on what I think the most important campaign issues are. As you'll see by clicking on the link, I decided to concentrate my response on one specific and vital area.

The paper extended an invitation to all eight candidates in the May 15 election but, so far, I haven't seen anything from the others.

The message and the masses


With the first advance poll for the Coquitlam Council by-election less than a week away now, one might assume that the majority of residents would know about the vote and also have some sort of an understanding about who the candidates are. From what I've learned from several weeks of intensive door-knocking, however, the truth is that about half of Coquitlam residents are not even aware of the by-election. My recurring newspaper ads, such as the one pictured here (which will run tomorrow), have helped raise awareness, but it's clear that more is needed.

Are there ways to better inform voters of important municipal events such as this by-election, thereby engaging more interest and boosting turnout? It's an important question, especially considering the fact that the last time the city held a council by-election only 5.1 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

One of the problems is the city's own tight restrictions on pre-election advertising. For example, candidates are not allowed to erect lawn signs until 10 days before the election day. Moreover, the size of the signs are strictly regulated; none may be greater than two-feet square.

One idea I proposed recently to city officials would be to allow candidates to place standard-sized pamphlets at information centres in libraries, community centres and city sports facilities. Currently, however, no such display is allowed.

Council's decision, to add two survey questions the by-election, was designed to encourage voter turnout. That's a good, short-term fix. But we also need good, long-term ideas to ensure that voters are so engaged with the city that they don't have to be cajoled to cast ballots. It's something I'll work on when I'm on council.

UPDATE: Coincidentally, Canada Post is today delivering official "Notice of Election by Voting" cards in the mail today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Helping unravel the homeless riddle


It was perhaps 15 years ago now that my then-small sons and I were traipsing through a forest that is now the site of Scott Creek Middle Schoool, finding hidden trails, secret hiding spaces and otherwise enjoying some midday fun.

Our adventure took an unexpected turn when a man suddenly emerged from the forest. Nervous at first, we soon engaged him in conversation and learned that he was sleeping among the bushes and trees and spent his days scrounging for food from bins. It was then that I realized for the first time that the "homeless problem" was not confined only to the downtown eastside.

I raise this now because of two stories in our local papers today. This one describes the end of Coquitlam's "wet-weather mat" program for the year, and the ongoing dispute about how best to temporarily house the homeless. This one here reveals the startling news that a local business owner, operating only about a kilometre away from the site where my boys and I came across our homeless man, had set up his own privately operated shelter to help the homeless who live in forested land adjacent to his business. Bylaw enforcement officers have now shut down the unlicensed operation.

I've got to hand it to that business operator, Gerry Sly, for his commitment. While activists and politicians continue their lengthy and important discussion over how best to respond to the problem, Mr. Sly took decisive, short-term action.

The homeless problem is complex for the very reason that there's a different set of circumstances for every person who is homeless. Many are addicts or suffer from a mental problem. Some can't cope with the strictures of living in a modern society. A small number are, quite simply, vagrants.

With these varying causes in mind, whatever solution we find to the problem must, therefore, be careful to help the truly needy while not facilitating free-loading pauperism. Moreover, a true-long-term solution should also include a recipient's commitment to treatment, counselling or education.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Celebrating 'Santacruzan'


One of the benefits of all the door-knocking and group-meeting with which I've been engaged for the past month has been the opportunity to meet so many new people and become associated with so many outstanding organizations. This morning, I spent time with members of the Filipino community here in Coquitlam who are hard at work organzing a big event for next month.

It's called "Santacruzan." Also known as "Flores de Mayo," it's a religious festival, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is traditionally celebrated in May with a parade of colourfully decorated floats and elaborately dressed participants representing biblical and historical figures, under a canopy of elaborate floral arches. The photo above shows a typical procession in the Phillipines.

Coquitlam's "Santacruzan" will start with an assembly at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, at the gym at Our Lady of Fatima School. The procession then goes along Alderson Ave., up Allison Str., along Edgar Ave, then finally down Walker Str., ending at Our Lady of Fatima Church, where a mass will be celebrated at 5 p.m. It'll all be followed by a Dinner and Dance at the Church Hall, starting at 6 p.m.

Santacruzan is shaping up to be both a great spectacle and a moving spiritual experience. The public is invited to watch and then to join in the fun at the Dinner and Dance. Tickets are $20 each, and can be obtained by contacting Myrna Mata at 604.524.4393 or 778.889.4664, or by emailing mlmata@telus.net.

Oh yes: watch for me at the dinner-dance selling raffle tickets!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Amassing more moss than most


It's reported today that Vancouver is home to more "green" roofs than any other city on the continent, save three.

I'm thinking, though, that we'd surely rank Number One if the organization keeping track of this "growing" phenomenon counted the thousands of local roofs whose shakes, shingles and tiles are covered with lush carpets of moss of the sort that grow so well in our mild, rainy climate.

The photo (above) shows the famous grass-covered roof at Coombs, on Vancouver Island. Look closely, and you'll see one of the animals.

Controversy, questions and candidates


City council has now decided on the exact wording of the two survey questions that will be presented to voters as part of the upcoming by-election. Advance polls are May 5, 8 and 12. Voting day is May 15.

As you'll recall, council agreed with a motion from Counc. Doug Macdonell to add the non-binding, referendum-style questions in the hopes the survey will draw more Coquitlam residents to the polls. Voter turnout to the last by-election was a lowly five percent.

Here are the questions:

1. Currently, dogs may run off-leash in the Mundy Park trail system between the hours of dawn and 10:00 a.m., seven days per week. Are you in favour of (please pick only one response):◦ Increasing the permitted time◦ Decreasing the permitted time◦ No change to the current permitted time​.

2. Smoking is currently not permitted in, amongst other places, all parks, trails, commercial buildings / work places, bus stops, schools and within three (3) metres of entrances and other openings. Are you in favour of the City of Coquitlam expanding the prohibition to include public patios and additional public spaces where minors (under 16 years of age) are permitted to be present. · YES NO

I'll be writing and talking more about these issues in the weeks to come, especially at the three all-candidates meetings that have now been scheduled.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making "Nevergreen" into Evergreen


They call it the "Never-green" Line. That's the name a great many Coquitlam residents have given to the oft-promised but never-constructed Evergreen rapid-transit connection to Coquitlam Centre from Lougheed Mall.

Mayor Richard Stewart told council on Monday that he has received assurances from both the provincial government and Premier Gordon Campbell (aren't they the same thing?) that the line will, indeed, be built. But two big questions remain: when will construction actually start? and who will make up the funding shortfall?

Interestingly, even as we continue to wait for answers to these questions, Vancouver residents are starting discussions on what sort of east-west rapid transit line should be built along the Broadway corridor.

With the only sign of the Evergreen line still being that hastily-constructed project office in the Coquitlam Central parking lot, news of this development in Vancouver causes me to wonder whether, just as the Evergreen was shunted to a siding to make way for the Canada Line, we are now seeing the beginning of a process that will once again lead to the derailing of the Coquitlam line. I certainly hope not.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Public input on burning issues


When in doubt, ask the public. That's not a half bad default position for city councils wrestling with vexing problems, but public consulation can be time-consuming and costly. So, faced with continuing controversy over off-leash areas and smoking in outdoor public spaces, Coquitlam Council decided tonight to ask the public for its opinion at the same time as it asks the public to select a new councillor (me, please!) on May 15.
Yes, that's correct. According to reports from tonight's council meeting, the public will be asked its opinion of the two issues in a non-binding survey. I'm given to understand that the questions will not be available for the advance polls, but will be on a ballot in time for the by-election itself.
The decision to ask for formal public input has a two-fold benefit: it will give council some more information upon which to base its decisions; and it will drive more people to the polls on May 15, an outcome that will surely result in a more representative outcome.
I'm looking forward to learning more in the days to come about the shape the questions will take.
Meantime, the Vancouver Parks Board has apparently already heard enough, and voted tonight to ban smoking on city beaches and in city parks.
Just one question: is this really a health issue, or is it simply the Nanny State flexing her muscles?
UPDATE: I've now learned that the survey questions will be asked during the advance polls on May 5, 8 and 12, as well as the regular by-election day of May 15. Good work, council!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

High taxes and pyjamas


As I continue to go door-to-door throughout Coquitlam, I'm learning that there's no single civic issue that everyone agrees is the most important. Among the top-of-mind topics raised by residents are: parking problems, high property taxes, delays in construction of the Evergreen line, illegal secondary suites, garbage collection hiccups, high utility fees, animal welfare, zoning bylaws and, of course the HST which everyone seems to know is not a municipal responsibility, but which is still a subject on which folks understandably want to vent.

I've also learned that it doesn't matter whether I'm door-knocking in the late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, or early evening -- I'll always encounter a fairly large number of people who are still in their pyjamas!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Translink "under-serves" Tri-Cities


Over-charged and under-served. That was the theme of our campaign two weeks ago when we protested the big 11% increase in the cost of transit passes. And the "under-served" theme is repeated again today, with a Tri-City News story that reports, "Bus service in the Tri-Cities is falling behind neighbouring New Westminster, Richmond and Burnaby, and TransLink needs to review its transit plan for the region." Read the entire story here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like a campaign


The first full week of May is going to be a busy one on the campaign trail, as the Burquitlam Community Association has now announced that it will stage an all-candidates meeting on Thursday, May 6 at Sir Frederick Banting Middle School from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Earlier, we learned that the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce is holding an all-candidates meeting on Tuesday the 4th, and the good folks in Maillardville are staging one on Wednesday the 5th. Today, we received an email informing us that the CoC event will take place at the David Lam Campus of Douglas College, room A1470, from 7-830 p.m. Details still to come on the Maillardville event.

I expected all-candidates meetings to take place, of course, but I was mildly surprised today when I received a phone call from "Cameron" of the "Coquitlam Firefighters Political Action Committee," who invited me to attend a private meeting with a panel of the committee. And, yes, the committee really does exist. It even has a webpage.

I'll not refrain from employing incendiary punning to say that I think the intention of the meeting is for them to grill me on my platform, but that I may also have a chance to fire some questions their way.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fulfilling work with the Foundation


The Coquitlam Foundation, on whose board of directors I sit, is staging its big Awards Night at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 14 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. If you haven't already made plans to attend, I recommend you drop by to support the many great community organizations and outstanding individuals that we will be honouring with upwards of $50,000 in grants, bursaries and scholarships.

Both of our Coquitlam papers have run display advertisements promoting the event, and haven't charged us a penny for it. Thanks! The Tri-City News also ran a long story on our award winners and our plans for the evening last week. And now the Vancouver Sun's Keeping Track page has published a short list of the winners. It's all good!

Hope to see you there on Wednesday.

UPDATE: I've now posted photos of the event on my Facebook page.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vancouver council runs afoul of common sense


Politicians have been known to promise the electorate "a chicken in every pot." Vancouver councillors are breaking new ground, however, in allowing a coop in every back yard.

And, while the denizens of the downtown eastside scour garbage bins or line up at the Salvation Army for something to eat, council has also decided to deprive the soup kitchens of the means to add some substance to their offerings, choosing to build a $20,000 shelter for abandoned fowl, rather than sending the birds to the butcher.

A chicken in every pot? Not if it's an abandoned bird in Vancouver.

Friday, April 9, 2010

All-candidates meeting May 4

Save the date: The Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce has announced that it will be holding an all-candidates meeting on Tuesday, May 4, from 7-9 p.m. No word yet on a location.

I have to thank the good folks at the Chamber for staging this. It takes a lot of time, effort and expense to put on one of these events, especially when there will be upwards of half a dozen candidates on the stage (see post, below).

One way or the other, it's bound to be a great evening, where Coquitlam residents will have the chance to assess all the candidates in person. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nomination week takes an unusual twist


According to the City of Coquitlam's website, there are now seven candidates running in the May 15 by-election. Nominations close tomorrow, and that number could rise to eight or nine. [UPDATE: It ended up being nine, including Maxine Wilson.]

Or maybe fall back to six, according to this Tri-City News story, which reports that former mayor Maxine Wilson may have to withdraw from the race due to poor health.

[UPDATE on April 9: And now the Coquitlam Now is reporting that Wilson's indecision is because of an "undisclosed health issue."]

I hope that her health problem is nothing serious. But if she is so concerned about her well-being that she has made public her indecision over whether to run for the open seat on council, then one must conclude that it is a significant illness or affliction. Let's hope, then, that she has a speedy recovery.

Meantime, that little advert at the top of this post is what you'll see from time to time on the news pages of the aforementioned Tri-City News's website. It serves a two-fold purpose: immediate promotion of my candidacy; and quick access to my website, which can be accessed by moving your cursor over the ad and simply clicking (it doesn't work here, but does on the paper's website). Look for a similar one soon over at The Now.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Earth to Eby: Grim Reaper does stalk the Skids


The column I wish I had written this week: Pete McMartin's masterful look at David Eby and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association's ridiculous griping about No. 2 Firehall's supposedly discriminatory mural, pictured here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kateslem Program: The Inside Story

I spent this evening at a fundraiser at the John B Pub in the company teachers, parents, community workers, civic leaders and other supporters of the Kateslem After School Program.

I first became aware of this worthy project when the Coquitlam Foundation decided to award it a grant last year. Following up on that, I wrote a feature story about the program for what was supposed to be a revamped new Coquitlam Foundation website. Well, more than four months later, the old site is still in place, and the story still hasn't been published on line.

Until now.

Yes, I've decided to use this opportunity to draw some well-deserved public attention for the program by publishing the story here first. So, without further delay, here it is:


PLANTING THE SEEDS OF SUCCESS

Como Lake Middle School’s Kateslem program is using its Coquitlam Foundation grant to cultivate healthier children

‘The more engaged we are with at-risk kids, the less crime we’ll have on the streets.’ --Principal Cindi Seddon


It has been said that children are like plants. Both need nourishment to flourish and thrive. But whereas plants need cultivation, children need education.

There are few more fertile grounds in which to nourish children through education than the rich fields of our community’s classrooms. But when school ends for the day, and there’s no safe place for an at-risk middle-school-aged student to go for the rest of the afternoon, what then?

It is a question that was being asked in 2008 at Como Lake Middle School in Coquitlam. And the answer that parents and educators found was the Kateslem After School Club, a unique, no-fee program for 11- to 14-year-olds offering everything from homework help and life-skills education to community-service opportunities and sporting activities.

A Kateslem program (the name comes from a First Nations word meaning “coming together”) had been operating successfully for a decade at Banting Middle School in Coquitlam, but new funds needed to be raised for a similar one to be launched at Como Lake. Cindi Seddon, Como Lake’s principal, explains that all funding for the program has to be raised from outside sources.

This is where the Coquitlam Foundation entered the picture. After receiving an application for funding in early 2009, the Foundation decided to grant the program $3,500.

“In recommending the awarding of the funding, our grants committee was most impressed by Kateslem’s potential to make a positive difference in the lives of children who may be at risk of falling into crime, drug addiction or even prostitution,” says Coquitlam Foundation Chair Colleen Talbot. She points out that the Kateslem program’s goals mesh well with the Coquitlam Foundation’s mission to encourage and support initiatives that build a vibrant, sustainable and healthy community.

Seddon says programs like Kateslem would not be possible without community support. “At Como Lake, we have been incredibly lucky to be the second site in the district to have the Kateslem After School Program for middle-school aged children,” she says, explaining that the program provides students with a structured, after-school program from Monday to Friday. “The more engaged we are with at-risk kids, the less crime we’ll have on the streets.”

Seddon continues, “This kind of targeted programming only comes at a cost, and we are most grateful to the Coquitlam Foundation for helping to financially sponsor Kateslem.”

While the Como Lake program is only just beginning, its Banting counterpart is enjoying ongoing success. Program Director Karyn Bell points to the story of Brianna, a shy and withdrawn Grade 6 student at Banting. “She didn’t make friends easily,” says Bell, “and her teachers were concerned about her development.” Brianna (not her real name) entered the Kateslem program and began to blossom. “It benefited her in every way—academic, social,” adds Seddon.

After Brianna graduated from middle school to high school, she came back to volunteer at Kateslem. “She and others her age act as role models for the kids,’ Bell explains. “They know the program really well because they’ve already been through it.” Brianna was so involved with Kateslem that the program rewarded her by adding her to its part-time staff while she was in Grade 12. “It was a way for us to give back to her for giving to us.” Today, Brianna—the one-time social outcast—is studying in a post-secondary institution with the aim of making a career of helping children, just as she was helped.

Brianna is just one of many success stories. Kateslem’s participants often improve their marks and are less disruptive in class. And, outside of school, there’s no telling how many children have been steered away from anti-social behaviour.

With such positive outcomes, the Coquitlam Foundation’s grant can be viewed as an investment in the future—not only the future of at-risk children, but also the future of the entire community. What’s clear, says Seddon, is that without the kind of community support shown by the Coquitlam Foundation, “the Kateslem program would not be possible.”

-30-

You can learn more about Kateslem by contacting Karyn Bell, Kateslem co-ordinator, at karynskateslem@yahoo.ca or 604.250.9332.

An official candidate


It's official. I'm now a candidate for Coquitlam City Council in the May 15 by-election. Here's the press release, above, that I'm now in the process of distributing. Just click on it to get a magnified, easier-to-read view.

Meantime, I had a successful evening door-knocking in my neighbourhood yesterday, making contact with dozens of nearby residents, many of whom became enthusiastic supporters on the spot (!) and agreed to place signs on their lawns later in the campaign.

The number-one issue on the minds of most people in this neighbourhood was secondary suites. No two shared the same concerns, however. Some thought enforcement was too lax. Some thought it was too stringent. Some were concerned with suites' impact on street parking. Some with suite owners not paying their fair share of utilities fees. Good discussions all 'round, and definitely a subject that is worth looking into.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter flower project blooms again


And now for some non-political news: Our annual Easter Flower Distribution at Eagle Ridge Manor took place earlier today, and it was another great success.

Once again, Art Knapp Plantland generously donated all the potted plants, which a team of volunteers (pictured) from St. Joseph's Parish distributed to about 75 patients at the long-term care facility, which is located on the Port Moody-Coquitlam border.

A special thank-you should go to hard-working and warm-hearted staff at the Manor, who seemed just as thrilled about the flowers as the patients. As well, a big shout-out to Mary P-D and her family for making the hand-crafted cards and then being there in force once again to help with the distribution.

All in all, a very good day for everyone involved!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ticked off at Translink


What a terrific reception our four-person team (the three pictured and the fourth taking the photo!) received this morning at the Coquitlam Central station of the Westcoast Express as we distributed flyers protesting today's 11% increase in the cost of transit passes. A great many people were grumbling about the huge hike and were glad to learn that there's at least one candidate running in the May 15 by-election who is just as bothered by the massive April Fool's fare increase as they are.

There are no easy answers to these sorts of issues, but you can bet that we'll work hard to ensure that costs are kept in line, transit services are run efficiently, and passengers who rely on public transit are no longer subjected to these sorts of imposed-from-on-high cash grabs.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

City spending needs to be responsible


The disturbing news that foreclosures are rising in parts of B.C. comes at the same time as banks are planning to hike mortgage rates. This is not good news for homeowners barely making their payments.

Frankly, it's surprising that so many hardworking Metro Vancouver residents are actually able to afford buying their own homes in the first place, what with our region's very expensive prices. How expensive? This recent survey ranked Metro Vancouver as the most unaffordable metropolitan area in the world.

Many reasons explain why housing prices are so astronomic here, most involving the scarcity of land due to natural and artificial influences. But regardless of the causes, the prices are very high and there's no sign of a decline.

That's why city governments have to be so careful with their budgets--careful not to burden homeowners with the sort of property tax and utility bill hikes we've been seeing in Coquitlam in recent years.

Up with people!


I see that the problem of too many Canada geese interferring with human enjoyment of human-made parks has cropped up again, this time in Coquitlam. See this Coquitlam Now story about the situation at Como Lake Park. It sounds like City Hall has come up with a good action plan.
I've long been a supporter of a quick-response approach to dealing with problem geese. I'm not talking about geese in their natural habitat. I'm talking about geese that despoil places which were purpose-built for human enjoyment.
I recently discussed this issue with a biologist friend who is very environmentally aware and a strong advocate of protecting wildlife. I was pleasantly surprised when she told me she was completely on my side on this particular issue because the sort of big, aggressive geese that are plaguing our parks are actually an "invasive species" which should not be here in the first place.
Common sense prevails!
Meantime, here's the text of a column I wrote on the subject last year.

Face to Face for July 24 2009

By Terry O’Neill

This newspaper recently asked its online readers whether “officials [should] act more quickly to destroy problem coyotes.” About 70 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative, a finding that reaffirms my faith in the common sense of local residents.

But common sense seems to be lacking in the management of what I consider to be another “problem” animal, Canadian geese—specifically, the geese that have ruined the lawns at White Pine Beach on Sasamat Lake.

I recently had first-hand experience, not only with the noxious results of the goose infestation at White Pine, but also with the insultingly inept official response to that problem.

It came when I arrived at the beach at the half-way point of a bicycle ride. Looking for a place to rest my tired body, I naturally enough thought about resting on a vacant grassy area. But, thanks to the gangs of Canadian geese that are being allowed both to graze on the grass and defecate on what’s left of the lawns, there’s nowhere I would dare sit without a blanket (which, having biked into the park, I did not possess).

I parked myself on a bench, and when a group of park rangers strolled by, I asked them what was being done about the goose problem. Two of them shrugged their shoulders. A third uttered, not once but twice, “Well, it’s their park, you know.”

What an insulting answer. White Pine Beach is definitely not the geese’s park. The park was created by humans for human enjoyment, not by geese for goose enjoyment. Of course, the ranger’s answer reflects the accepted green wisdom of the day that humans are interlopers in and despoilers of the “natural world.” This intellectual nostrum rests on the questionable belief that humans are unnatural and geese are natural, so we shouldn’t complain when they poop in the park.

What a load. We wouldn’t let geese do their dirty business in a hotel lobby, on a theatre stage or atop a church altar. And we also shouldn’t tolerate their despoiling another important place where we humans gather, our parks.

Therefore, I believe that aggressive action should be taken to rid the parks of the geese. To borrow from Shakespeare, Cry havoc and let slip the dogs—or, if needs be, coyotes—of war!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dark coincidence

The voluntary plunge into darkness that is "Earth Hour" came and went with little impact in our neighbourhood last night. But several hours later, a wide swath of our region suffered a power blackout, which most of us learned only this morning when our alarm clocks didn't go off.

All of which got someone close to me to wonder if the blackout wasn't actually an intentional power stoppage orchestrated by an overeager, environmentally-conscious minion at B.C. Hydro. Surely not! Surely, not even the most zealous Defender of the Planet would do such a thing.

Curious, though, as to the official reason for the blackout, I scooted over the Hydro's website, only to learn that the Crown corporation had attributed the two-hour power interruption (which affected more than 8,000 users) to that catch-all reason of "other."

Nevertheless, there's probably an entirely reasonable technical explanation for the power failure. I'll send an email to the corp. now, and will let you know what the answer is.

UPDATE (March 30): I've just received a phone call from BC Hydro. The customer-service rep says the widespread outage was caused by a "blown cable" at the corp's substation in the area. No connection to Earth Hour, he assures me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The homeowner gets hit again

There's a top-notch letter into today's Tri-City News about the fact the city of Coquitlam's utility charges to homeowners have soared out of sight over the past six years. The charges for water, sewage and garbage-disposal jumped 17% to $661 this year alone. More worrisome yet, the letter-writer, Henry Pritchard, calculated that his utility bill has risen an astronomical 84% since 2004.

This wouldn't be so bad if our overall property tax bills hadn't risen steeply throughout the last decade, but they too have jumped sharply. Throughout B.C., municipal expenditures have risen at an average of twice the rate one would expect because of inflation and population growth, and Coquitlam is right in there with the high-spending pack. Check out this grim CFIB report for all the details.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bugged about the flu bug

It's nothing to celebrate, but almost exactly a year has now passed since the world was first gripped by the H1N1 pandemic pandemonium. What lessons have we learned since emerging from this past flu season? I've been giving it some thought lately, which led to a column in today's National Post. You can read it here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Translink has lost its way


I'll be at the Coquitlam Central station of the Westcoast Express on Thursday (March 25) morning, letting transit riders know that I share their concern about the whopping 11% increase in the cost of monthly passes that Translink is applying on April 1st. My flyer, above, says it all.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wise words from Gerry Furney

One of B.C.'s truly great guys, Gerry Furney, the long-time mayor of Port McNeill, is the subject of an interesting profile in this month's Celtic Connection magazine. Gerry is a first-generation Irish immigrant to Canada, who started work as a logger on Northern Vancouver Island in the mid-1950s, and has basically been there ever since.

As mayor of Port McNeill for the past 35 years, Gerry has learned a thing or two about finances, and I'd be wise to take his advice on how to handle civic books. "My accounting principles for the town are pretty basic," he told reporter Catholine Butler. "We have money coming in and money going out and we have to make sure that there is a bit more coming in than goes out. It's pretty much the same principle as running a household."

Words to live--and govern--by.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On line and ready for action

It's been a busy past few days. One of the highlights is that Daryl Fernquist of Fern Web Designs has, in just a few days, successfully put together a website for me, www.terryoneill.ca, and it's now online. Great work, Daryl!

The site will be the central point through which web visitors can have access to my Facebook page and my blog. If you're a supporter, please spread the word about all the ways voters can stay in touch and keep informed about the campaign.

Meantime, I'll be blogging more about some issues and ideas in the coming days.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now on Facebook

Be the first to join my Facebook fan page. Click here to check it out! Meantime, you'll see that the Facebook page also refers to the existence of a website, www.terryoneill.ca, but the site is still under construction, so please don't bother trying to view it now. Thanks.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Off the starting line and into second gear

We're starting to really gear up now that the by-election has been officially called and the date, May 15, set by council. Newspaper ads are being booked, pamphlets are being printed, telephone lists are being compiled, and some pledges for donations are already being received. It's starting to feel like the real thing!

Meantime, the Tri-City News has now published a short story about my candidacy. And speaking of the Tri-City News, I miss writing the weekly Face to Face column for the paper, but I certainly understand how it would be an unfair advantage for me to continue writing (and enjoying all that exposure) while also running for council. My long-time F2F partner, Mary Woo Sims, stepped aside twice in past years while she ran for office.

By the way, yesterday's Coquitlam Now story listed declared candidates, including me, Neal Nicholson, Ralph Banni and Owen Coomer. The Now also reported that Maxine Wilson, the former mayor, told its reporter that she is still weighing her options and hasn't decided whether to run or not. However, at Monday's council meeting, Mrs. Wilson told me that she has definitely decided to run. Her candidacy shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, and it will make the campaign even that much more interesting.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Publicity for the candidacy

The Tri-City News and the Coquitlam Now have both published stories today about the May 15 by-election.

The Now's story contains the first mention of my candidacy. No complaints there, but it feels strange to be referred to as a native of Winnipeg. It's technically correct (well, close enough, because I was born in St. Boniface), but it's odd to think of myself as a Winnipeg native because my family and I moved from the Prairie capital to Vancouver when I was in Grade 3, and my wife and I moved to Coquitlam 30 years (or more than half my lifetime) ago!

But, as they say, any publicity is good as long as they spell your name correctly. And the reporter succeeded admirably on that point!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A two-month campaign begins


It's been decided. Coquitlam Council voted tonight to appoint a returning officer and to hold a by-election on May 15. Accordingly, I have now decided that I will, indeed, run in that by-election. Here is the press release I distributed to the reporters at tonight's council meeting:



Local writer-activist seeks seat on Coquitlam Council

COQUITLAM –Journalist and community activist Terry O’Neill has announced his decision to run in this spring’s Coquitlam council by-election.

O’Neill brings three decades’ worth of experience in journalism and community volunteering to his candidacy. A founding member and past president of The Eagle Ridge Residents Association, the award-winning writer currently sits on the board of the Coquitlam Foundation and chairs the finance committee of St. Joseph’s Parish.

“I am seeking elected office for the simple reason that I want to help make Coquitlam a better place in which to live,” says O’Neill, who has resided in the city with his wife and children for the past 30 years. “My neighbours and friends say they love our beautiful city, but they are also concerned that not enough is being done to solve problems involving transportation, crime and financial accountability.”

He continues, “With my record of community involvement and professional accomplishment, I believe I can be trusted to listen to the voters, make the tough decisions, and be held accountable for my actions. The bottom line is that we can work together to find pragmatic, commonsense solutions to our problems.”

O’Neill’s career has seen him win national news awards while editing and writing for such publications as B.C. Report and the Western Standard and, more recently, the National Post and the Tri-City News, for which he wrote half of the weekly Face to Face column for more than four years. His commitment to the community includes volunteering as master-of-ceremonies for this year’s Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Walk for Memories and, in the past, as MC for the Crossroads Hospice Society’s Treasures of Christmas gala. He also served as vice-chair of the Education Committee of Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary School.

As well, he has been honoured by the Red Cross Society of Canada for humanitarianism, and by Canada Blood Services for distinguished citizenship.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Plateau pandemonium


It was democracy in action. Or, depending on how you look at it, inaction. I'm talking about the March 3 meeting of the Westwood Plateau Community Association, called to get answers about a revision in regional land designation affecting the Westwood Plateau golf course.
There's obviously much concern and, noteably, some misinformation about City Council's recent request to Metro Vancouver to change the designation from "conservation/recreation" to "general urban."
A vast majority of the 200-300 concerned citizens in attendance (see photo) fear that the change, which the majority of council and city bureaucrats say is necessitated by the development of more precise mapping designations under the revised Draft Regional Growth Strategy, opens the door to possible rezoning and, ultimately, residential development.
I'd be mad as hell, too, if I thought development was a real possibility and if I owned a home near the course--a home for which I most likely paid a premium because of its proximity to all that lovely greenspace.
But while a revised regional designation might make it slightly easier to, one day, develop the land, the fact is that Coquitlam's Official Community Plan and its zoning bylaws already provide quite a bulwark against development. And practical considerations, such as the limited size of water and sewage pipes, also argue against any expansion of the residential footprint.
Moreover, the principle of bringing decisions closer to home--of having Coquitlam Council being in the position of making important decisions affecting Coquitlam, not an unrepresentative Metro Vancouver board holding the most powerful hand--dictates that our residents and their directly elected officials should have most of the decision-making power.
That being said, however, it's clear that the City really dropped the ball on this one. Not only did the redesignation issue blindside Plateau residents, but subsequent efforts to communicate the City's position have obviously failed miserably. And the fact that only one council member, the voluble Lou Sekora, attended the March 3 meeting was clearly a public-relations mistake. I can't recall the last time I heard so much hissing and booing directed absent politicians.
Some of the anger is misplaced, and some of the anti-council, anti-development opinions expressed were ill-informed. Nevertheless, it's abundantly clear that, as the warden in Cool Hand Luke famously said, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."
UPDATE: It now appears that, because of the brouhaha, council will, at its March 15 meeting, consider a motion to revisit the issue. It'll be interesting to see the outcome of the discussion. Read the story here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The 'Duffster' drops into Coquitlam


Just to be clear, that's me on the left and Senator Mike Duffy on the right. As does the good senator, I boast an Irish heritage, a background in journalism and a growing enjoyment of political engagement. We exchanged war stories at a small gathering in Coquitlam last night to aid the continuing federal electoral aspirations of Port Moody council member Diana Dilworth--one of the few people at the party over whom Duffy could tower.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Council declines to decide


The saga continues. No, not the Olympics, but Coquitlam council's musings about whether and when it holds a by-election to replace Fin Donnelly.
Council voted unanimously tonight to defer a decision on appointing a Chief and Deputy Chief Election Officer, pending the outcome of a last-ditch meeting that the mayor will have on Friday with (if I heard correctly) the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs.
Council is going through the motions of attempting to avoid a by-election, thereby saving $250,000. But the chances are slim and none that council will succeed. A final decision is now expected at the March 1 council meeting.
What all this means, of course, that my own final decision on whether or not to seek a seat on council will have to wait until then. I can't very well run or not run in a by-election that hasn't even been called.
Meantime, there's always the Olympics to take up any spare time I might have. My wife and I were lucky enough to obtain last-minute tickets to the opening ceremonies last week (the above photo was taken from our Row XX seats), and we have men's hockey tickets too. Go Canada Go!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Catching the Olympic spirit


I have just returned from a memorable morning watching the Olympic torch run festivities here in Coquitlam. First up was attending the torch run procession as it passed the intersection of Lansdowne and Guildford, not far from our home. It was a great, enthusiastic and happy crowd, despite the early hour (7 a.m.) and the weather (cool and drizzly).
A personal highlight was when I recognized that an old acquaintance was the torch-bearer: the former Canadian national-team runner Brit Townsend (nee Peterson), who is now the head coach of the SFU track and field team. I had just enough time to shout out a quick hello, which was loud enough to catch Brit's attention.
Next, it was off to the big civic celebration at Mackin Park, where I was able to congratulate an obviously-proud Mayor Richard Steward for the successful event. Two big highlights: former Olympic wrestler Chris Wilson's lighting of the cauldron; and Charles Best secondary's Kristi Blakeway leading the Best Buddies out of the park at the end of the festivities. That's Wilson and me in the photo, above.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Moving closer to the big decision


As we move closer to the Feb. 15 council meeting at which a decision will be made about the looming by-election, I'm also gearing up my decision-making timetable about entering the race. As part of the process, I'm temporarily relinquishing my weekly Face-to-Face column in the Tri-City News. You can read today's piece here. The photo to the right is, of course, the standing headshot that's used to illustrate the column.