New Westminster Council miscues leave it vulnerable to challengers

In a little over a year from now, the residents of New Westminster will be heading to the polls to elect a new civic government. As it stands, the District Labour Council (DLC) slate solidly controls every single seat of council – with not a single opposition member having been elected to provide an differing point of view.

As you can imagine, this has translated into fairly unanimous vote counts on most days. Here is a sense of what it sounds like…

Mayor Cote: “Time for us to vote. All those in favour say yaye” [six hands go up]…

“Now all those opposed say naye”…silence…

A typical scene at New West Council as all elected officials are from the same political party

But if the last 12 months are any indication, Cote’s caucus may be facing a bit of a battle if they want to retain 100% control of our municipal government after the 2018 election.

Due to a series of high profile miscues, the caucus appear to have weakened their political grip on this city –  if ever so slightly. While there is no polling to confirm this theory,  even attending the random backyard BBQ this summer would reveal voter discontent.

Knocking off even a single member of Cote’s caucus would be akin to a David vs Goliath battle

That said, any political opponent would still face a David vs Goliath challenge in knocking off even one member of Cote’s caucus. The “machine” that works behind the scenes to ensure they get re-elected is not only well funded and formidable, it is highly motivated to keep them in place. It is also buttressed with never-ending and most often favourable press coverage.

Before I delve into the missteps, it’s worth noting there is rampant speculation at least two municipal politicos will be calling it quits come next election. They include both Councillor Lori Williams and Bill Harper. While they haven’t publicly confirmed they’re stepping aside, word on the street is they’re  advising family and friends they won’t have their name on the ballot.

Perhaps while they’re at it they could convince their caucus colleague and school trustee Michael Ewen [who has been on the NW School Board for over three decades] to follow in their footsteps?? Oh…but I digress.

It is widely believed Lorrie Williams will be retiring from civic politics in 2018

The pending retirement of Williams and Harper opens up two seats on council for an independent to fill the void. But if you think this will be a shoe-in for an opposing point of view, not so fast.

The Royal City rumour mill continues to swirl that two people have already been pegged to fill those vacant seats. One of those individuals is Nadine Nakagawa. She currently works as constituency assistant for the Hon. Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

I’m not prepared report the name of the other candidate quite yet…but should have something to report  on who she is soon! Sources say she is a very close confidante of His Worship and is very active on Twitter!

While the next election is clearly one for Cote’s caucus to lose, here are a number of reasons why they may be vulnerable in 2018.

The infamous “staircase to nowhere” cost taxpayers at least $200,000

Staircase to Nowhere: City Hall approved a major retrofit of Front Street which included the partial demolition of a behemoth concrete parkade. The project ended up taking way longer than initially planned and it also served to negatively impact local businesses.

All that considered, it was the “staircase to nowhere” which interestingly caught the regional media’s attention. In August it was revealed Council spent $200,000 tax dollars on a staircase that went nowhere. The metal monstrosity installed on Front Street helped exemplify what for many has become a lack of attention to the bottom line.

As a result of the public backlash, Council recently decided to spend up to an additional $100,000 tax dollars to install public art to hide the “staircase to nowhere”. Seriously folks…you can’t make this stuff up.

The Mayor’s new Q2Q ferry service made headlines for all the wrong reasons

Q2Q Bridge: In 2014 Mayor Jonathan Cote and his caucus colleagues pledged to build a new pedestrian bridge connecting Queensborough and downtown New Westminster.  It was a major campaign promise which was abandoned leaving Queensborough residents wondering if – yet again – they have been left in the political wilderness.

City Hall even produced a fancy brochure helping us to imagine what our new bridge would look like once construction was complete.

As well all know by now, that campaign promise was dumped into the middle of the Fraser River. In its place we ended up with the pilot “Q2Q Ferry” which operated for a few weeks this summer.

While it offered hope the Mayor could still salvage some good PR out of his promise, it was all for not after it was discovered the ferry was not fully accessible. This resulted in even more bad press for the Mayor and his political colleagues.

In Part II of this blog, I’ll explore how city hall mishandled the expansion of our bike lane network as well as the Arenex collapse. Tune in for more soon!