With Angelo Megla out of the running for the role of White Rock mayor – though still on the ballot, due to a late decision to drop out of the race – Peace Arch News spoke to the three people who still have their eye on the job: Larry Anschell, Wayne Baldwin and Lynne Sinclair.
When it comes to revitalizing White Rock, Larry Anschell is confident a focus on arts and less restrictive city policies are key.
If elected, he wants to see a major arts festival established that includes a charity fundraising component, and a return of the sandcastle competition.
Such events – along with more options for dog owners, free waterfront parking in the winter and fewer in-camera meetings – will help turn around current perceptions that paint the city as dysfunctional, he said.
“White Rock has gotten by on its good looks for too long, and it’s catching up,” Anschell said. “Once perception changes of being progressive instead of restrictive, things are going to open up.”
In addition, the recording-studio owner has pledged to donate 10 per cent of his first year’s salary to helping establish an artists’ co-operative on Marine Drive.
Anschell, 46, ran unsuccessfully for councillor in 2008. He said he chose to take aim at the mayoralty this time largely because it would afford him more opportunity to have his ideas heard.
At all-candidates meetings, councillor candidates are typically allotted far less time to respond to citizens’ questions than those running for mayor, he noted.
Anschell said the fact he is the only White Rock candidate who does not live within city limits – he lives in Ocean Park – is a non-issue. given the amount of time and taxes he spends in the city.
“To say that I shouldn’t have the right to run for mayor… is just looking at the surface,” he said.
Anschell describes the mayor’s role as “an impartial facilitator”; someone who sets the tone for the transparency and openness of council.
Noting his mayoral experience is no less than that of his contenders, Anschell said he couldn’t predict how much support he’ll see at the polls.
“I think I have a chance. I don’t know how good it is,” he said. “For anybody that wants a clean slate and fresh ideas – I know I can represent that.”
For Wayne Baldwin, the leap into public politics was largely driven by concern over the current council’s spending habits.
The former longtime city manager cited $1 million spent on consultants in the first nine months of 2011 and a $414,900 pier contract that was awarded last month as two key examples.
“It really disturbed me to have the pier-lighting contract let on extremely short notice…ostensibly because it was a safety item,” he said. “(City staff) were planning on working on the pier-light replacement back in 2010, so I fail to see how this is an emergency that came out of the blue.”
Baldwin, 65, is also concerned that studies examining the city’s economic development keep being done, with little to no movement on the advice given.
“They did these studies and then just forgot about them… There was one in 2009; another one, a complete strategic plan just died,” he said. “It’s frustrating to sit here watching all this stuff knowing it could be done better.”
Baldwin said his first move as mayor would be to get council working as a team. The past three years, the group’s focus has been “on making sure the mayor can’t complete her goals.”
He also wants to amend the city’s closed-to-business image, noting council reduced height and density to where it’s not economical to develop.
“You have to set the table, as it were, to encourage people to take a look at it. And then when they do come, you say, ‘we see what you want to do, but you have to do it our way.’ As long as it’s not an economic issue that puts it out of reach, there’s no reason they shouldn’t comply.”
Baldwin said he does not believe his lack of experience as an elected official has bearing on his ability to be mayor.
“I know what is acceptable and what is not, I know what is appropriate and what is not. I’ve certainly watched enough mayors in action.”
‘Back on track’
If Lynne Sinclair is elected mayor, she’ll be following a similar path as current Mayor Catherine Ferguson, who jumped from first-term councillor to head of the city in the 2008 election.
But that might be where the similarities end. Sinclair, 59, said her political background – which includes “many, many years in highly political environments,” including as a director of the BC Teachers’ Federation – puts her in a better position for the transition.
“I feel quite confident about being able to lead a strong council and get White Rock back on track,” she said.
Looking back on her first three years, Sinclair said she wishes council had handled consideration of contracting the city’s fire service to Surrey differently. She noted the discussion arose after Ferguson met with Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, then brought the idea to council. There were nine vacancies in Surrey at the time, Sinclair said, which, if filled by White Rock firefighters, would have “made a huge savings.”
Instead, the issue created tensions between firefighters and the city.
“I almost wish we hadn’t even done it because we were a new council and we were following her direction. For a new mayor to bring that to us after a meeting with another mayor, maybe it was a bit too much to bite off in a first term.”
Sinclair said, if elected, her key focus in the next three years will be instilling belief in White Rock again, and putting some of the work that’s been done in the past three years into positive growth.
She believes leadership is a central issue in this campaign, and pointed to Watts as an example of strong leadership.
“We need leadership that knows how to work as a team,” Sinclair said. “(Watts is) not threatened by individual councillors who take on a major portfolio and do an excellent job.”
Staff recognition is also important, as is working on affordable housing, she said.