White Rock mayor-elect Darryl Walker says it’s up to the citizens of White Rock to “hold our feet to the fire,” after his Democracy Direct slate swept the White Rock Coalition from city council in Saturday’s civic election.
All four of Walker’s running mates and two independent incumbents were elected councillors, according to unofficial results. According to Civic Info BC, 6,276 residents (39.5 per cent) voted out of an eligible 15,862.
The results show mayoral candidate Walker winning the seat with 1,883 (30 per cent) votes, followed by independent Mike Pearce with 1,722 (27.4 per cent) and White Rock Coalition mayoral candidate Grant Meyer with 1,319 (21 per cent) votes.
The six candidates who have unofficially won a seat in the council chambers include independent incumbents Helen Fathers with 2,801 (44.6% per cent) votes, and David Chesney with 2,491 (39.7 per cent), and Democracy Direct candidates Christopher Trevelyan with 2,350 (37.4 per cent) votes, Erika Johanson with 2,137 (34.1 per cent), Scott Kristjanson with 2,024 (32.2 per cent) and Anthony Manning with 1,863 (29.7 per cent).
Three White Rock Coalition incumbents – Megan Knight with 1,764 (28.1 per cent per cent) votes, Bill Lawrence with 1,703 (27.1 per cent) and Lynne Sinclair with 1,642 (26.2 per cent) – were next but did not get elected.
Walker said it became clear in the weeks leading up to voting day that the citizens of White Rock wanted a change from the White Rock Coalition, which held four seats prior to the election.
“They’re not the council that people of White Rock trust anymore, and they have got to go and they have gone,” Walker told Peace Arch News Sunday morning. “And they have gone in an amazing, if you will, sweep.”
Democracy Direct now controls five of seven seats on council, and Walker said incumbents Fathers and Chesney are two people “that appear to care for the community.”
“I think that they did as much as they possibly could to fight for this community through a very difficult time,” Walker said.
|White Rock independent incumbents David Chesney and Helen Fathers wait for poll results Sunday. (Alex Browne photo)|
Last month, Walker and Johanson submitted a 1,286-signature petition calling for a moratorium on highrises until “after the 15 highrises already approved by council have been completed.”
After Walker and Johanson presented the petition to council Sept. 17, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin went on a self-described “rant” and said the petition was meaningless, disingenuous and demonstrated a lack of knowledge that made the Democracy Direct candidates “not fit for office.”
“It was said of myself and others that we were not fit to govern,” Walker said Sunday. “Obviously, the people of this community said, ‘No, that’s wrong. We’re going to give them a chance to govern…’ We will move on to what we want to do, move on with our plans.”Communication
Walker said that communication – between business owners, residents, and the city – is “lacking,” and that the subject will be discussed in one of the first gatherings of the new council.
During the city’s “Johnston Road Revitalization” project, the city intermittently shut down Johnston Road and closed access to the sidewalk for days at a time. Some business owners learned of the sidewalk closure through construction workers on site, Walker said.
“We’re responsible to the people of this community and when something is going to happen to them, it should be from the people of White Rock, the communication folks and indeed council themselves to take some of that responsibility,” Walker said.
Walker said he does not drink White Rock’s tap water.
“In most cases, people aren’t drinking the water. Seems to me there’s something wrong when I’m paying for the water and I’m not drinking it,” Walker said.
During the campaign, Democracy Direct called for a full review and post-audit of all decisions made relating to the purchase and post-purchase operation of the city’s water utility. The city revealed last year that it paid $13.4 million for the water utility from Epcor.
The Democracy Direct website notes the “high levels” of arsenic and manganese in the water.
“That’s one of the other things I think we’ll look at straight away. It’s what we’ve promised the people as we’ve gone on about our platforms, our pamphlets and so on. We’re going to follow through on those things and do what we told the people we were going to do,” Walker said.
The City of White Rock and Fraser Health have maintained that White Rock water is safe to drink.
Official Community Plan
Another first priority for Democracy Direct, Walker said, is to have a look at the official community plan, and talk about it with the “people of White Rock.”
Walker took issue with the previous council amending the official community plan for tower-development purposes.
“I’m not with that. If it’s five-storey – that’s a reasonable growth – say from Thrift (Avenue) down to Five Corners, then five-storeys is what I’m, and we, are expecting it to be. It will also be what the developers should expect it to be. There should be no mistaking it.”
Walker said developers should plan within the guidelines of the official community plan.
“That’s why we put it together. We didn’t put it together to change it every six months or few months because somebody wants to come along and go longer, higher, bigger.”
Walker was born in 1949 and moved to White Rock in 1970 to work on the White Rock Little Theatre production of Amor De Cosmos for the 1971 BC Centennial celebration.
“At that point, I found where I wanted to live for the rest of my life. It was just a matter of putting that together,” he told PAN.
In 1973, Walker was hired as a health-care worker at Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam until he retired in 2014. He became active with the BC Government and Service Employees Union in 1982 and was president of the union from 2008-2014.
Walker joined Democracy Direct two years ago, and said he was happily retired before deciding to make a run for mayor – his first time seeking public office.
Walker said nothing particularly “attracted” him to run for office, but he did so out of frustration.
“I listened to individual after individual talk about their frustrations with their community. Whether it was highrises, whether it was garbage pickup, whether it was their water, whether it was their inability to have their questions answered, whether it was freedom of information. There was an array of things that really frustrated people, at that point, I just decided to join,” Walker said.
Walker wanted to thank Democracy Direct members, volunteers, and voters.
“To the people of White Rock, we’re going to start to deliver things we said we were going to deliver… Don’t let us get off track. It’s easy enough, we’re going to have a lot of challenges. But the main thing is we care, we’re going to listen, and the people of White Rock are going to have a say in what this community looks like.”
Runner-up independent mayoral candidate Mike Pearce called the election a “decimation of the Coalition.”
“I could tell from going door-to-door a lot that they were probably done,” Pearce told PAN Sunday.
Pearce said the next four years will be “interesting,” because during the campaign, members of Democracy Direct called for a freeze on development.
“I don’t know how you can do that, but that will be up to them. I wish them well,” Pearce said.
Last year, Pearce became a member of Democracy Direct but “retired” from the slate last February.
“I didn’t like the way the pattern developed with them…” he said. “There was too much union in there for me.”
Pearce wanted to thank the “great group of about 40 people” and friends outside the community that helped him campaign.
“They were the ones that got me the votes. I don’t think I was very far away from taking it,” Pearce said.
The Coalition made a Facebook post Saturday, thanking residents for participating in the civic election.
“Thank you to all the volunteers across all campaigns for strengthening our democracy. And finally, congratulations to our new mayor and council. We wish you all the best,” the statement read.
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