West Van’s civic race heats up
A perennial politician and a young visionary are throwing their hats in the ring for municipal seats in West Vancouver this fall.
West Van Coun. Michael Smith was prepared to run against current West Van Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones for the mayor’s seat but now he’ll have to wait to see who else will be on the ballot. He said he learned of Goldsmith-Jones’s decision to not seek re-relection after he already announced his candidacy.
Elected to West Van council in 2005 and again in 2008, Smith also served on the West Vancouver School Board from 1982-1990.
His election platform centres on municipal spending and densification — and he believes his 42 years of business experience is his edge in the mayor’s contest.
Smith currently owns and manages M.R. Smith Limited, the wholesale distributor for Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
“[West Vancouver’s] operating budget has increased more than double the rate of inflation,” said Smith.
“So we need to go through each of our department’s spending patterns with a thorough review to look at what we are spending money on, why we are spending it and what the alternatives are.”
He believes there is real savings to be had in the fire department and questions whether the North Shore needs three separate bureaucratic organizations for fire and rescue services.
“Why do we need three fire chiefs?” asks Smith. “It would be like Vancouver having 15 [fire chiefs] — one for Point Gray, one for Downtown, one for Kitsilano. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Smith says for years he has lobbied council members to sit down and review how West Vancouver sets its business taxes.
“Let’s face it, business in West Van is hard because our property taxes are struggling,” he asserts. “There is a big difference in property taxes between North Van and West Van because of the assessed value of the real estate.”
Meanwhile, West Vancouver native Craig Cameron, returned to his roots five years ago, plans to run for council. He now lives in Ambleside with his wife, local artist Cori Creed, and their three young kids.
A litigator by profession, Cameron is also currently a director of the West Vancouver Community Centres Society board and a member of West Vancouver’s Community Engagement Committee.
Cameron says he is commemorating West Vancouver’s 100th anniversary in 2012 early: He’s devised a long-term vision for the city’s future.
He is running his West Van civic campaign on three organizing principles: sustainability, vitality and inclusiveness. The sustainability component is three-fold and includes financial, environmental and social elements.
“Environmental sustainability is central to my personal world view,” explains Cameron.
For instance, Cameron worries about the future of Whyte Lake, an idyllic, backwoods retreat — located above Horseshoe Bay at Westport Road — for West Van residents including Cameron and his family
“My fear is that it is going to be developed at some point,” says Cameron.
West Vancouver is also in need of some rejuvenating, figures Cameron. He says the city has the potential to be an even more vital, active community. More public spaces and perhaps a satellite campus of Capilano University are his suggestions.
“People — all they do is leave West Van; it’s so sleepy,” concludes Cameron.
He is also endorsing Smith’s mayoral candidacy.
“Who’s going to beat Mike Smith?” asks Cameron. “He’s got a great deal of business sense and I think he’s careful.”