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Abbotsford City Council candidate: Raymond Kobes



Interviewed by Katie Stobbart.

Since many students will be voting for the first time, what would you describe as the role of municipal politics? What can city councillors actually do?

I think it’s important for us to realize what municipal politics is, as many people don’t. How I would describe it is the primary contact you’ll have with government. It’s the government you definitely don’t hear the most of because it’s not the federal or provincial but it’s actually the one that affects you the most; it deals with your garbage, it deals with your recycling, your water, most things on the primary level. So it’s definitely something you should care about and definitely think about. Likewise, they’re going to be making decisions and bylaws that definitely affect you, for instance there’s lots of housing or zoning bylaws that are passed which could be interesting to a student in general because there’s a lot of diversity of land here in Abbotsford and where you live there could be a future development or something you would want to pay attention to.

Who do you view as your constituents?

That’s a good question. [At the all candidates’ debate] one of the questions was, “Who would make the final decision, your constituents or would it be personal?” I said personal, and I said that with good intentions and I definitely stand by it in the sense that your constituents… it can’t be one person because there are a lot of people there, and how do you know you’re representing that one person or all of them? The constituents are not only those that elect you, but for me personally it would definitely be catering toward younger people, because as a younger person on council, I definitely would have to give them a fair representation and I’m not sure they’re getting it right now. One of my higher priorities would be making sure youth have their person to talk to them, but still not neglecting anybody else in the community.

How would you plan to gather or get a sense of their views?

I definitely would like to have some sort of tabling event or somewhere to interact with students face to face. I have a lot of classmates and friends who I talk to about what I stand for, not to mention I am door-knocking as well, which gives you a face-to-face approach with many people. Networking is one of the big ways I’m doing things, not to mention social media of course.

Are you doing anything to address the lack of student interest in local politics?

Of course I’m in favour of increasing it, but actual steps and measures I’m sure I’ll be promoting it among my friends and classmates, but I’m thinking about doing something else at UFV, I’m not sure what capacity that would be. I was talking to Patricia Ross and she was talking about something called a vote mob … it’s interesting in the sense that you get lots of people to come together and everyone just votes for something to raise the profile of democracy, so I’m looking at methods like that. I’m not sure exactly how I could do it with UFV, but definitely a tabling event or some sort of presentation for the students specifically would be nice. Anything with that sort of capacity, people usually won’t show up — it’s the sad reality of UFV. Maybe of universities in general. I’ve done many events with various groups and various topics and it’s just very apathetic.

What groups are you involved in?

I’m involved in the UFV LifeLink group, and we’ve done a few events lately. [Turnout is] very hit-and-miss.

If elected, how would what you want to do as councillor be different from what council is already doing?

I’ll just jump into a specific. As someone who’s younger I definitely see the value in arts and culture. Interestingly, as a side note [in the all candidates debate] and there were a lot of answers that were very weak in this category. So I think what I can contribute is I’d definitely be in favour of events — well, for instance, I was involved in Jam in Jubilee last year which is the concert series, and what was the beauty of Jam in Jubilee was that it wasn’t a museum or an art gallery or anything like that, it was a temporary art series. So it took up a public space but only for a certain amount of time, which also raises profile because it was in a public area. I’d be in favour of more events like this in which the artist, musicians, and actors of Abbotsford have a way to showcase themselves without having to go somewhere that’s fixed or for a full three weeks, but maybe for one day or a weekend an art walk … so I’d definitely be in favour of streamlining the process and being there to help them out because as an organizer I realize there’s a lot of hoops you have to go through, so I want to make sure they have all the opportunities they can so they can do it, because most of them are volunteers to begin with and we shouldn’t be shunning them in that manner.

There are a lot of issues I could go into here. I could say I’m not in favour of how they’ve dealt with the homeless in the past, but in the same breath, they’re addressing it for the future. Of course I’m someone who is a housing-first approach, so I’m in favour of making sure the homeless have a house before anything else, and I’m sure there’s people on council who believe that already but I would definitely push that further. With regards to the Abbotsford Centre, I’d definitely be in favour of getting an anchor tenant and being prepared to wait an additional year if that’s what it takes to get the perfect tenant. I don’t think we should rush into anything there.

Do you have a specific project you want to prioritize or bylaw you want to change?

I think it would be the series and concerts and music area, just in the sense that — it’s not necessarily a bylaw — but just putting something in place to help these people, because it’s a lot of work and they should have a streamlined process and something that makes it easier for them, and a system in place so no one has to start [from] scratch … by yourself.

So what do you think the steps are for something like that? What kind of system would you envision that being?

I envision a sort of coordinator from the arts council — I’m not sure who that would be or what that would look like; even if this person exists [already], their job should be more structured, or a part of their job should be toward this specific cause. It would just look like having an outline of what it takes to run a series or an event, and have it very easy to follow, all the steps are there of what Abbotsford wants, so they’re never left wondering, “Oh, are we allowed to do this?” and they know what their boundaries are, and then from there they can do the event and not worry about so much.

What kind of feedback mechanism would you consider putting in place for that? It seems dependent on public attendance and opinion, so how would you evaluate whether that’s successful?

If this is an Abbotsford-funded project, then you can put ads in newspapers and in the arts brochures that are handed out. You could have a booth [at events] as well which ask for feedback and that way you have it from the actual event, and that’s not to mention feedback forms and questionnaires from the people themselves who were involved at the event [to ask] how we could have done better, etc.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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