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Chilliwack City Council candidate: Gerry Goosen

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Interviewed by Michael Scoular.

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?

Well, the role of municipality is to govern the city of Chilliwack, the council is to do the best to make it as economic as possible to make Chilliwack grow, to make it prosper, to make it safe for the people to live in, to be attractive. We make the decisions for the budget, we make the decisions for rezoning applications and all of what’s involved in making Chilliwack run smooth.

Who do you view as your constituents?

The whole city of Chilliwack. Absolutely.

How will you receive the views of the entire population instead of just those most active around City Hall?

For myself, I have on my website, I am open for people to email me, to phone me on my cellphone even and I’m willing, like we meet now, I am willing to meet with people, hear the concerns, hear their ideas and get back to them. If it’s feasible I’ll bring it to the table and city council. I mean, I’ll be one vote of six, or with the mayor one of seven, so we still can bring proposals forward, and if the rest of council likes it too, it’s a go. I think interaction with the people is great.

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

I have some young students who have met with me and who are very interested in politics. It’s like anybody else. Chilliwack, as you may have read, had the poorest voter turnout three years ago, so students, it’s even adults. So I know the City is advertising good this time around. The Progress came out yesterday, had the big front page of where to vote, so I think what you’re doing is helping for the students. As for myself, my website’s up, I went first time ever on the Twitter party yesterday, which I think students and young people, it’s more attractive for them than for older people. So that is a way to reach out through social media.

What sort of things are you hearing from the students you’ve talked to?

There was a question last night, and I know some of them were young, I don’t know if they were still students, but it was about what the city’s doing on certain properties, safety. You hear different things.

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

It’s a tough question because not being on there, I know maybe 10 per cent of what they’re all doing. It’s a learning curve for the first year basically — I’ve talked to the councillors. You get a crash course, you’re in there. Some of the ideas I’d like to bring are from talking to people: the congestion we have here on Promontory Road with traffic, Yale Road railway crossing, the safety — there was a survey in the Progress that said 65 per cent of the people don’t feel safe on the streets. I’m working downtown right now doing renovation on Main Street Church, so I see a lot of what’s happening there. Monday there was two break-ins like just after 8:00, broad daylight right downtown. I mean, I see the guy running away, smash two windows in two cars, and get in. These things have to be addressed, but they’re already being addressed too. So, attract more business. I know CEPCO [Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation] is doing it. So a lot of the things, City of Chilliwack is doing great. There are some ideas — I’ve listened to people, I bring to the table, but a lot of what the City is doing I think is excellent. But some new blood in there is always bringing different ideas. So that’s why I say, “Hey, let’s get a few new people into council, you know we need one for sure because one stepped down,” you know it always brings variety, which is good.

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

One of the things I’m very much favour is, because I love cycling myself, I’d like to see some more, and I mean they’re working on it, it came out in the all-candidates meeting they had here the other day, so more safe bicycling paths through the city to connect Vedder Road with the downtown. Where the new university is, it’s beautiful, you get the Rotary Trail. We bike there, we go through Yarrow, we come back, there too you come from Cultus Lake over that bridge on a bicycle it’s not safe, so that’s another one that should be addressed, that bridge going to Cultus Lake over the Vedder River there. There should be a wider new bridge with a cycling and pedestrian path beside it.

And that would involve working with?

Other councillors, with provincial government, with fisheries, because crossing the river, so there’s a lot of political steps involved with that too.

And you mentioned safety downtown, what kind of communication would there be then with the police department?

I mean the mayor is the head of the police board. She should mandate that there’s more policing in these areas where there is problems and I think we should hire more police. Somehow find money in the budget to make it work, because people have to feel safe and if downtown is safe, now we can attract people to our businesses there. It always interconnects as far as I can see.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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