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Chilliwack City Council candidate: Michael Kha

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Interviewed by Vanessa Broadbent

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?

So city councillors play a limited role. In Chilliwack specifically, we have six councillors and those six councillors vote on various municipal things. Municipal governments are in charge of roads, public safety, rezoning, sewers, water, and all the basic necessities. If you’re rezoning for a development, or an investor is coming in and buying things, the council members will sit down and discuss it and if it’s good or bad, and they’ll vote on it. The mayor generally doesn’t vote unless there’s a tie. Three votes for, or against, and the mayor will generally vote. Those are the basic issues that councillors try to tackle. They support local businesses and try to entice people to come in and invest in our city. They just work with the people. Unlike the federal or provincial government, it’s more hands-on. For people who are into politics, especially younger folks and universities, it’s a good start for them. The council meetings are open and they welcome anybody to come down and sit and listen to what people are talking about. It’s a good way to get into politics.

Who do you view as your constituents?

My constituents are everybody. I’m doing an interview here for the students to get them more engaged. I, myself, am still a student [at UFV] so I’m trying and hoping that they see a student is more engaged in politics, and will encourage younger folks to come out. My other constituents are seniors. I spend some time teaching seniors about social media so they can converse with their families. Everybody in my city is a constituent, whether that’s family or friends. People that don’t even vote are constituents because they need a voice, too.

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

You have to do a lot of campaigning. You have to reach out. I spend a lot of time going to various events. I don’t stick to one kind of event. I spend a lot of time here on campus talking to people. I spend a lot of time in senior homes taking to people. I spend a lot of time in the agricultural section talking to people. It’s all about spending time with people. The overall goal is to be present to people, and to be easy to be contacted.

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

I’m trying to. One of the things I’m doing is engaging more people on social media. Statistically saying, more students or younger folks are engaged more in social media. They get their news from it. I have a pretty decent sized footprint in social media. I’m on twitter and have over 14,000 followers. That’s worldwide. On my Facebook page, I just started it, I have 400 and somewhat followers. These are mostly younger folks who are interested in seeing what I have to say. I’m trying to use that as an outlet to get people to vote, but not forgetting about the other people. I am doing the traditional media. I’ve been published in the Chilliwack Times and Progress a couple of times.

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

I am taking a more progressive view at the council. I don’t have any big beef with what is going on in city council, I just think we need to get a little bit younger. I mean progressive. Maybe we need to work on a transit system or something to connect our valley together. Our transit system is not very good, and from what I view, if we want to move towards being green, it’s definitely the way to go.

In Chilliwack if you don’t have a car, you pretty much can’t get from point A to point B, it’s impossible. A transit system is progressive. And doing things like crime. Crime is not an easy thing to tackle. There is crime happening downtown, and that’s scaring away investors from wanting to invest in businesses downtown. Our crime-stoppers program is actually not funded by the city. It’s actually a section of a program that our community keeps. They fundraise themselves, and they’re suffering right now. I think by funding local programs like crime-stoppers, and keeping them progressive as well, and engaging citizens to report smaller crimes, we will actually eliminate the bigger crimes from happening. What’s happening right now is people are calling in with their phones, and saying ‘so and so is breaking in to whatnot,’ and that’s not really discreet, so people don’t want to do that. We need to find a better way of presenting that to people. That’s an example of being progressive.

Other types of being progressive would be if we showcased Chilliwack a little bit more. We have a great downtown core, new parks, and everything like that. We have events like Party in the Park, but you look into examples of successful cities, and they have events where they actually invite media from all over the place to come. An example would be Dîner en Blanc in Vancouver where everyone gathers downtown, they dress all up in white, and invite media from all over the place, and they take pictures of the landscape. We have beautiful landscape, such as the mountains and stuff like that, so it would be good to promote that in such a progressive way that people will come and want to live here.

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

Not a specific one, but even though I say that I want to be progressive, also keep in mind that there are some stuff that I think is lacking and we’re not taking care of, such as roads and infrastructures. A good example of that would be congested areas such as Promontory and Watson. If you’re around that area during rush hour, it’s impossible to make a left-hand turn to go to Promontory. Vice versa, there are only two ways into Promontory. We have the building structures in place for that but we don’t have the infrastructures properly set.

My goal, even though it is to move progressively into the future, is I want to be mindful that we take care of some of the basics. In the back roads, if you go anything past 30 km/h, you’re dipping and diving into potholes. We can’t forget about those people and roundabouts in certain areas. We’re getting progressively worse with accidents. We want to put more roundabouts in. I think that’s something we should invest more funding into: better roads. I know we’re building like crazy downtown in the Garrison area but it kind of worries me that we don’t have the infrastructure for that. The congested streets like Keith Wilson and Peach road. Those are the basic things I want to tackle, and I think we’ve built a good framework for it; we just need to continue maintaining it. Hopefully we’re going to do that, and that’s what I want to do if I get elected.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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