I’m seeking your vote for mayor so I would like to take this opportunity to tell you why.
Our daughter turned three just after we moved to Bowen in 1978. A year later her brother arrived. Janice and I were seeking a life style in a natural setting. While the natural setting and proximity to Vancouver drew us here it is the community that has held us for 36 years. During the years it took to build our house we moved back and forth across the island living in whatever we could rent. When our house in the woods was liveable we got our goats, chickens and honey bees. If you ever want to hear stories about how not to raise livestock, I’m your man.
For thirteen years I commuted to town and I still remember the costs and challenges involved. Since 1991 I have run a business on Bowen so I’ve been pretty close to the action and have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, where there is consensus and where differences lie. There are so many issues and projects where we already have broad agreement that it really is time to move forward.
I’ve been writing about island issues for a decade now. I just read Ron Woodall’s take on me and the Bulletin. “…some of us see Murray as a kind of referee out there calling offsides, often right, sometimes wrong, but always trying the keep the game fair. The Bulletin is where we look for a plainspoken interpretation of how this place actually operates. The writing is straightforward and free of platitudes. Tough questions get asked so raw nerves get touched. No one sues, perhaps because the nerves need the touching. And there are always just too many inconvenient grains of truth.” My view has always been that an informed and engaged Bowen Island is a stronger Bowen Island. And that is what I have tried to do.
A Mayor must be a team leader to draw the best from others. I will listen carefully, listen to everybody, and think in terms of what would work for all of us. A Mayor must also be able to communicate and engage with the community. I think I’ve proven my ability and desire in that regard.
Other important skills include the need to see the larger picture. In my commuting days I worked as a project manager in the construction industry. I believe the experience gained in those days will serve me well as mayor. One frustration I’ve had with municipal process is an inability to see the deal breakers for a project and deal with them right away. A methodical step-by-step approach requires identifying major hurdles and knowing that they can be dealt with. A good example is the rezoning of the community lands next to the school. A community campus and high density housing are envisioned but, no traffic engineer has told us what it would cost, or if it is even possible to put an intersection in next to the school grounds at the top of the hill.
But buildings and infrastructure are only a small part of what I’m hoping to achieve. In meeting with young families I sense a real hunger for constructive, hands on community building. Many years ago, when the school was new I helped build the playground. My project was the slide. It was the classic committee of primarily young mothers getting designs drawn, funds raised, materials ordered and enlisting a construction crew. When we left at the end of that workday we had created something together that was part of us. Years later when the playground was redone I happened to drive by as the slide was pulled apart. It was a bittersweet moment. I want today’s young families to enjoy that sense of community. Two of my proposals include creating playgrounds in our small neighbourhood parks and building forest trails connecting neighbourhoods. There are undoubtedly other projects that can be undertaken. Municipal government can’t do everything but we can welcome the opportunity to participate with grassroot community groups.
Often when people running for office make promises, somebody runs a tally of what they would actually cost. I’m always looking at the numbers. Bowen’s rapid growth without an industrial or commercial base has put us a bit behind. However on the plus side our community lands are a tremendous asset. We have some organic growth in property tax income from new lots and houses and the federal government is in a generous mood these days. My commitment to you is that property taxes will not rise beyond the rate of inflation. We will juggle things a bit but for every increase in municipal expenditures there will be a corresponding decrease.
At the end of the day we need to see that our local government is striving for balance and showing sensitivity to the diverse interests. I believe core commitments can act as a touchstone. The most basic core commitments we can make are to honour our natural environment and build community. Our community is strong. We have a heritage, a character, a story, a brand. If we are true to who we are, we can move forward with confidence that we are heading in the right direction.
It would be my honour to be your next mayor.