A current Nanaimo city councillor wants another term.
Coun. Jerry Hong told the News Bulletin he will be running for a seat on city council in the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 20. Hong said his decision to run came down to a desire to finish a lot of the work that had been started by council, but remains unfinished.
“Being a first-term councillor I thought I could just come in there and make all these changes but I soon realized the process that it takes to get there is a lot longer than it does in the private world,” he said. “There are things that we’ve started, things that we’ve accomplished, but there is more that I want to do.”
Hong said the top items on his mind include revitalizing the city’s downtown core, implementing a derelict building bylaw and cutting red tape at city hall. He said it takes far too long to obtain demolition permits and building permits.
“It is pretty ridiculous,” he said. “There has to be way that we can make this easier.”
The first-term councillor said while more work is needed to improve the city’s downtown, he’s pleased with what has happened since the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association was dismantled. Hong said said he wants to see downtown become more eclectic and filled with life, adding that it is very important to attract and retain young people who can contribute to the vibrancy of downtown.
“It just can’t be stale,” he said, adding that he wants to be part of the upcoming official community plan review.
Nanaimo also needs more development in other areas of the city, according to Hong, who said that increased development will help provide housing and expand the tax base for the city.
“We don’t always have to increase taxes. We need to find other ways to generate revenue and a prime example of that is increasing our tax base through development, thoughtful development,” he said. “If we can do that, we can do a lot more.”
Hong said he’s learned a lot during his time on council and believes that despite the negativity, council has accomplished a lot since 2014, citing the purchase of parkland at Linley Valley, the creation of the Steve Smith Bike Park, the partnership on NDSS Community Field and the introduction of a 10-year tax exemption downtown.
When asked about his decision to hire and support former chief administrative officer Tracy Samra, Hong said he fully believes that a CAO should not be someone who was brought up in the ranks of the city. He said he wants to see CAOs have term limits so they aren’t employed at the municipality for decades.
“I think we should always rotate and that is why I supported a term with Samra,” he said, adding if elected, he plans to push hard for term limits on city managers.
As a councillor, Hong said he felt he was calm, cool and able to make informed decisions based on information presented to him, which he believes is a “key element” to being a good member of council. He said he’s proud of being able to keep taxes low, while being able to add to the city’s asset management fund.
“I think that is one of the most important things we need to do for our children and our grandchildren, is having the foresight to plan the city so that they are not left holding the bag,” Hong said.
To read interviews with other local government election candidates, click here.
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