COLUMN: Concentrate on concrete development

If Saturday’s election did anything for me, it is that as council members get their new “sea legs" ...

COLUMN: Concentrate on concrete development

If Saturday’s election did anything for me, it is that as council members get their new “sea-legs,” I likely won’t feel compelled to write about civic politics for a while.

In some ways I was disappointed with the end results; in others pleased. I don’t believe we will have a wildly radical change in city operations, though I am certain that Mayor-elect Henry Braun will be fairly quick to establish his philosophy on how things should be run.

Braun’s victory showed that he worked the electorate, and if Saturday night’s audience at city hall was any indication, he did a good job recruiting support in the South Asian community.

That community will also be represented, I think for the first time, by two members on council – more than justifiable considering its percentage of population in Abbotsford. In fact, this council is quite reflective of the great diversity that exists in our city.

As to the four slate members, I have a feeling they will emerge as far more independent thinkers than their “team approach” indicated during the campaign.

All in all, I wasn’t too surprised. We all knew the mayor’s race was going to be tight, and those who did win a councillor seat were among the better known of the candidates.

However, virtually everyone who put their names forward did it for honorable and heartfelt reasons to try to make our city a better place. And for that alone they deserve commendation and our thanks for making the effort to try to bring about change.

That’s what elections and democracy are all about.

If I hold a concern about the mayoral election, it is not so much about who won as it is the message the voters have sent out to the investment community that we change mayors – and thus the assumption of political direction and stability – almost as often as most people change their cars. Who, from outside our community, will consider investing in long-term significant projects when there is uncertainty that the decisions made one year will flip-flop the next?

And that will be Henry Braun’s challenge – to ensure those who may consider investing here to develop business opportunities, creating jobs and an enhanced commercial and industrial tax base, that he and the direction he wants to move the city will be around for a while.

Henry comes to the mayor’s chair with business credentials, so I’ll be interested to see what moves he makes to reach out to investors, wherever they may be from, to encourage them to develop our vacant commercial and industrial land, fill empty buildings and re-open shuttered businesses.

That action will be concrete in our community’s future.

Solving the homeless issue, while popular and newsworthy is, sadly, merely a cosmetic fix to huge underlying issues of addiction and mental health.

Creating the environment for a solid, ever-growing workforce and tax base is what will halt, for a while, the seemingly constant changing of the guard in the mayor’s office.

It will be interesting to watch how all this unfolds over the coming months and years, especially the challenge of how to deal with the supposed white elephant that is Abbotsford (entertainment and sports) Centre.

Turning that one around might end up being a tougher slog than “solving” the homeless situation.

markrushton@abbynews.com