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Eyes on Delta's top job

Mayoral candidates square off in Ladner in first forum of municipal election campaign

The four mayoral candidates in this month's civic election squared off for the first time Tuesday night in Ladner.

The forum at Genesis Theatre saw longtime incumbent Lois Jackson defend her record against former councillor Krista Engelland, who's taking a second run at the mayor's job, as well as current council member Heather King and South Delta resident John Meech.

A reoccurring theme from the three challengers was a need for change to someone who will listen at municipal hall.

"Delta deserves a clear vision, strong leadership, transparent government and meaningful citi-zen involvement," Engelland told the crowd.

Promising to streamline red tape, provide better access to information for residents, keep a tight rein on spending and start community neighbourhood renewal plans, Engelland reiterated throughout the debate the current council is ignoring opposition to developments that are not in keeping with the form and character of neighbourhoods.

Jackson focused on Delta's debt, which had reached $60 million before she took over a dozen years ago, but said thanks to strong financial management and a pay-as-you-go policy for new projects, the debt will be eliminated in a few years. She urged voters to stay the "right track of lower taxes, safe streets, and top notch recreational and sporting opportunities for youth and seniors."

Saying she will ask residents for their opinions where their taxes should be spent, King, a former school board chair, outlined her platform that includes, among other planks, a refreshed housing stock for North Delta and a revitalized Scott Road.

"Public trust needs to also be restored in local government and I will work on this as well, to ensure that local government and the trust will be at an alltime high. You would see city hall make sound decisions that demonstrates an authentic desire to include you in the decision making process," she said.

Meech said large-scale projects have come Delta's way with council either defiant or silent, neither approach having worked for the citizens of Delta, he said.

"I believe in pro-active planning for change rather than resisting or protesting," he said.

When asked if they'd work with the school district to build better recreational facilities, the proposal by some Delta Secondary parents for a turf field to be located at the high school, rather than at Dugald Morrison Park, quickly came up.

Jackson said the DSS proposal would be discussed at the parks, recreational and culture commission. Noting Delta has been paying for school crossing guards for the last decade, she also noted council and the school board have a liaison committee to discuss issues and ideas.

King, pointing out the school district faces a serious decline in enrollment, said the two sides need to look at amalgamating services.

Meech said he supports ideas that will bring more children to Delta and the school district.

It was no surprise the Southlands question was raised early on. Jackson noted the Century Group proposal is about to undergo a lengthy legal process in which the community will have a say. She said it's important to keep an open mind on the issue.

King said the process should look at the public survey conducted during the area plan process as well as Delta's agricultural plan and traffic studies.

Meech described the never-ending Southlands debate as "kicking the can down the road," suggesting the issue needs to be resolved. A member of Century's Southlands Community Planning Team that helped devise a 1,900unit proposal, Meech also had concerns about the latest 950-unit plan that will see only 20 per cent of the site developed, wondering whether that was sufficient to help fund improvements to the 80 per cent that would be handed over to Delta.

Engelland made it clear she doesn't support changing the agricultural designation for the contentious piece of Tsawwassen real estate.

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