Delta candidate Q&As: Vytas Vaitkus

***Please take our quiz before reading this Q&A.***

 

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Vytas Vaitkus is one of the candidates running for mayor in this month's civic election. Here are his responses to a questionnaire from the Optimist:

 

1. Housing – Delta’s housing stock, developed largely in the 1960s and 1970s, is under pressure. What are your plans to ensure there are affordable housing options and what will you do to protect the integrity of existing neighbourhoods?

Delta’s pride and richness comes from the 60’s and 70’s development. Larger lots, well maintained homes, landscape upkeep, unique designs, etc… are why I enjoy living in Delta. These houses have made many people ‘house’ millionaires but it is not a sustainable situation with double digit increases in house appraisals.

Conscious, proactive planning in respect to development and neighborhood change needs to be front-and-center in order to create affordable options without sacrificing the backbone of the city. We have seen subdivision and some well thought out higher-density community developments (condos and townhouses) without having to encroach on ALR. Neighborhood and area planning needs to be there too (at a much higher level) in order to avoid traffic bottlenecks, lacking infrastructure and a ‘I didn’t see that coming’ approach to development. 

I want to work on bringing a post-secondary school into Delta – one in South Delta and North Delta? In South Delta it makes sense to have an environment and/or marine biology centric science school and arts institution in North Delta. I would also like to work with the TFN to make this possible and create a joint environment /aboriginal facility in South Delta and similar in ND. With this we would also have to work on providing dormitory housing for those students. This will create a win-win where there will be an employment body, a purposeful infusion of residents, and an even bigger reason to keep on top of facility and entertainment demands in Delta.

As with other initiatives and issues, I would look to develop a councilor/community task force to chisel out a short-term and long-term plan to the affordable housing issue in Delta. My job is to develop an overall strategy but, by creating a housing task force, I welcome adjustments to that strategy so as to respect what we can do and then complement the vision of what we need to do.

It is that way U-ACE works. You move through Understanding, through Appreciation, to Cooperation and then into Execution.

 

2. Marijuana – The legalization of marijuana in Canada has created a number of issues for local government. Do you have concerns over where cannabis could be grown and where it could be sold in Delta?

Growing –  concern as I don’t completely understand how marijuana is grown in greenhouses or what risks that industry presents to migratory birds, the environment as a whole or taking advantage of current ALR zoning.

But this is what I love about Delta – we come together quickly to get the right thing done. 

In respect to a recent application, bylaw manager Hugh Davies said the owner has been cooperating and has given no indication the plan is to grow cannabis at the site. Cities have recently been granted the ability from the province to regulate where cannabis operations can set up, although that power doesn’t extend to the ALR. That means Tsawwassen property would most likely not be able to grow pot, according to staff.

Growing marijuana is different than selling marijuana.

Selling and the overall consumption management of marijuana is my biggest concern. Sure – it brings in money but Delta does not stand for drunken behavior and using alcohol as an excuse. I expect the same tolerance, or lack thereof, to be heightened with marijuana use. Personally, I am worried about longer term issues with the legalization of pot. Marijuana is a gateway drug. By making it accessible what will we now see as the gateway drug? How do we prepare for that layer?

A few weeks ago, at a soccer practice at Winskill Turf, my 16 year old son used the outside bathroom. When he came out, he told me that he saw 3 used syringes on the floor. That’s not good.  The next layer is upon us.

And how do we teach, support and keep Delta aware of the dangers of marijuana/drug use – like we do with alcohol today.  I would ask for a co-government/community task force to make sure we do right… Quickly. My job would be to move bylaws and guidelines forward and make them strong legal practices.

I agree with the current Delta stance on keeping a lock on private dispensaries in all zones.

 

3. Municipal debt – A no new borrowing policy instituted almost two decades ago has eliminated Delta’s debt. Will you continue this policy or do you see the need to borrow to undertake certain capital projects?

Delta First’s key guideline it to get away from Delta being a HAVE NOT community. But it is where we are right now – people with +$1M homes but using athletic facilities built in the 1960s, spraining ankles on running tracks that have been ignored until election years, lack of safe pedestrian infrastructure (sidewalks, road crossings, bike shoulders, etc…), virtually no entertainment facilities and NO post-secondary institutions for themselves or their children, etc.

We need to pick and choose where things need to happen today to make sure the community (the retirees, the young people, the support systems (parents, adults, caregivers, volunteers)) see  that their government is hearing them and doing something more than trying to stay on the payroll. We also need to make scalable improvements to Delta so that ridiculous expansion costs are not incurred in the future.

If some borrowing is needed, then it is needed – but until after Oct 21st, I won’t see the actual books to truly understand where Delta is in respect to finances. 

 

4. Recreation facilities – Delta has an ever-growing wish list of parks and recreation projects that is well in excess of $100 million. Do you have any projects you see as priorities and how do you intend to pay for them?

This is not a $100M or nothing question. It definitely seems to be considering how our current government approaches this subject. We need a plan to improve and a plan to do – not a plan to wait.

I would like to see this:

Oct 23 – SDSS Track redo

Then additional turf fields, a provincial caliber aquatic center (BTW – Delta develops world class soccer and swim athletes and we have rural town facilities to support them). Park and recreational enhancements are vital to this growing community. Delta is not just about coffee shops, strip malls, spas and staying in our houses. Delta is vibrant community. When I swim at the WAC, I am in awe of how many retirees and young people insist of staying healthy.  They inspire me. I hope to inspire them as Mayor.

There seems to be hurdles between school and municipal jurisdictions. Like Mike Smith says, there seems to be more effort put into drawing a line than getting to a goal.

Really?

Let’s work with purpose and do what’s best rather than what’s (dare I say) political. Delta First is all about Delta – not about whose budget the improvements come from.

 

5. End of service benefit – Early last year Delta council unanimously approved an end of service benefit for civic politicians. Do you agree with the idea of a golden handshake and do you believe it should be backdated for 12 years?

I don’t really have an issue with this.

I intend on busting my butt and making sacrifices to make sure that Delta is better. I won’t get a pension but I certainly have acquired this in the public sector. At the end of tenure, a service benefit makes sense.

My biggest concern, when I read about this, is that Heather King and Ian Paton will not be at Delta City Hall to help Delta move forward. If elected, I will certainly need to gain some of their wisdom. I hope that will be available in one form or another.

But others, that are running, have had the service benefit, or have retired, and have come back for more. I just don’t get it. Also, I wouldn’t walk out on my duties and then come back in another bureaucratic capacity. At that point a service benefit should be re-evaluated.

When my wife and I were married, before kids, we donated every weekend to a handicapped horse-riding program. We wanted to know, from the get go, what sacrifice looks like. I was an awful rider but I became better. I had to. I was the arms, legs, and sometimes saddle for children that could not ride on their own. The children laughed, they told me to go faster, their parents welled up in tears as their child dismounted, we raised money, we worked because that time gave us perspective.

In years to come we were blessed with two wonderful boys and we suffered the misfortunes of a miscarriage between them. In another 10 – 15 years, I want to revisit that time where I can give back – unselfishly rather than continue doing my day job and getting a pay cheque.

For me, I would take the service benefit and then give back. That’s just me.

 

6. Lobby for bridge/crossing – The City of Delta has been an outspoken advocate for a new Fraser River crossing, specifically the 10-lane bridge approved by the former Liberal government. Would your administration continue to advocate for the bridge or do you support a different approach?

No brainer – of course! 

The bridge is one thing, and one option to overcoming the traffic situation from Delta, from Surrey and from White Rock. There are some other options and I don’t have the raw assessment data to say one is better than another but at some point we have to move past analysis paralysis and get going.

I want to see 3 other additions that should discussed and reviewed –

1) – A Rapid Rail Solution from the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal with stops at the TFN mall, Ladner, Richmond and DT Vancouver.

2) – a restriction to heavy vehicles during rush hour traffic times

3) – electronic surveillance and intervention to distracted driving.

I sincerely feel that there is some sort of angst between Delta and Metro Vancouver. A fresh perspective may be needed to move past – nothing.

 

7. Casino – Delta council’s approval of Gateway’s casino proposal was not without controversy. With construction poised to begin soon, what do you plan to do with casino revenues and what measures do you plan to take to ensure a casino isn’t a negative impact on the community?

The Casino will be a real thing.

It is a Delta thing.

It is NOT someone else’s thing…… and, this is a good thing.

How Delta handles it will determine if it is a positive enterprise or a Bain to Deltonians. With the Casino being in Delta, Deltonians have a ton more input to making this a successful undertaking rather than a thrust-upon construction that wreaks havoc on the community.

Gambling has the mystique of laundering, exploitation, addiction and take-versus-give. Delta, like we will have to do with the introduction of Marijuana, will need to be proactive in respect to upping the level of ongoing scrutiny, increased awareness and support to the community and the strength to never waiver from doing the right thing. This is what we do in Delta!

A specific task force that is made up of Delta councilors and qualified community advocates will be a starting point to making sure that this happens. It is a priority and it is part of the culture that Delta First embraces.

Maybe the Casino will provide a gap-fill to the entertainment shortage in Delta? Not sure just yet but I need to find out more about the details of the proposal.

In respect to ‘what to do with revenues’, there is much to do and improve in Delta. I see the councilors, in conjunction with Delta’s community voice, determining spend priorities and making them happen. My job is to remove roadblocks and ensure projects happen in an expedited manner. This will be an ongoing endeavor and it will be a good one.

I plan on working for 4 years because there is work to do. I don’t advocate the 2-3 year commitment that seems to be prevailing through the bureaucratic public. 

 

8. Property taxes – Two recent studies have Delta near the top of Lower Mainland municipalities in terms of local government spending on a per capita basis. Do you believe Delta property owners are overtaxed or do you think they get good value for their tax dollars?

When compared to neighbors, Delta may have opportunities to be more efficient with spending and we can learn from others.

Safety is very important. Our civil servants are awesome – police and fire. When we have a safe city, it is easier to improve on other things like parks/rec and engineering. We need to focus on Delta as a city and not 3 separate communities. Once that happens, additional efficiencies will happen. Capital and budget management is one thing – finding ways (not just reactionary ways, but strategic ways) to optimize operational and development spending is another. Strategy is like a rudder or a steering wheel while operations are like a motor. You can’t have a functioning unit if there is only part of the system that is working.

As Delta grows, the spend per capita will also change. It is a simple mathematical formula and, unfortunately, Delta has a fair bit of geography to take care of but not a huge population to contribute to the amenities. Doing nothing is not an option but doing something smarter is the best course of strategy.

For me, looking at the City of Delta as whole is incredibly important. Some of my fellow mayoral candidates are looking at the election as a voting platform first; not Delta First.

 

9. Enviro-Smart -- The stench from the composting facility in East Ladner continues to infuriate neighbours. Do you feel the air quality permit issued by Metro Vancouver will sufficiently address the situation and do you believe such an operation should be located on farmland?

NO!

I agree with the councilors in Independents Working for You position and completely disagree with Achieving for Delta.

Delta leadership has dropped the ball on this issue since 1995.

Delta needs a relook at this and must push the envelope of bureaucratic process. No one needs to lose another summer! I would advocate for a community group to watch-dog how Enviro-Smart is doing in respect to air quality – at 1, 2 and 3 kilometres from smell central.

Let’s get Enviro-Smart back to an ALR complacency and get the AIR back to Ladner.

 

10. Farmland speculation -- More than 1,200 citizens have signed a petition stating their opposition to the possibility that a piece of farmland in central Tsawwassen could become home to a greenhouse or even residential development. What steps can be taken to ensure land speculation doesn’t negatively impact residents?

I am all for the following based on recent precedents:

The committee notes the need for immediate legislative and regulatory change is focused on four targeted areas:

•    protecting the ALR land base into the future,

•    preserving the productive capacity of the ALR,

•    improving governance of the ALR

•    supporting farmers and ranchers in the ALR.

On the issue of land speculation, the committee’s report notes that as urban land prices increase and population grows, the pressure to develop agricultural land continues to build. Agricultural land is being taken out of production and investors and speculators are being allowed to exploit tax system incentives intended only for those who farm.

 

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