So far in the lead up to this fall’s civic elections, voters haven’t heard much in the way of formal announcements from mayoral candidate Jim Cessford and his Independents Working for You slate.
While the other mayoral hopefuls have made numerous campaign promises and pledges since announcing their intentions to run, things have seemingly been quiet in Cessford’s camp.
But the former DPD chief and his running mates have been busy door-knocking and attending community events in all corners of Delta as part of what he said is a deliberate effort to engage voters one-on-one in order to deliver a platform that best addresses residents’ biggest concerns.
“What was very clear from people is they were saying that first off, we [as a city] don’t have a plan, we don’t have a vision for Delta. There’s community plans and there’s business plans, but we don’t have an overall plan or vision for where we want to go with Delta, with relation to parks and recreation, in relation to traffic, in relation to development and a whole lot of areas,” Cessford told the North Delta Reporter.
“What I heard people say was the current council and city hall were not listening, that it was very top-down, a more autocratic style, and what people had said is that they didn’t feel they were being listened to and they wanted to be more involved with the decision-making.”
Referring back to his experience with strategic planning during his tenure as head of the Delta Police Department, Cessford said the key to effective leadership is having meaningful stakeholder engagement.
“You have to engage the public and you need to listen to the public, you need their input. It’s easy for me to say, ‘well I think these are what the issues are,’ but I need to hear what you think those issues are. So we went out and we listened,” he said. “We’ve talked with so many people and we’ve heard what people have got to say, and we’re in the process now of putting together our platform and our priorities based on what we heard from the community.”
Among the key issues Cessford said residents identified as being important to them were public safety, library and recreation facilities, traffic and the Massey Tunnel replacement, housing choices and affordability, and support for seniors.
“We want to provide community leadership by listening, by being open and transparent, by being inclusive and responsive and then acting, and we want to do that in the best interest of community health and safety, and happiness is really important too,” he said.
Although the slate’s platform is still a work-in-progress, Cessford did offer one idea he said will likely make the cut: developing a “city action centre” to receive, process and respond to residents’ complaints and concerns.
Building on the Delta Police Department’s policy of “no call too small,” Cessford said the department would provide residents with a guaranteed voice on the other end of the phone whose job it is to record their complaints, forward it to the city manager and relevant department heads, then ask for a response. If serious enough, issues would be forwarded to Delta council.
Throughout the process the centre would remain in touch with the complainant and make sure they are kept apprised of any developments.
“What happens sometimes, and I know it happened at the police department, you’ll call them and want to talk to major crimes, as an example. Well, the line may be busy and so you’re put on hold, and you get frustrated and you don’t go through with the call,” Cessford said. “At least this way we can record your concern, pass it on and have them respond back to you and make sure that this concern has been looked after.”
“It’s not enough to hear the complaint, it’s important that no voice [is] too small. If you’re concerned about the swing at this park, we need to listen to you, we need to hear what you’ve got to say, and we need to act on it. So that would be something that we will be implementing for sure as part of our [platform] to make sure that we are listening to people and we’re acting on their concerns.”
The civic elections take place on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, with advanced voting opportunities on Oct. 6, 10 and 11.