Independents challenge party candidates in Vancouver school board race
COPE, the Green Party, the NPA, and Vision Vancouver are fielding most of the candidates for school board in the November 19 civic election. But a handful of independents are also vying to become trustees, without the benefit of political party support.
Misha Lauenstein is among the five independent candidates in the race for nine school trustee seats. He acknowledged he faces a challenge without a party behind him.
“When I was first thinking of running and when I got the nomination papers and was out there talking with people, everyone seemed surprised at first just because I guess they know that without that [party] backing it’s a tougher road,” he said.
Independent candidates faced a tough road in the last school board election too. Only Vision, NPA, and COPE candidates were elected as trustees in 2008.
In this election, Lauenstein said he offers an alternative to voters who are tired of party politics.
“Being from a small town where we didn’t have parties in municipal politics it was actually a bit of a surprise to me in Vancouver that there were these parties,” he told the Straight by phone.
“When I looked into it I thought, well, this is just turning municipal politics into a mirror of the provincial and federal politics. And more and more…those have seemed to have sort of drifted from being about the issues to just being against the other party,” he said.
Lauenstein said he worked for four years as an IT supervisor for the school board until his position was recently eliminated. He encouraged people to vote for candidates with a range of political affiliations.
“I felt that my best chance of having someone want to vote for me, assuming that they’re not tied to a party, is just to come across as a reasonable person and not be combative in the way I respond to the issues,” he said.
On the 2011 civic ballot, there are 20 candidates seeking spots on the school board, which has been dominated by Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver since the last election.
Bang Nguyen, another independent candidate for school trustee, also acknowledged he faces a challenge.
“It’s really hard to run as an independent these days. You don’t really get noticed or recognized by people,” he told the Straight by phone.
Nguyen, a London Drugs employee and youth basketball coach, stressed the importance of what he called the three A’s: academics, athletics, and arts.
“If elected, I plan to be accountable for everything I do,” he said.
Lily Harvey is another independent candidate seeking to become a school trustee. Harvey, a business professional with an MBA from Royal Roads University, said people want independent voices on the school board.
“As an independent candidate, I represent [an] independent voice from the community, from the real people—the students, and families, and parents. I think it’s very important [that an] independent voice be heard in the board room directly,” she told the Straight by phone.
The other independent candidates for school board include Peter Raymond Haskell and Robert Allan Stark.