Shauna Sylvester: Building public trust, confidence and connection in city hall

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Independent Vancouver mayoral candidate Shauna Sylvester delivered this speech on Wednesday (August 22) with a view toward leading a group of councillors who work for the public rather than against one another:

      Good morning.

      I too acknowledge that we are gathered this morning on the unceded and territory of the Coast Salish people, the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh.

      It’s also wonderful to be here in Helena Gutteridge Plaza. This new beautiful space just opened earlier this year and is dedicated to Vancouver’s first female city councillor.

      In April, I launched my campaign as an independent candidate for mayor of Vancouver. Since then, I’ve been busy meeting with people across the city—in their homes, at their local businesses, in their boardrooms—listening to their concerns, their frustration, and the solutions they would like to see.  

      Like many of you, I’ve also been watching with amazement at the interest in this election and the number of people who are putting their names forward for city council and mayor.

      This interest in our election is both exciting and concerning.

      Exciting, because it is great to see so many people actively choosing public service;

      Unnerving, because we may have one of the most ideologically divided city councils in our history.  

      And while a diversity of ideas is good for public policy, divisive ideology doesn’t make for good government.

      This interest in our election isn’t an accident. The people of Vancouver are frustrated with the status quo. We are looking for real change in leadership that puts ideas and people before ideology.

      We need a mayor who has the skills, expertise, and willingness to lead city council to work in the best interests of the citizens of Vancouver and not the fragmented interests of their political parties.

      As the only independent candidate who has no obligations to serve a political party, I am that mayor.

      I have 30 years of experience facilitating a diversity of groups to resolve their conflicts and develop solutions. And I have 25 years of senior executive experience with years serving on corporate boards of directors leading finance, audit, and governance committees for some of our most cherished local companies, like Vancity Credit Union and Mountain Equipment Co-op.

      I expect no group to hold a majority on our next city council.

      This means that we need an experienced convenor as mayor to provide stable leadership and help find and implement positive solutions to problems. As your mayor my goal is to help support each elected city councillor bring their best selves forward to serve the citizens of Vancouver.

      Today I am here to outline my commitment to good government and introduce my plan to ensure that the citizens of Vancouver get the best from city hall.

      Despite its greatness, Vancouver  faces many challenges—housing affordability, homelessness and poverty, climate change, transportation congestion, opioid poisoning, and growing economic disparity.

      Vancouver’s citizens want their city government to listen to them, to solve problems and to serve their needs. And when it doesn’t, they feel ignored, angry, or worse, disconnected.

      In my first 100 days as mayor of Vancouver, I will take a fresh approach to governing and introduce a number of measures to restore our confidence and trust in government. These measures will address openness, financial accountability, and efficiency.

      First, I know many people are asking—where is all the money going? Many people don’t understand our city’s budget or how we pay for services and infrastructure... They want to know how and where their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent.

      Within the first 100 days I will provide a report to the people of Vancouver on where your taxes and revenues have been spent, and what is being proposed for 2019. This report will include a financial report on our property endowment fund.

      I will work with city staff to launch a service accountability report to provide a dashboard for citizens to evaluate the city’s performance in meeting key service indicators.

      I will use my expertise to personally examine how budget information is presented to council—to ensure it is done in a way that enables city council to make informed decisions.  

      I will work with city staff to create and articulate clear and defined fees (like permitting fees, development levies, and community amenity contributions). I want everyone who is building housing or seeking permits to be given a fair understanding of the real costs of their projects. And, where appropriate, I will introduce citizen participation in budgeting, to enable the public to have a direct say in how their money is being spent.

      Second, city council will have mostly new faces after this election. I will support an enhanced mandatory orientation and training program for new city council members, and ensure they are getting a clear sense of their roles and responsibilities as the governing council serving the people of Vancouver. I will also address concerns about the politicization of city hall and restore the balance between a professional bureaucracy and elected officials.

      To ensure openness and transparency, I will introduce a lobbyist registry and treat departing staff and officials as related parties with restrictions for a one-year period on private-sector lobbying and consulting activity with the city.

      Third, one of the issues that many people have raised with me on doorsteps is that they don’t feel like they have a connection to city hall. Our voter turnout is low and some communities don’t think that city council members can represent their needs.  

      I believe democracy is strongest when representatives are closest to the people they serve.

      With that in mind, I will propose a new "5 by 5 Hybrid Ward" system where five city council members are elected to represent specific wards in the city and five are elected to represent the city at large. This system will ensure that council has both community-oriented members and councillors who bring a citywide, longer-term perspective.

      Finally and most importantly, I would introduce a set of "Seven Principles for Effective City Building" for the council to discuss and adopt.  

      These seven basic principles will incorporate: equality, resilience, evidence, truth, diversity, participation, and accountability.

      The people of Vancouver have been loud and clear: they’re ready for change at city hall in October.

      They want a leader who will champion their issues, hear their voices, and bring about real change.

      Though not all parties or independent candidates agree on the solutions, they acknowledge our city’s problems.

      We need a principled  leader who can work across party lines and foster cooperation in a divided and diverse council.

      Today, and every day until Election Day, I will continue to demonstrate and prove to the citizens of Vancouver that I have the experience, character, and ability to lead our city through these challenging times.

      On October 20th, I’m asking you to vote for me,  Shauna Sylvester, to be your next mayor.

      Thank you.