Mayor Walter Jakeway says city hall is wasting taxpayers’ money.
Jakeway, the keynote speaker at the noon hour Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon, had some tough words for senior city staff.
“City hall is an example of how they’re doing it in the least effective way,” Jakeway told Rotarians gathered at the Discovery Inn Wednesday afternoon. “City staff say how hard they’re working; do I care how hard they’re working? No, I don’t, if the results aren’t there.
“Wasting hard-earned taxpayers’ money is not acceptable to me,” Jakeway continued. “I didn’t run to leave things how they are, I ran to shake it up.”
Jakeway, who was elected mayor last November, ran his election campaign on a zero per cent tax increase platform. After council chose last month to increase residential property taxes by 13.6 per cent, Jakeway advocated for a public tax revolt.
He maintains the tax increase could have been avoided had council chose to cut city staff.
Jakeway says he spoke to Mayor Dan Ashton of Penticton, a community similar in size to Campbell River, about staffing levels while at the inaugural B.C. Mayors’ Caucus last week.
“Penticton in the last two years has shed 31 people,” Jakeway said. “Penticton started at the top and worked their way down.
“Campbell River must do the same. It’s currently bogged down by the same old habits.”
Jakeway said things will never change at city hall if the same senior city managers remain at the helm.
“The 2012 Campbell River city budget process was a manipulative game, but that was to be expected,” Jakeway said. “The theme was to preserve the bureaucracy at all costs and to spend, spend, spend.
“Change does not come easy. With my business training I really did not expect a zero per cent tax increase but I know it was achievable.
“We can’t do it with these same people (at city hall).”
During budget deliberations, some councillors championed trusting city staff to build a budget, but Jakeway questioned that tactic.
He said staff played “a game of divide and conquer and council fell for it”, referring to council’s 4-3 split in a vote which led to adoption of the budget.
Jakeway also accused city staff of biased public relations.
“The senior staff don’t get it, they really don’t,” he said. “They don’t have the skill set, they cling to their policy documents.”
Jakeway acknowledged his words might rub some people the wrong way, but he kept going.
“I’m fully aware people on council and senior staff will not be happy with my comments,” he said. “But have you ever been to city hall? How did you feel when you visited? The atmosphere is toxic, there has to be a change and it won’t necessarily be pretty. Things have to change come hell or high water.”
Jakeway then proceeded to list several expensive city projects that have had their share of controversy.
He noted the three-year anniversary of the Dogwood Street lights is quickly approaching and motorists still complain about the three-cycle system.
“How about the toilets from hell by the Art Gallery … $90,000 for two toilets, an outdoor lacrosse for (more than $300,000); a $13.5 million Highway 19A upgrade and the lanes are too narrow and Spirit Square at roughly $1.7 million,” Jakeway said. “I deal in facts, not emotions. I’m not unhappy or angry … I know the system malfunctions.”
Jakeway said his dream would be to have a “nimble” team to lead the city and boldly promote Campbell River to the world.
He would also like to change how taxpayers pay their property taxes to allow them to pay in monthly instalments.
The mayor also plans to improve the Campbellton area and tackle homelessness.
Jakeway said if Campbell Riverites work together the city can improve and the economy will rebound.
“My theme is ‘Campbell River – Oceans of Opportunity.’ That’s on my business card.”