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Thus ends one of the most controversial mayoralties

For us in the news business, Jakeway was great material. We’ll miss him
Alistair Taylor

Close but no cigar for Walter Jakeway’s re-election.

It wasn’t as close as his first election three years ago when he defeated Roy Grant and Ziggy Stewart but it was still pretty close.

And thus ends undeniably the most controversial mayoralty in recent Campbell River history. Jakeway claimed in the later months of his term and in the campaign that there was not much actual infighting on this council. He claimed it was all manufactured by the media but that’s not actually so.

Oh, if I only had a dollar for every time the media was blamed for controversy...

Technically, he may have been right in that most council decisions were made without rancour, his initiatives going down to democratic defeat at the table. The controversies came when he was asked for comment after the meeting and that’s when he’d air his grievances about the decisions being made. So, yes, council may not have fought at the table but Jakeway always seemed to want to air his dissatisfaction with decisions outside the council chambers.

For us in the news business, Jakeway was great material. We’ll miss him.

But, we move on now with Andy Adams at the helm.

Start crankin’ up those tax increases! Just kidding.

Taxation was the issue of the election and in the mayoral race, it split the community almost down the middle.

On one side there was the incumbent maverick mayor who was dead set against any tax increases, wanted to rein in senior municipal staff and felt that he did not have to toe any line on council decisions, making the city look divided.

On the other side was what has been painted as the old boy candidate who racked up tax increases but could at least get along with other councillors, city staff and majority decisions.

Now, it wasn’t Adams that cranked up the tax increases. He’s just been saddled with that association. He actually voted against the big 13.6 per cent tax increase in 2012, one of three votes against.

Mayor Jakeway came in on the tail end of a process to wean Campbell River off the Elk Falls pulp mill tax cow. That tax teat ran dry when the mill was shut down. The last two councils had to shift the tax burden away from this suddenly non-existent motherlode to the existing business and residential tax bases.

That’s a fact of life, and the no-tax-increase faction provided no other alternative to paying for the services we enjoy. To cut them back to the point where we would have no tax increase would have been a painful and unpopular move. In fact, it would have been unrealistic.

The last two councils chose instead to spread the pain over a longer period of time. A much more politically-prudent plan. Anybody who walked in there and chopped services would have been out on their ear in three years.

Also interesting is the fact that Jakeway’s slate of candidates – the CHOICE slate – were unable to get a single member on council.

Not one. And they had very credible individuals.

Bob Bray struck me as the most prepared candidate with numbers to back up his points but the former BC Conservative candidate in the provincial election has now stood for office twice in the Campbell River area and has failed to convince the majority to vote for him. He placed ninth in the number of councillor votes.

Bray is starting to seem desperate to win an elected office. Any office. It’s too bad, he’s got a lot of smarts, credibility and is willing to work hard which, of course, means he’s not cut out for public office.

Former mayor Charlie Cornfield topped the polls as the leading councillor vote getter. This to me further cements the notion that a majority of voters were not interested in CHOICE.

Cornfield of all the candidates had a history that could have come under fire but it didn’t seem to deter votes for him.

A newcomer to council, Michele Babchuk, took the second highest number of votes, showing her service as a school trustee was no hindrance.

A second newcomer, Marlene Wright, has an extensive long-term connection with the community through her work with various community groups.

The third newcomer, Colleen Evans, found that her visibility as Chamber of Commerce CEO and her organizational credibility were appreciated by a large number of voters.

Incumbents Larry Samson and Ron Kerr maintained their popularity with voters. Only one incumbent couldn’t trade in her experience for another term and she finished seventh just out of the six seats on council.

Claire Moglove was one of the few councillors who was willing to publicly stand up to Jakeway’s anti-consensus actions. She proved to be pretty tough and that was needed on that council. It may not be this time.

Perhaps that was the biggest problem for the CHOICE candidates. Civic politics is definitely about name recognition. Of the CHOICE slate, only Bray had any political visibility, although he is a relative newcomer to Campbell River. Some of the others who announced their candidacy left many people scratching their heads saying, “Who?”

But, on the other hand, visibility didn’t help other candidates.  Les Lengyel is a very active member of the community, although never having sat in elected office. He had the best slogan though – “Do More With Les!” Ziggy Stewart sat on previous councils and ran for mayor last election – many attributing to Stewart a potential majority-killing draw of votes away from Roy Grant, paving the way for Jakeway to win.

And the rest, they say is history. A very interesting history.

Old shoot-from-the-lip Jakeway is gone. And how did he assess his time as mayor?

“I could not have achieved my vision for Campbell River with the council elected, so I’d rather do something more enjoyable,” he told our reporter kristen Douglas. “It would have been four years of agony. Being mayor is off my bucket list forever.”

So, in other words, if council wouldn’t do what he wanted, he didn’t want the job. As usual, it was all about him. Never mind what the majority on council, the majority of voters wanted, if he couldn’t impose his vision, then forget it.

Jakeway always seemed more concerned about making himself the story and less about what was best for the community.

And that rubbed a lot of voters the wrong way.

So, on we go with Andy Adams. On election night, Adams said he has heard those voters loud and clear who said they wanted fiscal restraint. Now, that already sounds like a different tune coming from the mayor’s chair.

But we shall see. Right?