“Change is in the air.”
That’s the message Mayor Walter Jakeway had for the community during his inaugural address Tuesday night at the Community Centre.
Jakeway warned that the next three years will likely be the most challenging the city has ever seen, but he said Campbell River has the right people and the right tools to make it through.
“Tonight recognizes the 2011 democratic process in our city. It is also the positive start of what’s going to be an active, challenging and rewarding next few years,” Jakeway said. “Change is in the air. We’ve seen huge upheaval in our city over the last 10 years and certainly in the last three. We’ve survived the slippage as our industrial base shrank and as many in our population have either left or now rotate out of town for employment. Campbell River has already bottomed out, and we now have the opportunity to soar. How high we go is is ours to control.”
Jakeway pointed to a recent rise in real estate sales and the number of young people who left for an education but are starting to return as signs the community is rebounding.
Jakeway credited former mayor Charlie Cornfield and the previous council for its work in getting Campbell River recognized among senior governments, which has resulted in more grant monies and, recently, Campbell River being chosen as a pilot for the new BC Jobs Plan, aimed at capitalizing on B.C.’s economic strengths and in turn, creating long-term jobs.
“Campbell River has been more visible,” Jakeway said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to brighten. Still, no one should be misled or deceived. Campbell River has some very big problems to address.”
One of those problems, said Jakeway, is that the city’s tax base has not stabilized yet costs are increasing.
“The good news is: there is a workable solution,” Jakeway said. “Together, we can work hard to develop and implement a robust and wise financial plan for 2012 and beyond.”
Jakeway said he will also ensure Campbell River has top medical services, something that’s close to his heart.
“I am an open chest heart surgery survivor from 2007 thank to our local medical professionals’ diagnostic abilities at Campbell River and District Hospital and then referrals to Victoria. So Campbell River having competent hospital services is a personal priority,” Jakeway said. “So far, information on where and how those service improvements will happen seems to be coming too slowly.
“We all know that governments don’t move quickly. We must persevere.”
Jakeway said council will also work on basic improvements to Campbellton, chronic flooding in the downtown area and unattractive empty storefronts in the downtown core.
Infrastructure issues, the water supply and distribution system, road upgrades, used material and waste handling procedures are things Jakeway said need to be dealt with.
He also wants to see the community help improve the Tidemark Theatre, something that’s important to the city’s culture.
“Today the Tidemark needs an upgrade. I encourage Campbell River citizens to support their fundraising drive. Locally we must raise $50,000 before the end of March 2012 to make it all happen,” Jakeway said. “I’ve put my money where my mouth is, with a personal donation to help move the upgrading effort along.”
Jakeway said the council is willing to work with the Tidemark and all types of community groups.
“Our new council will show openness and respect to all groups within Campbell River, including our First Nations,” Jakeway said. “We are all in this together. All sectors of our region must be full partners in our mutual success.”
Jakeway also wants to hear from the community at large.
“Over the next three years, if you know of a genuine need that’s getting missed, or have an idea, crazy or not, please be bold and speak up,” Jakeway said. “At times during the next three years, we are going to ask the public to help us on specific tasks – and ask for fresh ideas.
“Please be willing to jump in, even if you’ve never done so before.”
Jakeway assured the community that things will turn around.
“In Campbell River, we have one of the most spectacular city waterfronts on Vancouver Island, or even in Canada. It’s the front door of our town,” Jakeway said. “Why are we so spoiled? A priceless view and we are forced to look at it every day. Many people in other parts of the globe will pay good money to come, see and enjoy this.
“Campbell River is in fierce competition with hundreds of other global communities, but nature has stacked the deck in our favour. So now it’s up to us to work hard to make our future.
“On a dark and wet evening driving through town, Campbell River might look like just a bunch of damp streets, dark buildings and cold red pipe structures. But no, it is more than that,” Jakeway said. “It’s the people, our people who add the life, the spirit, the music, the flowers, the flavours, the aromas, the pulse and the curiosity. Together – let’s build on these themes starting right now.”