Mid- Term Report Card for Mayor and Council
Prince George, B.C. – Plenty has happened since Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall and the current Council were elected to office . November 15th will mark the halfway point of this team’s mandate, and that makes it perfect timing for a mid-term report card.
When he announced he was entering the race to be Mayor of Prince George, Lyn Hall said “I want to make sure that we have a council that’s connected with the community,” adding that his style is to be “More inclusive, more engaging, more communication – and that’s what I would like to see the new council direction look like.”
There has been plenty of consultation, from the development of the TalkTober community engagement sessions to the City’s outreach for input on everything from park use and development to budgets. However, there was one matter which was not put before Prince George residents and it was one which caused the most controversy. The renaming of Fort George Park to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park was a move that caught residents off guard and angered many and Mayor Hall admits more should have been done “Certainly when you talk about consultation, we could have done a better job on the consultation piece with the park.”
Putting that one issue aside, the City of Prince George has seen plenty of positive activity which garnered public support since Hall and Council settled in. “I am very proud of the Riverbend Project” says Mayor Hall “I’m extremely proud of that.” The Seniors residence says Hall, fulfills a call he says he heard “loud and clear” during the election campaign for quality seniors housing. He believes the Riverbend project helped get the ball rolling for other development investment in the City “It was a catalyst for other developers in Prince George to have confidence in investing here and we have seen that over and over again in the past year and a half.”
The development activity has already surpassed permit values for the first 9 months of the previous 2 years. Values as of the end of September , are at about $115 million with commercial and residential activity throughout the City. Mayor Hall says there has also been significant investment in the downtown by young entrepreneurs in projects such as Nancy O’s, the Crossroads Brewery, HomeWorks moving back into the downtown, “These are private sector investments that not only show confidence in the City but in the downtown.” He says there is a new office building being built on George Street ( next to the Copper Pig) and that residents can expect “a couple more things happening downtown.”
Mayor Hall says the increased development may be, in part, a result of the positive exposure Prince George got during the Canada Winter Games, a two week event which seemed to change the mood and attitude about Prince George not only among developers, but among the residents of the City as well.
One of the major marks the current Mayor and Council have made is on the cleaning up of neighbourhoods and the downtown through their remedial action process. Derelict properties have been ordered demolished or cleaned up. “We started that in about 2013 with the Willow Inn (under previous Council direction) and then this Council looked at a couple of properties on George Street, the Lombardi Trailer Park, the Connaught Inn. We’ve seen great things happen as a result of that.” The suspension of the Connaught Inn business license has seen RCMP calls for service to that area drop by 67% in the three months since that license was suspended. “I think it just sends a message that we as a City and Council, are prepared to make moves like this to tidy up not only downtown but take a look at derelict properties throughout our city.” It’s an effort other communities in the Province have wanted to learn more about as many face the same issues and Mayor Hall delivered details on the Prince George approach to the remedial action progress to the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention .
Mayor Hall says he has no disappointments on how things have been going for the first half of his mandate “We came out of the 2015 Canada Winter Games wanting to use that as a springboard to doing a number of things in this City and I think that has come to fruition, so I have no real disappointments at all.” There is still work to be done and two years left to do it before the next election and possible changes.
There are still Items on the “to do” list says Mayor Hall, “I think we are going to continue to redevelop downtown through affordable and student housing, that’s still a huge priority of ours. The remedial action continues to be a priority. I would love to see seniors housing in the Hart, I would like us to start to take a look at the development of river access.” He says there needs to be some examination on how the City can improve access to river frontage and have a conversation about future development along the rivers.
So, how would Mayor Lyn Hall grade his team’s work for a mid-term report card? “That’s pretty tough, because I think we’ve done a very good job. I would give us a B plus to an A on things we have done, so things we have set our mind to, that’s the kind of grade I would give. We have things that are still in the hopper, such as the license plate recognition program for downtown and we’ve got a tremendous amount of work to do on that. We need to do more communication, we’ve done a considerable amount already, but there’s more to do. I guess the reflection of the grade is how I feel about what we’ve accomplished and where we are today.”