DISTRICT OF MISSION
MAYOR PAUL HORN – MAYOR’S ADDRESS
COUNCIL CHAMBERS, MUNICIPAL HALL
MAY 5, 2021
I recently spoke with a colleague who, like me, works in many different communities. We remarked about the unique way that Mission comes together in support of our community initiatives. He described a Mission project that had so many contributors, it took him more than two minutes of reading to list them all.
It’s that community spirit – a blend of pioneering boldness and neighbourliness – that makes me proud to live in Mission and to take on the role of Mayor.
I spoke once with a friend from a metro council who told me that his city was powered by 200 active citizens who seemed to show up again and again. Every successful community initiative had essentially the same boosters. After we spoke, I began to silently inventory all of the amazing volunteers, donors, helping professionals and staff, elected leaders, teachers and coaches, devoted spiritual leaders, and neighbourly helpers I have been privileged to work alongside. I thought about my cousin Monte and my Uncle Gordon, both of whom never went out for a walk without taking a garbage bag and a picker. They never questioned whether they could make a difference, and they never sought an ounce of recognition. I thought about Maureen Coates, or as many of our children will know her, Sunshine, who has quietly and tirelessly operated the local Beaver group for many years. I thought about our many honoured Freemen who have dedicated their lives to this community and its people. I came to realize that Mission is full of these quiet, humble and seemingly tireless helpers. There was simply no way I could accurately inventory all of the people who make Mission tick.
The late Wilson Sieg was fond of saying that elected people are merely paid volunteers. He was right. We are not more important than our neighbours and neither can we say that we contribute more than others. Instead, it’s more accurate to say that we are simply the ones in the public eye. We are meant to represent all of our community’s will and initiative.
For me, that is both an honour and a responsibility. If Mission is built from neighbourliness, then, as your Mayor, I must be the best example of this. If boldness is in our bones, then I must be a strong and effective advocate for reaching higher. Your Mayor must ensure that these traditions are carried on.
And so, as I take on this job, I think it is only right that I commit to doing things in the Mission way. This means that I will be looking for ways to make it easier, faster and friendlier to interact with your City Hall. It means that I will be supporting our staff, community agencies, businesses and community leaders to accomplish more by providing the necessary resources; ensuring clear planning; bringing parties together to collaborate and mediate; recognizing excellence; and getting out of the way when others are already achieving greatness.
I am not interested in building a community based on more rules and divisions. I do not believe that communities do well when they aim to create “us-es” and “thems.” Our mission is to build together.
With that in mind, I have no intention to undo any of the work being undertaken by the current Council. Rather, my intention is to add value to our strategic planning. In the next two months, we will reconvene as a Council to evaluate our progress, refine, and add specific metrics to our goals. We will also ensure that our planning includes updated Social, Healthcare and Environmental Strategies.
In order to move forward with social and healthcare planning, Council and I have already begun the work of restoring and enhancing our Mission Healthy Community Council. We will be expanding the parties around that table; defining a nimble executive structure; and ensuring very focused Terms of Reference. This group will be asked to address long term issues such as poverty, youth services, healthcare, housing and opioid intervention. It is a huge undertaking, and it will take a very motivated and cohesive team, but I know Mission is incredibly well equipped when it comes to skilled and motivated professionals and volunteers. We will continue to be leaders in this area.
Council’s work with respect to planning on the Waterfront and in Silverdale is already well underway. In some of my very first discussions with staff, consultants and proponents, we have discussed timelines, and I am confident that we will see significant traction on both fronts in the next year. Gone are the days of “talking at each other” and getting nowhere. We are poised to act, and we intend to keep those processes moving forward.
And yes, that includes, getting our sewer force main installed across the Fraser River within this term.
During the last five months, I have spoken to countless people who want an improved “front counter” experience when dealing with our city. I can assure you that the staff and all of Council want this too. Even in my initial discussions with staff, there is a strong commitment from our departments to be our best, but we need to catch up in some vital areas so that our teams are properly resourced. This means finding a way to procure new and updated software; hiring additional staff; working with our clients and improving our communication tools.
I know too that housing – both affordable and supportive – has been an area of significant concern for many. I am excited by the many – not one, but many – housing opportunities about to come before this Council. We will be calling on you – our neighbours – to ensure that we are welcoming and creative in making these projects happen.
I know that civic engagement is also an area of real concern for my neighbours. You are looking for authentic ways to communicate, rather than rants or raves on a Facebook page. I have already begun talking with Council about Citizens Advisory Town Halls sessions, with the aim being face-to-face and bidirectional communication. My aim – should we progress safely through COVID in the next few months – is to convene our first “in-person” session in the fall. My vision for these sessions is that they include chances for neighbourhood and community representatives to sit with Mayor and Council in an informal format, allowing you to tell us what is working and what is not. These sessions will need to be reinforced with effective satisfaction surveys and online communications, and I will be asking Council to consider some ideas in the next two months.
I cannot forget that COVID has profoundly affected all of our lives. As our communities move forward with vaccinations, there is renewed hope, but there is still reason for us to be cautious, safe and supportive of one another. I believe that COVID has given us an opportunity to learn about ourselves. The necessity of social distancing has given us some new inventions – such as working and meeting from home – and it has taught us to re-evaluate our priorities, with many of us becoming more acutely aware of the value of family, friends and community. Mission – like our neighbours – will need to make decisions based on these lessons. We will also need to respond, advocate and communicate as we interact with our regional, provincial and federal authorities.
I cannot conclude without discussing the importance of working closely with the indigenous communities who stewarded this land before the arrival of the Europeans. I know that it has become common to begin a speech such as this with a statement of recognition and gratitude to the Matsqui, Leqamel, St’sailes, Kwantlen, Scowlitz, Sumas and other Sto:lo peoples for whom this has always been home. Forgive me, but I would rather conclude these remarks with a stronger and more clear acknowledgement of our desire to learn from the past and to build pathways forward.
Many years ago, I received the gift of the story of Xa:ls and Xa:ytem Rock. According to Sto:lo tradition, the Si:yams were asked by the Creator to teach their people the gift of written language. When they did not pass on this gift, Xa:ls transformed them into the stone that now sits in the area we now call Hatzic. In that stone, there is a reminder that we are meant to learn from one another.
The Sto:lo people have taught us the value of stewardship and community. It is a lesson I value deeply. In these coming months (as COVID permits), I will be asking to visit the leaders of these communities. I believe we can accomplish a great deal together.
Please allow me to conclude by saying that I am very grateful to all of the members of Council, each of whom has shown me a tremendous enthusiasm and intention for working together. To a person, they have shown me that our city is in very good hands.
And to our staff, with whom I have already begun the process of meeting, I cannot thank you enough for your welcoming presence, exceptional commitment, and ability to excel even through these many months of disruption. I am here to help you.
Finally, to those who have supported me, from my wife, Tracy, and my son David, to my parents and siblings, there are not enough words to say, “Thank you.” No one better understands the family sacrifices incumbent in elected life, and yet they have been my strength in all of my community work.
To those who helped me and others during this election campaign, you have proven that Mission is a city full of leaders. And to everyone who voted – no matter for whom – thank you for your engagement with our city. You have my pledge that I will bring my best to serve you all.
It’s time to get to work. Good night.