Skakun makes re-election bid
While many of those vying for public office host a press conference to make the announcement official, Coun. Brian Skakun did his with little fanfare, making his intentions known through an e-mail sent at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 29.
"I always just issue a release," Skakun said in a later interview, adding he feels it is more important those who are running for office for the first time hold a press conference in order to gain some name recognition.
"They need their moment in the spotlight. It's about attracting new people to local government. I like to keep a lower profile."
In the release, Skakun says he has had a lot of support to run for the position of mayor, but after considering the option, chose to run for council instead. However, he adds this doesn't rule out the possibility of a run for the mayor's chair sometime in the future.
Growing the city's tax base, he says, is critically important to the economic future of the city. In fact, at the recent UBCM conference he had the chance to meet with a major local investor and act as an ambassador for the city, which is an important part of the job of a councillor, he said.
"I took the time out to meet with Henry Rempel. It is so important to take the time to go that extra distance and let them know you really care."
Other matters of importance include clean air and water, open and transparent government, encouraging and supporting small business strategies, senior and youth initiatives and responsible spending.
Roads remain an issue, however improving the quality of the streets in the city doesn't necessarily mean raising taxes. Instead Skakun said he would like council to take an in-depth look at how things are currently being done.
"We need to have a complete review of the asphalt and maintenance program and use more efficient, better business practices. I will be pushing for that for sure. We need to get more bang for our buck, if you will."
Inviting residents to call or e-mail him regarding snow removal problems had him answering between 100 and 150 calls and 200 to 300 e-mails last winter, which he said was a challenging year in that department.
"Administration and city council know how important snow removal is. There may be ways to improve it, and I'm willing to look into that as well."
Transparency in government is also an issue close to Skakun's heart. Whether he wants to be or not, the cloud of disclosing a document shared while in a closed session of council has made him the poster boy for both sides of the argument about how much information privy to councillors should also be open for the public to see.
Skakun said he believes whatever can be made public should be. He said dozens of delegates at the UBCM approached him, including the tax rate payers association because they don't know what to do to make their local governments more open.Speaking up then getting punished for it creates further issues, he said.In fact, Prince George city council brought four resolutions to the UBCM about privacy and censure issues, and Skakun said he was the single councillor who spoke against them. Two of them, he said, were defeated.
"When you punish someone who discloses information, the people think something is wrong," he said. "You can't muzzle people who speak out."
In another bid for more disclosure, Skakun said he will be putting forward his financial report regarding expenditures while doing his job as a councillor, something councillors in Quesnel do each month, at the Oct. 3 meeting.
"I am trying to get council to support that, and eventually get all that information on the city's website."With a court date on Oct. 11 to see how a judge will rule regarding his bid to postpone council's attempt to sanction him at least until after his appeal is heard, Skakun said he is eager to see the whole matter finished.
"I'm hoping the new council that steps in will pull together, and we will put this behind us and get on with more important matters."