Kobayashi lays out his plans for Colwood
Budgeting, services metrics, citizen involvement on the docket for 2023
Doug Kobayashi has a vision for Colwood council, and in some areas, it’s a marked departure from his predecessor.
In October, after one term as a councillor, Doug Kobayashi won the mayor’s seat from incumbent Rob Martin with 68% of the vote. He was joined by two incumbents and four new faces for the Nov. 7 inauguration, and said the remainder of 2022 was dedicated to learning and catching-up. No small task in municipal government, he said.
Kobayashi and council did make one clear stance this year: His council revoked a remuneration increase set to take effect in January from a pre-election decision. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, given Kobayashi’s clear opposition—as a councillor— to the pay increase when it was discussed in September. He argued then that fiscal responsibility should be prioritized over pay jumps.
Now Kobayashi is turning to the future in what appears to be a time of change for the Westshore. The 30-year reign of Langford mayor Stew Young came to an abrupt end in October, and a mostly new council is in control of Kobayashi’s neighbouring municipality. What does that mean for Colwood? He doesn’t know, but the winds of change are certainly blowing.
*Note: Answers have been edited for brevity.
Q: So what are your priorities when you look ahead to the next year here?
A: Well, the first thing that we have to do is that we're going to have to go through the whole budget process, because normally we start this a lot earlier. Because of all the brand new councillors, and all the training they had to go through, we're actually kicking off our budget session in January, which is late for us. We’ll be doing the full service review, and budgeting, which will be done in conjunction with the strategic plan.
The other big initiative that I want to bring in right now, maybe to the pleasure of some, and to the chagrin of others, is performance metrics. Every year, the services keep on saying, ‘we need more money, we need more money’...you can just keep feeding the monster. But until you have some good metrics, to say that, ‘hey, we're getting true value for our tax dollars.’ It’s pretty hard to keep on, you know, putting money into the money pit.
And the other thing, too…For the last two councils, we went away from having citizen advisory committees. I'm bringing them all back. So we're actually kicking them off in January, too.
A lot of things are happening next year.
Q: Why do you want to bring those citizen advisory committees back?
A: You can see that there were very few people from the public that were actually attending council meetings. And, you know, we just had a committee of the whole which was all council, and then we would recommend things to council, which is all of us around the table. So we've never had the participation from the public.
I know, from being formally on citizen advisory committees, 10 [or] 12 years ago, we actually felt we were inputting something into the city. And you know, I remember a lot of us citizens, we really enjoyed it.
The people that used to volunteer on these committees were people that were so interested and just had so many contributions for the city. We have far smarter people out there that have expertise in a lot of areas.
The select committees are the big ones that I want to tackle certain problems that we know are issues right now. In fact, I even have a select committee for seniors, I'm going to have a select committee for youth. But the way we're going to approach this is that we are really going to write some really good terms of reference. So we understand all the ground rules before we go in there.
Q: Your next door neighbour, Langford, has a new mayor. And I have a feeling they're going to be making some changes in terms of growth and development. With a new mayor and council over there. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on how that might affect Colwood?
A: I have no comment on that, to tell you the truth. They're still learning, themselves. Right? The one change that we do have here—this is the first time this has ever happened to the best of my knowledge—is that we, as all the Westshore mayors— there's five of us—-get together every six weeks, and we have lunch together, and we actually talk. We talk about common issues, and maybe some things that can be integrated.
Q: Well, the last kind of thing I wanted to touch on was health care and primary doctors. There's all sorts of novel concepts and ideas coming out right now about how to actually improve the system. I’m wondering whether that's something that's on the docket for Colwood council?
A: I've met with all the major developers here within our boundaries, and I've said, ‘Ok, we need facilities. We need to have these medical facilities right now.’
It’s got to be an all hands on approach right now to this, right. It's a real situation. And I always tell people, I'm a prime example. I wouldn't have had heart failure, I wouldn't have been a diabetic, if I’d had a family doctor. Having a family doctor now, the care I get right now is absolutely unbelievable. But I can't sit on my laurels and say, ‘hey, I've got one. It's not a problem anymore’. No, it's a big problem.
I'm looking at what Esquimalt is doing right now, I'm looking at what the PCN is doing here… and in fact, I am actually setting up an advisory committee on health right now, and it's going to be led by one of our councillors who's with Island health right now, to ensure that we are plugged in here, and that we're doing everything that we can to support it.