By Bill Bell
I like Mayor Darrell Mussatto; we have known each other since he was first elected to City council in the 90’s. Yes we have had our differences ...but for the most part he is a friendly and hardworking Mayor of the City.Last election Mussatto cleaned house against his two opponents, out stripping them with campaign donations, organizational support, and endorsements from key voting sectors; clobbering them with ballot support from North Vancouver voters. He garnered 73.8 per cent of the vote.
Mussatto, since the last election has not changed much, a little grayer but he is still the small “l” liberal (with socialist tendencies) who also hasn’t met a developer he did not like. This coming Fall, Mussatto should not have any problems being reelected? Right? Wrong.
His opponent Kerry Morris, has long ties to the community. He grew up with City politic in his blood - His father Frank sat on council for one term with me in the late 80’s, and before that Frank virtually ran the City as head of development service. Simply put Kerry is running as hard as any candidate I’ve seen. He is running the old fashioned way, pressing the flesh, shaking hands, passing out election cards and leaflets and telling everyone that something is out whack at City Hall and he can fix it.
His biggest stick is his attempt to tie Mussatto and Councillor Keating to campaign donations by big developers and in particular Onni - the developer of the huge Safeway site at 13th and Lonsdale. He taints them as politicians with a conflict of interest at the worst and ethically challenged at best.
I will give Kerry full marks for hard work; he is everywhere on the campaign trail and the election is well over 6 months away. I’ve only met him briefly and I certainly was not swayed but then again I think I will watch with interest as this aggressive, no holds barred upstart progresses on the campaign trail. Perhaps some of his arrogance will soften and his messaging become clearer.
So why is Mussatto in trouble? Normally I would say the Mayor is safe barring some unforeseen scandal but in this case Mussatto’s biggest weakness is himself…or better stated, Mussatto is just too confident and overconfidence is a politician’s greatest weakness.
Mayor Barbara Sharp was considered both overconfident and arrogant when Mussatto defeated her 3 elections ago. Like Sharp, Mussatto is losing touch with the electorate and just doesn’t see it when the people on the street say he is “in the pocket of the developers.” There is a repetitive chorus out there that he gives away too much (density increases) to “his friends in the development community”.
The anti-development forces in the city are usually not enough to boot a popular mayor out office, but in this election a perfect storm is developing around the increased density issue. The North Vancouver School board wants to up-zone two properties in two different City neighborhoods. Residents in Cloverly and Hamilton Heights are up in arms over the potential of large scale developments on those properties.
And although City staff have recently reduced its proposed density increases in the Official community Plan, some City councilors are attempting to paint Mussatto, Keating and Councillor Linda Buchanan as wanting increases in OCP density.
These Team Mussatto councilors were unsuccessful in pushing forward with the OCP decision allowing the whole development debate into the election process. You got to think there is a conspiracy on behalf of some council members to nail Mussatto, Keating and Buchanan as density increase loving politicians.
Combine that perception with developer big buck donations that was given to Team Mussatto and I say the Mayor is going have a real fight on his hands.