Council member makes bid for mayors chair in Squamish
In the Squamish mayoralty race, Paul Lalli is relying on his experience.
Born and raised in the community, the 31-year-old has been on council for more than six years, having won a by-election to replace Meg Fellowes. While on council, Lalli has served on virtually all the committees, including forestry, parks and recreation, seniors, he chaired the finance committee, and most recently has served as chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
"Serving on the committees has been a really good learning experience and there is a lot to learn. Government is an expensive business," Lalli said.
"My focus is to ensure the services we provide are accountable to the taxpayers. My biggest focus is on the economy. We have to get better control over our expenses, and get more revenue in through broadening the tax base. Being on council, I have been a part of managing our resources responsibly. The number one priority has been to provide the non-sexy services: garbage collection, sewer, and good water, fire protection and police services. I think weve done a good job of ensuring the tax dollars are spent in a responsible and forward thinking fashion in those areas."
After graduating from Howe Sound Secondary School, Lalli worked at the Bank of Montreal, the Best Western Sea to Sky Hotel, and now he owns and operates the Garibaldi Lanes bowling alley with partner John Stuart.
Lalli also earned a diploma in business administration from Capilano College, but cut his post-secondary education short when his father died and family needs took precedence.
Lalli is running for the mayors job against fellow councillor Ian Sutherland, who is on the New Directions slate, and political novice Ron Bahm Sr., who works in the construction industry.
(Lalli states categorically that his campaign has had no assistance from any of MLA Ted Nebbelings successful Liberal campaign team, as alleged by several New Directions members in a recent story in Pique Newsmagazine.)
Lalli said his decision to enter politics was driven by a love of working with people, and a desire to help shape the community he grew up in.
"I first got involved in federal and provincial politics, and coming out of the tourism industry I see a lot of similarities between that and politics, serving people and keeping them happy, though it is not always an easy task."
Being located between Vancouver and Whistler, two popular destination spots, Lalli said growth in Squamish is inevitable.
"Growth is going to happen," he said. "We have to control it, and have the infrastructure in place, just like you have to have a foundation before you can build a house. Current councils successful effort to get $7.5 million to upgrade the sewage treatment plant will go a long way towards accommodating that growth."
Lalli also said he would like to see a more streamlined process at municipal hall for people wanting to invest in the community. "I will help facilitate that, and maybe people will realize Squamish is more open for business.
"I would like to see more commercial development such as the anchor tenant that will be on the highway (in the Squamish business park). Thats what people in the community asked for. There are 18 acres of frontage in the business park that will eventually have commercial development. We went out with a request for proposals on 5-7 acres earmarked for a big box store. The referendum in the community showed overwhelming support about 70 per cent said they supported this."
Lalli said such development is needed to stop "leakage" Squamish shoppers heading to the North Shore and to help establish Squamish as the service centre for Sea to Sky Country.
In the downtown area, Lalli said more residential infill is needed, as well as business operations.
"The current council embraced and accommodated Ted Priors development (at the south end of Second Avenue) and has been working to have industrial uses mixed in. I see it as a working waterfront downtown, with a balance between industry and new ideas. The waterfront land is precious. It comes down to revenue. Industry is a major taxpayer in this community, so we need to have a balance of those revenues and commercial opportunities. We cant forget the infrastructure rail, the highway, water, the airport thats what builds the economics."
Saying he supports the Olympic bid "2010 per cent," Lalli is also in favour of a proposal to use the former Can-Oxy (now Nexen) site as a ferry dock and staging area for water transportation from Vancouver, with visitors then going by bus to Whistler.
"Ive always supported the option of having a deep sea port on the Nexen site, and a deep sea port would definitely be part of the working waterfront. There is a huge amount of land there. We have to start looking at getting development into the working waterfront, because they generate good jobs and good taxes."
With its fortunes slipping and passenger service being eliminated, Lalli said he is concerned about B.C. Rails diminishing role in the community, and its excess of prime land.
"You have to go back to the PGE, which was given a lot of land to provide economic opportunities in the communities they went through," Lalli said. "I support those rail jobs 100 per cent, but the opportunities we once saw are no longer there. If B.C. Rail is downsizing, I want to ensure the taxation issue is resolved, and Id like to see those lands filled. Id like to see industry go in if B.C. Rail is not going to fill its buildings, because it is wasted land otherwise. Its already set up as shops. I believe B.C. Rail needs to be more accountable to its shareholders, and its shareholders is us."
As to the communitys claim to be the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, Lalli said council "put a patent on that" and has recognized the potential of the natural surrounding and the opportunities they provide.
"The majority of my life I have been in the tourist industry," he said.
"We need to move in a direction where we can showcase our resources and make them attractive to investors to come in. Garibaldi Springs (the golf course now under construction north of Garibaldi Estates along the highway) is a prime example of that. It is a golf course, with a residential component and a new hotel. That project will hopefully snowball into others in our community. We have a huge playground. I support providing these opportunities, but people have to remember, Rome wasnt built overnight, and Squamish wont be built overnight."