Harold Long says Courtenay has outgrown small town thinking, should plan for sea level rise, calls a subdivision at Stotan Falls a ‘bad idea’ and wants to densify the urban core to preserve downtown businesses. And he’s disappointed in incumbent Mayor Larry Jangula.
Harold Long, a three-term Courtenay council member in the 1980s, will launch a return to city politics this week, this time in a run for the mayor’s chair. Long, who was born and raised on 21st Street, was first elected to City Council in 1984. He ran for mayor in 1990, losing to Ron Webber by only 25 votes. He’s stayed out of the political scene since then because he didn’t want “to be a heckler from the sidelines.”
But Long is jumping back in now because he is disappointed in the city’s lack of a long-term vision and particularly in the performance of incumbent Mayor Larry Jangula, who he believes has alienated the council and failed to bring them together. “I think, in general, it’s time for the city to think outside of the box,” he told Decafnation. “We’ve outgrown small town thinking.”
Long spent most of his career as a plumber and pipefitter, working on many of the Comox Valley’s major infrastructure projects, such as the Brent Road sewage treatment plant, the sports centre, Driftwood mall and a renovation of St. Joseph’s General Hospital.
He’s probably best known recently as a land developer. His biggest project was the Valley View subdivision that essentially created East Courtenay. Asked if voters might wonder if he has a conflict of interest, Long says he has no big projects planned and hasn’t done any developing in Courtenay for eight years. All the property he owns in the city is his house and five acres near Glacier View Lodge.
And for someone who might get stereotyped as a conservative — Long is a fiscal conservative — he talks about many progressive ideas. Long favors densification of the urban core, says the city should be planning for sea level rise and moving infrastructure inland, believes the Stotan Falls area is a bad place to put a subdivision, wants to upgrade sewage treatment facilities to produce effluent that can be reused and opposes dumping wastewater into any body of water.
He also believes Courtenay residents “won’t stand for more tax increases” and should look more closely at ways to reduce costs. At the same time, Long thinks the city hasn’t spent enough on maintaining its important infrastructure, such as the Fifth Street bridge.
Long worries that middle income families, as well as young people, have been priced out of Courtenay’s housing market. “To get ahead, people have to own it (their property),” he says. “Equity is everything.” So he supports smaller houses on small lots, removing obstacles that prevent developments targeting lower-priced houses and requiring new developments to have a mix of varying priced homes. Long knows the city has lost several affordable housing projects because the bureaucratic tangle was overwhelming.
“If we don’t work on a long-term housing plan for both availability and affordability, I’m afraid of where we’re headed,” he said. “The next generation of seniors will be much poorer, their pensions eaten up by rent or mortgages.” He supports allowing secondary suites, especially around the downtown core. “The only way to preserve our downtown is to put people on the street,” he said. “Not just during the day, but 16 hours a day. Retail is a tough business and it’s more important than the development community.”
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