Name: Robert (Bob) Cross
Occupation: Retired Real Estate Broker
Background: Born and raised in the Edmonton area. My professional background has been many years in the property assessment and appraisal of both rural and urban property. My career started in Alberta in 1972 and after working for a private company, a rural county and the City of Edmonton, I moved to the Government of Alberta. During these years, I had very many interactions with municipal councils and gained an understanding of how they operate. Most worked well to represent the taxpayers.
In the early 1990s, I worked my way up to the position of Director of Assessment for the Province and held the title of Chief Provincial Assessor. In 1993, the Province decided to privatize the assessment function and I suddenly was without staff and I became a Municipal Advisor. I left that position to take a series of courses in Microsoft products for network and Internet.
From 1994 until we moved to Ladysmith, I ran my own computer consulting company specializing in networking for small business. This skill, as well as my assessment appraisal, led to a business venture into Costa Rica with two other companies. We developed a proposal to introduce computer assisted property assessment for municipal government. What was really interesting was we were introducing aerial photo mapping, which was very similar to what Google Earth is today.
It was these skills, along with my assessment background, that took me to Guyana, South America, in 2000. I built a computer assessment program, hired staff and trained them in the appraisal of property. This was integrated into our aerial mapping system. It was interesting to work that closely with a new system I had developed.
My wife Debra and I moved to Ladysmith in June 2004 from Edmonton. I was fresh off my four-and-a-half-year contract with the Government of Guyana. After years in a warm climate, returning to Alberta was not going to happen. We chose Ladysmith because of the people, the climate and the access to the southern Gulf Islands.
I was a scuba instructor in the 1980s and had spent some time diving in and around the Gulf Islands. I still dive a lot and most of that is in the harbour, so I have seen how the sea life is recovering. We have a 28-foot sailboat and love to cruise the Gulf Islands. We have been members of the Ladysmith Yacht Club since 2006 and members of Ladysmith Maritime Society (LMS) since 2007. I currently sit on the board of directors of LMS and am chairman of the Maritime Festival.
After a few months of getting to know the Ladysmith area, I decided I was too young to retire and went about getting a real estate license. I worked for Royal LePage here and after a couple years in sales took my brokers license and managed the Ladysmith office until I retired in 2012 at the age of 60.
Why are you running for public office?
Since my wife and I moved here, we have been waiting for things to change. A lot of streets needed re-paving, sidewalks were in bad repair and street lighting was poor. It seemed like the only additions to the town were by way of government grants and weren’t improving the lives of the average citizen. I thought if I was to run and get elected, I could try to get these and many more issues resolved.
What are your top three issues and how do you plan to tackle these issues, if elected?
1. We have a harbour that in my view is the best natural harbour on the east coast of the island. This harbour is in dire need of clean up and has been for a very long time. I realize the fact that there are two other levels of government and the First Nations who have jurisdiction, but we have to find ways of getting them to act.
2. An open and transparent municipal government. This is a theme that has been resonating through the community for quite some time. I am hearing that voters are tired of “in-camera” meetings being held on a regular basis. There cannot be that many issues that fit into the definition of what has to be discussed in-camera. We need to open Town Hall, we need Town Hall meetings where all can come and see their elected representatives discuss issues that concern them. With today’s technology, it is possible to stream live video of council meetings to the Town’s website.
3. The downtown has too many vacancies and we have to find ways to attract business back to Ladysmith.
There needs to be a task force, made up of town council, the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce and the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association. This task force should make recommendations on attracting the right mix of business for Ladysmith. The businesses that are thriving here are specialty shops that are not in competition with the big box stores. One example would be a bike shop, somewhere you can get a tune up in the spring or buy a first bike for a grandchild.
I realize that most of the focus has been on the downtown core, but we cannot forget a large portion of the population lives in the south and north ends of town. We want to create a green community, so we have to be aware of those residents. They need services in their neighbourhoods as well.
What does your ideal Ladysmith look like?
I see a community that is for the people; it will have a solid economy, job opportunities, good public schools, good public transportation, an energy efficient culturally diverse and tolerant society, cultural events/festivals. We will have a waterfront we can be proud of with a promenade that stretches from Transfer Beach to the Government Dock. A walking-friendly downtown with shops, cafés and possibly even a theatre. I see a Ladysmith that would be free of crime, leave no carbon footprint; it would consist of people who are willing to help each other at any time.
How do you plan to manage taxes and spending?
Departmental budgeting; it will be the responsibility of each department head to prepare a draft budget. Once projects have been identified by the council, the department heads will need to prioritize each project that they have had assigned to and prepare budgets. It will be necessary to start at zero impact to property tax. If they cannot complete all tasks within the current tax input, then the department heads must work with senior management to prioritize all projects to stay at a zero impact.
I want to see our town move forward but not at any expense. Tax increases must be the final answer.
What are your thoughts on development and growth in Ladysmith?
Development and growth are inevitable, but I believe we have sufficient land within the current urban boundaries to sustain us for many years. Our harbour is the best on the east coast of Vancouver Island and is key to any future development. The cleanup of the harbour, the stabilization of Slag Point will give developers a base for mixed use development. The waterfront can be maintained as parkland with multiple access points for the public, walking promenade. The uplands could host multi-residential, low-rise commercial and, towards the Government Wharf, light industrial.
What do you think it takes to lead Ladysmith?
I think it is time that people with a business sense take the lead in Ladysmith. A municipality is a corporation, it has shareholders and it elects a CEO and a board of directors. The mayor and council are no different, and they are responsible to the electorate to run the corporation in a financially responsible manner.
How long have you lived in the Ladysmith area? Ten years
How many council meetings have you been to in the last six months? Three