August 21, 2018

Mayoral Exit Interview: City of North Vancouver (Part I)

At last count, 11 Metro Vancouver mayors will not be returning to council chambers in the fall; with some mayors having served multiple terms, the changeover accompanying the October 20 province-wide municipal elections represents a unique, and perhaps unprecedented, loss of institutional memory at city hall after city hall.

As such, Price Tags will publish exit interviews from mayors wishing to share their lessons learned from their public service.

Our debut Mayoral Exit Interview features Darrell Mussatto of the City of North Vancouver; this is the first of a three-part post from our chat.

How do you think you’ll be judged?
I hope I’m judged well. When I was first elected I had a big sit-down with 30 or 40 key staff at the city, and I did a presentation about changing how we live, and how we use energy sources. We had to change. Burning fossil fuels at abandon had to go. Sprawling communities had to go. And more caring and compassionate communities had to come in.

This is what I thought about when I first became mayor, and the greatest thing was that staff were right there with me. They said, “Mr. Mayor, we’re there with you.” And the community was there with me too. And I think we’ve been extremely successful at it — reducing our carbon footprint by using less coal, oil and gas, and becoming a more sustainable community energy-wise.

Also economically and socially, making a more inclusive and caring society. We did the Green Necklace , which I’m so proud of; it’s going to be completed this fall. The councillors who were voting against it — actually protesting it 15, 20 years ago — are now voting for it. That’s going to be helping people, and it’s helping people understand and engage in our communities, and be compassionate and care for others. The world is not that fair, we have to be caring and compassionate for everybody.

It’s better, but different. Different challenges for a different generation. We didn’t know any better 25 years ago, fifty years ago. We didn’t realize the effect we were having on our planet with our GHG use. We had to change that.

What are your greatest achievements?
Some people say the greatest achievement was densifying the city; we say that tongue in cheek, because it’s more of a challenge for the older generation. They got upset with that, because it’s a change in life.

We’ve been able to change our city, and for most people I’ve been able to work with them to help them bring about that change. Not all, but most; 80% of our residents live in multi-family homes, and only 20% live in single family homes, which is remarkable change we’ve done in the 25 years I’ve been on council. So I’m proud of that.

One of the other things I’m proud of is our relationship with the Squamish First Nation. We just opened on a connection through their private land, the Mosquito Creek Marina. It’s a pedestrian-cycle connection right through the marina — a tunnel bridge. It took me about ten years to get that through, about $7 million to go just a little over 200 metres.

Squamish First Nation have been great partners — allowing us to use their land. Imagine owning private waterfront land, and your neighbour comes by and says, “I want to put a public trail through your land. I know you own the waterfront there, but we want to put a trail through there so people can walk and ride their bikes through it.” What?!? The Squamish said yes.

Then there’s the Lonsdale Energy Corporation. We’re on the cusp of being 100% sustainable energy for our base load. As soon as our new wastewater treatment plant comes into effect, all of the energy to heat all of our buildings in central Lonsdale, Lower Lonsdale and the Marine Drive corridor will be on renewable energy sources. I’m so proud of that.

Do you think many residents are aware of that?
Many are not, and that’s okay. They just want us to be cognizant of the future generations, so we’re doing that.

We use solar, we use geothermal, and when the wastewater treatment plant is up and running in 2020, we’ll be using that waste heat from the sewage that comes through the plant. In 2035, the city will be making money — it’ll be like a cash cow. It’s be the best thing for the city.

In Part II, Mayor Mussatto considers ‘do-overs’, changes in his city over the past 13 years, and the challenges to come.

Photo credit: North Vancouver City Library

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