5 Key Issues Jeff Will Address While On Council
Strong Financial Management
The City of Chilliwack has an operating budget in excess of $150 million and assets of over $850 million making it the largest non-profit organization in the city as well as being a major employer. Its shareholders are the good people of Chilliwack.
Chilliwack’s Need – Ensure that your tax dollars are spent in the most fiscally responsible manner, providing the most benefit per dollar to its citizens.
Jeff’s Experience – Over 25 years as a Chartered Professional Accountant which includes 18 years as Chief Financial Officer of the Visscher Group of Companies, a $75 million company which employs over 200 people in four locations. Member of numerous community non-profits operating within limited budgets.
Affordable Property Taxes
Property taxes are a significant expense to every household and business in Chilliwack and represent over 40% of the city revenues.
- Key Issue:Property taxes must be both affordable and stable
Chilliwack is the most affordable city in the lower mainland with the lowest taxes in the region for both residential and commercial. Jeff will ensure this remains a priority for City Hall. The “tax and spend” philosophy of the two higher levels of government cannot trickle down to the municipal level.
A municipal government is somewhat limited in its sources of income so it is imperative that every tax dollar is spent in the most fiscally responsible manner providing the best bang for the buck.
- Key Issue:Maximizing return on City dollars
As a CFO, Jeff knows the importance of controlling spending and ensuring financial needs are prioritized so that money is spent on what’s important to the wellbeing of an enterprise. Money trees don’t exist so we have to keep watch on where the dollars are spent and ask the questions that need to be asked.
During his watch on non-profit organizations such as Community Services or Big Brothers, watching the dollars and cents becomes even more important as you balance providing a service with limited financial resources.
Like many communities in the Fraser Valley, homelessness and affordable housing have become a serious problem that must be addressed at all levels of government.
Chilliwack’s Need – Urgent need to address homelessness in the downtown and assist those priced out of the real estate market to find affordable housing.
Jeff’s Experience – Chilliwack Community Services, Board of Directors; early support for Housing Hub initiative.
Two distinct groups affected by the housing crisis:
- Temporary Homeless – Those who have been priced out of the market and are hoping to get back in.
- Entrenched Homeless – Those who have found a home in the streets and are not necessarily looking to leave the streets; often struggling with mental illness and chronic substance abuse.
“Housing Hub” Pilot Project
Entrenched homelessness is a challenge that reaches far beyond finding shelter. However, with the new “Housing Hub” pilot project, there is now a point of contact for those seeking to get off the street.
Housing Hub will address the following areas:
- Be a Point of Contact – Intake those looking for access to housing with supports and match them to homes that best suit them.
- Procure Housing & Provide Supports – Acquire available housing for participants and provide them with home support and connect them to wrap-around services in the community.
- Coordinate With Existing Organizations – Coordinate with a number of wonderful services already working on the housing crisis to help participants access the best housing for them.
Affordable Housing Options
The housing shortage that we currently find ourselves in is a direct result of too much demand for a limited supply. The result has been the escalation in housing prices over the last few years. Economics 101, if demand exceeds supply, prices go up. And of course, the other part of this is the increase in rental rates and availability of rental units.
- Key Issue: Diminishing inventory of affordable housing
Densification is a necessary counterpoint to our current population boom. 50 years ago a house could be built on .20 acres; now that is no longer a reality.
Jeff supports a long-term housing strategy for ensuring that Chilliwack not only has affordable housing but also the infrastructure (streets, parking, green space) to support it. This includes long-term neighbourhood planning such as outlined in The Chilliwack Proper Neighbourhood Plan.
The infill of oversized lots with carriage houses, townhouses or apartments is one of the best value alternatives. We also need to work with developers to build more low-income housing which includes providing incentives and let them know of other programs available to them (CMHC, etc).
Jeff is dedicated to making our community better for everyone. He has been a great addition to the board of Chilliwack Community Services where he provides financial guidance to both the board and the management team of CCS. It’s because of our financial strength that CCS is able to consider the Paramount Housing Project. Jeff will make an excellent city councillor.
It is the city’s responsibility to keep its citizens safe in their neighbourhoods. As Chilliwack continues to grow, big city problems have started to emerge; one of the biggest of these problems is property crime.
Chilliwack’s Need – Strategic use of resources to get to the core of the criminal element in our community and eliminate to once and for all. This includes not only police but social support agencies, business associations and citizen groups.
Jeff’s Experience – Board member of Chilliwack Community Services, the largest non-profit agency in Chilliwack offering services to all age groups and demographics in the city.
Property Crime Prevention
Property theft continues to be the biggest issue. Although no physical injury in most cases, there is a psychological scar left from the violation of your personal property. Your home suddenly isn’t the haven that it once was.
- Key Issue: Rising levels of property theft in Chilliwack (including rural areas).
The ideal scenario would be to increase our police force twofold but this is not economically feasible without a sharp increase in taxes. Targeted strategies on apprehending the prolific offenders need to be developed.
Neighbourhood watch, motion lights, and alarms will deter the crime before it’s committed. We need to make it as uncomfortable as we can for this criminal element and let them know once and for all that they are not welcome in Chilliwack.
Substance Abuse and Dependency
In most cases, crime in Chilliwack is merely a symptom of a much larger issue, which is substance dependency. You cannot eliminate the symptom unless you cure the disease.
- Key Issue:Public drug consumption
Police resources need to focus on the drug dealers and make it as difficult as possible for them to do “business” in Chilliwack. They are not welcome here! Then the social agencies can step in and work on the dependency issue and get these people back on their feet again.
At the same time, we need to prevent others from going down that path by supporting agencies such as the Cyrus Centre who are there to help with the vulnerable youth.
Continued Economic Development
A strong local economy helps the entire community by providing good paying jobs and funding essential services—such as police, fire and infrastructure—that will continue to allow Chilliwack to survive and thrive.
Chilliwack’s Need – Continue to attract small and medium-sized employers to the Eastern Fraser Valley, as well as work with existing businesses to maintain and expand their operations in Chilliwack.
Jeff’s Experience – Strong relationships in the business community; CFO of Visscher Group; 10 years on Board of Chilliwack Economic Partners including Chair during the Molson Brewery negotiations.
Retention and Expansion of Existing Business
To maintain stable economic growth, the City of Chilliwack must continue to support local businesses actively, and help improve conditions allowing them to grow year after year.
- Key Issue: Restricted availability of commercial and industrial land.
Jeff will work closely with all levels of government as well as our First Nations neighbours to ensure that we can accommodate the expansion and growth of employment lands.
- Key Issue: Facilitating growth for existing business.
Chilliwack City Hall has always been business friendly and Jeff will continue to see that it remains that way. Jeff’s guidance and leadership on CEPCO have been key to assisting local businesses with solving challenges such as outgrowing existing facilities, skilled workforce recruitment and matching up supply needs.
A Destination For New Business
When choosing a city to set up shop, a business will not only look at affordability but also the attractiveness of the surrounding community including affordable housing, amenities such as schools, hospitals and recreation and good neighbourhoods.
- Key Issue: Attracting new business to Chilliwack.
Through his years on CEPCO, Jeff has been involved with bringing large employers to Chilliwack, including Langley Concrete and Molson Coors. He was also heavily involved with the Canada Education Park which now includes UFV, RCMP, Canadian Border Services and the BC Justice Institute.
Jeff will continue to use his business expertise on city council in order to promote the opportunities involved in doing business in Chilliwack.
Variety Of Business For the Eastern Fraser Valley
Chilliwack must look to the future and continue to attract and promote the growth of service-based employers such as engineering, technology and financial services.
- Key Issue: Lack of good high-paying jobs for Chilliwack families.
One way to promote Chilliwack as a destination for service-based employers is to advertise Chilliwack’s existing natural beauty as well as our affordable and friendly business atmosphere.
Working in the service sector as a Chartered Accountant, Jeff knows first hand the need to diversify business opportunities and what it takes to attract and keep them doing business here for years to come.
As a fellow community board member, Jeff Shields is a valued asset. His accounting background is of great assistance when dealing with decisions requiring financial acumen, and he is a strategic thinker looking for outcomes that will most benefit our community.
Jeff listens and questions all proposals to make informed decisions. He has been on downtown planning committees to be more knowledgeable about the history of the area and the current issues and to help determine the best ways forward.
As chair of the board, he is also very effective ensuring all viewpoints are expressed and considered.
Roads and Infrastructure
Population growth in Chilliwack has added a lot of pressure to existing roadways over the past decade, and traffic congestion has become a contentious issue.
Chilliwack’s Need – Exploding population growth in Chilliwack in recent years has put pressure on existing roadways and infrastructure.
Jeff’s Experience – Moving people to work and goods to customers are core issues that the Visscher Group and Jeff deal with on a daily basis. Creative alternatives are always considered.
Traffic Needs to Flow
The amount of vehicles in Chilliwack is not going down anytime soon. We will continue to rely on the automobile as the primary source of transportation for the foreseeable future so our roadways need to accommodate them.
- Key Issue: Traffic congestion
Traffic needs to keep flowing and the less it comes to a complete stop, the better. Roundabouts are made to do this and the proof around Chilliwack is undeniable as you look at intersections such as the Vedder Bridge, Prest Road and Evans Road that have been converted.
Planning for Growth
The enormous population growth in Garrison and Promontory has resulted in the unprecedented traffic in the Vedder corridor (Vedder Road from Promontory to Keith Wilson). This is the extreme case but certainly not an isolated case, particularly on the south side.
- Key Issue: Roadways are not keeping up with traffic volume
A key part of long-range planning for the city needs to be studying the traffic implications to neighbourhoods from new developments. All cities flow traffic through selected main corridors and in Chilliwack, these corridors must be built/expanded to accommodate large traffic volume.
The prospect of having Jeff Shields on Chilliwack City council for me is very exciting. He is an ideal candidate with a commonsense approach to problem-solving and is only motivated by what is best for Chilliwack. Jeff cares deeply about his community and has always demonstrated that he is willing to put in the necessary time. Working with him on various Rotary Club projects, I have seen Jeff prove this time and time again. He has been recognized and awarded by our Club on numerous occasions for stepping up to make a difference for Chilliwack and particularly for the benefit of Chilliwack’s youth.
Municipal leadership and governance work best when decisions aren’t influenced by a particular ideology or political bent, instead, it works best based on thoughtful analysis of the available information and the lens of benefit for the community as a whole. In this regard, Jeff will make an excellent leader, decision maker and representative of the City of Chilliwack.
Why Vote For Jeff Shields?
1. Jeff’s Training and Experience as a Chartered Professional Accountant will ensure that strong financial management is a priority and accountability for your tax dollars is transparent.
2. Jeff’s Long-Standing Involvement in the Community has made him very familiar with the issues (such as crime and homelessness) and provides him with a strong background to help devise creative solutions going forward.
3. Jeff’s Personal Roots in Chilliwack are Deep. His passion and commitment to Chilliwack are unconditional and he will always focus on making the right decision, not the easy one.