Three-term Sechelt councillor Alice Lutes is running again this fall.
Lutes, who was first elected in 2008, made a brief statement at the Aug. 1 council meeting, and expanded on her reasons for seeking re-election in an interview for Coast Reporter Radio.
“I truly love doing what I’m doing,” Lutes said. “And I don’t feel that the work’s complete. It never will be – it’s ongoing – but I enjoy it and I feel like I make a difference and that I’m a voice for some of Sechelt. That’s important to me.”
Lutes said the councils she’s served on under three different mayors have each been very different, and each achieved different goals, but one of the hallmarks of the current council is balance. “This one, especially, has reflected Sechelt’s demographics quite well and their politics. There’s been someone for everybody on this particular council.”
She said many of the serious issues Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast are dealing with involve things that don’t fall entirely under the control of council, like affordable housing and living wages.
“As a municipal council, it’s our role to very strongly lobby and push other levels of government to help us do that work,” she said.
When it comes to affordable housing, Lutes said it’s not practical to expect council, through its planning powers, to force developers to build rental complexes or a particular type of housing stock, and she wants to look at changing the current practice of developers contributing units, often in exchange for a lift in density.
“I would like to see us look at the possibility of putting a charge to every unit that’s developed, over and above single residences,” said Lutes, who explained the money would then go into a fund for affordable housing projects, especially to fill the gap in housing for workers and young families.
On development, Lutes said she disagrees with critics who claim the current council has been slow to approve projects or imposes unnecessary conditions on developers, and calls it “an unfair tag” hung on both council and the planning department.
“I believe that some of the things the community sees as stalled development are things the developer stepped away from because it’s not the right time for them, or they’ve done some research and found that, no, that’s not what the community wants or needs and they’ll review and come back,” Lutes said. “Others have had the go ahead and not taken it.”
Another initiative Lutes has championed is a living wage policy for the District of Sechelt, which would require companies it does business with to pay the area’s living wage, which has been calculated at between $18 and $20 an hour in recent years, as a condition of getting contracts. “It makes a very small difference, but it sets a huge example.”
Lutes also said, after choosing to not publicly back mayoralty candidates during her previous campaigns, that she’ll be supporting incumbent Bruce Milne this time around.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with Bruce… I appreciate his understanding of the community and his support so, yes, I will support Bruce.”
You can hear the full interview with Lutes on Coast Reporter Radio available Friday at www.coastreporter.net/audio