Public input, taxes top Caumann’s concerns

Nick Caumanns thinks direct public involvement would solve a lot of problems at North Cowichan council and, if elected, he wants to see if he can convince his new colleagues to try at least one new idea.

His primary focus will be dealing with taxation.

"We’ve doubled our taxes for the average house. That comes from a lot of spending increases. It’s gone up more quickly than our neighbouring municipalities and, when you compare the total tax bill, our taxes are actually quite high compared to them.

"I know the mayor and a few others like to do this comparison of a narrow slice of our taxes but the total bill is just too high and has gone up too much," he said.

Beyond that problem is the challenge of making council more directly accountable to the public, Caumanns said.

"What you can do as a citizen is show up, sit through a six-hour council meeting, provide your two minutes of commentary and what you get is a ‘Thank you very much.’" That needs addressing, he said, suggesting that North Cowichan follow the lead of a town in Connecticut where, for a municipal cost of $5,000 a year, they offer the public an annual vote on their budget.

"That’s access to government. The people come to the ballot box and choose whether a budget’s appropriate or not. The point being, if council and mayor do a good job, you don’t have to go back more than once. That, over time, is going to reduce frustration," he said.

The idea could also be used for major projects like building a pool, Echo Heights, the road to Stoney Hill.

"We’ve had disputes over some of these things for 10 years and it’s been completely unnecessary," Caumanns said.