Knocking on doors has been a real eye-opener for Hazel Braithwaite.
Her knuckles are getting a good workout these days, as the Oak Bay councillor and mayoral candidate attempts to make direct and personal contact with voters.
She admits being in the limelight is something she has shunned in past, preferring to “work behind the scenes to get things done.”
“Having less name recognition is a little bit of a challenge,” she said in a busy Oak Bay Avenue café on Sunday. Door-knocking may be a relatively slow way to build such a crucial characteristic as a candidate, she admitted, but she believes it will pay off in the end.
“I think people appreciate that you take the time (to meet them personally). People see that you’ve taken that effort.”
Braithwaite, 52 and a second-term councillor, recalls her initial move toward politics. It came in the late 1990s when she was PAC president at Willows elementary and was prompted by a council decision to pull funding for crossing guards. “It irritated me so much at the time I had to do something.”
She noted the funding was eventually restored. “If you want to change something you have to get involved. I’m not one to sit back – that’s my personality – I like to be involved.”
The issues she’s been involved with since being elected to council have been of far broader community importance. From secondary suites and the official community plan to working on plans for a new Oak Bay High, the issues have involved disparate groups.
She’s particularly proud of the way the community banded together to create a multi-use Oak Bay High design and would work to facilitate such an input framework for future major projects.
She envisions completing a revision of the OCP well within one term, by assembling a balanced advisory group of people without strict agendas. Braithwaite suggested that finding money to hire a professional urban planner with heritage experience, rather then spending money on consultants, would benefit the municipality not only for that project, but in helping deal with growth issues in future.
She sees residents’ increasing questioning of decisions by council as a good thing. It means people are getting more involved in their community.
As such, she sees herself as someone who is able to bring groups together, acting as both a mediator and a facilitator, but also one who can direct the process.
“We have a lot of diverse groups out there and we should have consensus,” she said. “It’s very important to me.”
Hazel weighs in
On public communication – “It is clear that residents are not happy with the way council communicates with them and vice-versa. Citizens want more Town Hall Meetings, a better website and timely access to agendas, minutes and documentation.
On urban deer – “We need to do something now from a health and (vehicle/driver) safety perspective. Residents are mad enough that they want us to do something about it.”
On political slates – “When I (vote for) someone, I like to believe that person has their own mind and is not going to vote together (as a bloc). Especially at the municipal level, it has to be non-partisan.”