Coffee With Mike Bachiu
“People should be able to have their own voice. People should be able to have their own voice and not be told what to do,” said Mike Bachiu, candidate in the October 17 Civic Byelection.
Bachiu, who has spent all but the first year of his life in Moose Jaw, is running on a platform to hopefully rebuild the trust lost between residents and the City. He also hopes to see the City grow in other key areas.
In a coffee chat with MJ Independent he spoke about his job, life and some of his personal philosophy.
Bachiu, who admits he is a bit of an unknown in the race, said being elected to Council is a privilege and one driven by the desire for elected officials to see themselves as servants to the residents. He is running for the councillor position vacated by Don Mitchell who resigned to care for his wife.
For the last 15 years, Bachiu has been employed by Moose Jaw Families For Change. The group runs three group homes in the city for people of all disabilities who require different levels of care.
Previous to that he owned his own business for two years, where he provided on-site computer consulting. Prior to that he worked at Focal Point where he did computer repairs. His other jobs before that were labour jobs.
“As long as you were willing to provide for your family and find meaning through it. That’s all that matters.”
He got involved with working with people with disabilities by accident when a friend asked him to help out.
“It was a fluke. I was doing some stuff at the pork plant, doing some work on computers and a friend said come over and give us a hand. It’s the best job you’ll ever have. I loved it so much I just jumped in.”
For people asking if there is a family connection with the Moose Jaw Co-op, Bachiu said his father Robert worked in the Sport,s Cellar, in the basement, until it closed then moved upstairs and worked in produce.
His mother Ann worked at the Valleyview Centre.
His then 18 year old daughter Miranda ran unsuccessfully for councillor in the last Civic Election.
Bachiu is a Council regular and sits as chair of the Special Needs Advisory Committee.
Asked if he was running on a single issue platform dealing with the disabled only, he said that that was not the case.
“That’s a passion near and dear to my heart, but I’m more than that.”
This past Saturday he spent a good portion of the day helping out at the Langdon Avenue Farmer's Market and otherwise has been door-knocking and listening to people’s concerns.
“It's not about politics but about helping people. If it gets me a vote so be it, but I’m not out for that.”
One area Bachiu says needs to be worked on is more effective communication between City Hall and residents.
“Communication is horrible on certain things,” he said, giving the proposed move to curbside garbage collection as an example.
Although GPS data demonstrated curbside’s efficiency he described it’s implementation as “a good move handled atrociously.”
“They need to find a common ground with somebody: don’t just tell them my data is better than your data,” he said, pointing out that many people thought they were getting a consultation but simply told what was happening.
Bachiu said residents need to be engaged better on this and other issues.
He spoke about being in Victoria where he saw residents pay by usage and size of their trash receptacle. Although this is only one solution for seniors and others who generate smaller amounts of trash would pay less. Have smaller bins which are easier to roll and fit the landscaping of their yards.
“There are other ways around this stuff but the community is not engaged. There was no common back-and-forth, people were just told what to do.”
About the curbside collection telephone survey which cost $10,000 to find residents’ opinions that was ultimately ignored, Bachiu termed the survey cost an “ungodly amount.”
“Don’t ask people's opinion if you are not going to respect it.”
Another big area of concern was the City's recent oversight in eliminating free meter parking for people with disability placards and veterans while formulating the new Traffic Bylaw. Initially the City was going to start charging for meter parking for placards and veterans starting October 1st. After a public outcry and the fact the Special Needs Advisory Committee was not consulted about the change, the City has suspended the change and it is being reconsidered.
“If they do decide to go about enforcing it, where is the follow up plan?” he asked.
He pointed out problems people in wheelchairs face with the state of infrastructure.
“Curb cuts are great but what about the street in front of it?” he asked, adding that if the road in front of a curb is in bad shape it destroys the ability of wheelchairs to access. Being able to park with a placard throughout the downtown allows people to get around this.
Bachiu asked if the parking situation was even working and wondered aloud if maybe it needed a review with proper input.
“Downtown parking has always been a nightmare, I’ve never seen a strategy addressing that. They need to talk to the downtown businesses.”
When it comes to transit he said it has become so inconvenient and it costs a lot more money, causing a decrease in ridership.
An idea he had to increase ridership is through a computer app where the GPS all buses are equipped with is connected to. With so many people having smart phones they could quickly determine when the next bus is.
“They have apps in Regina and they work...if they solved the problem why are we trying to build a new mouse trap?” he asked, adding that the City needed to see what other cities have done that are effective and figure out what they’re doing right and apply it in Moose Jaw.
By simply seeing and researching what other cities have done, solutions for Moose Jaw could be found freeing up resources for other things.
Things such as a the landfill need to be addressed but that issue is “now on the backburner. We don’t know where it’s at anymore.”
When it comes to something like photo radar he called it a “voluntary tax” and it helps police focus on bigger issues like crime.
He opposes becoming addicted to using fines to finance road improvements, as it is not revenue and should not be relied upon.
Asked about the intersection of Lillooet St W and 9th Ave SW, he said it needs to be improved. Getting the new traffic signals up and working is needed.
“What’s there is not working. We need turn signals,” Bachiu said.
On the doorstep Bachiu said “people are distrustful, which is different from being angry. I don’t know if they feel anybody they elect can be the saviour to reaffirm trust in the City.”
Rebuilding this trust is a top priority for Bachiu but he admits it will take longer than one term to succeed.
“People don’t trust the City in general…they don’t feel notified and they don’t feel respected. So they don’t feel engaged.”
Bachiu said his priority is to be approachable and listen to residents' concerns and address them.
“I want to start people trusting in City Council again and working for the citizen and not Admin. Put the trust back in the City.”