UNA All-Candidates Forum reveals similar values among candidates, different approaches

The University Neighbourhood Association’s (UNA) All-Candidates Forum took place on Zoom on November 18, in the midst of its Board of Directors election.

Many of the candidates shared the similar positions regarding environmental sustainability, land use planning, financial management and community engagement, but some disagreed regarding safety and security.

The meeting was mostly civil, with each candidate having an opportunity to speak. However, there was a strict time limit between each candidate to adhere to a tight schedule, resulting in shorter discussions and candidates often being cut off by the moderator.

The forum was moderated by H. Hailey Graham, a UBC political science alum, and featured candidates who are long-time residents of the UBC area as well as students, staff and faculty — all of whom showed off their experience in managing finance, land planning and governance.

Seven out of the thirteen will be elected to the Board of Directors. One of the candidates, Ali Mojdehi, the acting director of Campus Security, was absent.

Many of the candidates consistently came back to their desire to implement more consultations between the UNA and residents to ensure the needs of the residents will be met.

“The UNA has a resident population which hardly knows what the organization does or whether the organization even exists,” said candidate Sofia Ngieng.

Candidate Mitchell Prost acknowledged that the UNA established the Community Engagement Advisory Committee in the past year, which was “a good first step but one so very long overdue.” He proposed the UNA expand into different advisory groups of residents that represent a diverse set of backgrounds, such as a senior advisors group and a youth leaders council.

Candidates also proposed virtual meetings, a bigger social media presence and expanding office hours to work with everyone’s schedules and lifestyles to encourage residents to speak up about their needs and demands for the community.

Mary Gallo also said they should actively listen to residents during public forums instead of “ticking a box” when a recommendation is met.

When asked about their living experience in the UNA , the candidates voiced their desire to change the current landscape of the neighbourhoods, particularly in ways that enhance safety and security.

Eagle Glassheim called for a Joint Traffic Safety Task Force in the UNA, which “would do a full safety review for all our roads and crossings, and collaborate in addressing the most dangerous areas.”

Zheng Kang proposed to work with the RCMP closely, as well as find ways to communicate with immigrant residents more effectively due to language barriers.

Erin Co called attention to the incident that happened on Northwest Marine Drive two months ago to address the issue of security beyond road safety, but to also encompass sexual violence prevention, crime prevention and community safety initiatives.

None of the candidates commented when asked about their experience with housing affordability and how they felt about cannabis stores on campus.

However, audience members and some candidates expressed their concern over policing in the neighbourhoods due to the rise in violence and brutality towards Black, Indigenous and people of colour.

Some of the candidates, such as Watson and Kang, were in support of an expansion in the police force, while candidates Prost and Sofia Ngieng suggested funding for community-based safety initiatives, such as mental health initiatives and support groups. Candidate Fei Liu said that some police presence is necessary, but they should also be investing in programs to educate new residents about community engagement and safety.

“For me… the personal responsibility of being part of a community starts with each of us. It begins with small things. I see residents going out [and] taking initiative to pick up garbage. I see people … saying ‘hello’ to someone taking time to talk with them,” said Candidate Richard Watson. “If we can cultivate this neighbour civility then people get to know each other and then they belong. I think the UNA can actually help encourage that.”

This is part of The Ubyssey’s coverage of the UNA election. We’ll be covering the candidates, the all-candidates forum and all things UNA until polls close on November 30.