Ron Freeman, a former pastor and Habitat board member, wants to attract young families and a greater variety of new businesses to Comox, meanwhile keeping taxes as low as possible
Comox Town Council candidate Ron Freeman hopes to look back on his first term in four years and see that he accomplished his two main goals: to keep taxes low and continue revitalizing the downtown core.
“Fiscal responsibility is the key,” he told Decafnation. “People in Comox don’t complain about taxes because the service is good, especially snow removal.”
Freeman, a retired pastor who now works part-time as a commissionaire at CFB Comox, says a two-plus percent tax increase each year would be acceptable.
“But we couldn’t go lower than that and keep the services people are expecting,” he said.
Freeman says he wants to attract new businesses to Comox to broaden the appeal of the town’s business district. He would consider tax incentives to encourage commercial investment.
“We need to send the message that we’re open for business, and make it easy for them,” he said.
To get that ball rolling, Freeman would involve citizens and current business owners to create a strategic plan for attracting new businesses. The plan would lay out how to go about it and what types of new businesses people want in Comox.
“For example, why do I have to go to Courtenay to buy shoes?” he said.
Freeman thinks “touristy type” businesses would succeed on the waterfront, such as paddle board and small boat rentals, and electric bicycle rentals. And he would like to add a jazz festival into the town’s summer events calendar.
But Comox residents would have to support the local businesses, so the “streets don’t roll up at 6 pm.” He envisions some type of education program and council members acting as ambassadors.
The candidate also hopes to help the town attract young families. Keeping down the cost of housing would be key, he says, but he also want to provide more amenities for the younger teen age group, like a drop-in centre, such as The Link in Courtenay.
Freeman was one of the original board members of the Comox Valley Habitat for Humanity, and he’s concerned about the affordability of housing in Comox. He says allowing more secondary suites has helped, but he’d like to find other solutions.
He supports homeowner vacation rentals because it helps people afford their mortgage and brings new people to Comox and “keeps them circulating through town.” Someone he knows had vacationers from France who now hope to move here and start a business.
Freeman moved to the Valley in 1999 from Sidney. He came to pastor at the Living Hope Christian Fellowship church, that had a membership of four couples and a single person when he arrived. When he retired in 2013, the church had grown to 160 members.
He has a bachelor of theology from a seminary in Regina, Sask.
On the subject of Shakesides, the heritage home of naturalist Hamilton Mack Laing, which the town wants to take down and replace with a viewing stand, Freeman says that’s the best that can be done at this point. He has talked with current council members about the issue, but not anyone from the Mack Laing Heritage Society.
He wants voters to know he’s “approachable, and I’m open and honest.”
“We all have things we’re passionate about, but I like the idea that when all is said, something gets done,” he said. “We’re all different, we all have a place and we must respect each other.”
Freeman says he would bring “respectful dialogue” to a seat on the town council.