Former Nelson mayor John Dooley has announced he is returning to run for the top job in the upcoming municipal elections.
Dooley, who previously served three three-year terms as Nelson’s mayor and six years as a councillor, made the announcement Monday. In an interview with the Star, Dooley said he’s running to address what he cites is a lack of civic leadership.
“I’ve been approached by a lot of people over the last year concerned in particular with the state of affairs at City Hall,” said Dooley. “I’ve observed myself that there just isn’t the kind of leadership necessary to lead a city like Nelson with the portfolio it’s got and the profile it’s had around the province and across the country.”
Dooley lost the 2014 municipal election to current Mayor Deb Kozak, who has also announced she will run for re-election. After his departure from City Hall, Dooley took on a job as a government liaison for the Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association as well as president of the Nelson Leafs.
But it’s the ongoing Hall Street construction that Dooley says prompted him to recommit to politics. The project’s design and funding were approved by Dooley when he was still mayor in 2013, but he takes issue with the city’s management of the construction’s impact on local business and questioned whether it could have been timed better.
“I know of a number of businesses that either laid people off or reduced their hours of work along Lakeside Drive. That’s just not acceptable for a community like ours where people are struggling to make ends meet.”
Dooley said he’s working on three, six and 12-month plans focused on re-establishing what he calls a disconnect between City Hall and its residents.
One such disconnect exists on Baker Street between the business and street communities. Dooley said a better balance needs to be found between finding and caring for residents who need help, and policing those who he says “are disrespectful of our community.”
What that balance is, Dooley said, would need to be found in collaboration with local law enforcement and social services.
“I can’t recall Nelson [businesses] in the past having security guards outside their premises,” he said. “I can’t recall businesses on Baker Street having a contractor close off their alcoves so people weren’t sleeping in them and leaving a mess behind.”
During his time in office, Dooley was a staunch critic of local cannabis sales with just one dispensary operating in Nelson. That’s changed in the interim — there are now five operating.
Dooley said as mayor he would support local cannabis business and look to sell the industry to the rest of the province in the same way Nelson’s craft beer is promoted.
“I would like to see us leverage, what has been evident to myself and many others who live in the Kootenays, the expertise that is out there that has been growing this product for many, many years.”
Dooley was first elected as a councillor in 1999 and re-elected in 2002. He became mayor in 2005 and was re-elected in 2008 and 2011. In 2014, Dooley lost to Kozak by 218 votes and later blamed the result on the third candidate, Pat Severyn, for splitting the vote.
Dooley said he was approached by CORE, which currently has five candidates for council, but passed on running for the local slate.
“I think their platform is very solid and would fit very well with my thinking, but at the same time I believe the role and responsibility of the mayor is to have independent tables so you can sit and manage a meeting or chair a meeting with an open mind and be able to listen to all perspectives.”
The deadline for nominations is Friday at 4 p.m., with the election set for Oct. 20.