Charles Jeanes doesn’t expect to win a Nelson council seat in this year’s municipal election, but he’s running anyway.
“I never run with the expectation of actually winning. I agreed fully with [former Star editor] Bob Hall. Years ago he wrote ‘Jeanes is the perennial dark horse candidate. He does not resonate with Nelson voters’. My ideas about what towns and cities should be doing now are simply too out there for most people,” he said.
The 62-year-old teacher is the second non-incumbent to announce his candidacy, after Michael Dailly. Councillors Candace Batycki, Donna Macdonald and Paula Kiss have all announced they will be moving on, while Robin Cherbo and Bob Adams will run for re-election. Deb Kozak and mayor John Dooley have not yet shared their election plans with the Star.
Jeanes has run and lost in six elections, and is known for refusing to spend money campaigning. He said he could bring a fresh perspective to council.
“I start from a place of my understanding of where the world is right now. It’s not a good place. Too many threats, perils, crises facing us at a global level and every locality has its own special problems,” he said.
Jeanes’ primary concern is development.
“I’ve spent 30 years watching the standard version of progress unroll. The drumbeat of development has never stopped. It’s all the more puzzling in a community of people who write and speak constantly about visions of another way. And here we are doing what every other city has done,” he said.
He said his ideas, such as shutting down Baker Street to car traffic and converting it to a pedestrian thoroughfare, have met violent opposition, primarily from business owners.
“You know what happens when you bring something up like that? They study it to death. They say let’s poll the important people, Baker Street business, and blah, blah, blah. It would take forever,” he said.
“The constant refusal to make Baker Street a no-car zone, maybe two or three blocks of it, they’re very definite they don’t want that because they think business would suffer.”
However, he thinks the idea is a no-brainer that fits the spirit of Nelson.
“How can you keep a sense of community in Nelson?” he asked. “I like to think I bring poles closer together. I don’t like polarized politics. When I got here I saw that left-right split and I don’t want any part of that.”
He said he’s primarily reaching out to younger and disenfranchised voters who feel they’re not represented by the current council.
“A lot of people don’t think this system is worth participating in. They’re not going to vote. You know who votes? People over 40. Look at the ages of our councillors. They’re all old,” he said.
Young politicians like Paula Kiss and Michelle Mungall don’t last long, he said, and he feels there is little representation for younger voters.
“Young people vote with their feet. That’s a no-confidence vote. If younger people voted you’d probably see a very different council.”
His message to those voters is that the situation isn’t hopeless.
“There is real power and authority in city council. The government still accomplishes things and it accomplishes them through spending money. So it’s all about choosing where you spend that money and where you wouldn’t. I wouldn’t worry much about cars anymore,” he said.
Jeanes, who characterized himself as a “gasoline addict,” said Nelsonites need to start thinking of ways to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels.
“Anything that needs to be conserved and preserved, we need to spend money to make sure that happens. We need clean water, clean air.”
He summarized his political motto thusly: “Politics in a time of twilight.”
When asked what his final message to people considering casting a vote for him would be, Jeanes expressed humility.
“I will need your help. First to get elected. Become for once in your life a voter. Be a voter. If you never thought local politics were important, if you think of them as corrupted, just hold your nose for once and vote for me,” he said.
“And when I’m there, don’t stop taking an interest in what’s going on. Come to me with your ideas, with your practical suggestions. I’ve gotten very good at listening.”