There will be no byelection in the City of Langley.
The seat left vacant by City Mayor Peter Fassbender, the new Liberal MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood, will not be filled, council decided in a 5-1 vote on Monday night.
Only Councillor Dave Hall opposed the motion to have Fassbender take an unpaid leave of absence until the New Year, rather than resign the mayorship outright.
Under the Local Government Act, an immediate resignation by Fassbender would automatically trigger a byelection.
Hall took the entire five minutes allotted to him to speak against the motion, calling it “an affront to the notion of democracy” and comparing council to a politburo.
“It’s not the role of an elected council to decide the appropriateness of those who want to put their name forward,” said Hall.
“An organization needs new blood or it stagnates.”
Hall said a new voice on council could benefit the community by bringing an “arm’s length approach to human resources management” and “might bring about change in the council-mayor dynamic.”
Hall also dismissed the notion that avoiding a byelection is an effective cost-saving measure.
He suggested that the $45,000 in estimated savings could easily have been realized in other areas over the years — whether that was through an attempt to cap wages or by not spending $9,000 on a sign for the downtown.
As Hall listed areas where the City could have been saving money, deputy mayor Gayle Martin directed him to stay on topic.
“It’s perfectly pertinent,” Hall replied, before continuing.
The City has earned $50 million in casino proceeds over the years, he noted.
“Using .009 of that to protect democracy is hardly an astounding amount,” he said.
“Why shouldn’t the people be able to decide?”
Councillor Ted Schaffer said that council was elected to make decisions, and sometimes those decisions are hard.
“They may not appear to be democratic, but they are democratic.”
“I do believe in democracy,” said Councillor Rosemary Wallace. “I think this council has been directed well by staff and we’ve had healthy debates around this table.”
“To me it’s the timing,” said Councillor Jack Arnold.
If there was to be a byelection, he said, it wouldn’t be held until September and the next municipal election is scheduled for November, 2014.
“The people I’ve talked to don’t want two elections in one year.
“Some of us have been here a long time — long enough to handle things for the next year and a half,” said Arnold.
“I honestly think anyone interested in being mayor will be willing to step up in a year and a half,” said Councillor Teri James.
Fassbender’s formal resignation will take effect on Jan. 2, 2014, however Monday’s meeting was the last he will chair as Langley City Mayor.
Fassbender, who stepped out of the meeting prior to the discussion, indicated that while he’d made it clear he intends to step away from City council, he would honour whatever decision council made.
Returning to the room after the vote, Fassbender said he would draft a letter accordingly.
Former Township Councillor Mel Kositsky, who had made it known he planned to run for the City mayor’s chair, was in the audience on Monday night.
He said afterward that he wasn’t too surprised by council’s move, noting it was one of three options they had.
He indicated he still plans to run for Langley City mayor in the November 2014 municipal election.