Yesterday, we published Part I of our chat with Darrell Mussatto, Mayor of the City of North Vancouver, which included his take on accomplishments during his four terms in the role.

Which, by the way, is only half of his time in City Hall; Mussatto’s political career began as councillor with the 1993 election, the same year:

  • Ground broke at Vancouver’s Library Square
  • Surrey became a city
  • MP Hedy Fry defeated then-incumbent Prime Minister Kim Campbell in her own riding
  • The Clinton-Yeltsin summit at UBC
  • Launch of Mosaic, the first World Wide Web browser

We begin Part II of the Mayoral Exit Interview with this magic question:

What would you do over again?

I probably would have tried to work with our staff, to spend more time with people on the reasons why we’re changing, and the reasons why I’m making the decisions that people get upset about. Reaching out to the community more, engaging them, and helping educate them, so they can better understand why we have an OCP, why we chose to densify, why we’re trying to reduce coal, oil and gas dependency, reducing automobile dependency, and more public transit.

Really bringing it forward to people. Bringing people on side. They’re there, they want it, but there are always a few naysayers, and in hindsight it would have been nice to bring some of them along.

I think I would have been a bit more forceful on the public transportation front too. We’ve done nothing; I think we’ve had a lost generation the last 15 years here. That’s disappointing. It’s beyond my control, but maybe I could have been a bit more vocal about holding the provincial government’s feet to the fire to get the funding for public transportation, and for cycling infrastructure.

For better or for worse, how has the city changed during the time you were in office?
We’ve seen the rebirth of Lower Lonsdale, with the closing down of the abandoned shipyards and the rebirth of the Friday Night Market. Friday nights are amazing — it’s become a regional draw. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do the last key piece of the puzzle which I had worked on for so long — the outdoor ice rink in the winter time, water park in the summer, new restaurants, a new hotel. It’s under construction, but it won’t be open until next year. I’m so proud of that. I think people will come down and say, “Oh my gosh, what an amazing place.”

They do now with the new Polygon Gallery. When I was first elected 25 years ago, the first Board meeting I went to was with Presentation House Gallery; back then it was just Presentation House. They were looking for a new facility for the gallery. Members of council were opposed; people wanted it to be a grass field, a quiet, passive area.

But the amazing thing is they all came on-board in the end. It’s come to fruition, and I think that is something where people for generations will say, “What an amazing building, what an amazing art collection we have there.” So we’ve changed over Lonsdale, I’m super proud of that.

The public pathways are going to be second to none; the Spirit Trail will go right through that site, hook up with Low Level Road, which is a $100 million project that I championed. We built 300 multi-family homes. It had a great amount of support and opposition. That took a lot of work, a ton of political hits.

They’re all coming together. So you go over Third Street hill, and you can take it right down into Park & Tilford. We funded another million and a half bucks to hook up Heywood Street with the connections in the District to Cap University.

If anything, I hope people remember that it wasn’t easy to get all that through. There was a lot of opposition. But once it did, people said, “This is amazing.”

What is the over-arching challenge facing the City of North Vancouver?
I think the biggest one now is transportation, without a doubt. Moving away from the single occupancy vehicle into more sustainable transportation, especially when we have a ton of vehicles coming in the next ten years. I think we have to be really forward-looking and say, “What is the community going to look like with technological change — with self-driving vehicles, with a different community?” I think we need to show leadership in that regard, and that’s going to be a real challenge.

And then, of course, affordable housing — how do we allow people to live here? Growing up in a single family home is probably not going to be achievable for most. It’s going to be more creative housing types, it’s going to be smaller units, it’s going to be better designed units. Every square inch of a boat is designed to be functional, and I think we’re going to need that down the road in our cities as well.

Tomorrow, Part III – Mayor Mussatto’s advice to this year’s new crop of council candidates, what citizens should know about governing, and what the future holds for him, as he leaves CNV council chambers for the first time in a quarter century.

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