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Prince George businessman running for mayor

Chris Wood is the CEO of Brazen Jester Studios, which produces film and video game content.

Prince George has a second candidate for mayor, although technically he was the first.

Chris Wood, CEO of Brazen Jester Studios, soft-launched his candidacy for mayor in July. Wood ran for city council unsuccessfully in 2018, receiving 2,266 votes.

“I ran for council four years ago. (But) with the retirement of (Mayor Lyn Hall), I decided to run for the big chair,” Wood said. “It’s been part of my five-year plan, when my kids were old enough to go to school.”

Wood said his top priority is government accountability and transparency. Before becoming CEO of Brazen Jester Studios, he worked in large private-sector companies and for Northern Health, and saw first-hand how large organizations can stifle open communication.

“One of the big thing about organizations is they cut off talk,” Wood said. “We (the city) pay a lot of top professionals who are experts in their fields, but we don’t hear those opinions.”

The views of the city’s frontline staff are filtered through the city’s senior administration, before coming to city council and the public, he said.

Wood suggested two measures to change that: the first would be to bring in video bloggers to record the city’s internal meetings and decision making processes, and share those videos online. By opening up the processes that normally take place behind closed doors, it would “give the community the option to be the auditor,” of the city’s processes.

In addition, he said, he’d want to change the city’s processes so that the city’s human resources director, director of finance and city manager (which he’d rename the chief administrative officer) would be required to sign off on each report of initiative brought forward to city council. The city’s three top administrative staff would need to report on the financial implications, staff capacity implications and project management plan for each project.

That three-legged stool approach would also mean, “no one person can edit the message coming to council,” Wood said.

HELP BUSINESSES RELOCATE OUT OF DOWNTOWN

Improving downtown safety and supporting downtown businesses is his second key priority, Wood said.

“We have a real negligent history dealing with the problems downtown,” he said. “The province has taken away a lot of the tools to deal with that.”

Brazen Jester Studios launched at a downtown location in January 2019, but moved to a remote-work model when the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, he said.

He said he’d like to see the city’s economic development department focus on supporting and growing local businesses, rather than recruiting outside businesses like an Australian bitcoin miner, cannabis growing operations and West Coast Olefins. As part of that support, he would like to see the city offer non-financial assistance to downtown businesses looking to relocate to other parts of the city.

“If they think they can make it somewhere else in town, I’d would like to see them get that support,” Wood said.

At point, he said, those business which choose to stay downtown have accepted that Prince George’s downtown is facing serious social issues, and should step up to be part of the solution.

INVEST IN GINTER’S MEADOW

Wood said he would be in favour of dedicating Ginter’s Meadow as parkland, and having the city buy the private land located between Ginter’s Meadow and UNBC, if it can be had for the right price. The property is made up of two lots, with a combined 161 acres. The list price of the land is $9.95 million.

“I would take a look at appropriating the land up the hill, and incorporating it into the park,” Wood said. “Would I use the (Fortis BC) money to purchase that land? Yes. Would I pay almost $10 million for it? No.”

At the end of 2021, the City of Prince George received $28.3 million, following the end of a 17-year lease deal with FortisBC. That money was placed into a reserve fund by city council, to be used for future projects.

Wood said if the land could be purchased for $4 million or less, he would support the city buying it. The city could potentially lower its portion of the land cost, by partnering with other public agencies like School District 57, which may be in need of land for a new school to serve the residential developments being built in University Heights.

For more information about Wood’s campaign, go online to cswood.ca

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