To The Citizens of Abbotsford – Thank You!
My sincere thanks to everyone that voted for me, I am truly humbled and look forward to serving all the citizens of Abbotsford.
To my campaign team and the many volunteers, friends and family that demonstrated their support in so many ways…thank you to everyone!
A special thank you to my wife who supported me with her words of encouragement and wise counsel at key points along the way and for enduring hearing me give the same message over and over again as I met with various groups.
Thank you to all of the candidates who allowed their names to be placed on the ballot – I have a whole new appreciation for those in public service and what it takes to run a campaign.
Abbotsford is a great city and I want to keep it that way. Working together, we will make it an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
To those who put their trust in me, as well as those who voted for others, you are not without a voice. I vow to continue to listen. What kind of city do you want? Now is the time to speak up. This blog will remain open to encourage future dialogue with you. Feel free to email, post your comments or call me. Together we will make City Hall a place that really listens.
November 19, 2011
Six Weeks of Intense Campaigning – Time to Vote!
Abbotsford is a great a city and, during the past 6 weeks, I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting some ofthe great people that make up our diverse city; men and women who are making a difference in our community.
Thank you to the thousands who visited my website, e-mailed, telephoned, stopped me in a parking lot, bumped into me at a restaurant or at a Heat Hockey game. You know who you are. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and support. The past six weeks just flew by; most days began at 4 a.m. and ended at 10 or 11 p.m., but I can honestly say that I enjoyed the intensity of the campaign.
The campaign has been intense and differences of opinions have been expressed. Regardless of your candidate choice or views on the Referendum, please exercise your democratic right to vote on November 19, 2011. Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Candidate for City Council
November 18, 2011
A chicken coop was a modest beginning for my life in Abbotsford, but I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities this great city has provided. It is a city that has given me much, and a community I want to serve; to give back to out of appreciation.
My mother and father were refugees who fled the southern Ukraine in 1943, ending up in a refugee camp in Germany. From there the Mennonite Central Committee chartered 3 ships to take 5,000 Mennonites to Paraguay, which is where my parents married and where I was born. I was 3 1/2 years old when I arrived in Abbotsford. I was afraid. I had no voice. I was a young child who couldn’t speak the language, who did not understand the culture, and who did not have a clue then what a phenomenal adventure life in my new home would be.
The early years were hard and whatever money my father earned barely covered the family necessities, food, clothing and shelter (no family car, just a bicycle). I became painfully aware of this at the grand opening of the Centennial Pool; I was 8 years old and wanted to go with my friends and asked my mother to buy me a bathing suit. I can still see the sadness in her face as she told me that we had no money to spare. Determined to go, I went with my friends and didn’t think swimming trunks were that different from my underwear and so I stripped down and jumped in the pool. Much to my embarrassment, I discovered that underwear and water do not go together. Everyone laughed and I went home crying. I have never forgotten those early years as I watched my father work long and hard so that his children could buy the things that we take for granted today.
Maybe that is why I have always wanted to help those who do not feel they have a voice, the men and women who are marginalized by society. I have learned to listen more carefully to them. In doing so, I heard from many in our community who can barely make it from month to month, especially some of the elderly on fixed incomes. They may have a place to live, but they can barely afford the cost of living, never mind the cumulative effect of taxes, fees, levies and, yes, water charges. Some of these costs are increasing at percentages far above that of their indexed pensions, or the salaries of working folks (many of whom haven’t had a raise in 2 years).
Although my decision to vote “No” on the water referendum was based on the mind-boggling referendum question and the flawed assumptions built into the City’s forecast models, I also listened and heard the anguish of many who will be burdened with the real cumulative costs of a Stave Lake Water Project. If elected, I am committed to stop the ever increasing cost of doing business at City Hall wherever possible. The trajectory of the last few years is unsustainable for many of our citizens. If elected, I will be an advocate for those who are afraid and feel they have no voice. Why? Because I know what it feels like to live in a chicken coop, unable and too afraid to speak.
November 17, 2011
Dialogue between Councillor Loewen and Candidate Braun
I feel compelled to respond to more of the “water issues” in this blog for two reasons;
- Councilor Loewen has engaged me directly with questions that the public needs to see.
- The City has taken out a full page ad regarding a ‘water issue’ that occurred 30 years ago. The ad would have us believe that the former District of Matsqui ran out of water due to a supply shortage. The truth is that the shortage resulted from a mechanical problem related to the booster pumps, not a shortage of supply. The picture being painted by the City (using our money!) is wrong and appears intended to scare the good people of Abbotsford into voting “yes”.
The dialogue between Councilor and me is posted verbatim below.
Councilor Loewen Wrote:
“Henry has identified a concern that I raised from the outset – one of several reasons why we MUST proceed without delay. I am speaking of redundancy. Even IF Henry were correct on timeline, his arguments cannot negate the threat of having our water supply threatened through a natural event (eg. earthquake, mudslide, etc.). Abbotsford cannot and should not continue trusting that our one source will never be interrupted. Stave Lake will provide redundancy and a greater certainty that any natural event that disrupts one will not deny Abbotsford residents and business community a secure and constant supply of water.”
Henry Braun Replied:
“Dear Dave; it is extremely important that you not lift words out of context, as this often has the effect of distorting the intention of the writer. My point is clear, “we can never cover off every feared eventuality.”
Councilor Loewen Replied:
“Henry – the 1981 water crisis was the result of poor planning by the engineering department of the day. If you check, you will find that the pumps were under-capacity and did not anticipate the growth rate. Yes, it was human error, but it was an error that could have been avoided by more far-sighted individuals of the day. Our Council and our staff have proposed the most cost-effective delivery of water to meet a projected and anticipated growth rate. We have no desire to take chances with 140,000 people and the future prosperity of our City. I would much rather err on the side of caution than on the side of chance.”
Henry Braun Replied:
I believe that the people of Abbotsford want to know the facts, all of them, not just the ones that support the “yes” vote. I know that I do. Rhetoric, scare tactics and high-priced promotional material are not helpful in weighing the choices. It is understandable that elected politicians must take positions to justify their prior actions. But why is the City spending so much of the taxpayer’s hard-earned money to promote only one side of what is a political issue? Why has the City chosen to ignore its own post-2007 ACTUAL water usage numbers and rely instead on projections that are obviously wrong? Why was it necessary to have such a confusing, mind boggling, 185 word Referendum question? Let’s face it. The answer is quite simple. A vote “yes” means a vote for the incumbent Council members. As for me, I will trust the decision that the residents of Abbotsford make on November 19. You see, I did not take a “vote no” position because it would win votes. My approach has always been to investigate the facts fully, approach the issue with an entirely open mind, listen carefully to all views, then make and communicate a principle-based decision as to how I will vote. I hope that every voter does the same. I will respect the voters’ decision on Saturday, regardless of the outcome.”
HJ Scheirer Post
“If ever there was a time for reason and clear-thinking logic to prevail in city hall, this is it. In the event of an earthquake (pointed out by Mr. Loewen) it is unclear to me how the Stave Lake project would guarantee a secure safe water supply. Would this territory not be in as great jeopardy as any other source? Because I cannot in good conscience vote an unequivocal “yes” to a ten-fold far-reaching question that impies my full support during impending world economic crisis more certain than an earthquake, I am voting “No”. Thank you, Mr. Braun, for your unrelenting persuit of the facts, in spite of the glossy, publicly funded, over-the-top promotion of the projections.”
November 17, 2011
Henry Braun Leadership Recognized Outside Abbotsford
“My experience with Henry Braun is that he is a man of integrity, that he weighs issues carefully before making decisions, and is very committed to serving his community.
In my view those attributes would also make him an excellent councillor”.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Canada Place Corporation
November 16, 2011
Fear Factor Voting – This Is No Way to Run a Referendum!
Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is”. An old German proverb says it all. Facts, not fear,is the basis upon which to make wise decisions. Leadership that promotes fear as a basis for decision is not leadership at all.
I have openly offered to some key City management and Councilors that if someone can give me some facts that would counter my arguments, then I would be willing to reconsider my “No” position. No one has taken me up on my offer.
In the final days leading up to November 19, when we all have an opportunity to have our say in the government of our City, a fear-based email campaign has been making the rounds. This is a last ditch attempt to frighten taxpayers into voting “yes” to the referendum. Specifically, late yesterday afternoon, the City began circulating a newspaper article dating back to August of 1981, regarding a water crisis in Matsqui (now part of Abbotsford). Curiously, this “evidence” of a potential water crisis has never been raised in its campaign before. Why not? The answer is self-evident: the 1981 facts do not apply today. The 1981 problem was not due to the water supply but rather the capacity of the booster pumps that were needed to get the water to the higher zones. This was a mechanical problem, pure and simple.
Obviously, there is always something to fear; maybe an earthquake rupturing key waterworks, contamination of the water supply, or even drought. If anything, we should fear the most likely cause of any crisis – human error. We have not yet found a way to eliminate that factor. We can never cover off every feared eventuality. That is why we must stick to the facts.
Like virtually every other city in the world, there is no question that at some point in the future additional water capacity will be needed. But there is no realistic expectation that we will “run out of water” by 2016 as has been claimed in the promotional campaign.
Let me be crystal clear, Fire and Safety is one of the most basic services that a City must provide for its citizens. As I have repeatedly stated, we can do without a lot of things, but water isn’t one of them. During the past three weeks, it has been clearly shown on the City’s own data that the City’s water usage PROJECTIONS are over-inflated and bear no relationship to our ACTUAL water usage.
- Our current average daily water use (70 MLD) has decreased by 10% during the past 5 years.
- The current capacity of our water supply system is 2 ½ times our daily average usage.
- If we had a five alarm fire, the water requirements using all five pumper trucks would be approximately 25,000 liters per minute (1,500,000 liters per hour). A five alarm fire lasting for 12 hours would only use 18 ML.
There is no wolf at the door, nor is there one in view. There is plenty of time to make factual-based decisions in anticipating his arrival. We need not be afraid of the facts!
November 16, 2011
The Importance of Independent-Thinking and Principle-Based Decision-Making
Having spent 40 years in business, 20 of which I served as President and C.E.O. of Pacific Northern Rail Contractors Corp., now known as PNR Railworks, I learned some difficult lessons. One of the tough lessons I learned early in my career was to ensure that the people who directly reported to me would give me the ‘straight goods’.
This was important, even when, or especially when, things were not going well on a particular project, with an employee issue, or in relation to some other issue.
When problems arise that are important to the health of the organization, the collective wisdom resident in the management group was worth its weight in gold. However, one also has to be careful not to get caught up in insulated thinking. Independent and principled thinking as part of the decision-making remains critical. How did so many banks and corporations with very highly qualified management make such poor decisions that created some of the largest bankruptcies in history? I would contend that the origins can often be traced back to something called Groupthink. Symptoms of Groupthink have been documented in two books by Janis, Irving L. (1982). Groupthink: Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes and Victims of Groupthink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Janis has documented eight symptoms of groupthink:
- Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
- Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
- Beliefs in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
- Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of the “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
- Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
- Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
- Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
- Self-appointed ‘mind guards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.
Groupthink occurs when highly cohesive groups are under considerable pressure to make a quality decision. When pressures for unanimity seem overwhelming, members are less motivated to realistically appraise the alternative courses of action available to them. These group pressures lead to greater risk-taking and less rational thinking. Decisions shaped by groupthink have a low probability of achieving successful outcomes.
When it comes to decision-making, those who know me understand that I will push back from a rushed process in order to explore all reasonable options. I will pursue careful evaluation of the facts. If a particular course of action appears to be flawed or lacking sound principles, I will speak up. If elected, I can assure you that groupthink will be challenged, whether at the Council table or in our City’s administration.
November 16, 2011
Abbotsford Business Leaders Support Henry Braun
“I had the pleasure of getting to know Henry twenty years ago and later working as the Controller of Pacific Northern Rail Contractors Inc. under Henry’s direction from 1999-2003. From my experience, Henry demonstrated a common sense approach to business and provided a high level of leadership necessary during a critical time of our business.
I observed in Henry a strong balance between moving the business forward and the cost implications of these decisions. In my opinion, these strengths and Henry’s tireless effort allows me to highly recommend him to serve the City of Abbotsford as Councillor.”
Jeff Loewen, CA
Vice President, Finance
PNR RailWorks Inc.
“Henry Braun is a respected businessman with a wealth of experience which would make him an invaluable member of council. He has integrity, compassion, common sense and a history of community involvement. I wholeheartedly endorse Henry Braun for Abbotsford City council!”
President & CEO Quantum Properties Inc.
November 15, 2011
“No” Vote… Then What?
A question I have been asked on numerous occasions is, “If we vote “No” on the Stave Lake referendum, then what?”
This is a good question. Let me answer it directly.
The voters of Abbotsford, and all candidates for City Council, except the incumbents, have not been given all the facts. We have been left with more questions than answers. Why? Local government must be transparent; it must answer the hard questions. City Council must not only be trustworthy, but appear to be trustworthy.
If the referendum is defeated on November 19, and if I am elected, I would immediately push hard for City Council to:
- Reengage our neighbor, Mission, in discussion. Other local governments need to be consulted as well. Our water needs are not a local issue; they are a regional issue and must be solved regionally.
- Immediately freeze the water rates until a clear and understandable direction has been determined.
- Obtain a peer review of the Stave Lake plan.
- Instruct City staff to gather the baseline data from the new smart meters for a full 12 months.
- Carefully examine the underlying assumptions that went into the City’s forecasts that projected increases from 2007 – 2011 of 15%, while ignoring ACTUALS decreases of 33%, despite population increases and new businesses.
- Hold a series of public meetings (October 2012), with full disclosure of all the known facts, alternatives and recommendations as to how to address both our short term (2020 – 2025) and long term (beyond 2025) water needs.
- Install a second pipe (existing pipe limits flow to 90MLD) to utilize the full capacity of the existing treatment plant, which is capable of handling 117 MLD. The addition of a second pipe would also create the redundancy issue that the City has raised.
- Proceed, based on the cost/benefits, with upgrading the Norrish treatment plant from the current 117 MLD to 141.5 MLD (as referenced in the AMWSC Water Master Plan, page 8-3), which would utilize the full capacity of the existing Licensing Agreement.
If these options are chosen, our total water capacity would be 190 MLD per day, approximately double our current Peak Water usage and triple the current Average Daily use. This would allow for ample growth for the foreseeable future at a much lower cost than the Stave Lake plan.
What are the downsides? There is really only one. The capital works would not be undertaken on a P3 model, and therefore would not be eligible for monies from PPP Canada. However, reduced costs and Mission’s contribution would more than offset this, and together both cities would have less debt to carry.
Contrary to the “Vote Yes” promotional campaign mounted by the City at the taxpayer’s cost, there are alternatives that need to be explored, questions to be answered and information to be disclosed. Answering “yes” to an indecipherable 185 word referendum will not get the questions answered. We, citizens of Abbotsford, need open government in order to make informed decisions for a better future
November 15, 2011
Entrepreneurs and Professionals Back Henry Braun
“Not much missing when you mention Henry Braun’s name in Abbotsford.Over time Henry has donated his time and expertise to the Abbotsford Economic Development Commission, the Abbotsford Police Board and the Abbotsford Airport Authority.
The extended Braun family made a significant contribution to the Abbotsford Regional Hospital Cancer Centre, in memory of their father who passed away 7 1/2 years ago and the board room table at Abbotsford Police Department was once the Braun family dining room table…the roots for Henry Braun in Abbotsford run deep. You may not know his face yet, but you likely have benefitted from his work to make Abbotsford better…so far he has been flying under the radar…we look forward to Henry being on Council, his no nonsense approach, wisdom and big picture vision will enhance our City.”
Gerri and Doug Charles
“Thirty years ago, Henry was my baseball coach. Today, he is a friend and mentor. Henry’s generous heart combined with his discerning business mind will make him an excellent city councilor.”
Mark Brandsma, Financial Planner
- November 15, 2011
- November 16, 2011
- November 16, 2011
- November 17, 2011
- November 18, 2011