ELECTION 2014: Council Q&A – Most important single issue facing Revelstoke?

Candidates for Revelstoke council discuss their most important issue facing election.

  • Nov. 7, 2014 5:00 a.m.
The candidates for council, from left to right and top to bottom: Steve Bender, Connie Brothers, George Buhler, Scott Duke, Trevor English, Chuck Ferguson, Chris Johnston, Linda Nixon, Aaron Orlando, Karen Powers, Gary Starling and Gary Sulz.

The candidates for council, from left to right and top to bottom: Steve Bender, Connie Brothers, George Buhler, Scott Duke, Trevor English, Chuck Ferguson, Chris Johnston, Linda Nixon, Aaron Orlando, Karen Powers, Gary Starling and Gary Sulz.

As part of our ongoing election coverage, the Times Review has posed five questions to the candidates for mayor and council. If you have a question you’d like to ask the candidates, please e-mail it to editor@revelstoketimesreview.com for consideration.

Our fourth question is:

Addressing the city’s financial challenges and boosting the economy have been the two most common topics raised by candidates. What other single issue do you think is most in need of addressing? Why? What would you do as mayor/councillor to address it?

Gary Sulz

The Big Eddy water issue may be a big concern for the city in the weeks to come, but we need to wait for the Big Eddy ratepayers to request the city’s assistance, and then proceed through the proper channels to get this done correctly the first time.

Aging water and sewer pipes will need to be addressed, but is anyone listening to the people in Columbia Park?

The intersection of Victoria Road and the Trans-Canada Highway needs to be addressed. An improper design to start with has only compounded the problem; add in heavy tourist traffic with nowhere to go and that intersection is a mess. Now throw in a road closure due to a motor-vehicle incident and these roads are in-passable.

How do emergency services get through and how do people get home after work?  A six-hour delay added to a 10-minute commute home does not make any sense. We need to ask for suggestions from the public on ideas to make this intersection flow, and then propose these ideas to professional road builders and, once we have a few ideas, put these forward to the Ministry of Transportation.

Only good ideas need to go forward, and these good ideas can save us consultant money and make us proud of our completed intersection.

Gary Starling

It is obvious the hot topic right now, and the single issue that needs attention, is the Big Eddy water system.

Many problems have been identified by Interior Health. A few weeks ago, the system had what I would call a cardiac arrest. There were six major breaks in one day.

The city, in the last council meeting, has taken the initiative to move ahead with some initial investigation of the system so that we can better understand what we are up against. Council and staff have initiated this quickly for two reasons: One is to ensure we move as fast as we can to resolve this. Secondly, there are some funding opportunities that can be taken advantage of at this time.

As well, city staff have prepared, and council has approved, a utility acquisition policy. This ensures the groundwork process for getting this done is clearly defined. This should also streamline the process.

Now it is really going to be up to the Big Eddy water users to make the decision to have the city take over this utility, and get it functioning properly. This looks to be the only way we can ensure water sustainability in the Big Eddy. This will also ensure development in the area is not frozen as it is now.

If elected, I will continue to push forward on this to ensure solutions to this come quickly and efficiently.

Karen Powers

The other issue facing the city is the Big Eddy Water system and moving forward on this as quickly as possible. As councillors we must sit down with the Big Eddy Water Works to truly come up with a way to move forward. I doesn’t matter who said what or did what years ago, its time to fix the problem and move on with a smart financial plan. Keeping in mind that once the problems are fixed we open the doors for development…and income to the city with DCC to help pay.

Its one of those things that make sense.

Aaron Orlando

My answer: the cost of living in Revelstoke.

More than your federal or provincial vote, it’s your vote on Nov. 15 that makes the most difference, because it’s the high cost of living in Revelstoke that’s the problem.

Council and the city need to:

• Keep taxes at bay by always minding the financial implications of council decisions.

• Work hard on making housing affordable by creating market-based solutions like a better development services process, reduced DCCs, creating affordable new homes, secondary suite fee reductions and housing options that meet the needs of working families.

• Focus on maintaining current industry and residents.

• Support initiatives that bring down food costs, like better development services, fair commercial taxation, food security, progressive local agriculture policies and more retail options.

• Clean up after the current council’s expensive, failed planning adventure, and create a made-in-Revelstoke vision that promotes balance and creates certainty that attracts residents and investment.

• Support the more than 30 per cent of Revelstoke households that struggle financially by continuing our social sector co-ordination efforts.

• Take a hard line on senior city staff salaries and adventure-spending.

• Promote a level playing field to attract competition that lowers prices.

• Work hard and smart during the budget process to find efficiencies.

• Make transportation affordable through more retail fuel competition, improved and snow-cleared walking routes, improved cycling infrastructure and better transit usage and revenue numbers.

• Advocate for fair natural gas prices.

• Adopt a customer-friendly, open-for-business attitude.

Linda Nixon

The part of council work that has not been mentioned is all the parts that deepen the community. Getting the chicken bylaw to council and passed is important to residents. The Food Security Charter and Strategy is important, and a strong value I hold as a nutritional-based nurse.

The access and inclusivity of people with disabilities is a right, not a privilege. At the Poverty Reduction Working Group, we are talking about the working poor in our community, not just people on the un-livable welfare or disability monies.

The College Advisory Board, which I sit on, is involved with ensuring that the adult academic career prep continues in a suitable format for Revelstoke.

The youth have a voice to the council table with myself as their council rep. Twenty youth just attended a Me to We celebration in Vancouver learning to give back to community.

The Illecillewaet  River had a mud surge a few weeks back. The Kokanee eggs were covered in mud and the Kokanee flushed down the river. Remember the Woolsey Creek taking out the highway in 1983? To see this happening at the cooling part of the year is concerning.

Lastly, I still want to see outdoor adventure tourism  guiding taught here, and a centre of excellence for snow research. We need academic bodies to partner and create the synergy to make that happen. Parks Canada is a natural partner for this type of venture. Inviting the president of Okanagan College as we recently did is a good start.

Chris Johnston

I find it hard to pick one thing and say “this is my issue,” as I see it as council’s role to set broader policy and direction, which will in turn impact multiple issues.

In that vein ,I see our goal as improving the “Revelstoke experience.” That experience includes, among others and in no particular order, workable public transit, affordable housing, service at the city, appearance of our neighbourhoods and streetscapes, recreation and conveniences for resident and visitor alike,  clean streets, healthy children, excellent education, an excellent tourist sector, a prosperous business sector and all those other things that make our community.

What do we do? The city is not the only entity that creates this experience. There are many others and, to be the best we can, we, as a city, need to make relationships that we do have stronger foster and new partnerships. The province, chamber, school district, the Accommodation Association, the regional district, the resort, Parks Canada, Community Connections and many others are all in this with the city, and I think together we can all do better .

I would hope the next mayor and council will chart a course to foster and continue to improve upon relationships with our partners in making Revelstoke great, and to overcome any barriers that may be impeding us.

Chuck Ferguson

I think one of the most important issues is the Big Eddy waterworks

I know the history of it now and understand the city’s reason for approaching it the way it has, but water for your citizens is a right when they pay taxes to your city funds.

When I ask about it the city responds with we are looking into the funding and getting a better feel for what is needed and I believe that is the correct way to approach it but  in the meantime they should pass an amendment to the by law to allow further development in the area for a set amount of time until the problem is fixed.

We cannot be a city open for business as long as you can’t develop commercial property in that area.

It seems to me knowing a bit of history about this whole thing that there was a vote on the annexation of the Big Eddy and it was lost and then they had another vote including the whole city and it was decided to go ahead and include the Big Eddy in the city. This allowed the taxes to be paid to City of Revelstoke which has continued all  this time but very little has been done as far as infrastructure and services for these citizens of Revelstoke.

Now we have a situation where the Big Eddy Water Works cannot support their water system financially for what ever reason.

It doesn’t matter  the reason for the failure.These 96 rate payers deserve and have a right to the needed volume and clean water.

I hear people all the time refer to them like they are another town or something. They are Revelstoke citizens!

We borrow endless amounts of money to buy  things like city hall renovations and a firetruck that would never go to the Big Eddy but debate about fresh water for citizens of our city.

They are Revelstoke taxpayers and they need to be serviced properly so I say put all the history away and get this problem fixed now.

Trevor English

I think the biggest issue, outside of the economy and the city’s financial challenges, must be the relationship the city currently has with residents.

We need to do a better job of maintaining our relationship with residents.

My promise is that I will always try to make time for residents’ concerns, listen and understand what their concerns are and take that information back to council, enabling us to make the best decisions for all of Revelstoke.

I would like to continue to engage with our residents. We have a shared history and a wealth of experience that we could tap into provided the residents want to continue to help.

I want a place on city council where people know I am understanding their concerns and that I will act in their best interests.

Scott Duke

It is difficult to choose just one topic. So I will list a few issues that will need to be quickly addressed by the new council, and then speak to a single challenge that, if tackled, will have the greatest impact on improving the quality of life for everyone in Revelstoke.

Culture improvements: focus on customer service, increase transparency, improve communication, improved staff delegation, proper vision setting, active listening and result-oriented action.

Opportunities for city: affordable housing, livable wage focus, improved permitting processes, increased efficiency and improved budgeting within departments.

Revelstoke is a can-do, energetic and positive community.  We have great ideas, a strong passion for our city and our way of life.  This is why I will say our biggest “opportunity,” not “issue,” is placing a strong team into our council seats, so the concerns, vision and solutions for community improvement can be more swiftly addressed and acted on by the city.  I look forward to listening and acting on behalf of the citizens of Revelstoke, if fortunate enough to be elected.

George Buhler

I feel bad I missed the economic development question.

I will make a couple of comments I feel will definitely make a difference to the health of our economy.

Make it easier to develop by changing the restrictive bylaws and lowering excessive DCC charges.

Make potential developers feel welcome instead of laying down onerous rules and regulations.

These items I have mentioned lead me right into the fourth question, which is the most important issue before the council.

I say make the City of Revelstoke friendlier to the existing businesses and to new business prospects.

Speed up the process which, in turn, will make it more affordable.

If elected council, I will review the planning and permitting process, and work to have the new council remove or change the stumbling blocks that make the process so difficult to accomplish.

It has been my experience, during my 35 years of contracting, that fewer rules makes things go faster and more efficient. It also makes life a lot easier and less stressful for those who are enforcing the rules.

These changes will make the City of Revelstoke a friendlier place to do business which, in turn, will attract new business to Revelstoke.

Connie Brothers

There are so many issues facing Revelstoke that it is difficult to choose just one. Focusing on what is a priority in need of addressing, I would have to say the Big Eddy water problem and affordable housing rank equally.

Affordable housing is an issue that we, as a city, have been struggling with, and will continue to struggle with as there are no easy answers.

We must:

• Move quickly to complete the affordable housing project currently under way.

• Be creative in coming up with and being open to ideas for affordable housing. Other municipalities have been faced with the same problems and it is worthwhile looking into how these municipalities solved the problem.

• Consider possibly partnering with developers to build affordable housing.

• Look into providing incentives to local resident homeowners to build legal, approved suites and/or carriage houses.

• Explore further for other grants and/or assistance we can tap into at the regional, provincial and federal level.

There are two aspects to the Big Eddy water issue, both of which must be dealt with as soon as possible, as the availability of clean water is fundamental:

1. Short-term, we need to see if we can legally allow residents of the Big Eddy to continue building on their properties.

2. Long-term, we need to have a study done (part of which must include receiving input from residents) on what is the most cost-effective way of fixing the water problem. We then need to apply for the appropriate available grants and subsidies, and then we must move forward with the plan as quickly as possible.

Steve Bender

There are so many priorities that need attention.

Many of them are highly affected by outside forces that a municipality cannot wholly control, issues like affordable housing, poverty, public transportation, expansion of the water system, expansion of our RCMP police force, support of the arts, other infrastructure upgrading issues, economic development, tax reform, all dependant on grants, partnerships and/or the participation of the provincial and federal governments.

You have asked for a quick and short answer to one of the many, so I will attempt to simplify a massively complicated issue.

Therefore, my answer would have to be continuing to work on infrastructure, because without the solid foundation of good infrastructure and amenities, all the sectors will have nothing to build on and a town won’t grow.



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