City council candidates: What one issue is driving your election bid?

What separates this Revelstoke city council candidate from that one? The second question we put to candidates seeks to differentiate them.



What separates this Revelstoke city council candidate from that one? The second question we put to 2011 council candidates was designed to help you differentiate the candidates. The open-ended question asked them to identify their main reason for running for council. Here are the answers they provided, in their own words.

Check back for question 3 in the Nov. 9 issue and question 4 in the Nov. 16 issue. Election day is Nov. 19.

We asked:

More than all others, what one issue or concern is driving your bid to be elected councillor? What is it, and what will you do as councillor to address this issue?

Steve Bender

If we dig deep enough, the personal satisfaction that comes with the privilege of having the opportunity to contribute and feel included is probably what drives most of us. Finding consensus on what that contribution should be is the hard part but that’s what elections are for.

There are many concerns but you asked for one, at this time, so I have to say sustainability, diversity and manageable growth for Revelstoke. (Call that three parts of the same single concern). I believe we have to work on continuing to drop the commercial tax rate, budgeting to rebuild an aging and deteriorating infrastructure (sewer, water, roads, etc.) and offer the services and amenities the taxpayers of our city want. The quality of those services and amenities is what attracts businesses, therefore jobs, therefore opportunities, therefore a larger tax base, therefore the varied and diverse lifestyles that can be enjoyed by all.

We need to hear your input as you did in the wine bar, pool hours, sign bylaw and, hopefully, in the pending heritage maintenance bylaw issue, to name a few.

Chris Johnston

I have concerns about a number of things in our community, the vitality of the downtown, the resort, the local economy, environmental issues and the state of our infrastructure among others, but the main issue, and the main reason that I am seeking re-election is to ensure that the city provides core services as effectively as possible at a fair level of taxation.

The core services have traditionally been water, sewer, garbage, roads, and protective services (fire and police) as well as planning, local economic development and parks recreation and culture. Recently, it has fallen on cities to also provide some degree of social services and assume a greater role in environmental stewardship.

In order to provide these services which the citizens want, the city needs revenue and that comes principally from property taxation. I see my role as to see that those services are provided as effectively as possible and the taxes that are imposed are as fair as possible. This does not mean cutting services or necessarily reducing taxes but getting the best value for tax dollars spent.

My role is not managing day to day decisions or telling city staff how to plough snow. I see my role a setting policy and direction and encouraging the implementation of systems and checks to ensure as far as possible, day to day decisions that are made are ones that will provide value and accountability.

I hope that I bring a balanced approach to council with the bigger picture.

Linda Nixon

The one issue that drove my bid to become a candidate is the need to maintain healthy vibrant neighbourhoods. Revelstoke has these in spades. I want to help ensure we do not lose this culture as the city grows. Newcomers need to be welcomed and their voices heard while at the same time respecting the people who built this city from the first CPR families and the forest industry families. When we first came to Revelstoke in 1983, the Mayor, Tony Coueffin used to pop into our shop in the Big Eddy and check to see how we were doing settling in as a family, not just a business. I think leadership is needed to continue the neighbourly friendliness of Revelstoke. A good idea can come from anyone and it is council’s job to recognize that and move the good idea to fruition. A simple example of this is the four-way stop added on Airport Way, low cost with high impact from risk management perspective. I would like to see the foot traffic move off of Nichol and flow up Pratico which has a road right of way to the school. This could be a joint venture with school board, city and developer. There I planted a seed of another good idea and it came from one of my good friends. Is it feasible? Talk it over and let me know. Park would then be T shaped at the end and closed to Nichol. I also want to see another RCMP patrol added not just to slow down the traffic but to work in an educational neighbourhood manner and also to allow other members to work on the dirty money underground economy that is growing in B.C. I am not talking about the cash crops, I am talking about harder substance abuse which needs work. Someone has to do that work.

Jim Ritchie

I believe that right now one of the most important issues for Revelstoke is our budget. How do we match up our income with our expenditures? I am sure that this is a problem that everyone understands in theory – we know that to keep it in balance we either increase income (which would mostly come from tax revenue) or we decrease our expenditures. We live in a instant society where everyone wants everything and right now – our city is no different, so as I see it we have to really look at our needs and put them in priority, what is for right now, what can wait for further development in the future or what just isn’t affordable to us at this time. It is the city council, I believe, that the residents of this community have entrusted their security, choosing people who will look out for them by continuing to make Revelstoke a place where we can afford to live. Sometimes that will cause hard decisions to be made that may not be popular with everyone but may be necessary. If elected I will do my best to use my abilities and strengths to keep our city affordable and desirable for development which will compliment and enhance our community. Thank you.

Jason Roe

There are a number of concerns we face collectively as a community which are driving my bid for election. It is challenging to rank one over the other, as one issue affects the next and none stands in isolation. An issue in particular I intend to address will be access and economic development. Although they represent two concerns, they are tied at the hip.

Understanding that there is long history with respect to passenger rail service to Revelstoke and inherent challenges with such service, the overriding effects on our development economically as an accessible and viable community must be considered. For instance, consider the impact of last year’s highway closures economically and the issue of safety for travellers and rescue workers alike.

With the push toward environmentally green transport, there is also an important consideration from a sustainability perspective which rail service offers. As a community we should endeavour to lead in seeking efficiency improvements, reduced air pollution and carbon footprints which rail service can effectively achieve.

Perhaps the solution to getting rail service to Revelstoke is a staged approach, developed to accommodate tourism and associated economic development opportunities. Working collectively with council and the City of Revelstoke, I would work to encourage the pursuit of this opportunity with CP and the province. I would take an active lead in improving this particular gateway to promote economic stimulus, safety and sustainability for our community.

I encourage you to contact me at any time to discuss our issues at Jason@blktie.ca.

Tony Scarcella

Revelstoke has been my home for the greatest part of my life and I have become very passionate about it. My goal is to see Revelstoke become a more affordable place to live.

The most outstanding concern in my bid for re-election, therefore, is for controlled taxation and spending.

Along with controlled spending, the long term debt needs to be addressed. Our current contracted and approved debt is $20 million with an interest rate of 5 per cent. This results in an additional charge of $1 million per year.

I feel the best way to reduce taxes is to increase the tax base. By attracting business and industry, more jobs would be created. In this competitive market, the city needs to make concessions. One way to do this is to bring the tax rate into line with the provincial average. Another way to reduce taxes is to take advantage of government grants. Residential taxes should not be raised more than the cost of living.

In order to control spending, the council must work with all departments, workers, unions and senior staff to find ways to operate more efficiently without compromising service.

Every 1 per cent the city saves is about $200 thousand dollars a year. This would result in a surplus budget that could be used towards infrastructure and maintenance to keep our city safe and beautiful.

Jody Simm

Affordable housing was a huge issue during the last election, but nothing’s happened. Over the course of the last three years, I’ve spoken with several city councillors about the issue, and the problem seems to be that affordable housing is just not affordable. What I was told by councillors was that the cost of putting in services (road, sewer, water, power) was just too high. I tried to put my name on the waiting list  and was told that I needed to be pre-approved for a $350,000 mortgage.

My proposed solution is high density condominium buildings, some ownership units, some rentals –  maybe 1,000–1,500 square feet per unit. If we keep the density high, then the cost of putting in services is spread between a lot of different units. There is some concern that it will create a ghetto type effect, but I disagree. When people own their homes they take good care of them (see English Bay, Vancouver). I also would like to see people be able to get on the waiting list immediately, so that they are in line when they can afford to buy a unit.

Some benefits of this are are homes people can afford to own. There are environmental benefits to high density housing, including a reduced footprint on the ground, your heat loss is your neighbour’s heat gain, and less urban sprawl. Affordable housing benefits everyone by expanding the tax base (every unit will be a taxpayer), spreading out the tax burden between more people.

Gary Starling

My biggest concern and the drive behind running for councillor is the level of spending that the city is now engaged in. Is it sustainable? What level of taxation can we expect in the future?

It has become apparent that the influx of population that was expected with the ski hill development has not happened.

I believe all aspects of our city’s operation should be reviewed. Only then can we move towards getting more value from our tax dollars. We need to ensure our debt and spending is sustainable with our current tax base.

It is alarming to look at the numbers on the current five year financial plan posted by the city. It shows a current debt balance of almost just under $20 million and a projected debt balance of over $37 million for 2015. Is this the legacy we want to leave our children?

My aim would be to get up to speed on all the pertinent information as quickly as possible. Then I would work with the other councillors to find areas for improvement. I know that others share the same vision and values for Revelstoke. I will listen to the concerns of Revelstoke residents and find practical and sensible ways to address them.

Murray Velichko

There are many issues that are of immediate concern to the residents of the City of Revelstoke and many more that will arise over the next number of years as our city grows. I believe the most pressing and immediate concern is the state of the global economy, how it affects Revelstoke, and how we respond as a city. The economic pressures directly affect our industries from the sale of power and forestry products, to the transportation of goods, to the slowing of tourism. In turn this creates social pressures within our city including limited entrepreneurial or employment opportunities and housing affordability as an example.

As city councillor, I would be proactive in identifying areas where the city would be champions of economic development for existing industries and help bridge the barrier of entry for entrepreneurs. The areas to be affected are vast and can range from marketing our town and industries, committing to essential services which decrease costs for industry, streamlining city services, to supplying affordable accommodation for potential employees. As much as it is very important to limit the ever-increasing tax burden for both citizens and businesses alike, it is equally important to be fiscally responsible and ensure the city doesn’t waste these tax dollars. Appropriate spending is often more advantageous than strictly cutting the budget.

Pat Wells

The big issue for me is the apparent unnecessarily high spending going on here in Revelstoke, supported by high property taxes and exceptionally high business taxes. Why is this so, is my question, and if elected, I would work towards lowering these taxes and taking a little better control of the process. We need a city government that values the citizens not just as a cash source but as a part of the community. Reversing these things can be done and I would work towards that as well.

Phil Welock

The main issue which has lured me into the race for councillor for a second term is fiscal restraint. After spending most of my working life in “governments” I understand how they work. One of the realities is that there is not a huge coffee can of money under the desk. There are many functions that are obviously important and some that are discretionary. In tough times, a long hard look must be taken at those.

Revelstoke is not unique and when I travel, I look at operations in other municipalities. We are in very good shape compared to others. We do however; have infrastructure issues to deal with in the immediate future. They will be expensive. We have very little money in reserves to utilize and will need to draw every dollar from senior governments when available. Sewer, water and trails appear to be the usual priorities of both governments. Question is, are trails that important? Answer is yes.

Our new CAO has been looking at operations within the city as directed by council. The newly elected councillors will have to make some very well informed decisions regarding spending and if required, cut backs in the immediate future.

To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes; Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.

There is not one person who I have met in my 24 years in this city who does not want a civilized society. In turn, they do not want a heavy tax burden and expect their hard earned dollars to be spent wisely.

***

The Times Review didn’t receive an answer from candidate Rick Hodgson by deadline.

See the Nov. 9 issue of the Times Review for question three.