A familiar face returns as editor of the Times Review

Alex Cooper returns to the Revelstoke Times Review to assume the editor's duties after a three month stint in Nakusp.

A few months ago I wrote my farewell column in this paper. I reminisced about my 4.5 years as a reporter in Revelstoke — the major stories I wrote, the big events I covered, the adventures I got to go on. It was a great job, but it was time to take that promotion to editor and run my own paper, which I had the opportunity to do down south in Nakusp.

“I’m looking forward to talking to people without thinking, ‘Is this a story?’” I wrote at the time.

Well, that was then and this is now. My departure – and the decision not to replace me – led my former editor Aaron Orlando, to move on. And so the call came to me to see if I would take on the challenge.

I never really left Revelstoke. I was in Nakusp on weekdays and back here whenever I could to go skiing and see friends. My job was there, but my heart stayed here. I said yes to the new job.

I’ll be honest — it’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot going on in Revelstoke for one person to cover. It will be difficult to get out to everything and write interesting features, on top of covering important news and enjoying a personal life.

Still, it’s a step up career wise and I get to stay in Revelstoke full time, so I’m giving it my best shot. You will probably notice a change in the tone of the newspaper. Like it or not, the interests of a reporter generally seeps into what we write about. You’ll probably see less coverage of city hall and more writing about things I’m really interested in like environmental issues and outdoor sports.

I’m going to do my best to keep the focus of the paper as broad as possible, and I hope you readers can provide me with news tips and let me know what’s going on, because we’re down to one set of eyes and ears and I won’t be able to keep on top of everything myself.  I know my colleagues at the paper will let me know if I write too many articles about skiing.

Hopefully I can continue the tradition Aaron set over the last six years and continue to put out a good product with engaging stories and good community coverage.

Comparing Revelstoke to Nakusp

In my brief, three month stint in Nakusp, I couldn’t help myself from comparing it to Revelstoke. I’m sure the people I met there got sick of my saying, “In Revelstoke, it’s like this.”

The first thing, is that coming back here on weekends, it felt like going to the big city. Nakusp was quiet and sleepy, whereas Revelstoke feels lively and thriving. Say what you will about housing costs or the state of the economy, the fact is, Revelstoke is doing alright. Tourism is increasing, the forestry sector is improving and other sectors of the economy appear stable.

Revelstoke feels like a lively community with a pretty good future ahead of it. I didn’t get that feeling in Nakusp, nor did I really get the feeling people wanted it to be thriving. There’s a large segment of the population there that appreciates Nakusp as a beautiful, but sleep town. In Revelstoke, the momentum is on the side of growth.

The other major difference I noticed was in the size of city hall. Nakusp has one-fifth the population of Revelstoke, but its municipal budget is about 10 per cent of  Revestoke’s. Some of that is a matter of the weather — Nakusp’s spends $50,000 per year on snow removal, compared to almost $1 million here — but some is a matter of choice.

The Village of Nakusp offers fewer services and takes on less challenges. There is no curbside recycling, no economic development officer, and no social or environmental coordinators. They simply do the minimum amount of work expected of a municipality — fixing the streets, collecting garbage, and keeping the parks looking good. They do run the hot springs, but that’s because no one was willing to buy them.

I bring this up because this is a municipal election year and journalists love elections and the change and discussion they bring. Most of the political talk in Revelstoke during my time here has been about overspending by city hall — whether on excessive planning exercises, snow clearing, street sweeping and more. Residents complain the city spends too much and taxes are too high; council counters that no one wants service cuts, and services have to be paid for.

Municipal elections are coming up in November and already different groups are aligning to run candidates. Spending will be the dominant theme and there will be a lot of talk about finding efficiencies and maintaining of cutting services.

Finding efficiencies will only go so far. If people are serious about wanting the city to reduce spending, then real decisions will have to be made on service cuts. This has ramifications.

Would eliminating the social development coordinator harm Revelstoke’s social service sector? Would  removing the environmental coordinator position prevent the city from taking a progressive stance on environmental issues? Would reducing the snow removal budget harm the ability of people, especially seniors to get around? Would cutting the planning department budget lead to delays in developments getting approved, or — perhaps worse — result in bad developments getting approved?

Hopefully the municipal campaign won’t just be a simple debate about reducing spending, but an honest discussion about Revelstoke’s priorities as a community.

It will be an interesting year.

 

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