By Lachlan Labere, Revelstoke Times Review
Revelstoke’s current mayor, a former mayor and a man who wouldn’t vote for either of them had their time on the Q & A firing line last Tuesday during the mayoral all-candidates forum.
In the second forum, hosted by the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, competing mayoral candidates Michael Brooks Hill, Mark McKee and David Raven had an opportunity to make introductions and answer some of the same questions asked of council candidates at the Oct. 22 forum.
During the introductory speeches, Raven, the incumbent, emphasized his leadership experience, managerial skills and “proven track-record,” noting his leadership-style is one of quiet contemplation and collaboration, and that he’d prefer his accomplishments be judged by their end result.
McKee, who has served both on council (1990 to 1999) and as mayor (2002 to 2008), said he’s running again because of a disconnect between city hall and council, and the community.
Political newcomer Michael Brooks-Hill shared his experience of cycling from Panama to Revelstoke and learning Spanish along the way, explaining he hadn’t any prior experience doing that, but was able to learn. As for why he’s running for mayor, he said he didn’t want to vote for the other two candidates and wanted to give other voters a choice.
Question-period commenced with a series of the pre-written queries.
On development cost charges, and whether they are positive or a hindrance, Raven provided some background, stating DCCs were introduced in 2007 to address foreseen infrastructure deficits resulting from anticipated development. He went on to explain how DCCs continue to play a role in funding future infrastructure needs. However, Raven added the question of DCCs is fairness, stating they could change at any time if deemed an impediment to new construction.
Brooks-Hill said DCCs are hindering growth in Revelstoke, and constraining construction of new houses, suites and other infill options. He also suggested the current cost structure penalizes people for doing renovations.
McKee said DCCs are achieving their intended purpose in that they are insuring there will be capacity in municipal services for future development. But as far as price goes, he said they can be a hindrance, adding there’s an opportunity to look at DCCs and see if they’re relevant and helping businesses.
Next, candidates were asked what the city’s top infrastructure priorities should be. Brooks-Hill said the Big Eddy water system, followed by the Victoria Rd./Trans-Canada Highway intersection.
“Those tourists who aren’t familiar with the intersection, no one knows what they’re going to do,” said Brooks-Hill. “You see a plate form Alberta and you’re scared. Because who knows what they might do. Do they want McDonald’s or do they want Tim Hortons?”
McKee agreed with Brooks-Hill on the Big Eddy. He also referred to the Thomas Brook water concerns, noting it’s not a city issue but something Revelstoke will have to deal with.
Raven called the question politically-loaded, stating the city has an asset management plan that prioritizes infrastructure needs and, to step away from that is a political decision.
“That’s why you end up with pools instead of water towers or water systems or sewer lagoons,” said Raven. “And many of the issues… have been here for many, many years because they’ve been prioritized around for the wrong reasons.”
As for the Big Eddy, Raven said it will be a priority once the water system’s users decide what they want to do.
Given the option to answer “yes” or “no,” all of the candidates said yes to supporting a gay pride day in Revelstoke, and to reworking transit schedules so working people can use the bus to commute. As for simplifying the city’s budget presentation, Raven replied, “Yes, and if you look at the last two years, we’ve done that.” To that, Brooks Hill said, “Yes, and I think we can continue to improve on that,” after which McKee replied, “I’m with him.”
Asked what he would do to attract businesses that pay a living wage, Raven focused on what the current council has done, noting with the budget he’s asked to bring taxation for light industrial down to the commercial level, thus eliminating industrial rates.
“That would encourage light-industry growth,” said Raven. “Those are wages above that livable wage.”
Brooks-Hill focused on lowering commercial taxes to help small businesses, as well as the city promoting businesses already in town, as well as the forestry sector and related value-added industry.
McKee said the first thing he would do is come up with a streamlined process to get approvals through city hall.
“Because everybody that I’ve been talking to, it’s just been a nightmare to get through the process,” said McKee. “We want people to move their businesses here and expand their business and build things, but for some reason it is just difficult to do.”
When it came time for questions from the floor, concerns for the ongoing renovations at city hall were raised more than once. Responding to what the city is getting for $800,000, Raven first stated that is not the cost. He likened the renovation process to peeling back layers of an onion, where one thing leads to another. He said the city had estimated the renovation would cost up to $350,000. When a request for tenders came back with estimates of $600,000, Raven said council decided to take a piecemeal approach to keep the cost closer to the original estimate. Neither Brooks-Hill nor McKee supported this approach, however. Brooks-Hill said he didn’t understand why the city would agree to an approach that would leave city hall “in shambles for years.”
“I don’t see the value in that,” said Brooks-Hill. “I also don’t understand if the tender was $600,000, how it’s only going to cost $300,000.”
McKee said he didn’t know why the city would rip something apart and not have it planned out properly.
“We’re building a ramp up to an office that’s gutted, the whole thing just seems odd,” said McKee.