The 2018 all candidate forum took place on Tuesday evening, October 2nd. At one point, nearly 300 people attended, but later in the eventing the numbers dipped considerably.
The forum was less exciting than in years past as candidates had commonalities throughout their answers, noting a need for clearer communication, listening to the community and updating the Official City Plan. Moderator Cindy Pearce kept the event running smoothly and dealt deftly with the odd technical difficulty.
Organized by the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce, the event format included two minute introductions by each candidate, a series of seven questions previously submitted to the Chamber, plus one from the floor. Candidate answers were limited to one minute. After the questions, each candidate was given two minute for a closing statement.
The elusive mayoral candidate Darcy Gail Wyonzek made her first appearance having previously been unavailable for any media questioning or platform comments.
Introductions ranged from practiced speech depicting who the candidate was and why they were running; to plans of what they believed should be addressed if they are elected; to rambling conversations about how they came to Revelstoke. Several candidates were confidant and clear throughout while others overcame nerves to give coherent and well thought out answers. Every candidate displayed a clear passion for Revelstoke and many agreed on integral issues.
One minute is not much time to give an answer to a complex question, and here are some of The Revelstoke Currents favourite points of the evening.
The first question related to city staffing woes and mayor candidate Darcy Wyonzek revealed she had not known of this issue. She was, however, confident in the city staff’s dedication and hard work. Throughout Wyonzek’s various allotted times she praised Revelstoke and its people and promised to fight hard for them, but her impassioned answers will likely do little to dent the seasoned and articulate Gary Sulz, who came out a clear front runner for mayor.
Answering the same question, council candidate Steve Cross noted the councillors’ job is not to micromanage city staff but instead to create a team and to set standards. Candidate Steven Kent mentioned an external audit of city hall, while candidate Jackie Rhind spoke of systemic issues springing from outdated documents that hinder staff. Mayoral candidate Gary Sulz spoke of empowering city employees and engaging with both city staff and community alike.
The second question dealt with identifying affordability issues and what each candidate would do to champion change. Housing was identified by every candidate. Candidate Brooks-Hill suggested requiring developers to include staff accommodation or market rate accommodation or pay a percentage fee to be allocated to the city to build affordable housing. At one point in the evening, he also made the daring reveal he would push for legalization and taxation of all illegal rentals. Candidates Rob Elliot, Tony Morabito and Jackie Rhind spoke to creating higher density housing with candidate Elliot mentioning the lack of apartments built in recent years. Candidates Cross and Kent mentioned creative solutions including both carriage and tiny homes while Kent also recommended encouraging Revelstoke Mountain Resort to step up with staff housing and to crackdown on illegal vacation homes.
When asked what three things they would tackle immediately, candidate Tim Palmer strayed from the norm of updating the Official Community Plan and Development Cost Changes to urge the use of strategic planning to create a four year plan and a road map to get there. He recognized the time it takes to implement change and the need to be organized, so the council is effective and prepared.
Candidate Nicole Cherlet’s answers should qualify her as a poster woman for Toastmasters. When asked about dealing with infrastructure issues, she spoke of her desire to find creative funding. Cherlet noted that grants and town sizes are linked and it must be shown that Revelstoke’s population is, at least periodically throughout the year, much larger than the official population census depicts.
When asked about retail expansion, candidate Cody Younker reiterated his experience with corporations and his belief that they do not ultimately care about and are not vested in the community. He spoke of his commitment to try and encourage independent retail growth. All candidates noted that communities within Revelstoke, such as Columbia Park and Arrow Heights, could stand to benefit from localized retail growth.
Later in the evening, when questioned about removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve and extending city boundary lines, Brooks-Hill proposed that the ALR should stay as it is. He commented that the expansion of the city down south would just add to already daunting infrastructure costs they had earlier talked about and all declared was a priority. Candidate Steve Cross and his unique take on what to do with ALR land deemed ‘non viable’ and the potential for hydroponic farming and that developers buying ALR land on specs do so at their own detriment was a hit of fresh air. Candidate Jackie Rhind mentioned of higher density living, which in turn would create more affordable housing and a larger tax base while paired with the importance of ‘smart’ development. Candidate Palmer also noted that southern expansion was not currently needed as plenty of areas within town lines could still be utilized.
Candidate Peter Humphreys was the most unorthodox candidate of the evening. Regarding the question about the city improving their environmental practices, he noted that, despite being the provider of gas to the city vehicle fleet, Revelstoke still hadn’t started updating their fleet with an electric alternative. Humphreys also pushed throughout his answers for reducing red tape and lowering operating costs in an effort to balance increased necessary upgrade spending. Candidate Palmer noted that would end up being a tougher process than Humphreys imagined.
Steven Kent observed that Revelstoke downtown is ‘rocking’ nowadays, and that it could be expanded and made more pedestrian and bike friendly. The sentiment was echoed throughout the forum.
Closing statements were presented in a smoother fashion than introductions across the board, as candidates championed themselves.
All in all, the evening was a great peek into the minds of those hoping to run for council. Be sure to check back to The Current to read our own questions and answers with the candidates.