Revelstoke Current: Candidate Interview Series
* The Revelstoke Current asked each candidate four questions to answer in their own words. Ten of twelve responded by publication deadline. The Revelstoke Current wants to thank everyone for their thoughtful answers.*
Candidate Question #1
I have huge respect for the current council and thank them for their service. It’s a thankless job. But, with the goal of finding out more about our candidates, I’ve asked the question-
What issue do you feel was most neglected by the existing council?
Tim Palmer (candidate for council)
Establishing and communicating clear strategic priorities at the onset of the term. The incoming Council will have the same challenge that the existing council had, namely most of the candidates are vying for elected office for the first time. Newly elected officials run the risk of over promising to fix everything, only to find out that it isn’t that easy. The issues at hand will be more complex than anticipated. When a newly elected council is comprised of individuals without elected experience it takes up to two years of steep learning curve to become effective. It is essential that the incoming council focus on establishing strategic priorities immediately. If they don’t, they will flounder, pulled everywhere by competing issues.
Steve Cross (candidate for council)
It would be unfair of me to question the sense of priority the current council had. Walk a mile in my shoes and all that stuff. That said, I believe the current council, despite its strength and devotion to community service, left two pieces of pressing work unfinished – the Official Community Plan (OCP) update, especially the zoning aspects, and the Development Cost Charges (DCC) levies issue.
The OCP was not updated due to a concern for workload and costs, while the DCC bylaw seemed to fail due to a flawed process. For my part, I thank the Council for their service and their contribution and I feel we can build on that to the benefit of our town.
Nicole Cherlet (candidate for council)
The current council did a decent job with the mess they inherited. They tackled a lot of projects together, especially in the boring area of financial management. Not high profile, but important work that sets up the new council for the next tasks. Government does not work in leaps and bounds, it works in nudges.
With so much work to be done, some things would by necessity be left behind. We can only focus on so many tasks at a time if we expect to make progress. I am disappointed; however, that measurement and reporting clearly back to the public didn’t have more of a priority. We need to be brave and have an honest look at how the city is functioning, especially the interactions with our citizens. The city needs standards for service that they can stick to, something we can celebrate when they have successes, and hold everyone accountable when they fall short. This is not to say that we should point fingers or place blame, but that we should look for ways to improve our standards and fill gaps in policy.
Robert Elliot (candidate for council)
I don’t have any inclination against the current council. They have demonstrated a remarkable work ethic and have stuck to a seemingly thankless position for four tumultuous years. Second guessing is always easier looking backward.
Without undermining the council’s attention to affordable housing and their support of the Affordable Housing Society, the urgency of the housing crisis has been lost in process, study and dialogue.
Businesses have shut down, operational hours modified and work positions left unfilled due to an inadequate housing supply. Vacancy rates at zero percent or very near indicate a community at odds with a vision of being balanced and sustainable. Rental rates have climbed continuously and will likely carry on upwards as Revelstoke grows as a recreational hub. Affordability will go further south unless rental housing supply is addressed.
The conversation on affordability and the urgency to do something about it gets sidetracked by an array of related issues: affordable rent vs affordable ownership; building permit backlogs; by law variations; vacation rentals and so on. Obvious solutions to the supply deficit, apartments and employee housing haven’t come close to fruition. Understanding why this type of housing hasn’t come to prominence is crucial. If there are civic barriers that need to be removed or incentives that could bring such projects on line, why not implement them?
Tony Morabito (candidate for council)
The issue I feel has been most neglected by the existing council was bylaw enforcement. Parking is an issue that needs to be addressed because signage and bylaws are being ignored with virtually no enforcement.
Also bylaw enforcement in general needs to be actively enforced by city staff and not just a complaint driven bases which I think is a helter-skelter way of running city business and leads to fragmented enforcement. Yes I believe in the good neighbor policy, but residents can’t reasonably be expected to be the policeman on the block
Mike Brooks-Hill (candidate for council)
Rather than a single issue, I would say that a lack of clarity, communication and consistency
inhibited the existing council. If you look at the most contentious issues of the past four years, the Development Cost Charges charges update, the highway strip mall, and the city annexation of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District lands south of the airport, all of these decisions were rushed through without proper public consultation.
In the case of the latter two, initial approval was overturned in large part to public engagement. If you compare these issues to the implementation of the cannabis bylaws, or even the initial approval of the Mckenzie Village development, it is clear how different the public’s reactions was. These were important decisions that went through a thorough review and had adequate opportunities for feedback.
Nothing will ever be perfect; no decision will ever please everyone, but, the citizens of Revelstoke have made it abundantly clear that council needs to ensure that there is proper consultation and communication on any major decision that will affect the future of our community. Not sometimes, but all of the time.
Jackie Rhind (candidate for council)
The necessity to update the Official Community Plan (OCP) and refurbish outdated zoning bylaws is a pressing issue that is yet to be resolved. I am hesitant to say that the exiting council neglected this matter per se, because this is no small undertaking (especially given the context of having to do so in a bureaucracy with what seems to be a revolving door of city staff). That said, I believe this is a critical first step to aligning the city with its goals of being able to allow for creative housing solutions and attract the right kind of responsible development that Revelstoke desperately needs.
Peter Humphreys (candidate for council)
The most neglected issue by the current council would be split between staff morale and environmental leadership.
Staff morale has been low, and some departments suffer from high turnover. Low morale results in low productivity, absenteeism and high benefit costs. I would like to see the City jobs the most desirable in town not only because they are paid a reasonable wage, but because they are satisfying and enjoyable jobs.
A main function of government is to take the lead on environmental issues. Due to our limited geographical size, we are a good fit for the use of alternative vehicle fuels.
Gary Sulz (candidate for mayor)
I do not feel existing Council neglected anything. Staff constraints meant that the Official Community Plan, Zoning Bylaw and Vacation Rental report did not get further attention. However, Council’s decision to try to deal with the influx of building permits was more pressing and relevant to moving the community forward at that time.
Cody Younker (candidate for council)
I believe the most neglected issue has been vacation rentals. Information was compiled by the Revelstoke Accommodation Association as well as the Chamber of Commerce which showed the number of vacation rentals. In my opinion, working with stakeholders to address this issue needs to be a priority going forward.