Candidate Question # 4
Changes…The Current asked, and our candidates answered.
If you could pick one change you would implement immediately, what would it be and why?
I would like to see a solution to the problems with the Southside sewage lagoon. The core responsibility of any city is to collect taxes to pay for the establishment, maintenance and repair of our joint assets. If we are not providing fully functioning water and sewer systems, roads and sidewalks, we are not doing our jobs.
The change I wish to make embraces our differences, empowers Council and staff to work as a team and engages the community to give input. These sorts of changes enhance life for all and isn’t that what we all wish for?
Measurement and Reporting of Key Metrics. Smooth operations, whether it’s in governance or business, are not just about financials. They’re about the number of parking complaints on See Click Fix, telling part of the story of our transportation challenges. They’re about the number of building permits in each stage, and the aging in that stage that tells the story of unreasonable delays in our Planning Department.
We need to start measuring and recording a wide range of key metrics. Then, pick three to focus on immediately, while the others collect data for later priorities. Only by watching the results can we know if we’re successful at improving underlying issues, rather than just putting out the fires of immediate concerns.
First priority is our Planning Department; we need affordable housing and faster permits. Clear reporting will guide our efforts on setting policy around standards and updating bylaws in a way that supports the work of the department.
We need to update the Official Community Plan (OCP) because there are a lot of issues that are caused by having outdated land-use designations. Once we have revamped the OCP then we will have to update zoning and subdivision bylaws – in my mind these two steps go hand in hand. I want to be a champion for responsible development and providing more creative housing options to the people of Revelstoke (high density, tiny homes, co-operatives, rent controlled units, carriage homes, to name a few). In order to make sure we do this in a responsible way though (and to make the whole process easier city staff, residents, developers, and property owners), we need to start with updating the OCP. If we can get our ducks in a row on an administrative level it will be much easier to implement some of the great progressive housing solutions available.
Revelstoke has undergone so much change in the last ten years and like many communities, has new challenges that didn’t use to be on its radar (like the increase of vacation rentals thanks to online platforms like Airbnb). We cannot just shut down and resist change altogether though. We have been somewhat reactive in our approach to handling change. I think we need to stop treating the symptoms and start at the source and I feel that revamping the OCP is a great starting point.
At the risk of being controversial, if I had to choose one specific change, I would choose to legalize all vacation rentals. Prohibition, with a very limited number of legal suites, has not served us well. We need to bring these businesses above board in order to regulate and tax them. Currently there is a broad sense of unfairness and injustice, both for those who are in the ‘business’, and those who are not. If we legalize them while co-currently having robust enforcement and serious fines for non-compliance, we as a community can benefit from the increased revenue from taxes. (Think commercial tax rates being applied, business licenses being bought, etc.)
This would have the secondary effect of decreasing the financial incentive to vacation rental a property, and lead some owners to revert to a long term rental. As it stands now, council has seemingly abandoned this issue as yesterday’s news while it continues to be a persistent problem in Revelstoke Rather than simply being reactive, our future council must be proactive in dealing with issues before they become a problem. Updating our OCP and outdated by-laws to ensure a level playing field where everyone understands the boundaries, and everyone has a fair say in what the rules of the game are will go a long way to improving the relationship that the citizens have with City Hall. Having an entire sector of our economy operating in a grey zone is of no benefit to anyone.
A mandatory new council week-long training course on how to be a high performing team – a team that avoids group think and he-said, she-said conflict, while working together to come up with higher level, more efficient, more effective solutions that benefit all the residents of Revelstoke. That is what we should aspire to and it can be taught, coached, and learned, thus the need for a training course for all new councils. For my part, I will do my best to help the new council work well as a team and to represent the people of Revelstoke as best as possible.
The City has long term aches and pains that will take a long time to address. It also has rock-in- the-shoe type problems that can be just as painful but can be quicker to fix. One such issue is the railway crossing at Victoria and 4th St. While a long-term fix is in the works, make a phone call to CP Rail and cut the rail out of the road and patch it with asphalt. That would make the journey much more pleasant for those that have to use the intersection frequently.
Over the past few weeks much has been said regarding our city’s challenges. Solutions are easy to suggest. Enacting those solutions is likely to be a very different story. My campaign has centered on updating the community plan. A clear road map for the next 5 to 10 years would eliminate much of our city’s divisiveness. A new map however, won’t address the urgency of our housing shortage and its impact on affordability. If there is one change I would implement immediately, it would be to lower development fees and property taxes on new employee housing or high density apartments. Increasing the supply of rental space will decrease rent pressure and directly impact affordability and our city’s living wage requirement.
The first thing I would work towards changing at city hall would be transparency as this would result in more concise communication with the residents of Revelstoke. I believe that until there is better transparency and communication from city hall, there will continue to be a lack of confidence in our leaders.
The change I would implement immediately would be to address the street parking issues so that our snow removal crews can do their jobs in a a cost effective manner. This would free up money to maintain other items of concern such as repairing broken sidewalks, pavement repair etc.
Establishing new strategic priorities for this Council is the one thing that will enable success with all other priorities. We know that customer service in development services needs to be fixed, better processes for public input is paramount, the budget process should be embarked upon forthwith, crucial council training for the steep learning curve ahead will be scheduled, developing effective staff/council relationships are vital, the Development Cost Charge (DCC) bylaw issues need to be resolved, strategic planning is essential, the Official Community Plan (OCP) needs addressing, critical development proposals will demand our attention – the list seems endless.
By immediately focusing of strategic priorities the new council can find consensus on what we want and can achieve collectively over the our four-year term. Without this focus we will be tossed and turned like the waves of the ocean from the endless issues that will compete for our attention. By embarking on strategic planning from the start,
Council can develop and implement strategies to effectively address all the issues mentioned and many more. By working collectively on a focus, the new Council, with their varied background will also facilitate in building solid working relationships thereby building good decision-making processes.