One of the common threads among civic election all-candidates’ forums is how little light they shed on what people will actually do when they get into office. This derives from the fact that the municipal government system, so tied into the provincial government, is complex and confusing.
Looking from the outside in, it’s difficult to get a good grasp of what it is that City councils do. People who put their names up for election to council are just like the rest of us, so sometimes they propose things that just can’t be done. And, they sometimes don’t have the history or familiarity with issues that comes with time.
There’s nothing wrong with that, because the alternative is to have no ideas at all.
Incumbents don’t always have the full picture either. Tina Lange, for example, told the audience at the North Shore forum Monday night that it makes no difference how your house is assessed because taxes are adjusted accordingly. That’s true only if your house is assessed within the average. If it’s assessed higher than the average, you’re gonna feel the pinch.
Second-time candidate Nancy Bepple spoke about the City having a priority list for sidewalks andher desire to build sidewalks in the area around North Hills mall. For the most part, in actuality, sidewalk construction in residential areas is subject to a cost-sharing formula between home owners and the city. That formula was adjusted some years ago to bring down the home owner share.
Kim Jensen, asked about a performing arts centre, supported the idea, but missed a bet to talk about a plan that was formulated several years ago to construct just such a facility on the site of the Henry Grube centre.
Tim Larose was asked about dredging the river system. He opposed it, but the fact is it has been tried to a limited degree and doesn’t work anyway because the river bottom shifts so dramatically from year to year.
Joyce Blair talked of making “surplus” City lands on the North Shore available for development but there’s little such land available anywhere in the city.
Bill McQuarrie proposed that an ice-wine industry be developed in North Kamloops. If we’re going to develop a wine industry, ice wine is a good way to go because there aren’t any wine grapes that can take our climate (there’s a micro climate near Tranquille that is said to be capable of growing grapes but, so far, it hasn’t been developed). Not to mention that the Community Charter makes no mention of vineyards being within the jurisdiction of City councils. (Sorry if I’m sounding like a smart apple, Bill — at least you’re thinking outside the box.)
Several candidates supported beautification of the Tranquille corridor, without stopping to think about the cost, and how to pay for it. I’ll go into that a little more deeply in my next column in The Daily News.
One of the most significant omissions of the night was committed by mayoral candidate Brian Alexander. When one attends a forum in the North Shore, about the North Shore, one would think you’d take a look at the North Shore community plan beforehand. But, when asked what he thought the key points about the plan were, he had to admit he hadn’t read it.
And, on a radio show the following morning, Peter Sharp was asked what he’d do about parking at RIH. Sharp, a former chair of the regional hospital board, knows well that RIH parking is not a municipal responsibility, and explained what the actually plans are for the hospital, but it was an example of how some people think City council has more power than it actually does. When candidates are asked questions, they have to be careful to first consider whether the answer is within the realm of civic politics.
All of this is not to take potshots at candidates, nor at voters, because they can’t be expected to get fully up to speed within a few short weeks of the campaign. But when listening to candidates’ answers, it’s important to try to sort out what’s real and what’s wishful thinking.