By David F. Rooney
There were plenty of questions about the environment, affordable housing and ways to keep young people here but the underlying theme during Wednesday evening’s All-Candidates Forum was money, money, money.
All of the candidates — Chris Johnston, Phil Welock, Tony Scarcella, Steve Bender, Linda Jean Nixon, Pat Wells, Rick Hodgson, Murray Velichko, Jim Ritchie , Gary Starling, Jason Roe and Jody Simm — expressed much the same concern about taxes — they’re too high — and many said — predictably — that they would cut the fat at City Hall and curb spending.
However, the incumbents — who said much the same thing during the last election — know that’s easier said than done. Unwillingness to systematically improve infrastructure has left Revelstoke in the position where it must spend a lot of money in order to fix problems that impact the services that people demand. When it comes to spending public money it’s almost as though you re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
“There is a great deal of inertia in the system,” said lawyer Chris Johnston who is running for his third term on Council.
But new candidate Jim Ritchie said the way to solve the City’s current problems is to “run the City like a business.”
Retired restaurateur Tony Scarcella who has consistently opposed what he regards as excessive spending told the audience of about 200 people at the Community Centre that the City needs a new five-year plan it can actually stick to. It already has a five-year plan but anything in the four years beyond the actual annual budget can be characterized as informed guesswork.
Meanwhile the City’s debt is growing and the tax base is not growing as fast as many people believe it should be. Attempts to increase the tax base by attracting and retaining mid-to-large scale business have not been nearly as successful as hoped. In the last decade, we lost a medical software company, plans to bring the Goldstream mineral processing facility online went nowhere, an attempt to attract a server farm developer was put on hold and eventually went elsewhere while several smaller businesses have failed.
The reasons for all of that is due to many different factors — few of which the City has any control over. It cannot control where a business owner decides to establish of move his company. It cannot control the cost of living, which many, many people believe is way too high. It can’t control the cost of food or housing or very much, in fact, beyond taxation and spending on services.
Several of the new candidates, such as nurse Linda Jean Nixon noted that as long as our cost of living remains high we can’t keep some people here.
Steve Bender agreed saying “we can’t get a new constable here. We can’t get nurses. So, you want affordable housing here? What are you going to do.”
Pat Wells suggested Revelstoke has to do a much better job of selling itself if it wants to succeed.
“We should be marketing our lifestyle,” he told the audience, suggesting that attempts to do that over the years don’t appear to have borne fruit.
Oh, the City has made major contributions towards the establishment of a distinctive Revelstoke lifestyle: revitalization in the 1980s, the building of the indoor pool after 20 years of community discussion, tourism development and the advent of Revelstoke Mountain Resort to name but a few of the major contributing factors. And to be fair the City, the Chamber of Commerce and the Revelstoke Accommodation Association have done a lot to market the community.
But problems remain. Perhaps the City should, as Jason Roe suggested, focus its economic development efforts on businesses that are related to or that depend on the relatively healthy transportation and forestry sectors.
RCTV is broadcasting the All-Candidates Forum:
- Monday November 7th – 9:00 am
- Tuesday November 8th – 12 noon
- Wednesday November 9th – 5:00 pm
- Thursday November 10th – 8:00 pm