City’s new survey is valuable but doesn’t address how we reached this point

Editor’s Note:

This letter by a relatively well-known local makes some valuable points about the City’s new survey, the results of which will be made public later this fall. While it is critical it is, ultimately, supportive of any mechanism that rekindles public engagement with City Council and our local bureaucracy.

Dear Editor:

It is interesting to see this “new” City survey make its debut.

I think the survey itself misses the target entirely. The questions are all well and good but they are presented to the people of Revelstoke without any context, without any discussion of the problem-plagued process that brought us to this point. My point is this – virtually every activity is governed by policy, bylaw and political flavor of the day, not necessarily wrong but far from realistic or practical in all circumstance. The list is endless but I will endeavor to give some examples. This City since the early 1990s has long forgotten the words practical, common sense and made-in-Revelstoke solutions. Speaking from a Public Works point of view, ever since Sam Olynyk’s retirement most every project has not contained that practical, common sense, sometimes unorthodox component.  The last City project that came in under budget with no surprises was the water treatment plant. A combination of local staff, public participation and consultant combined with one amazing individual, the onsite project manager.

The City now relies on outside consultants at every step, they have their place but not at the lead. The result is that we live with the consequences of their actions and continue to pay much more than was necessary. Downtown street design with large flared ends at intersections cost significantly more to remove the snow from, every year it costs more. The rat maze area between the new high school and the arena, referred to as parking and access, is a shining example of consultants behaving badly but we pay to deal with it over-and-over every winter. It’s not the snow removal guys’ fault that it takes so long but it’s easier to see if we want to quit cleaning driveways.

To often in many situations senior management and the political component ignore the concerns of those doing the job, Statements like “We cannot be building things with snow in mind “ — ALL things should be built and designed with snow in mind. “You are on a need to know bases” or plain “Just do as you are told” are a few of many statements that have cost us dearly. To ignore any input from those who do the job results in many increased costs and problems. We have become so dependent on this proccess that we no longer decide our own fate.

The population studies done by consultants missed the mark so badly that they could only be believable if prefaced by the phrase, “once upon a time.” The results are such that we charged ahead without questioning where we were going and look where this has gotten us. We charge on down the tourism trail but the City has totally neglected to do anything to support secondary housing.

There are many communities that are doing creative things to provide reasonably priced rental accommodations. Why not look at what they are doing instead of hiring yet again another consultant? Streamline; provide incentives for individuals to build secondary suites and carriage houses where it makes sense. Lower or waive most permitting costs for the long-term gain of and additional tax base. This has great potential to provide on going small project work for local contractors and to provide homeowners with a little extra income. Most homes no longer have children at home so to provide space for a single or couple in the same footprint puts no bigger load on the infrastructure than was there before. It gives people who work in the tourism industry a shot at being able to establish themselves here and — Who knows? —  maybe even own a home! We want this place to grow — not stagnate as it is now.

This survey needed to be about peoples’ thoughts on the frame work that guides the process. It then can proceed to a stage of satisfaction. Don’t hang the grader operator out to dry because somewhere between management and politics they feel that the grader is made to run from one end of town to the other endlessly because someone knows someone. The point of bylaw enforcement when the ticket process becomes discretionary at the political level or those trying to do their job are told they are being “heavy handed.” Look at the number of citations written verses how many remain as a fineable occurrence it tells the story. The intent of this letter is not to stand up for the collective of employees but to present the unspoken side of which I can do. I was there for over 14 years. and the games that have been played make you shake your head. No body is expecting perfection we all make mistakes but when you measure end result you miss the bulk of the problems.

The above are but a few examples of the system by which we are operating not all is bad there are good things happening as well.

Council has yet to determine criteria for reserves or for that matter determine what are the core responsibilities that should form the bases under which they should operate.

This community has given a large amount of time to Town Hall meetings, Community Neighbourhood meetings, Financial Groups and on and on. There has been an amazing volume of wisdom, ideas and opinions expressed in all areas but it seems like it has all fallen on deaf ears. It is going to take more than an online survey to build a level of confidence that the input will be heard.

We are at a crossroad: Council prove that you are going to listen.

To my fellow ’stokians: We have everything to win and not much to lose in trying to move forward and become the place we used to be.

I have been very critical of Council but I for one am willing to give the benefit of the doubt to this survey. I filled out mine.

Revelstoke, BC