The Live Streets: A Night Out Downtown event held on March 2 got a ringing endorsement from city councillors this week.
In an aside from discussing line items in the proposed 2023 city budget – namely a $140,000 budget for CR LIve Streets in each of the upcoming years – councillors congratulated the organizers for creating a successful event that fulfilled council’s objectives for the downtown core.
“Item 54 I had written down just to make a comment that I love this one,” Mayor Kermit Dahl said. “The downtown is way more fun to visit when these events are happening. And I look forward to their next event.”
The mayor wasn’t able to actually attend the event but followed it online and hopes to be at the next one.
The presumed intent of the event is to bring people downtown again and lift the tension and air of danger hanging over downtown due to presence of people experiencing homelessness and the recent history of unruly behaviour.
“I think it is strongly aligned with our objectives. And that’s to develop a healthy, friendly community,” Mayor Dahl said.
The mayor lamented the activities that have been lost over the years like the raft race on the Campbell River and other events.
“And we’ve lost so many things,” he said. “And this is, I think, just the beginning of us being able to rebuild those things. It brings that feeling back that there was in those days.”
Dahl’s comments about objectives came in response to Coun. Doug Chapman who tried to inject an element of fiscal sobriety into the reminiscing about the good times that have been lost.
“I understand the program and understand it’s popular (but) when we have choices to be made…” Chapman said.
During these times of financial realities hitting the city’s budget to the point where it’s debating a 11.27 per cent tax increase, Chapman wondered if money should be used for things like this.
“But you know, there’s such a conflict in my mind of things we are pursuing and things that we’re not pursuing that I think we should be,” Chapman said. “So I’m not saying no to this, I understand the value of it. And I think it should go ahead. But you know, now look at the money being spent, versus the some of the council’s priorities, goals, objectives that are not yet funded.”
The mayor asserted that the Live Streets program is aligned with this council’s objectives, saying it brings possibly thousands of people downtown and provides businesses with an opportunity to open their doors.
“So if the downtown businesses decide to open up, we’ve got a huge opportunity to help people come in and experience your stores that they wouldn’t otherwise have coming in, as well as encourages them, possibly, to be open more often, as well,” Dahl said.
Coun. Ron Kerr agreed saying downtown merchants pay a “significant amount” of money in taxes.
“I think that our support for that community is imperative,” Kerr said. “And these kinds of activities, I think, I mean, that’s the goal is to bring that energy that you were talking about and safety back to our downtown core … it’s totally aligned with council’s priorities.”
Chapman agreed with Kerr’s point that businesses are paying a higher rate of taxes than other property owners and he is in favour of the idea of supporting businesses downtown. He just didn’t want things like the Live Streets program to just be a “spirit-building” exercise.
Coun. Ben Lanyon noted that this kind of thing encouraged investment in the city and that investment will benefit taxpayers by contributing tax revenue to the city.
“So I am in favour of whatever we’re trying to do here downtown,” Lanyon said.
Councillors Susan Sinnott and Tanille Johnston was also supportive.
“It does directly benefit businesses,” Johnston said. “I heard that all the restaurants that were opened were completely full and booked like it was an extremely success event that directly benefit businesses and partnered with them.”