Campbell Riverites head to the polls on Feb. 27 to fill the empty seat on city council.

Campbell Riverites head to the polls on Feb. 27 to fill the empty seat on city council.

Municipal By-Election Candidates answer: What should be council’s top priority right now?

Candidates in Feb. 27 by-election chime in on where council needs to focus

In an ongoing series leading up to the Feb. 27 municipal by-election, the Mirror will be asking the candidates a series of questions about why they want to be on Campbell River City Council, what perspectives they will bring to the position and what they hope to accomplish should they win the open seat.

For question No. 4, we asked: What do you feel should be city council’s top priority moving forward and what should it be doing to address it?

Their responses are as follows, in alphabetical order, exactly as they were submitted.

Ken Blackburn

The City would be wise to understand inter-connection. All sectors (economic, social, cultural) and areas (Campbellton, Downtown, Pier Street, Willow Point) should be ‘pulling together’. The question is what is a ‘top’ priority – a simple answer would be ‘environmental sustainability’. But it is important to define ‘environmental’ as being inclusive of both our social (urban) environment and our natural (rural) environment. Both are essentially interconnected.

Our urban environment must be managed in an inclusive, respectful and sustainable manner. We need to hear from a diverse set of voices, most importantly from the not-for-profit sector that is working on the front lines of our challenges – homelessness, security, addiction, disconnection. These challenges directly affect economic development, urban revitalization and tourism. If we listen to these voices together, we will come to understand the interdependence of our social management with our business development. This is key to sustainability. And each area of the City has specific challenges.

This language applies equally to our natural environment. Wildlife and habitat management, resource maintenance, citizen volunteer stewardship, all are vital for a healthy quality of life. If we don’t get it right in the natural environment, we won’t get it right in our social environment. We are enmeshed with our natural world. But it is a feedback loop – our social and natural worlds affect each other. Their interdependence must be seen as essential for sustainability.

Doug Chapman

Council’s first priority, in my opinion, is to deal with the reasons for the backlog of permits and development applications. Is it understaffing, or is it that our bylaws such as the Official Community Plan, Zoning, Development Cost Charge, Subdivision Servicing, and/or our Transportation Plan too complex? If the problem is understaffing, then let’s bring in some contractors to move things forward and clear out the backlog. If the understaffing is expected to continue for several years, then we should hire the people needed to move things forward. I think that Council should talk with the developers who have walked away from their projects. Let’s get it straight from those who have been affected as to what is going on. Why is it that the Town of Comox and the Village of Cumberland are booming and Campbell River seems to be having difficulties?

Some of our bylaws such as the Development Cost Charge Bylaw, Official Community Plan, Zoning Bylaw, and Transportation Plan need to be updated. Where possible they should be simplified and provide for affordable housing and to create separated protected bike lanes. We need to get our City moving forward to increase the residential and commercial property stock and grow our community in a positive and healthful way.

Kealy Donaldson

There are many issues that are layered together, in our community, right now. A single top priority is hard to state; however, with the OCP under review, I really see the focus and need for raised Urban Density levels in pocket neighbourhoods such as the Downtown Core. As an example, the downtown area is in desperate need of residential occupants to bring back the vibrant, community-driven retail sector. I have been a resident in Campbell River for twenty years and was enticed to move here by the beautiful, boutique shops and unique retailers that were located in Downtown Campbell River. Economics changed and so did the retail landscape of this community. Over time, we lost these anchored gems – one by one.

So what needs to happen to make this change? COCR needs to encourage mixed commercial and residential developments, especially in this critical area; this will create presence and ownership of the downtown core. It will transition the current state of an unstable environment into a flourishing hub of micro-economics and popularity again. It can be done; landlords in the area should be encouraged to convert their vacant (retail) space into residential within their existing buildings. This is part of a working solution for Campbell River.

Devon Garat

I think that the City’s top priority should be easing the burden on its taxpayers. Growing and strengthening the economy, especially by attracting and retaining businesses, particularly those which support jobs that pay above median income is of critical importance. A strong economy means that, on top of increased opportunity for local employment, those businesses will help take some of the burden of rising municipal costs off the taxpayers.

I believe that housing is also a critical issue, especially affordable homes for first time home buyers and retirees. More homeowners would also help spread the cost out over more taxpayers, as well as the opportunity to those priced out of the current market to own their own home and build equity. I hope to see Campbell River’s economy grow at such a consistent rate that we can stop increasing property taxes every year.

Stephen Jewell

I do love going down town and enjoying Spirit Square and the library. But the last year or so things seem to me, not to be going to well. A few weeks ago we had a murder there. Last time I was walking there I see security guards. And speaking with people the feeling seems to be that it is not as safe as it used to be. This area should be the pride of Campbell River. I am for Law and Order and wonder if council could debate a zero crime policy for Spirit Square and our town center.

Wes Roed

There are a myriad of issues and concerns that face us in Campbell River, and just like fiscal matters, each of us prioritize concerns according to our personal perspectives. I think it’s safe to say though, that people experiencing homelessness and economic recovery related to Covid-19 (tied together as Covid exacerbates the issue) are front and centre.

This is not an easy fix and in fact there is no fix as people experiencing homelessness have co-existed in society since we began to live in communities.

There are, however, ways to mitigate, educate and improve the situation that benefits the people who are homeless as well as Campbell River as a whole. I believe we have a moral obligation to do something, and there are many volunteers, agencies and government working now to find solutions.

To truly address this, we need to get at the root issues and address mental health and addictions. This will require a collaboration from us as a community and the Provincial Gov’t. (in terms of addictions and mental health). In other words, all of us.

I am here to help.

Laurel Slikovic

Top priority, eh? This is a complex question as there are a myriad of opportunities and challenges for City Council that are interconnected and ever-changing. The City of Campbell River Strategic Plan 2020 to 2023 is a solid plan, and I see Growth Management as the overarching priority that drives all other components, such as livability, environment, and economic health. Having a vision and setting a direction for growth enables senior management and staff within the City to operate effectively and with confidence, thus creating a more synergistic system for the entire organization.

Continuing to work with advisory committees, being transparent about processes and in decision-making, and encouraging inclusive and respectful dialogue throughout all of City Council will encourage more residents to get involved and feel empowered to be part of solutions. Our comprehensive plans (SOCP, Master Transportation Plan, Economic Development Strategy, and Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan, plus many more), depend on public input and public uptake. City Council’s leadership in creating and encouraging active participation in the development of these plans can lead to collective support for the Growth of this amazing place we get to call home!

Sean Smyth

City Council’s top priority moving forward needs to be the economic well-being of the community. The economy of the City of Campbell River is held in place by three large industries: forestry being the largest, aquaculture, then tourism.

The city has to complete, without delay, a full economic impact study relating to these industries, in order to understand the full financial impact that they provide to our local community. Give the Economic Development Office the necessary resources to develop a task force. This task force can then build a comprehensive strategic economic development strategy for 2021-2025. This task force will be encouraged to facilitate local resources and take input from local industry leaders. The three primary industries must be foundational components of this plan while recognizing the appropriate inclusion of aspirational goals. Industry leaders need to have a seat at the table and an open dialogue at city hall. Part of the task force duties should include standardizing the building and streamlining the permit process.

There will be many COVID relief funds coming down from other levels of government. These need to be identified and utilized to their full potential within the community.

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