Waters: New Kelowna council needs to hit the ground running

It's time for Kelowna's new city council to step up and deliver the change it's six new members promised during the election campaign.

But what that change will be still remains to be seen.

It may be less than 24-hours since the new council was sworn in, but given the dire picture painted of the state of the municipality by those determined to oust a majority of the last council during the election campaign, the newcomers have got to hit the ground running.

But where are they running to?  During the campaign, the destination was not made clear.

In wooing voters, then mayoral candidate Walter Gray was short on specifics when it came to explaining how he planned to "open the city up for business." and "get the city moving again." But, he said, for that to happen, change was needed.

Well, voters delivered that change. And it was bigger than even Gray expected.

They not only picked him over two-term incumbent Sharon Shepherd, they also replaced five of the eight sitting councillors.

But as stinging as the election losses were, Shepherd was particularly incensed by Gray's comment election night about getting the city moving again. In a very public retort, she used her goodbye at her council's last public meeting to remind anyone listening of a long list projects initiated and approved by her council.

And, to stick it to her detractors, and those of the five departing councillors—four of whom were targeted for defeat by a local group lead by  businesspeople—one last time, she reminded those on their way out that when the shovels go in the ground to start those projects, they can stand proud knowing they made those projects happen.

Like any new government, the incoming Kelowna council will ride on the coattails of the previous council for a while. Projects like the rehabilitation of Bernard Avenue, the new downtown plan, the relocation of the Water Street Senior's Centre and upcoming transit improvements were the work of the last council but, if political tradition holds firm, the new council will take the credit when flashbulbs pop and cameras roll.

The political rhetoric about the city not being open for business was exactly that, rhetoric. It was a line used enough times during the campaign to sway voters and win votes.

But if change really is needed for the city to move head, the new council has to roll up its collective sleeves and accelerate the steep learning curve all rookie politicians face.

On election night, Gray  called the make up of the council he will lead for the next three years  the "perfect team."

It's time for the team to show voters they made the right choice.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.


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