Former Kelowna city councillor Graeme James says he is seeking a return to council because he is concerned about the state of the city’s downtown.
And he’s not happy about how the current council has dealt with the issue.
“It’s a big problem and we have to get a handle on this,” said James, who sat on council for one term from 2008 to 2011 and filed nomination papers last week to run again in the upcoming civic election. He ran unsucessfully in 2011 and 2014.
Accusing the current council of being too soft on drug users and vagrants downtown, James said the city and the RCMP need to “take a tough stance on them,” including banning shopping carts downtown and making it illegal to lay on the street.
The city has attempted to do both in the past, but stepped back from those attempts after pubic backlashes.
James said he feels the problem downtown has gotten out of hand and needs immediate action.
The city has initiated a five-year strategy to address homelessness called the Journey Home Strategy, but James dismissed that plan, saying it is underfunded and city hall does not have much to show for the $500,000 it has already spent on it.
“There’s a lot more the city can do,” said James.
He is also unhappy with how the Glenmore area—where he lives—has been treated by city hall in recent years, saying it has been “short-changed” when it comes to the attention it deserves.
James said the city has allowed what he described as some “pretty ugly” buildings to be built in the area, the planned Glenmore Recreation Park is long overdue, a new firehall for the area has been put on hold and Valley and Sexsmith Roads need upgrading.
Combine that with property tax increases he feels have been too high during the current council’s term and that’s why he decided to run for council again.
“Tax increases should be two per cent or less,” said James, who took direct aim at current Mayor Colin Basran and his eight councillors accusing them of “not being able to say no” to city staff when recommendations are made.
The city has pointed to the cost of expensive civic projects such as construction of the new police services building on Clement Avenue as reasons for large portions of the annual property tax increase in recent years, increases that have come in at 2.99 per cent this year and 3.84 per cent in 2017.
“Nobody seems to be steering the ship,” he said. “The inmates are running the asylum.”
Candidates planning to file nomination papers for the upcoming civic election have until Friday to do so.
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