Eleven of the 14 men and women running for seats on West Kelowna council took to the stage Tuesday night to field questions at the latest election all-candidates meeting.
Answering individual questions on a range of issues including growth, transportation, homelessness, crime, municipal spending, infrastructure and even the need for a new city hall, the candidates took turns speaking at the microphone.
Kicking off the evening, challenger Winston Wammer chided the current and previous councils for, in his words, 10 years of not listening to the public, failing to provide strong leadership and ignoring public input.
“We need a change,” he said. “So I am throwing down the gauntlet.”
Incumbent Councillor Bryden Winsby later defended council during his answer to a question about what would be his priorities going forward if elected, saying during the city’s first 10 years of existence, successive council’s have grappled with creating a system of semi-urban governance for an area that previously had only been a rural, unincorporated area with a totally inadequate governance system for the size of its population.
He said council sets out strategic priorities at the beginning of each year and those will be his priorities if re-elected.
The city is now dealing with more urban issues, such as homelessness, crime and transportation problems, all of which need to be addressed said the candidates.
Roads and sidewalks need to be maintained and improved and traffic issues must be addressed as the population continues to grow.
Jayson Zilkie, a board member of the Kelowna Gospel Mission, said the homeless situation in West Kelowna is “significant” and needs to be addressed with the cooperation of the Westbank First Nation because many of those were identified as homeless in a recent survey were aboriginal.
“We need to bring everyone together on this,” he said.
The issue of a new city hall also came up given the public’s rejection two years ago of plans for a public-private partnership in a referendum that could have seen a new city hall built on land in Westbank along with private buildings, one of which would have housed Interior Health services for the Westside.
The city is now looking at putting money aside over the next 10 years to build a new city hall.
Incumbent Coun. Rosalind Neis said she is opposed to a new city hall being built and wants to see a second floor built over the existing municipal offices at the Mt. Boucherie Recreation complex instead.
“What we really need is a community centre,” she said, pointing to the fact the current municipal offices take up space at what is the city’s main recreation centre. She said she would rather see money go to that instead.
Incumbent Mayor Doug Findlater, who is running for a councillor position in this election, and incumbent Councillors Rick DeJong and Carol Zanon did not attend the all-candidates meeting.
The two people running for mayor, Mary Mandarino and Gord Milsom attended the meeting but did not speak on stage as it was only for councillor candidates. They, like the councillor candidates, spoke one-on-one with those in attendance before and after the meeting.
The civic election is Oct. 20.
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