Talk about baptism by fire.
While his eight Kelowna council colleagues have weathered the storm of public pressure when it comes to controversial issues in the past given they were all re-elected, new guy, city Coun. Loyal Wooldridge, is about to learn the true meaning of the old adage in politics: “When it comes to elections, be careful what you wish for.”
Unlike his council colleagues, who, in Shakespeare’s words, have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in bruising public hearings of the past, such the relocation of the Visitor’s Centre onto the lakeshore, approval of Westcorp’s yet-to-be-built 36-storey hotel downtown and rezoning land in Rutland for for a building to house graduates of a drug and alcohol treatment program, Wooldridge has it all to look forward too.
And he gets to start with a controversial one—a proposed supportive housing project on Agassiz Road.
That controversial project has residents of the area upset about the close proximity the planned housing to the residences of hundreds of seniors.
Council’s deliberation on the issue will be the epitome of what re-elected Mayor Colin Basran meant when he told his councillors after the Oct. 20 civic election to be prepared to make some tough decisions during the upcoming four-year term.
On Monday, after the nine members of council were sworn into office, Basran pointed to decisions about where to place supportive housing called for in the city’s Journey Home strategy to address homelessness, as some of those difficult decisions.
But, he added, that’s what council members are elected to do—make the tough choices for the betterment of the entire community, not just the directly affected few.
When council approved the rezoning for the Freedom’s Door project in Rutland — the housing for recovered addicts mentioned above — Basran, who was raised in Rutland conceded his vote in favour may cost him friends. But, he felt as an elected member of city council it was his responsibility to vote for a project that was needed in the community and that would help people who live in the city.
It’s a lesson Wooldridge says he’s ready to learn. A day after his election, he was surprised to see how much correspondence had piled up in his city hall inbox.
Such is the life of a city councillor in a growing, busy city. Working for the people may be admirable, but it’s often not easy.
They may love you at the ballot box, but approve a development they don’t like, raise their taxes too much or fail keep roads in decent shape and its a short hop from “congratulations on your election” to “throw the bums out!”
Of course, it hasn’t got to that point for any member of council yet. The nine members were just sworn in for their upcoming four-year term a few days ago.
But the public is fickle when it comes to politicians.
And the phrase “what have you done for me lately” is one Wooldridge is going to start hearing. He just has to ask his seven colleagues.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.