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MUNRO: Kelowna council candidates aren't making this easy

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September 28, 2018 - 2:01 PM

 


OPINION


I want to be a good citizen and vote responsibly.

But, with 14 people running for the one open seat on Kelowna City Council, they’re not giving me much help.

Why only one open seat?

For 35 years, only two City Council incumbents have ever failed to win re-election.

Then, in 2011, a business lobby group (FourChange) succeeded in helping boot six of the incumbents out of office.

But, in 2014, it was back to normal with all four incumbents being re-elected.

Therefore, I have to assume, this year’s incumbents are shoe-ins.

So, a bit about me.

I covered city council as a reporter for the Kelowna Daily Courier for all of the 1990s, before moving on to a new career as a union representative for newspaper workers throughout B.C.

I did that for 18 years before being voted out of office (and my job) as the union downsized along with the declining employment in newspapers.

Earlier this year, I seriously contemplated running for city council, based on my long years of covering that institution and my passion for issues facing the city. I worked full time for a few weeks researching the city budget, plans and studies, attending council meetings and meeting with some key people before deciding not to run.

I still wanted to have a voice so I turned to iNFOnews and Marshall Jones with his commitment to serious news coverage on-line. He kindly hired me to cover local politics.

But, let’s make this clear.

This article is not hard news reporting. This is about me tyring to decide – as a voter, not a reporter - who I was willing to vote for as councillors on Oct. 20.

My first stab at this was to look at the City of Kelowna website’s listing of candidates.

All candidates listed phone numbers and email addresses. Six have web pages – of various qualities. Most of those six also have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Of the rest, a couple are on Facebook or Twitter but I was forced to rely (as someone recently described him) on Mr. Google – with mixed results.

Just to be clear: I’m approaching this as an Average Committed Voter who is willing to do some basic research but likely refusing to go past the first page on Google or to spend hours searching for other sources of information and not going down the rabbit hole of Facebook or Twitter.

And, as you will see, the internet landscape is constantly changing. By the time you read this, there may be more on-line information.

On this first cursory look, I’ve already scratched off eight of the 14 newcomers who I don’t deem worthy of my vote (I’ll leave you to guess who they are). I have strong reservations about the suitability of many of the remaining six.

Take this to be my expectation of what most Average Committed Voters will discover if they look into the Kelowna City Council election confusion.

Lindsay Bell: Nothing until late Thursday afternoon when a KelownaNow YouTube video popped up on Google. In its first 15 hours, the five-minute video had 27 views. She’s running out of concern for the safety of her children. In the video she says works in the Gasthaus restaurant in Peachland and has worked in the prison system in the past. Only near the end does she mention that she also served a term on Peachland council.

Kevin Bond: The only reference I found through Google was a 2014 story about a guy with mental health and addiction problems volunteering at the Gospel Mission. Is this you, Kevin? Then there’s his answer to the Cap News’ question on crime, saying their question was too vague and “how long is a piece of rope?”

Mark Boyer: He has a web page (markboyer.ca) that tells me he first visited Kelowna for work in 1988 and was transferred here in 2015. He worked for Transport Canada and seems to be retired. The top of his “Skills” list is “strata/condo member for 8 years.” Sorry Mark, living in a condo doesn’t separate you from thousands of others. Being chair might give you some qualifications to sit on council. Number one on his Activities list is: “Loves to travel.” Again, sorry Mark. The council meeting schedule doesn’t lend itself to travel with its weekly meetings most of the year. Besides, if you want to represent Kelowna citizens, how do you do that if you’re out of the city?

Wayne Carson: He’s not only running for Kelowna City Council but for re-election as regional district director for the unincorporated parts on the west side of Okanagan Lake. He got some news coverage in 2016 over a power pole placed on Killiney Beach. He does have a web site (waynecarson.ca). When I went to the “About Wayne – 2018 Election” link there were long blog posts about Westside issues. There is a Kelowna section (complete with the City of Kelowna logo – not sure if that’s proper) and, today, his answers to a series of questions given to all candidates by iNFOnews. Way too much verbiage on the web site and, I have to wonder, is his heart into serving residents of Kelowna or his current constituency on the Westside?

Greg Dahms: On Google there’s a Castanet story from 2014 about a Greg Dahms owning and opening the first SPCA thrift store in Kelowna and the Interior. A follow-up in 2016 says the city ordered him to close the store because it was an improper use on agricultural land. It’s now on Dougal Road in Rutland. Same guy?

Craig Hostland: Has a web site (craigforcouncil.ca) that says he’s a “Civil/structural/environmental engineer. I am an applied scientist.” He’s been in Kelowna 20 years, is a “father, husband, small business owner and employer (couldn’t readily see what business) and plays a “leadership role in Kelowna’s largest and most diverse Church” (what church?). Again, way too much verbiage to sift through to try to find out who he is and what he stands for.

Graeme James: First elected to council in 2008 but dropped to 10th in 2011 despite being endorsed, along with three other incumbents, by the FourChange business lobby group. In 2014 he joined the five-person slate for another lobby group called TaxpayersFirst with it’s crazy idea to turn downtown Kelowna streets into canals. He finished 13th in the polls with about half the votes he garnered in 2011. He’s admitted that joining TaxpayersFirst was a bad decision. But can someone with such poor judgement in 2014 be relied on to exercise better judgment in 2019 and beyond?

Amarjit Singh Lalli: His web page (amarjitsinghlalli.ca) tells us he came to Canada from India as a child, worked in a number of jobs, such as Canadian Tire, Western Star and Tolko before buying an orchard in 2003 and now owns two Subway outlets. His “concerns” are not what you might expect. There are four of them: Farming, Taxi Industry, Safety and the Speculation Tax. Go to his web site for details.

Gordon Lovegrove: No web site but he shows up through Google as an associate professor of Engineering at UBCO who is “passionate about sustainable communities” and is one of the school’s experts in “applied sustainable civil engineering” – whatever that is. There’s also a couple of UBCO YouTube videos from February 2016 where he talks about “fused grid neighbourhoods.” They each got about 220 views.

Jeff Piattelli: His web site (jeffpiattelli.com) says he’s a “professional singer and guitarist.” Nothing about running for city council. Is he just trying to get people to buy his music?

Mo Rajabally: I didn’t do much research on Mo because back in the ‘90s he started running for council and, I’m guessing, has run in every election since. In 2014 he finished 19th out of 31 candidates with about 3,000 votes. He’s unlikely to do much better this time around.

Dustin Sargent: Google found me a Kelowna Daily Courier profile from 2015 about a Dustin Sargent who was Project Manager for Davara Enterprises, which was (or is) a “socially-conscious development company.” It was founded by his wife’s parents after his father-in-law (Dave Krysko) and partners sold their Club Penguin to Disney for $350 million in 2008. I met Krysko at Mayor Colin Basran’s re-election kickoff Thursday and Krysko confirmed this is the same Dustin Sargent. I suggested Sargent get a web site launched right away.

Stef Van Meeteren: I could find nothing on line but, in last week’s Capital News, she answered a question on crime by quoting word for word (or so it seemed from memory as I didn’t take the time to check each word) from Josh Hoggan’s platform. Josh put his papers in to run for mayor and posted a 14-page campaign platform on his web site before dropping out. What gives here?

Loyal Wooldrige: Last name of the ballot but the first out of the gate. His web page (loyalkelowna.com) is the best of the lot when it comes to highlighting key points about him and his platform. He declared his intention to run back in May and has been at council and community events ever since. When I see him out and about he’s always warmly greeted by someone. He has a slogan (Encourage Kelowna) and a four “pillar” platform: Housing Affordability and Availability, Transportation Revolution, Tourism and Jobs and Complete Community. He’s the one newcomer who seems to be putting real time and effort into his campaign. Check his web page to see if you can support his positions.

Help: So, help me out here candidates.

There have been numerous letters to editors and columns advising people on how best to judge their candidates. The dominant message: do your research.

Candidates need to make that easy.

They’re in a tough 14-person race for one job. If we can’t easily learn who and what they are, the temptation is to simply vote for the incumbents – and that’s not necessarily the best idea.


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