By ROY WOOD
With nine candidates running for four seats on Osoyoos town council, Tuesday evening’s all-candidates forum at the Sonora Centre, at least gave the 200 or so voters in attendance a chance to put names with faces.
Questions from the public were for the most part polite and the candidates’ answers generally well informed and courteous.
The candidates for a councillor spot sat at long table and answered questions according to a randomly assigned seating order. Impressions and highlights from the candidates are recorded below in the same order:
Incumbent Jim King, first elected to council in 2014, suggested that the town should consider a public-private partnership (PPP) as a way of dealing with the looming necessity of replacing the decrepit town hall. He suggested the town hall could be part of a multi-purpose building along with retail and possibly residential uses.
He returned to the public-private theme when discussing a walk-in health clinic, saying the town might work with a developer to build a multi-use facility and “solve more than one problem.”
In response to a question on how the town might create opportunities for young people and young families, King said one of his goals if he is re-elected will be work toward a regional swimming pool. He did not sketch in any details.
Perennial gadfly Sy Murseli, who is running for at least the fifth time, continued to beat his drum on the town’s profligate spending habits and touted his “22 years as a council watch dog.”
Brian Harvey answered a question about what the town can do about affordable housing by pointing out that it’s the private sector who builds the homes. But, he said, there is a role for the town, particularly in coming up with ways to use creative zoning and planning to encourage builders.
Having a walk-in medical clinic in Osoyoos is “notionally a good idea,” he said, but the details around costs and location and myriad other issues will require extensive study.
Harvey, who has been in Osoyoos for four years, touted his two careers, one a private-sector engineer – one as a federal government lawyer, as providing him with a “useful skill set.”
Kenny Music suggested that part of the answer to attracting businesses and young families to the community might lie in encouraging residents to shop locally. On the issue of accommodating transient farm workers during picking season, he suggested that local bylaws might be used to persuade orchardists to provide places for their pickers to stay.
Music said he recently retired to Osoyoos following a stint as a supervisor with Canada Post and, before that, executive director of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce.
Myers Bennett provided the evening’s only foray into populist politics, answering a question about crime and policing with, “The biggest problem is the court system.” He said offenders are arrested and back on the street in no time. “Why aren’t they in jail?” he asked.
On affordable housing, he said the town should be offering tax incentives to builders. He mentioned an acquaintance who left the South Okanagan for Penticton because the city offered a seven-year tax break on his developments there.
Bennett cited his chamber of commerce, Rotary Club and Destination Osoyoos connections, along with his impending retirement that will give him time to devote to council duties.
C.J. Rhodes, running for a fourth consecutive term as a councillor, provided the evening with a rare vision for the future when he suggested a combined convention centre and town hall on the soon-to-be-available site of the Osoyoos Museum near Gyro Park.
On a walk-in clinic for the town, Rhodes said the issue is “complicated and complex,” but residents should educate themselves about it. Then, said Rhodes, “I would like to see it go to a referendum.”
Regarding public consumption of marijuana, he said he would like to see regulations that parallel consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
Shelley MacIntyre responded to the question on opportunities for young people by pointing out how she “was recently struck (by) why we don’t have more mountain biking trails” in the town.
Regarding the walk-in clinic, she pointed out that making the town an attractive place for medical professionals to choose to live is an important piece of the puzzle.
McIntyre said that even though she has been here just two years, this “is my home.” She acknowledged that while she has no political background, she will bring to the job of councillor “30 years of established competencies.”
Sherani Theophilus suggested that Osoyoos is well-suited to attract people in the high-tech sector. “(They) could live in a beautiful place and work remotely,” she said.
As for affordable housing, she suggested that a public transportation system that can move people to where they work from areas where the housing is less expensive.
Theophilus has lived in Osoyoos since 2011 and is a board member of the South Okanagan Similkameen Mental Wellness Society. As a councillor, she said, she would do research and acquire the appropriate knowledge before making any decisions.
Mayor Sue McKortoff took a seat at the table and participated in the conversation. She is, however, running essentially unopposed. The only other mayoral candidate is Doug Pederson, who didn’t attend Tuesday’s event and is running on a barely comprehensible platform vaguely in favour of BC-grown marijuana.
Jane Long, an Osoyoos accountant, did not attend the forum. She told ODN in an email that she wasn’t there because of “previous family and business commitments that could not be changed.”
Tuesday’s forum was sponsored by the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce and the Osoyoos Times.
Advance polls in the civic election are being held this Wednesday and next week in the council chamber at town hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
General voting day is Saturday, October 20 from 8 to 8 at the Sonora Centre.