Grassroots citizens want change

It didn't take long for the gloves to come off in the Kelowna Civic Election campaign.

That's the feeling of one Kelowna Councillor who's seat is the target of a campaign started by a local citizens group 'concerned about the current direction of city council.'

Council seats held by Charlie Hodge, Michele Rule, Angela Reid-Nagy and Kevin Craig are being targeted by FourChange.org.

"The past 6 years have seen delay & dysfunction at City Hall. Decisions are postponed, plans delayed, the talk goes on... while a slow economy affects us all. We want Council to work together and we need leadership," says the groups website

Hodge, who is completing his first term on council, says he's not surprised the group has come forward or that he is one of the councillors being targeted.

What does surprise him is where the attack is coming from.

"I was a little bit surprised that Nick Frost was behind it. That totally threw me," says Hodge.

"I've known Nick forever. I've sat on a number of committees with him and I've always looked at Nick as a bit of a friend and someone I went to for advice. I thought this was a bit of a blind side.

"I called him as soon as I found out and told him I was disappointed and surprised and said that after all these years of knowing me that it would have been appropriate to at least call me and talk about the issues he seems to think I have problems with."

Hodge, along with the other three targeted candidates say they are at a loss to comment on the specific nature of the groups grievences because they are not spelled out.

Angela Reid-Nagy "It's really difficult to understand what this group is supporting because they don't actually talk about any policies or specific leadership direction that they wish to take. They are just making some unfounded statements about the past without any real back-up or evidence."

"I don't think a council that really provides well balanced perspectives to important decisions should be called dysfunctional. Listening to the public and asking a developer, and even your own city staff, to go back and re-think a project or go back to the drawing board isn't an unnecessary delay. It's why we have public process in the first place."

Reid-Nagy says there are some in the community who think council should push through every high-rise and development, but says they have a job to listen to the public, something Reid-Nagy says she feels they have done very well.

Michele Rule "It's really hard for me to comment when they are not being specific about issues. It's very vague. They have never contacted me personally. I have always welcomed discussion with people, I'm very reachable so, I don't quite know what to say except it is an election and when there are no seats available in that sense, there's no one who's retired or stepped down, then of course candidates will have to talk about the current council.

"With the little bit of information I've managed to glean about this group I still have no idea what their issues are or how my values don't meet with theirs."

Rule says she hopes the group will unveil what they believe those members of council should have done differently in order to start a dialogue.

"I think people of Kelowna deserve to hear what the issues are, not just about personalities."

​Kevin Craig "I think it's good that there is a variety of opinion being brought forward. It's part of an election that people are going to have different views and they are going to advocate in favour of those views."

"I think our record is something to stand behind. I think we've achieved some real results for the community. We've been able to attract substantial infrastructure funding from other levels of government, we've implemented a new Official Community Plan, we've seen the biggest transit expansion in Kelowna's history and we are making steps toward the long term vision of Kelowna as an economically, environmentally and culturally sustainable city."

Craig says that's a record he is happy to stand behind.

FourChange.org states they believe in four principles:

  • Greater leadership on council
  • More effective decision making
  • Better teamwork throughout our city
  • Focus on the big picture - not pet projects

They have thrown their support behind current councillors Andre Blanleil, Robert Hobson, Luke Stack and Graeme James.

"These four are experienced, effective, and share our values. We will support four new strong candidates for council."

Hobson, contacted in Victoria, says he knows nothing about the group or the endorsement.

"Typically, I don't get involved in slates and I don't typically expect or asked to be endorsed by a slate," says Hobson.

"I'm an independent councillor but I'll take a look at this organization and what their objectives are."

Blanleil says he has been to meetings with FourChange.org and laid out his frustrations with the current council.

"I've been frustrated for the last three years and I think we haven't gone in some of the directions I would have liked to see us go," says Blanleil.

"I guess other people obviously have the same view. Everyone has the right to work as a group or endorse anyone to run for council or mayor."

Blanleil says the organization includes a cross section of the community. He says there were about 20 people at the meeting he attended.

He says this group is no different than residents associations across the city who have endorsed candidates for years.

In an e-mail sent to build support 'FourChange': Frost, owner of Castanet.net, and Competition Glass owner David Langton identified themselves as two members of the group. The rest have remained anonymous.

They claim to be an official Campaign Organization under municipal election rules and are seeking financial contributions to help 'get the word out.'

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