Castanet News has distributed a questionnaire to city council candidates in both Kelowna and West Kelowna to help voters get to know those putting their names forward. Between the two cities, 45 people are running for city councillor.
All candidates have been given the same questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity when needed. Responses will be published daily in the weeks ahead. Election day is Oct. 15.
Kelowna candidate: James Kay
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
I am a civil engineer, I have worked at city hall for five years, (2016-2021), I bring expertise in the issues around development, building, and infrastructure which council spends 80-90 per cent of their time deliberating. I am also a proud rotarian, philanthropist, volunteer, father, husband, and entrepreneur, employing Kelowna residents and having to live within our means, making payroll, trying to grow. I listen, I bring solutions, I make change. I believe we can respect the taxpayer and grow responsibly without passing debt to our kids.
In your view, what is the number one issue facing the city today, and how would you deal with it knowing city hall only has so much power?
Kelowna’s number one priority is community safety: homelessness, crime, policing, fire, bylaws. We need to be able to walk around our great city, attend events, performances, theatre, games, and simply live in our homes and neighbourhoods without fear. This means giving the resources and mandate as well as the performance expectations and metrics.
First, working with the province on mental health, shelters and short term care. Second, extending treatment programs. Third, addressing the housing crisis for first responders. Fourth expanding community programs like neighbourhood watch and a city-coordinated effort. We can do better!
It could be decades before a second bridge is built across Okanagan Lake. How do you deal with Kelowna's transportation bottleneck in the meantime?
As a transportation engineer, I don’t see the second bridge in my lifetime. We need a combination of expanding our network of transit and cycling and walking, yet also recognizing that a significant percentage of our population drives, so ensuring that road extensions keep up with growth.
Focusing on density, especially in the cores and around transit hubs. I fully support the Clement/Highway 33 extension as the next critical investment. Not rebuilding Parkinson Recreation Centre in its current location. Burtch and Frost Extensions. South Perimeter Road. By balancing our transportation investments, we can alleviate bottlenecks now.
Do you think Kelowna is growing too fast?
Kelowna is one of Canada’s most desirable places to live: either we were born here, or we moved here for all the right reasons. Understandable that many others want to move here. Our pace of growth is based on demand to live here: how we accommodate that growth is the key.
No, it’s not too fast. We are too slow to adapt. Incentivize attainable housing and affordable rentals, create new housing opportunities on city-owned, rural and suburban lands, raise the height limits on towers that respect sight lines and massing; support social/non-profit housing, use the numerous tools under council’s control.
How would you make Kelowna more affordable?
Kelowna council can control only a fraction of affordability for its residents, but community safety means fewer homeowners and businesses replacing the cost of thefts/vandalism/loss. Attainable housing means lower costs/charges/fees, as well as incentives that ultimately reduce the cost to the end user, innovative policies to incentivize investment, private partnerships, sponsorships. Efficient operations appreciates time Is money, so 18 months becomes six. Kelowna should continue diversifying its revenues so it is less reliant on the taxpayer and developer; allowing for greater affordability for all!
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
The City of Kelowna is a massive corporation, 1,030 staff, paying enormous debt, growing quickly and spending beyond its means. We must invest in several benchmarking studies to ensure we have the emergency services we need, and how to support them. We must evaluate incentive programs for housing, rentals, energy efficiency, transportation optimization, streamlined operations, and others so that we have a clear path forward.
$1 million is a huge sum to residents, employees and businesses, but paltry to City operations. We need to deploy that money to evaluate and optimize operations, invest where it is impactful, and reduce where appropriate.