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: Tom Macauley
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
Community service is in my DNA. From the time I was six years old, I have been involved in some sort of public service—I’m passionate about making an impact wherever I am. While I have a lot of ideas for Kelowna, my main passion is to work with others to find creative and bold solutions that are in the best interest of individuals and families across our city. Even if someone is completely opposite political views, I will make every effort to find common ground.
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?
Right now, we have a major problem with perspective. So much of the current political dialogue is focused on reactionary measures. We need to focus on prevention. An example of this is the issue of hiring more police officers— while I agree we need more officers; I also believe that community safety should start with creating programs and spaces for vulnerable young adults and youth. This would help break the cycle of harm we seeing in so many neighbourhoods. City hall can only do so much, but city council can certainly make a huge impact through formal lobbying efforts to upper levels of government. To the credit of the current city council, they have proven to be very effective at this. We need more of that.
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?
We need to start formal advocacy for a second bridge right now. Our indifference about it will only prolong that process. In the meantime, we must take as much action as possible to increase unencumbered traffic flow on Harvey and other high traffic areas. A traffic reduction task force of experts, staff, and councillors should be struck to work on advocacy and creative ideas for reducing traffic. Underpasses, overpasses, reduction of lights, all need to be on the table. City council needs to make infrastructure a priority on every agenda.
Do you think Kelowna is growing too fast?
There's no question Kelowna is growing fast. Possibly too fast. But the problem is not that our city is growing — the problem seems to be that city hall is not growing fast enough. We have 8 part-time councillors and 1 full-time mayor that are responsible for all the creative solutions on every single issue. We need more representation and more brain power working on these issues. City hall is playing catch up on everything -- if we are going to get ahead of our problems, we need to change our strategy on how to solve them. See my suggested reforms here.
How would you make Kelowna more affordable?
We need to look at what is causing the rental inventory shortage first. The glaring issue is that there is not enough student housing at UBC and Okanagan College. We need to demand much more in our relationships with these entities. If UBC continues to increase its student population without immediate increases in housing, we are going to continue to have an incredibly high stressed rental inventory. Read more here. We also need to re-evaluate carriage house development costs and we need to cut red tape for farmers and orchardists so that they can put up worker housing much faster. One farmer I spoke with had to throw away a huge amount of produce because he simply didn't have enough workers. Why didn't he have enough workers? He didn't have enough worker housing because city hall had ridiculous rules in place to slow things down such as "buffer" trees between the worker housing and the orchards. We need to make it easier for farmers to operate, not harder. The harder we make the process, the more the inventory will be impacted.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
A million dollars doesn't mean as much as it used to. But I would immediately put that money towards creating accessible programs for young adults. These programs could include: a city youth advisory committee, a career mentorship program and job shadowing, educational trips, weekly fun group activities, and more. It's not the buildings and roads that make a community-- it's the people. And if we want to see our community flourish in the future, we need to invest in that future and its people.