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: Christopher Bocskei
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
I have been an active community member serving on boards and committees including the community advisory committee for McCurdy Place and as director of the Rutland Residents Association. For the past 30 years, I have volunteered in our schools, community organizations, events, coached diverse ability sports and coached soccer. Recently, I was awarded the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Pin for community service.
I will listen to the advice of the professionals, check facts, do due diligence and listen to the concerns of Kelowna residents before making decisions that impact them. Through my own personal experiences, I bring a different perspective to the table that allows me to consider the needs of all, regardless of socio-economic status.
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?
As someone who has volunteered with children for many years I understand the importance of community safety. Re-opening the community policing offices which have been closed for some time would assist in patrolling and discouraging crime, as well as making the neighbourhoods safer. But community policing still needs to be supported by RCMP, and social services and our police force is woefully understaffed.
If the city is not able to recruit RCMP officers for our growing city, the city will need to reconsider the benefits and costs of a municipal police force. I would also be in support of an initiatives aimed at registering all bicycles stored on city property and parks. One of my recommendations for McCurdy Place was that all bicycles were to be stored in separate storage area with video surveillance, not in the residents private rooms.
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?
To someone who grew up in Hamilton, Ontario and was able to experience firsthand the benefits of well-timed lights and one-way streets, Kelowna streets lack planning. Although it will be impossible to completely eliminate the bottleneck until a new bridge is built, there are changes we can make to increase our traffic flow. In the interim, eliminating turning lanes from Abbott Street onto the highway, removing features that actually tend to slow traffic down, as well as synchronizing the traffic lights to manage traffic flow will help ensure traffic moves through town.
Do you think Kelowna is growing too fast?
Kelowna does have limits to the size that it can grow based in part on natural resources and its physical limitations. That said, we can't stop people from moving to Kelowna, it is a beautiful town surrounding by mountains and parks with wonderful people. Kelowna is going to grow; focussing our efforts on sustainable growth, infrastructure and services will ensure we meet our goals. To that end, Kelowna is growing too fast thereby outpacing the infrastructure and the expectations of the Official Community Plan.
How would you make Kelowna more affordable?
Kelowna needs a balance of housing options which include affordable rentals. As developers enjoy tax breaks to incentivize them to build developments in specific areas, tax exemptions could also be used to offset the cost of rent. For example, the city gave tax exemptions to two properties with 256 units on Springfield Rd for ten years totalling $7.8 million. Using that same math, we could apply $30,468.75 per unit in rental discounts of that same 10-year period to a similar affordable development.
I would also look at changing the way development fees are determined. Presently, the same park fees are charged for either half a duplex or an entire home, it's based on a door fee not per square foot. Parks fees are determined by a matrix that does not consider density. However, the best but seemingly worst option is to extend the permanent growth boundary. This is would have an immediate impact on the value of land, and although it is unpopular it is one very effective option, which the provincial government may choose to do.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
I would invest it in community programs where it really will go a long way. As someone who has volunteered and worked in community programs, I know firsthand the benefits. Families make connections, build friendships, support each other, laugh and learn together in community centres. Successful community programs that engage young and old contribute to building healthy relationships. I believe that if we make families stronger through supportive community programs, we can help prevent homelessness and drug addiction. Sadly, we can't house everybody, but we can do more to prevent homelessness.