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. An interactive database of Okanagan candidates, including previous questionnaire stories, is here and is being updated daily.
Election day is Oct. 15.
Kelowna candidate: Noel Wentworth
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
I am very proud to have been born and raised here in Kelowna, and can say I have seen some major changes throughout the years.
Amongst many free musical education activities, since the age of eleven I have been an active volunteer, connector and fundraiser serving on the Kelowna Kiwanis Music Festival, creating musical bursaries, produced drum circles for at risk children and championed the MADD Report Impaired Drivers signs around Kelowna. My initiatives have helped raise over $270,000 to help children locally.
As a teacher, I am a good listener and relatable. I genuinely want to learn more about the issues and concerns that are impacting our citizens to be able to make informed decisions and bring questions forward to city council and staff. As a business owner, I can offer the perspective of the trials of running a business, staffing, training, applications and expenses.
I will be a listener and a community advocate on council. People need to have representatives on council who are willing to listen to resident concerns and are connected to important community priorities. I will be that councillor for Kelowna.
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?
Crime and Safety. Crime feels out of control and many don’t feel safe in our community. In fact a recent City of Kelowna survey found that one in four residents has been the victim of crime in Kelowna. I know that many issues with crime are out of council's hands, but there are items within local control that I will advocate on.
Understanding that desperate people do desperate things and trying to get to the bottom of why crime happens in the first place is such a spectrum of issues. There are things that have been done, things that are being worked on and things planned for the future. Some have been successful, others seemingly not so.
I do support the building of the long awaited complex care housing for our most vulnerable and alternatives to wet housing. 20 new beds is a great start but we still have a lot of advocacy work ahead to get more of these needed facilities. We also need more social services and additional city monitoring. I believe we should have a serious consideration of the costs, benefits and drawbacks of municipal police. Studies have shown that more lighting downtown would help deter crime, as would better clean-up of tagging and graffiti.
On that note, I would ask downtown building owners if they would consider certain alley walls to be used as a way for our spray artists to practice and express their art, turning our unused areas of downtown into beautiful art and cultural conversation. Maybe this kind of crime could be turned into a positive for everyone. With more lighting this could be a win-win, and has been successful in other communities.
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 all need for traffic to flow through town more effectively.
Seemingly, the lights on the highway and certain high traffic roads are creating the most problems. The least expensive way to address this would be (better?) timed lighting which would be helpful in a number of areas of our city like the on ramp to the bridge from Campbell Road.
I often wonder if we're ready to start eliminating lights in high traffic areas where possible and start working towards on and off ramps, overpasses and underpasses to keep traffic moving.
Even though I would love to see more bikes being used, as well as more electric forms of transportation, cars are a cultural and work/school necessity. Our current public transit system feels behind for the size of our city and we need more options to get to where we need to go on time. In an ideal world more busses and bus times would be helpful, but at a cost.
Do you think Kelowna is growing too fast?
It certainly feels like it is. With schools over capacity and our infrastructure lagging behind, it’s understandable that we all feel like that.
Some believe halting the growth of Kelowna is the answer, I don’t know if that’s even possible and I don’t necessarily feel like that’s the best decision either.
I think that we need to come up with good ways of with dealing with Kelowna’s growth that are constructive and productive. We need more housing, rentals, infrastructure all while thinking of our environment for future generations to come.
Growth and progress is a natural evolution of cities over time. We live in one of the most desirable places in Canada and we know growth will happen, but we need to better manage that growth.
How would you make Kelowna more affordable?
We need more cost effective housing developments and more affordable rentals in Kelowna.
I am pro development. I know that we need more housing inventory which in theory, will help keep costs lower for homes to purchase and rent.
I would like to see the Development Cost Charges (DCC) evaluated based on square footage not "per door" which may save developers money which in turn could help keep housing costs slightly lower.
The YeYe Housing society in Kelowna has a very interesting plan where the goal is for a potential home owner to own 75% equity of their home. In a nut shell, the purchaser would own 75% of the market price of the house instead of 100%. When the owner sells, they would receive 75% of the sale, the society would retain 25%. This would be for those with less than $150,000 combined income and have lived in Kelowna for at least one year. This type of private innovation in the affordable housing sector is something we need to applaud and encourage.
My biggest question right now is how many homes are being built and not being occupied year round. Or housing being purchased as an Air BnB from someone out of town and rented out by tourists. For example, it’s my understanding there is a single family home on my street that is being exclusively run as an Air BnB purchased by someone from another city. This is an unoccupied home. There isn’t even a family living there and we need full time housing for our residents. We need to take care of our own.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
We know that to prevent future crime and homelessness we have to invest in our youth, especially at-risk youth. In a municipal budget $1 million doesn't go as far as it used to, but for a local non-profit the number of people it could help is simply incredible. I've seen this first-hand through the various fundraising efforts I've led right here in Kelowna.