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Civic election: Rick Webber running for Kelowna city council

Get to know Rick Webber

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.

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Kelowna candidate: Rick Webber

Why would you make an effective city councillor?

I first started attending city council meetings as a reporter over 40 years ago. Over the years in various communities, I have seen numerous councillors become trapped by their own public image. Pro-development types feel they must vote in favour of every project. Anti-development types will vote against them all. I feel my strength would be to go into each decision with an open mind. I would thoroughly question developers and city staff, opponents and proponents, before deciding how to vote. I am also an independent candidate with no ties to industry, civic political parties, or third-party sponsors.

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?

Public safety is an issue that I wouldn’t have said is my top concern in past years. But today it is. In the past two years, I have been attacked or accosted twice. And I’m not alone. In a recent survey for the city, 25 percent of Kelowna residents reported they have been the victim of crime in the past year. We need to do more to maintain public safety and reduce property crimes against residents and businesses. I certainly support council’s goal to hire more RCMP officers. At the same time, the city must continue to work with senior governments to increase sentences for repeat offenders and to provide more effective aid for those with addiction.

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?

A first step would be to reduce the number of red lights that drivers coming into Kelowna encounter immediately after leaving the bridge. I’m thinking of Abbott Street in particular. In West Kelowna, there had been plans for more overpasses to eliminate certain traffic lights. Those projects should be reinstated. While this is a provincial initiative, local municipalities should work together to create a made-in -the-Okanagan transportation plan to present to the government. Elsewhere in Kelowna, it has been many years since any major thoroughfares were widened and improved. It’s time more of our road construction budget goes toward improving our busiest streets and intersections.

Do you think Kelowna is growing too fast?

Kelowna is growing at a rate that is difficult to manage. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Canadians discovered what a desirable place it is to live. The challenge is to meet the demands of a such a quickly growing population while maintaining the community we love. At the same time, the city must take a closer look at the potential impact of major developments, particularly high-rise condo towers. For instance, how many towers can the downtown support in terms of the environment, local streets, water, sewer, and other infrastructure? And perhaps most importantly, does the Kelowna Fire Department have the necessary resources to fight a major fire in one of these buildings safely and effectively?

How would you make Kelowna more affordable?

Ironically, one answer is to maintain growth. Encouraging construction of more new homes is one way council can try to prevent rapidly rising housing prices. The city must also seek out partnerships for the construction of affordable housing, both for sale and rent.

If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?

One million dollars doesn’t cover many new facilities or services any more. But the first thing that comes to mind is to put the money toward increasing parking availability downtown.



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