Castanet News has distributed a questionnaire to each candidate running for local council in the South Okanagan.
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 available here and is being updated daily.
Election day is Oct. 15.
Penticton council candidate: James Miller (incumbent)
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
I am an effective councillor because I started with 35 years of journalism experience including 14 in the Okanagan where I paid attention not only to Penticton council, but other councils, school boards and regional districts in the valley.
I'm non-partisan and am not a member of any political party. I live in Penticton and pay property tax here. As a rookie councillor at my first and second meetings, I gained my colleague's support to express our displeasure with Interior Health for abruptly pulling funding to Pathways. I've never been afraid to ask the hard questions and stand up for the public's best interests. That takes courage sometimes, but it also involves knowledge, respect and skill. I attend events and speak with people in person, truly having the pulse on our community.
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?
The No. 1 issue is the homeless/crime/opioid crisis. There's no magic bullet. Everyone says fix the problem, but few people offer plausible solutions. We do need to show compassion and love. Added policing and bylaw were positive first steps. Interior Health needs to restore its grant funding to Pathways.
Personally, I saved taxpayers $3,000 by not attending the UBCM junket in Whistler. Medicine Hat, Alta. is renowned across Western Canada as having created the best solution to these issues. Earmark the $3,000 I saved the city to fly our mayor, CAO and social service director to Medicine Hat for a day and see how they do things. Even if they brought back one new idea, that would be money well spent.
How would you make Penticton more affordable?
I was never a fan of paid parking in the downtown when many merchants are on life support. Additionally, I believe in sensible spending. As staffing levels and pet projects continue growing, so do our taxation levels. I hate to break the news, but a lot of Penticton families and seniors are hurting financially. Add to this global inflation that hasn't been seen since the 1980s.
For housing affordability, council must follow Peachland, Summerland, Lake Country and many other B.C. municipalities and limit Air BnBs to primary residence only. This will help open up the housing market. If re-elected, I will take a lead on this at the council table.
What is one example of a time you agreed with city council over the past term, and one when you disagreed?
Prior to joining council in July 2021, I fully supported the council on its hard stand against BC Housing. The people of Penticton elected John Vassilaki, not (housing minister) David Eby. And, for the most part, I agree with much of what the present council has done. Overall, council has done a pretty good job during extremely challenging times.
My one disagreement was the way staff handled The Peach concession contract. While I support the RFP (request for proposal) process, it needs an overhaul. I was offended that a dishonest press release was circulated to the public describing the new operators as "local." During Watergate that was called a "mistruth." Only Judy Sentes and I publicly expressed our displeasure on this.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
In my first budget as a member of council, I didn't bring any pet projects to the table because I knew we couldn't afford them. If a grant magically showed up, I would be in favour of sharing the love - 25 grand here, 10 grand there. Help multiple projects. Do festivals that are run by not-for-profit organizations, such as Peach City Beach Cruise, need one thing they can't afford that would advance them to the next level?
For downtown improvements, hire staff to power hose the sidewalks, keep garbage cans empty on weekends. Plant more trees. Just little things. For one major project, why not extend the Lakeshore walkway? That, arguably, is our best-used recreation facility in the city yet nobody talks about it.
Picture Penticton 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
I believe Penticton will continue to be an enviable place to live. Our lakes, hills, parks and natural beauty are not going anywhere. It's important not to overdevelop for the sake of making a fast buck today. Don't sell out future generations. While I've been critical of council and the city at times in the past, I always tried balancing it with positive stories which, in fact, outnumbered the negative.
Sharing positivity and love of community to your kids will encourage the next generation of civic leaders, volunteers, businesspeople and professionals. My vision for Penticton's future is progressive and optimistic, but, with some caution and discretion.