Councillor candidate Mike Pearson (right) speaks during a forum at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Monday as Patrick Nicol and Mary-Jo O’Keefe look on.

Councillor candidate Mike Pearson (right) speaks during a forum at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Monday as Patrick Nicol and Mary-Jo O’Keefe look on.

Councillor hopefuls push for city review

Many of the people wanting to sit on Vernon council are calling for more scrutiny at city hall.

Many of the people wanting to sit on Vernon council are calling for more scrutiny at city hall.

All 15 councillor candidates took part in a forum at the Performing Arts Centre Monday and some are pushing for a review of core services.

“When you look at the last eight years, city staff has grown by a huge amount,” said Catherine Lord.

“We need to look at what they are doing.”

Bob Spiers believes taxpayers could benefit from an independent review of operations.

“It could provide different methods for delivery of services. It may identify new sources of revenue,” he said.

However, Ruth Hoyte is concerned a review could cost $80,000.

“I want to know the clear parameters of a review. If we can learn from other communities (that have  done this) without spending the money, let’s do it,” she said.

Jonathon McMurray says there is a reason staffing levels have increased at city hall.

“Most of the positions are mandated by the RCMP or they are from providing services to the regional district (by contract). They are doing a good job,” he said.

Scott Anderson believes a streamlined process for permits and other approvals would benefit the economy.

“Some of the red tape needs to be cut. That’s what a core review will do,” he said.

Mike Pearson claims Vernon’s construction sector has stalled because building permit fees are the third highest in the province.

“I don’t like what’s going on. If we dropped the costs, we may get more development in town,” he said.

The candidates were also asked if they support new facilities for the art gallery and museum.

“There are things that will attract people to town,” said Mary-Jo O’Keefe of cultural amenities and trails acting as an economic catalyst.

According to Brian Quiring, access to arts and culture can help keep families in Vernon.

“We need to invest in anything that will keep our kids here.”

James Todd pushed for consistent funding for culture and college art courses.

“If you want to attract business, a vibrant culture is essential,” he said.

Jack Gilroy, though, urged some caution.

“We’re coming out of a recession, and a gallery and museum are $12 million. I’ll support them if we can find the money,” he said.

Shawn Lee was a little more optimistic about the situation.

“We can find a way when we work with our regional partners and dedicated people with vision,” he said.

Another hot-button topic Monday was the city’s proposal to reduce 43rd Avenue from four to three lanes of traffic.

“There are many issues we need to address in a more efficient manner than we did with this one,” said Patrick Nicol, adding that the matter has polarized the community.

Lily Kerr questioned bicycle lanes on 43rd Avenue because they won’t be used in the winter.

“The merchants don’t want it and council should listen to them,” she said.

Poverty was also on the agenda at the forum.

“Seniors are struggling. They can’t afford food. We need hard core affordable housing initiatives,” said Kelly Fehr.

Juliette Cunningham says the city developed an affordable housing strategy but current council has let it collect dust.

“I’d like to see some concrete things done (with housing),” she said.