Get to know the candidates – Rossland Council

Get to know the candidates - 2011 municipal election, Rossland council

  • Nov. 9, 2011 8:00 a.m.

With the 2011 municipal elections on Nov. 19, the Trail Daily Times has offered candidates in each community the opportunity to express in their own words responses to three questions posed by the editorial staff.

Why are you running for election?

What is the biggest issue facing your community?

How do you hope to resolve that issue?

Candidates were given a maximum allotment of 500 words for their response. Some reached the maximum while others opted to be more succinct.

Some submissions have been edited  for brevity and space.

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Times will print the responses from candidates in Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale, Rossland, Area A as well as candidates from school trustees.

Today, the Times will highlight the candidates for Rossland council. Mayor Greg Granstrom has been returned by acclamation leaving 10 candidates vying for the six council positions. Due to space limitations, we will present the answers from five of the candidates today and the remaining five in Thursday’s edition.

Sharon Wieder

I believe I gained a finger on the community pulse through working with organizations (Tourism Rossland rep for RCAC, Museum and Black Jack, Greater Trail Restorative Justice facilitator for four years.

There is no single biggest issue facing Rossland council.  Here are my thoughts: My stance on the Washington-Columbia upgrades and downtown revitalization is that our current water and sewer infrastructure was built by the early pioneers.  They did a great job and it has lasted a long time.  It’s necessary to replace it now and done properly, it will be another 100 years before it needs to be redone. This is an opportunity for some growth and change and attracting new businesses to the main corridor

Food Security – We need to continue working with groups like the community garden.  Rossland has a great history of food production – Chinese gardens example- that needs to be revisited.  Turn lawns into veggie gardens!  Work with regional and provincial bodies to rework legislation so that producers can more easily and affordably produce food locally.

Recreation is a huge benefit of living in the Kootenay.  We have a lot of organized programs in place.  These cost a lot of money to maintain and require constant babysitting to keep pace.  Why not take advantage more of the ‘natural’ opportunities like the pioneers did?  Kids learn best through self-directed play.  Trust your parental instincts to provide them with what you know and then learn and grow with them to discover what you don’t know.

Rossland would benefit greatly from supporting the current trend of young families moving into town.  This strategy would include ensuring amenities are expanded by encouraging business growth that would support those amenities as well as offer new businesses that would bring in tourism. Work with the visions to action document to create a unique Rossland vision that would attract full time residents and businesses.

Regional issues to focus on include public transportation and expanding ride sharing activities; Columbia River Treaty renewal and garbage management that strengthens recycling and composting to reduce overall landfill volume.

I believe that change starts at home and that Rossland can set an example of watching the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.  It needs to focus more on taking care of the environment and giving it more respect as it is a key resource for growing tourism and sustaining our desired lifestyle.

Rossland challenges need to be met with a positive attitude.  Focus on what you want and make a plan to get these.  Realize that along the way there will be obstacles.  Rossland was built on challenges.

My challenge to Rossland is be different!  Create our own model that others will look to emulate!  Take advantage of all that is uniquely ours!

Tim Thatcher

Born and raised in Rossland. Worked at Teck for 37 years, 33 of them with the Fire Dept. I have been with the Rossland Volunteer Fire Dept. for 23 years, Assistant Chief since 1994. Served three terms on the board of directors for the Warfield Credit Union.

I have been contemplating running for council for the last two elections. With a major, multi-million dollar project, and some pressing issues before council, I feel now is the time to get involved.

It is going to take co-operation and respect amongst all members of council, not to mention hard work, to achieve positive results for the community.

I think the biggest issue facing council in the next year is the Columbia-Washington upgrade.

What can the city afford, what type of streetscape should be considered? How will this affect taxes if no grants are obtained?

Rossland’s tax base is primarily residential and must be taken into consideration. All businesses and services in the vicinity will be disrupted, their concerns have to be addressed well ahead of time so plans can be made.

A committee of business owners, council members and interested citizens should be formed to resolve the issues. I think I would bring a positive influence to this descision process.

Kathy Wallace

Rossland resident with three years on Rossland City Council.

Three years ago, I told the community that I had invested my life in Rossland. I stand by that claim and add that, now Rossland, you have invested in me! A newly elected member of a city council commits to a very steep learning curve and much of the first term is spent in developing the foundational understanding required to be effective in the position.  My learning curve was arguably steeper because I fulfilled the roles of two positions.

Rossland is a great place to raise a family. It’s not perfect, nothing is; but there are times that it’s darn close. Community decisions need to reflect protection of the difficult- to- define qualities that make Rossland so special. We are fortunate that significant efforts involving substantial community engagement have yielded foundational guiding documents – the Strategic Sustainability Plan and its application in the Official Community Plan, and currently the updating of the Zoning Bylaw. These documents provide direction to the decision makers (city council) and are constantly referred to by staff as they make recommendations to council. They are “living documents” meaning that they are not static but adaptable, in order to address the changing needs of the community. They allow the community to be proactive rather than reactive and they provide an assurance that the community will become what it wants to be.

I have had the responsibility and the privilege of representing our community on the RDKB Board of Directors for the full duration of this council term. My intention from the outset was to improve Rossland’s relationship with the regional district and the other communities.

A municipal Director’s role is a balancing act. One must represent one’s own community but also act on behalf of the regional district as a whole. It is sometimes a challenge to find the compromise between the greater good of an individual community and the greater good of the region as a whole. During these very challenging times when significant decreases in funding for social programs and significant provincial downloading are forcing municipalities into greater responsibilities and causing greater burden on local property taxes, I believe that solutions can be found through cooperative partnerships. I believe solutions will be found by recognizing the interdependency of our local communities and discussing our needs respectfully and in good faith to build the necessary relationship of trust.

Jill Spearn

Rossland resident and full time local elementary school teacher. Two terms on Rossland City Council.

As I seek re-election for a third term, I consider the next three years representing the citizens of Rossland and this special community in rural BC. I can often be seen strolling the many trails with my canine retriever ‘Prince’. After recently attending the Union of BC Municipalities convention I realized that being a politician is something I find interesting, energizing and even exciting. I have worked hard to be engaged in the ongoing issue regarding the status of Rossland schools. I am currently the Education liaison to the Vision for Small Schools committee, thereby, keeping the council and community informed.

Our school district overall is experiencing the same trends as other rural districts with declining enrolment and I see that one of my most important roles on council is to be sure we are making sound decisions about how we can retain and promote kindergarten to grade 12 within our city. Having K-12 allows us to be a ‘full’ service community and this is very important to the sustainability of Rossland.

I am also in favour of the synergies that may be in our future with the coming together of an awesome community school, a growing international student program now mandated by the province, a skate park and other potential development in the Emcon lot. I would be more than pleased to see a modernization of the lands in that area. This is supported both by the Official Community Plan and the Visions to Action Sustainability Plan.

Additionally, the Columbia Ave. and Washington infrastructure project and repaving of these main arteries, complete with new water, sewer and storm sewer pipes along with streetscape changes, need to be fiscally managed well, in addition to reducing the negative impacts on the downtown businesses.

These I see are two important issues that will need past experience and a team approach, and that I can offer. The recreation stalemate is also a popular issue and I would like to see further conversation following the election.

I sincerely hope to be at the council table for Round 3 and look forward to representing the diversity of folks that call Rossland home.

Kathy Moore

Editor’s Note: Kathy Moore has been out of the country for several weeks and submitted a brief outline prior to her departure and before questions were issued by the Trail Times. Here is a brief summary of her background and platform.

Being on council for the last three years has been a tremendous learning experience. In 2008 I wanted to join council primarily to help implement the Strategic Sustainability Plan (SSP) that so many Rosslanders had worked so diligently to create. This plan is integral to the Official Community Plan that was adopted in 2008 and guides Rossland.

Her priorities, if elected are; developing economuc diversity that responds to our changing world, promoting and protecting the natural attributes of Rossland, protecting our unique culture and sense of community, promoting conservation, being responsive to the uncertain impacts of climate change, ensuring responsible development and keeping Rossland a great place to play, work, raise a family and retire.

At the time of this writing, council was continuing to work on revisions to the Development Cost Charges bylaw (DCCs). I am very interested in exploring more creative options that will be fair to everyone- developers, existing taxpayers and future residents. DCCs are only one tool in the municipal tool kit and they may or may not be the most suitable for Rossland. I want to make sure that whatever the final bylaw looks like, it’s equitable for all.

I would like to foster improved relations with our neighboring municipalities. There is plenty of opportunity for collaboration on recreation, sport and event hosting, water and sewer treatment plant plans. Our region is too small to perpetuate the parochialism of the past. I would encourage more dialogue and rapport with other elected officials and develop some agreements that will benefit all our communities.

Rossland has some wonderfully unique buildings and features, like the Miners’ Hall and the mine tour at the Museum. These need to be preserved and this too will take some investment. The heritage aspects of town contribute to Rossland’s appeal but this requires the dedicated effort of volunteers and the city. I strongly support these efforts.

There are so many things that are happening in the city these days. Tourism Rossland, with support of the city and local tourism providers is working hard to promote Rossland as an all season resort destination. It’s a lively place and I believe it’s important to elect representatives who want to support the principles of sustainability, who aren’t content with the status quo but are willing to look for new and creative ways to solve the challenges that will inevitably face the city. With a strong team of progressive councillors directing our very competent city staff we can accomplish a lot and continue to be proud of our town.

David Klein

I am a new resident/home owner to Rossland.

Rossland has a unique community and culture, and I am interested in exploring and expanding this great town.

Having worked in the environmental field for the last twenty years, I have come to love and respect our environment.

The Visions to Actions sustainability planning process creating the Strategic Sustainability Plan, and the Official Community Plan will help us create an attractive and sustainable community into 2030, and I am enthusiastic about helping continue this process put forth by the residents.

I think the above/below ground revitalization on Columbia and Washington Avenues is our biggest community issue, is long pass due, and will be great for residents, business and tourism.

Cary Fisher

I believe that Rossland needs to move beyond potential and start looking at ways to grow.  I am for growth and development in our town.  While it needs to be sustainable it also needs to be measurable and attainable.  A lot of good work has been done by the Sustainability group but we now need results.   I would love to see the schools stay open in Rossland along with our other amenities like rinks, pools and parks but for that we need people to live here.

Rossland has a higher cost structure than most communities in the region.  By that I mean property taxes are higher in Rossland.  There are reasons given for the elevated taxes that include, a lack of industrial tax base compared to residential tax base, an aging infrastructure and geographic constraints.  So the real question is how do we pay for our basic services in Rossland while keeping our taxes in line with similar communities in our region so that we can remain comparable when someone chooses to live in the region?

This is the main question for Rossland City council.  Keep taxes in check while providing, roads, sewer services and water.

Long term planning in consultation with the citizens of Rossland is not enough but it is a start.  This is partially done under provincial mandate to provide a financial budget and partially done by the Sustainability committee but I would suggest we are not looking at our cost structure close enough.

Growing revenue without raising taxes is not a black box.  Rossland needs more businesses that base their operation in Rossland.  In turn those businesses higher people.  Finally people work for companies and decide to settle in Rossland by either renting homes or buying them.  Under the current property tax regime Rosslanders pay the highest taxes in the region.  We need more people to share the burden.

We need to be actively working with the Teck personnel department to assist them with new recruits looking to relocate.  Under the contract with the city the Chamber of Commerce could be charged with the task of touring people around the community pointing out all the positive attributes Rossland has to offer.  We can’t be the best kept secret in British Columbia anymore.  We have world class skiing, mountain biking, hiking, golfing and a beautiful historical downtown.  We should be people’s first choice when they decided to move, retire, start a business or work in the region. The barriers that these new citizens have are easily identified.

The issue is resolved by illuminating all the obvious attributes and removing all the barriers.

Laurie Charlton

I’m a 70 years young retiree. I grew up in Warfield and moved to Rossland about 40 years ago after graduating from university with a PhD in chemistry.  Since arriving in Rossland, I’ve been continuously involved in community affairs including 17 years as a Councillor and two years as a Director for the RDKB.

I’m running for Council because I care about Rossland.  I want to make sure that things are done correctly and fairly to protect the interests of all residents and taxpayers.

Rossland’s biggest issue is the high level of taxation.  According to government statistics, Rossland had the 12th highest per capita tax rate in the province in 2008.  In 2011 we were ninth highest.  That’s a direct result of the budgets approved by the current Council.  With the impending expenditures on the Columbia/Washington project and upgrades to the regional sewer system, that per capita cost will rise significantly unless unnecessary spending is reined in.

Capital projects should be focused on upgrades of our essential services.  Citizens must be given a direct opportunity to decide whether major projects should proceed rather than using the “alternative process” for elector approval as was done for the $6 million Columbia/Washington loan authorization bylaw.

We should work to provide affordable housing options, particularly for seniors.  I do not believe that $300,000+ condos represent “affordable” housing options for most people.

During the 1980’s, significantly more development occurred in Rossland than is happening now.  There were five people working in City Hall at that time.  Now we have eleven.  We should look at reductions in management staff by sharing services with our neighbours, such as the planning, building inspection, and emergency preparedness functions.  In the long term, amalgamation of all local communities could result in decreased costs by eliminating duplicate services.

Young families need good paying jobs.  We must work with our neighbours to attract high value-added industries and businesses to create those jobs.  Teck is already involved with businesses (5N Plus and KC Recycling for example) that integrate with their operations.

Many businesses would benefit from improved transportation routes into the USA.  We must continue working with our neighbours to create an efficient low elevation highway into the US.

We have a flourishing health services sector whose location continues to be threatened by a move to another community.  Rossland offers an opportunity to attract specialized medical services to space already available in the former Mater Miseracordiae hospital.

Jody Blomme

I’m actively involved in the Rossland Lions’ Club and am on the executive boards of the Rossland Legion and the Rossland Mountain Film Festival. What I bring to the table are my many years of experience working on community Boards of Directors, both as Director and President.

Aside from that experiential background, I bring to the table the belief that, ultimately, councillors are representing Rosslanders, not themselves.  Councillors need to keep a constant ear to the community, encourage feedback, and then use this input to make what would be all the more competent and practical a decision.

I don’t believe that any group of six councillors can come up with all best solutions on their own; they need public input.  There is always going to be a Rosslander out there with an even better idea or a better solution to a problem.  Council needs to hear it and consider it.

I’m running for council because I think Rossland is an incredible place and I want to always be an active part of it.  Community involvement is extremely important to me, and I see working on council as the ultimate community service role.

As well, there are some important issues coming up and I really want to be a part of the decision-making process, to make sure all the right things are being considered.

Right now, the Washington-Columbia infrastructure and design project is the biggest issue facing Rossland City Council, in that it is a tremendous expense, it will inconvenience a lot of people for a long time, and it will change the face of Rossland forever.

Many issues need to be explored to ensure the money and time are spent responsibly.  Just to name a few of these:

We have to consider if every aspect of the cosmetic changes are worth the money they cost.  We have to ensure that the cosmetic changes are attractive to everyone’s standards, not just City Council’s.  The new look shouldn’t be too radical and should be in line with Rossland’s heritage design plan; we especially don’t want it to be a design that will look dated 20 years down the road.

We have to make sure the effects on parking are realistically remediated.  We have to consider if all these above-ground upgrades really need to be done all at once, or over time as they can better be afforded.

It will be extremely important to keep access to downtown businesses a high priority throughout the process, both during the months of construction and in the final design with respect to pedestrian traffic and parking.  (I don’t support the proposal to add pay parking.)

This project is a huge undertaking for Rossland, and the above are only a ‘drop in the hat’ of what needs to be carefully considered.  A lot of public input will be necessary and will have to be actively pursued, beyond just holding open house information nights.