City of Vernon Byelection 2021
On Dec. 4, 2021, the City of Vernon will hold a byelection for a councillor's position. In the lead up to the byelection, the Greater Vernon Chamber hopes to gain an understanding of how the 11 candidates will focus on business if they are elected to council.
We asked each candidate to answer the following question (up to 400 words):
“As a City of Vernon councillor, what steps will you initiate to support business in the community?”
These are challenging times for local business. We should look at how our municipal neighbours to the north and south of us are doing in comparison to help better gage our own growth and sustainability. Let’s get the Chamber of Commerce together with bylaw and hammer out a plan that supports the prosperity and growth of small business in our community. Let’s work on safe measures and restrictions that allow our businesses to operate at full capacity. Let’s do this while we still have the opportunity to structure SOPs around sustainable growth that suit the Vernon community. Let’s dedicate to developing the downtown core with high rises that bring business, commerce, and much needed affordable living to our city. This density in the core creates higher tax revenue, reduction of crime and homelessness, and a decreased carbon footprint. Existing business will benefit as will our ability to attract new business to Vernon.
As a city of Vernon Councillor I will work to stay engaged with the business community as we move through the pandemic rebound. I will encourage COVID Safe Town Halls to stimulate more frequent communication with the business community. The city collects great information during their yearly business walk and I feel with the support of the Chamber that dialogue can be improved between business and the city. Understanding what issues are concerning for our businesses not only allows us to make better decisions but it also assists us in advocating on their behalf to senior government.
A thriving business community is the crown jewel of a City and we need to continue working on making it easier for businesses in the City to prosper both current and future. Considering the impact on business before making decisions is important to me. A perfect example of where that consideration would be essential would be during discussions on a proposed Highway bypass.
I have always participated in volunteer projects that create revenue for city businesses or improve quality of life for the citizens. I will continue to work with organizations like BC Game, Special Olympics and 55 plus Games that generate millions of dollars for our city. My current role as BC Games Greater Vernon 2022 Winter Vice President will help generate an estimated 1.4 million dollars for our City businesses. These are outstanding opportunities that assist in improving business conditions.
With my 11 years experience of owning a tourism related business and contracting to the City of Vernon I see the challenges for business through a unique lens. I know the difficulties and I know the impacts city decisions can have on businesses. This background will make me a knowledgeable and confident voice at Vernon City Hall.
My platform includes an initiative I would like to co-ordinate: “Economic Recovery Business Roundtable” with an advisory panel to provide answers to those business members that are struggling with the pandemic economic recovery.
I have a background in research and would personally take this step and co-ordinate the forum. I would find the right people to invite to take part in the advisory panel.
As you may have read in my releases and web site (floraforcouncil.com), I have a background in business. My partner and I started one of the first Internet communications companies in the Yukon. We founded the company with the help of Community Futures, hired local staff and did our own marketing. We ran the company for seven years until a new political leader came in and cancelled all the contracts for this type of company. We had a contract to build and administer the government web site. This is the reason our company closed.
So, I have firsthand experience with the power of power. You are wise to ask this question of the candidates. I have a soft spot for business because I understand how difficult it can be to achieve success and keep it.
In addition to a roundtable for our current economic recovery, I would welcome input from the Chamber on other topics on the minds of businessowners.
I’m not in business in Vernon, but I’ve lived and worked here for 13 years. Just these past months I’ve seen several closures probably due to the pandemic. My priority would be to help struggling business at this time of recovery. Hopefully, in the coming months this recovery will be achieved, but right now I’m interested in helping business stay open and thrive. I don’t think it’s time for the city to increases expenses (taxes, sewer rates etc.) for businesses. The city should hold off while businesses get things under control.
I would also look at what the city could do to enhance the downtown and the mall traffic with transportation corridors for foot, bike, e-bike and scooter traffic. Right now, it’s not safe to drive these green vehicles through town. Although we have a connected path that I haven’t cycled on yet, it doesn’t appeal to me to take my e-bike for shopping. It doesn’t feel safe. E-bikes are expensive, and they need charging stations and safe places to leave them while shopping. I’m confident this is on the agenda for council, and I would consider it a priority not only for businesses, but also for eco-transportation plans the city is undertaking.
As a Vernon city councillor, I would initiate programs which have previously been in place such as the tax grant and tax payment deferral program, as needed. The COVID-19 situation is ever changing, and I support the City of Vernon’s methods through these difficult times.
I would attend business events to engage with residents and business owners to provide a method of communication for concerns. Council meetings are structured in a way to allow for council enquires for further investigation. Initiation of actions at the council level would be based on these conversations.
As an owner in multiple industries, I was fortunate enough to have one business do exceptionally well. In fact, success through COVID comes with some guilt. Navigating the abundance has brought about problems not previously encountered. I have also been fighting on the front line for businesses who are on the verge of collapse. As much as we like to group the business community together as one, there are very industry specific needs to be addressed.
In general, I am also a big supporter of business initiatives through nonprofit organizations like Accelerate Okanagan and Community Futures North Okanagan. I enjoy the adrenaline of the entrepreneurial drive and the pride that comes with being an established cornerstone of Vernon. Both must succeed, and excel, to have a health business community.
Let’s make Vernon better
- Seniors get free ambulance service, not $90 per call.
- Hold council meetings at night so people can attend.
- One day a month, the handicapped and disabled receive a good discount at all businesses downtown. It’s a win, win situation.
- Forget about the cultural centre and $25 million. Not at this time. If the cultural centre is built, it will cost people.
- Move the airport. Build high rises, like Vancouver, where the airport is.
- What’s wrong with the race track in Polson Park instead of the college area?
- Move lawn bowling. Build a pool.
- Build a new Costco in Vernon
- Infrastructure at the sewage treatment plant to the lake not clean.
- New car racing track
- Build a new city hall
- Help the homeless
Augment the Chamber of Commerce business directory search by allowing people to search for businesses by:
◦ Queer-owned or queer-friendly identification
◦ BIPOC-owned identification
◦ Female-owned identification
◦ Accessibility for people with mobility, sensory, or cognitive challenges
- Identify businesses in the directory which are sole-proprietor (locally owned and operated), franchise, or corporate owned
- Look into ways that business security can be supported
◦ Many business owners are dealing with constant break-ins or frequent harassment
◦ Why are the Downtown Ambassadors only employed in the summer time?
◦ Is the community police force making rounds in business areas?
◦ Can the local businesses pool their resources together to hire security guards to patrol the downtown area after dark?
One business owner told me that a security camera is available half off through the Downtown Vernon Business Association but that can only help with break and enters — it does little to deter those who harass shop owners
They also informed me that calling 9-1-1 is never timely due to strain on the local RCMP to manage more serious calls — with no presence, some owners have to make calls weekly for escorts to safety
- Make business renewal fees happen at different times of the year-round
◦ Business owners have told me that they find it hard to pay for licensing fees, sign fees, and other fees all due on January 1st – I would seek to stagger these annual costs so that owners don’t feel such a big hit in the post-Christmas slump.
Our city only thrives if we have a healthy business sector and non-profit community.
Particularly in these pandemic times, support for our local businesses is crucial. There has been and continues to be uncertainty in the business sector with regard to their customer base, staff shortages and supply disruptions.
The City can support our local businesses in a number of ways.
- Continue with the annual Business Walks – to keep in touch with how well business is thriving.
- Rebuild our Tourism sector. The City has a new Tourism Manager, Torrie Silverthorn. She is media and marketing savvy. The tourism sector is starting to pick up again – Vernon as a destination needs a push. We need an identity brand.
- Encourage the new Economic Development Manager, John Perrott to work closely with the Chamber of Commerce on business development and retention.
- Put a focus on the business sector in the City’s annual Strategic Plan. Include ways to attract and retain labour.
- Include the message “Buy Local” in city communications.
- Climate Hackathon – this is an Okanagan exercise and report coming to Council in the near future; its important that Council listens and adopts possible strategies coming from this. Some innovative ideas are expected.
- Encourage the construction industry by fine-tuning the development process.
The business community only prospers if the city itself is livable and a place of inspiration. The City has to work towards affordable housing, arts and cultural activities, sports activities for kids and families. An attractive place to live retains and grows its businesses and labour force and results in a thriving business community.
The state of our business community, local economy, and affordable and attainable housing are a key focus of mine
I will be a loud voice to cut the red tape and difficulties for new construction projects and expansion of our local businesses.
I know Vernon is desirable and is a very entrepreneurial city. I have heard so many times that Vernon is not open for business. A priority of mine if elected would be to work with council and administration to make Vernon is a business friendly community and one that is widely known as OPEN and WELCOME to new business and existing business expansion.
We need more affordable and attainable housing and I will be a voice for medium to high density; mixed used developments that include rentals and sales developments from within our City Centre outward. We need to act on this now as our businesses are all experiencing a staffing shortage, including skilled labour, due to in large part a lack of affordable and attainable rental and ownership opportunities.
A priority of mine will be to actively promote medium to high density housing; mixed-use developments to reenergize and revitalize our City. This will create more compact neighbourhoods and less strain on transportation, resources and land use.
Benefits of medium to high-density: mixed-use developments include:
- greater housing variety and density, more affordable housing (smaller units), life-cycle housing (starter homes to larger homes to senior housing)
- reduced distances between housing, workplaces, retail businesses, and other amenities and destinations
- better access to fresh, healthy foods (as food retail and farmers markets can be accessed on foot/bike or by transit)
- more compact development, land-use synergy (e.g. residents provide customers for retail which provide amenities for residents)
- stronger neighborhood character and sense of place
- walkable, bike-able neighborhoods, increased accessibility via transit, both resulting in reduced transportation costs
Another concern is the impact on businesses by construction and infrastructure improvements during the summer season. I acknowledge and understand that improvements are important for the future.
As a previous business owner what I see is a lack of understanding and communication with business regarding the impact this makes on their business. I would advocate for better communication and conversation with businesses that will be impacted by construction and infrastructure improvements before the work commences. I would also support looking at alternative ways such as construction at night where possible and possibly 24 hour construction to lessen the impact on businesses. If elected I would work towards a council and administration that works more closely and collaboratively with businesses.
The Vernon Business community has been through challenging times over the last two years; a pandemic that has caused everyone to pivot to survive. Our local businesses have really shown what dedication they have to our community and the heart it takes to manage during difficult times. We as Council need to continue creating partnerships that support initiative by other levels of government, making sure that as business transitions out of the pandemic, supports are still available. When the pandemic restrictions loosen, we need to understand that business will not automatically resume to pre-pandemic levels including the businesses in Hospitality and Tourism.
The Annual Walks Program that recently happened is a valuable program that I will champion to become a quarterly action. Council needs to know first -hand what businesses are going through more than once a year, as changes are happening regularly.
We need to continue to advocate for Pandemic Supports by Provincial and Federal Governments to ensure that businesses can access resources they need, when they need them.
We need to create the Buy Local Campaign as noted in the Climate Action Plan to promote our local businesses and drive revenue the local economy. We need to expand that program to also be reflected in our Official Community Plan and our Neighborhood Plans. I look forward to being a voice for local community business and working with businesses to create new initiatives to continue making Vernon a great place to do business.
Finally, we must continue to work with all levels of government, stakeholders and in partnership with indigenous leadership to address the housing affordability crisis so that Vernon businesses can attract and retain the talent they need to grow and achieve long-term success.
As a Councillor, I will support revitalization projects that include streetscape improvements in 31st Avenue between 32nd Street 35th Street and in the north-south connecting streets between main street, Coldstream Avenue and 32nd Avenue. This includes beautification of the sidewalks adjacent to Highway 97, similar to what was done south of 31st Avenue on the east side, and south of 30th Avenue on the west side. It is important to expand from the works previously finished in the area to provide a complete, cohesive downtown that is attractive and user friendly for residents and tourists. Revitalization works are to include working with BC Hydro to obtain beautification grants so that overhead power lines may be installed underground. Undergrounding of overhead lines not only improves the look of the area but is also critical to enable increased building density and thus attract redevelopment.
I will also support annual purchase of properties to create temporary pocket parking and park spaces. These properties would then be available for purchase and consolidation with other adjacent small lots. In many cases it is important to create an adequate building footprint size necessary to attract the type of redevelopment needed. Having more residents in and near the City Centre will increase reliance on businesses in the area while not increasing the need for parking on existing streets. Many of these steps and others identified in the 2011 City Centre Neighbourhood Plan, need to be implemented as a priority to support business and create a city we can all be proud of.
As a Councillor, I will support increased bylaw enforcement staff patrols in the City Centre to improve safety and create a more user-friendly atmosphere. Having a visible presence at all times will not only reduce the potential for crime but also encourage more foot traffic to businesses in the area.
As a Councillor, I will support implementation of plans that create growth, increase business opportunities, and encourage redevelopment. While it may take time for redevelopment to occur, investing now in steps that encourage growth and promote living, working and shopping in the downtown is critical to our long-term success.
The Civic Park at the old Civic Arena site is the last opportunity Vernon has to reinvigorate the badly neglected downtown core. The City of Vernon is about to make the biggest mistake in our city’s history. They are going to build another Polson style park for the homeless north of the downtown core.
The homeless and drug users look for grass and bushes to sit and sleep and to hide and feel at home. Polson Park is already lost to women and children. Even the homeless are afraid of Polson Park and some will move north. This new park will kill the downtown because it will be surrounded by fear.
I propose a new Civic Plaza with no grass or bushes, and a concourse design as seen at the heart of the great cities of the world. The kekuli monument design is a combination of the Acropolis in Athens, the birthplace of democracy, and a traditional indigenous lodging.
The new Civic Plaza will be made for moms and dads, granny and gramps pushing baby strollers and kids on tricycles and bikes, teenagers on skateboards and scooters, old folks on electric scooters and walkers and women and men walking and jogging. None of them need grass because they are on the move.
Once Vernonites are up and rolling, they can head downtown for a block buster movie at the Towne, shopping, walking, coffee or a meal and we have just saved the heart of our town.
We close down 29th Street above the Plaza on summer Sundays and we have the greatest kids’ downhill skate park in the world. Now that sounds like real outdoor family fun.
Come visit me at Vimy Lane to talk and take a walking tour.
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