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KelownaNow reached out to all mayoral, council and school trustee candidates running in Kelowna’s and West Kelowna’s 2014 Civic Election and asked them questions submitted by you, the reader.
Responses of those who chose to participate will be posted between November 3rd and November 14th in a randomly selected order.
Stephen Johnston - West Kelowna Mayoral Candidate
1. What career experience do you have to be Mayor of West Kelowna? Please provide a specific example of a decision you made that affected the community.
I’m a local entrepreneur and currently operate a full service General contracting business in West Kelowna
I’m currently serving in my second elected term as a board member of Emmanuel Church.
I am the chairman of the Emmanuel Church Building Committee and oversee our current 15000sqft expansion. This building will be the largest auditorium style community building in West Kelowna separate from The Royale Lepage arena.
Additionally I am a member of the Board of Directors for West Kelowna Minor Baseball where my role is Director of the U9 division. I grew up playing baseball here and its great to give back to the community in this capacity.
2. How are you going to attract businesses, residents and visitors to West Kelowna’s downtown?
First we need to increase the visual appeal of West Kelowna. We have a great benchmark in the new Brown Road improvements and need to ensure that same level of upgrade is applied to the rest of the Westbank Centre as soon as possible . I believe this is our “permission to play” when it comes to engaging investors and developers. Not only is West Kelowna the gateway to the central Okanagan but we are also the gateway for ourselves. We need to solidify our identity (Who are we? Where are we headed? What does WK look like in 5,10, and 20 years), create a brand around that identity and produce a strong marketing plan complete with incentives in order to grab the interest of developers and increase private investment in West Kelowna.
We also need to be seen, building relationships with people within the investment and development communities. West Kelowna is an amazing place packed with potential, we have to showcase what we all know sets this place apart.
3. What do you think about West Kelowna’s current road system and what needs to be improved in the short term?
Our couplet through the heart of Westbank Center is less than ideal. I understand that the Provincial Government does not want to spend $43M on the infrastructure upgrades to accommodate a through highway on Dobbin Road, but I feel we need to push for some more concrete answers. I look forward to seeing what the second crossing/corridor study shows, and hope that we can get a commitment as soon as possible regarding timeline and funding so that we can begin appropriate planning. In the meantime we must pursue the upgrading of Main St. and Dobbin Rd. We need to have continuity and more visual appeal within Westbank Centre in order to support a strong gateway approach.
Many of our roads are being upgraded at this time and I would continue to push for necessary improvements to be made. One such example is the portion of Butt Rd. between Old Okanagan Highway and Elliot Rd.
Photo Credit: KelownaNow
4. What improvements, if any, do you feel need to be made to Highway 97?
One comment I hear a lot, and I agree, is that our highway corridor is ugly. There is very little visual appeal or signage that would serve to entice people to venture into West Kelowna. Many people just keep on going until they hit Kelowna and don’t consider stopping here. We need to work together with WFN and MOTI to help keep our corridor clean. Its very noticeable that we are not doing a good job at this and it will be even more noticeable once we begin to clean it up.
5. What do you feel are the benefits and disadvantages of changing from a District to a City?
I think changing our designation to “City” would be fantastic. I have chatted with Jim Zaffino (DWK CAO) and he agrees. In my opinion “City” holds more weight than the designation of “District”. It speaks to a more progressive up and coming community and I believe it is a factor in making us more marketable to investors, developers, and tourists.
6. Where do feel West Kelowna residents would most benefit from a second bridge crossing?
It’s too early to develop conclusions on a second crossing. I’m eager to see the results of the Province’s second crossing/corridor study.
7. Where are our alternative modes of transportation going in the future years to come?
Right now we are largely getting behind BC Transit and the new Rapid Bus service that is provided. I would think that in the years to come we work on increasing ridership and advocating for better service to our neighbourhoods.
8. When I think tourism I don’t think West Kelowna, how are you going to change that?
I recently attended a breakfast hosted by the Greater Westside Board of Trade. The guest speaker, Michael Balligall (Big White), spoke about tourism in the Okanagan. Interestingly enough tourism as a whole is not necessarily thought of in a municipal context but rather in a regional one. Michael is the chair of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and their goal is to embrace the regions potential and demonstrate how we can expand our tourism experiences beyond the peak seasons. We (regionally) need to partner together to create a state of the art tourism experience for people coming into the Okanagan Valley.
Additionally we can continue to increase local amenities, ones that not only attract people to West Kelowna, but also provide a framework for financial stability. We need more opportunities for people to engage in various activities and cultural experiences. How nice would it be to go for a walk on our waterfront and be able to stop and shop or grab a bite to eat, or have a coffee and interact with people. These are the types of new experiences we need to work toward creating, in order to benefit from our fantastic waterfront, much like our neighbouring communities do.
Stephen Johnston - West Kelowna Mayoral Candidate
9. West Kelowna is growing at a rapid pace, what are your top priorities to keep up with the increasing strain on infrastructure?
Attracting private investment. We need to market West Kelowna and get investors and developers excited about our future and how they might be a part of it. People will continue to move to West Kelowna. As technology expands more and more people can run successful companies from their fingertips either in their home office or at a coffee shop. What will make them want to choose West Kelowna as their home? We need to be forward thinking when it comes to the development of our infrastructure, by being leaders of industry. I’m not saying we rush things or make uninformed decisions; I am saying we need to be much more progressive than we currently are.
10. What would be your number one priority for the next four years as Mayor of West Kelowna?
Focusing on projects and priorities that are revenue producing. I want to help provide tangible ways to fund the various amenities that West Kelowna residents desire to have access to. By focusing on revenue producing projects upfront we start shifting the tax burden from homeowners to a more diversified, vibrant town centre which in turn allows us to accomplish some of the existing plans in a more timely fashion.
The civic election is Saturday November 15th, 2014.
For the most up to date and current information, visit our 2014 Civic Election Page.
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