The following seven profiles are the first of a three-part series on the 19 people running for Nelson council. See photos of all seven below the story.
Bob Adams has been a city councillor since 2005 following a 27-year tenure as the city’s director of works and services.
Adams said he wants to return for a fourth consecutive term in order to continue what he sees as the day-to-day work of the city.
“For me, the most important thing is services,” said Adams. “Like Hall Street, that was so important to get that done. Thirty years ago we tried to get work done on it and we couldn’t get any money. This time there was funding available, a grant that we got that had to go against that kind of work. I think that’s very important.”
Adams pointed to the city’s need for expanded water and sewer systems as his main concern. He hopes consistent work at City Hall will grow attract more people to Nelson.
“I don’t expect us to be 20,000 people next year but we need to add some people, we need to add some dwelling units, business opportunities, fix the roads, repair the sewer and water, everything like that. That’s what I’m there for.”
Adams said the city needs to concentrate on growing the tax base, otherwise Nelson becomes more expensive to live in.
“So you need to have some way to increase [building permits], and the best way in my mind to increase that is to grow the city. More dwelling units, more building for commercial, all that kind of stuff.”
Brittny Anderson grew up on Nelson and has worked in tourism, retail and administration, most recently for the Regional District of Central Kootenay as an environmental co-ordinator and technologist. She has a masters degree in environmental science, and is the Columbia Basin co-ordinator for the national organization Young Agrarians.
She is a co-founder and director of the Cannabis Conservancy, a company offering sustainability certification services to cannabis growers.
Anderson said she wants council to explore new ways of improving low cost housing by increasing densification through further work on such things as laneway houses and secondary suites, and by focusing on housing when creating community plans.
She wants emergency preparedness and public safety to be top of mind for council, along with infrastructure maintenance.
“Water and sewer are not very sexy topics but it is really critical, and we need to make sure when we fund these projects that they are really well thought out.”
Anderson said she would like to see council support local cannabis growers.
“We are seeing a corporate takeover right now, and this money will not stay in our community and will go to shareholders instead.”
She said local cannabis growers are spending cash in Nelson now, “but that is about to change quickly here, and we need to support them as a community, because these are people who have been supporting our community historically.”
She questions the current council’s licensing rules about recreational cannabis because, “when we look at how alcohol is regulated, there are several places you can purchase it across town, in a bar, in a liquor store, and nobody seems to have a problem with that.”
She said the market should dictate how many cannabis stores are in operation, “although I understand not wanting to have a cannabis business across from a school.”
Laureen Barker owns Gaia Rising, a retail store on Baker Street. She sits on the boards of the Nelson and District Credit Union where she heads a governance committee, and the Kootenay Career Development Society. She has previously participated in the city’s cultural development, heritage, and housing committees. She has lived in Nelson for 13 years.
She is particularly concerned about wildfire mitigation. She said council is in the beginning stages of this and she wants it to move forward.
“It is probably higher in my mind because I have been reading some reports and my memory of last summer is very fresh. It was a very sad and disturbing time for a lot of people, having such a strange summer but also being told that is the new normal. So I want to see the city moving forward.”
Barker also said she wants to encourage Nelson in being “a very habitable city, encouraging the culture we are famous for and the heritage we are famous for, and supporting initiatives that encourage tourists to come to town. That helps retail and all the business on Baker.”
Asked if she thinks city council needs to do anything differently toward this end, she said council is doing a good job.
“My concern is for the future, when there are pressures for money to go all different directions.
“I think Nelson is a very well run town. Having the power company helps with revenue, and I think we are very fortunate to be here and have that extra resource which is well managed and well distributed.”
Barker also says she want to make sure infrastructure is well maintained for future generations and she wants to collaborate with agencies and other levels of government toward poverty reduction.
Robbie Kalabis was born and raised in Nelson and has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and certification as a project manager. He’s worked for the provincial government for 13 years — first with the environment and forest ministries and now with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. He has been an auxiliary firefighter in Nelson and the North Shore for seven years.
He said he wants to bring his project management background to council work, first in the provision of basic services.
“I want to make sure the basics of garbage, recycling, snow removal, roads and sidewalks are brought to the next level, building off the great work that has been done. I am keen to bring people together and collaborate to bring the basic services run at a very high level and high quality.”
He wants infrastructure projects to have the least impact possible on the community and businesses, and make sure all stakeholders provide meaningful feedback before, during and after major projects.
“I am not into criticizing things that have been happening. I am more of an optimist, how we can work off of where we are today and make things smoother and more efficient.
He said he also is interested in facilities, making sure they are all in good repair, and and wants to look at the taxation and fees associated with all these basic services.
“We have done a bunch of work on our underground infrastructure, and I think the roads and sidewalks could now use another look and an upgrade. The roads of Nelson could use a facelift.
“I am also a huge proponent of the arts community in Nelson, be it the Capitol Theatre, Artwalk, Mural Festival, the arts council, or Sculpturewalk, because that is a big part of what makes our community unique.”
Keith Page has lived in Nelson since 2006. He is the owner of The Repair Factory, as well as vice president of the Nelson Auxiliary Firefighters.
He’s critical of City Hall’s working relationship with local land developers and wants to bring what he calls a business perspective to council in order to address Nelson’s affordable housing crisis.
“There’s not a lot of movement in the market and we’re pretty hamstrung at times getting different projects approved,” said Page. “We keep putting out certain sets of commitments to developers and saying here’s what we want you to build, and then coming back and saying actually we’d like to see this.”
Page pointed to the SHARE Housing Society’s plans for a $10-million, five-storey building as an example of a development that he feels took too long for city staff’s approval. Council gave that project the green light in February.
“The back and forth with the city seems to be an unattractive proposition to a lot of developers. I think it’s been very difficult getting a lot of things built and as a consequence we have an affordability crisis because there’s just no supply. I’d like to work on the business end of that and see what processes and policies can be changed to streamline that kind of stuff.”
Joseph Reiner grew up in Nelson and is a central health outreach worker at ANKORS. He was previously a job developer at Kootenay Career Development Society, where he worked to channel federal and provincial funds into job creation as well as helping clients with barriers find employment. As a student he also worked with the Columbia Basin Trust to create youth programs and grants, and later worked in mental health and community outreach programs in Vancouver.
He said he wants to bring a new kind of voice to city council.
“I’ve always been really interested in working with people and social work in particular,” said Reiner. “I’ve worked in the school systems as a special needs educator teaching functional curriculum to children with autism. I have a bunch of different professional skill sets that I think would lend themselves really well to working in council and a history of working collaboratively to working with many different groups of people and community stakeholders.”
Reiner said he wants to establish closer ties between City Hall and Nelson’s social services while also working to bring more provincial funding home for local initiatives.
“I know as a front-line worker that some of these services are stretched thin in the current economic situation that we find ourselves in. I’d be a huge supporter of closer collaboration between City Hall and our city’s services.”
Reiner said his priority is affordable housing, as well as working with the business community to create more jobs.
“I think everyone has the ability to be employed within our community, even the most marginalized citizen. I believe we can do a lot better advocating for our community when these job-creation partnerships come up.”
Rob Richichi grew up in Nelson. He owns several businesses in Nelson and Trail including Aldo’s Cleaners, Baked Tanning and Nelson’s Florist and a small construction company. He has degrees in organizational management and education.
Richichi said he is concerned about the quality of life downtown.
“The issue is the people hanging around downtown. I know every one of them, I know them by name and I hire four of them every day to clean up for me and sweep.”
He says the solution is more police presence.
“There are people who mix recreational and street drugs with their mental health issues. When the police chief comes to council and asks for money to put another man on the beat to help clean our town up, and they deny it, we have a problem. We have to do what is necessary to make our town feel safer.”
He says illegal drug use leads to homelessness.
“They get kicked out of these places because they buy drugs from each other and get in fights. Ward St. Place for instance kicks them out so they are living on the street.”
Richichi says City Hall has too many managers and the city could cut costs by reducing their numbers.
“We have 32 managers managing less than 50 employees and I would like to reduce this by half.”
Questioned about those numbers, he admitted he was not able to say how many managers the city has, and he had no specific examples of departments or services that have too many managers.
“I know there are a lot of managers there. I hear that from the employees. Every department has two or three managers.”
He said he is committed to examining this issue if elected.
“We have to be fiscally responsible as a city before we can start raising taxes. I would love to put a tax freeze for the next few years until we figure out how to save money and then we can figure out how to put money into projects like the arts, like our sports fields.”