Municipal election hopefuls were put in the hot seat Tuesday night as they participated in an all-candidates forum sponsored by the Nelson Star, 103.5 The Bridge and the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce.
The clock was one of the biggest opponents for the participants as they began with a one minute introduction about themselves.
Aspiring local politicians for regional districts Areas F and E participated in the forum with 10 Nelson city council candidates including John Dooley and Richard Rowberry.
The only person not in attendance whose name will appear on Saturday’s mayoral ballot was George Mercredi.
Glenn Hicks, news director for The Bridge, and Star editor Bob Hall took turns challenging candidates with some tough questions.
Hicks asked Area E hopeful Josh Smienk about co-operation between the regional district and City of Nelson, and whether if he were elected the level of co-operation would continue or return to the past.
Smienk said he felt there had been co-operation with the city in the past.
Area E incumbent Ramona Faust was given the opportunity to respond, saying it had been a pleasure working with the city and added even when there are hard conversations there is a level of respect between the two parties.
Hicks introduced a new feature to the forum which he called Stand Up and Be Counted, where questions were asked of candidates, who had to stand up or sit down to answer.
Questions included whether councillors had rode the bus in the last six months, and not just for a photo opportunity, and if they would work actively as a councillor for environmental sustainability.
Many participants such as Dooley felt the Stand Up and Be Counted portion of the forum was “unfair.”
Hicks responded by saying politics isn’t fair and “if you’re a good sport it could buy you a couple extra votes.”
Area F director Ron Mickel, who is running for re-election, was asked by Star editor Hall about the growing RDCK bureaucracy and what he would do to keep the budget in check.
Mickel responded by saying two big “gobblers” of funds for the area are the recreation centre and solid waste services.
He said once the new waste services are implemented the area will be saving $1 million a year.
Mike Keegan, who is running against Mickel, was asked about the modern realities of community living and residents of the regional district who want similar service as the city, but don’t want to pay the price.
Keegan replied by criticizing some of the costs of the new solid waste services and said, “I keep getting numbers that are outrageous.”
Mickel responded by saying he didn’t “make up those numbers” and that they came from an engineering consultant.
A question that saw some opposing opinions from council hopefuls was whether Baker Street should become pedestrian and service vehicle only.
Newcomer Paula Kiss referred to vital and busy business areas in Europe which are pedestrian, service vehicle and transit only.
Charles Jeanes said there is no problem if you eliminate cars — only a failure of imagination.
Current councillors Robin Cherbo and Marg Stacey spoke out against the idea.
Cherbo said businesses on Baker Street rely on the passing traffic and suggested running the streetcar down Baker Street.
Stacey said a pedestrian only Baker Street would alienate some people like those with mobility issues.
The abandoned former gas station sites around the city also received a lot of attention after a question was asked from the crowd about what the city was going to do about these contaminated sites.
Kiss suggested possible tax incentives to encourage the land owner to clean up the site instead of abandoning them.
Stacey responded by saying “if we could have done it, don’t you think we would have done it by now?”
Some people in the crowd — that numbered just over 150 — responded by saying “No.”
Dooley said he’s not in favour of the city buying these contaminated sites because it then becomes the responsibility of the taxpayers to pay to remediate them.
Hall asked Candace Batycki, who has been focused on environmental issues, about what she would do for small business in Nelson.
She responded by saying that he’d gone right for her “jugular.”
She said issues like affordable housing for employees to live in would be important to support small business.
Other candidates were given the opportunity to respond and many emphasized shopping local.
Donna Macdonald, who is running for re-election, spoke about the spinoffs of arts and culture for restaurants and other small businesses in Nelson and suggested the same might happen with green building.
Hicks received another heated response from the participants and the crowd when he asked the participants which mayoral candidate they would endorse.
Only Cherbo responded, by saying Dooley.
The polls open at Central School on Saturday at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.