Smienk points to deep roots and past achievements

What I enjoy about rural living is it’s the best place to raise a family.

Josh Smienk

What I enjoy about rural living is it’s the best place to raise a family. I can walk out my back door and have privacy, my garden and recreation right to the top of the mountain. My family still embraces the pioneer spirit of doing things for ourselves.

Growing up I worked in our family business running a hydroponic hot house operation near Redfish Creek, growing tomatoes and cucumbers through the BC Interior Marketing Board. I later started my own business with a couple friends I’ve had since high school. We built and renovated some commercial buildings in the area that we rent for retail use.

To make a rural community work you pitch in. I’ve been a community volunteer for 32 years. What I have a passion for is working with people in my area to help them achieve community goals. Our people have great ideas and vision and sometimes they need help getting started, or to fight the bureaucracy.

People have described me as an extremely patient, and someone with dogged determination once I get my teeth in an issue.   Over the years I have been proud to have been directly involved with the creation of the Columbia Basin Trust as its founding chair, spearheading the movement to stop tolls on local ferries, being the past director for Area E and keeping taxes among the lowest in our region, working to lobby, plan and fund the recent Kootenay Lake Hospital upgrades.

TOP THREE ISSUES

#1. When I was director of Area E,  I was able to accomplish many things for my constituents and still keep the tax rate at one of the lowest in the entire regional district. In the past three years there has been on average a 38 per cent tax increase.

2008: total tax requisition $661,783

2009: $857,817 (30% increase over ‘08)

2010: $960,329 (45% increase over ‘08)

2011: $916,944 (38% increase over ‘08)

I believe this increase in spending comes from the addition of numerous staff and not budgeting wisely on our taxpayers’ behalf. The answer to problems is not to just hire more staff to do it for you, but to find innovative alternatives, build local partnerships or partner with provincial, federal governments and private local businesses to achieve our community goals. As your director I will be looking to do more with what we have and be prudent with your Area E tax dollars.

#2. As director of the RDCK you are also the representative on the West Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital board. When I was director I helped found the Hospital Task Force, and helped guide and spearhead the first real major capital expansion of our hospital in 40 years. This has brought much needed upgrades and modernization that will support increased levels of services returning to our hospital, which is our ultimate goal. The current director has delegated this file to her unelected alternate director, and while I respect all volunteers’ efforts, this file is too important not to be one of a director’s top priorities which is how I will treat this responsibility. We have only seen success when we have worked closely together to strategize, plan and keep the pressure on. This will continue to be one of my top priorities.

#3. I am concerned that the RDCK has become “big government” and not the “local government” it once was. This is because of a growing disconnect due to poor or too little public consultation. People should to be respected and be part of a thought and decision process, not just to hear what government plans to do to them. The siting of a new garbage processing facility in the middle of Blewett without holding a single public meeting in the community itself, or even talking to the neighbours to understand what the impact would be is wrong. The RDCK should have taken neighbours’ issues into consideration in the planning. Instead the neighbours have had to read about the development being a done deal in the paper. The removal of the public advisory committee for the recreation complex without the public’s input is already seeing negative impacts to the operation of that facility.

 

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