A standing-room-only crowd gathered at the Hope & District Recreation Centre on Monday night to hear mayoral and council candidates debate local issues.
Economic development and job creation emerged as the hot topic.
“Economic development is necessary for Hope to be a sustainable community,” said Cindy Koszegi.
“Rebranding and marketing of Hope must be ramped up. We need to market Hope not just in the Lower Mainland, but globally.”
Walter Rawlinson believes manufacturing jobs are key to economic development. He supports having land along Flood Hope Road removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve for industrial use. If elected, Rawlinson would work to reduce the tax burden on businesses and develop existing land already zoned for industrial use.
Ron Smith pointed out the district is already on track and showing consistent growth through infrastructure and development. However, he believes council needs to pursue initiatives to encourage people to shop locally and engage youth in the decision-making process.
“We must continue to eliminate red tape and streamline the development process while listening to the community’s needs,” said Smith.
Donna Kropp agrees Hope will have to find creative ways of delivering programs and projects in a more cost-effective manner.
“Government must always be focused on building a safe, healthy and economic sustainable future for the taxpayers that pay the bills,” she explained.
Economic vitality, social equity and environmental quality are Gerry Dyble’s main priorities. She feels Hope needs a new vision and more downtown core revitalization.
“We as a community will need to work together,” she said. “
Making a change requires a buy-in and commitment from everyone.”
Both Peter Robb and Tim Hudie support the idea of a mentorship program for business owners as well as water and sewer expansion in the Kawkawa Lake area. Robb said he would like to create a downtown business improvement association to work closely with Advantage Hope for cross-funding opportunities. He also believes the Official Community Plan needs to be updated along with several outdated bylaws.
Hudie said a new court house and fire hall would be assets to the community.
Mayoral candidates Susan Johnston and Laurie French said they would support annual district funding for trail construction and maintenance, as well as dedicated dog off-leash parks. In addition, Johnston wants to see more walking and bike paths throughout the community.
The six incumbents hope to build on the work of council over the last few years. Some of the accomplishments they noted in Monday’s meeting were the new Kawkawa Lake Road Bridge, revitalization of Memorial Park, and the initiation of sewer expansion into the Flood Hope area.
“We have put Hope forward as a fair, progressive and open place to do business,” said French.
“I know we’ve made decisions that are difficult, but that’s how we move forward. We are bound to give you the best deal for your taxpayers dollar.”
Looking ahead, all candidates agreed council needs to do a better job of keeping residents informed about what’s going on in the district.
Robert Haley suggested he would hold a monthly meeting with residents in Memorial Park, while Scott Medlock pointed out Hope should utilize social media in addition to the district website and press releases.