Smithers election: Randy Bell

Mayoral candidate Randy Bell’s answers on 14 topics.

Randy Bell

Bio

I am originally from Sarnia in Southwestern Ontario. From the time I was in high school I got involved in computers and continued this after high school. Prior to moving to Smithers I had worked for two different computer service companies and was a business partner in one of them. Since arriving to Smithers I had a career with an IT company in town for almost 17 years. This gave me experience in handling IT Services for various business types all over Northwest BC. For a 10 month period I left Smithers to go work for an insurance company in London, Ontario. I quickly learned I did not want to live and raise my son in a big city; so we moved back to Smithers. In 2012 I started my own company Done Right Computer Services and I continue to offer IT services to business. Alongside my own clients I am the IT Manager at a local Smithers airline, Central Mountain Air. Over the decades I have done a variety of IT related training and certifications that help keep me relevant to my career.

I do not have any elected political experience. My connection to politics dates back to my interest since finishing high school; I have been an member of several parties both provincially and federally over the decades.

Top priorities on council

Rebuild the relationship with our business/industry community to ensure we are being good partners. This is the driving force for a sustainable economy and helps us all have income and tax revenue, in turn giving us the means to build on the community’s desires and needs. It will allow us to continue to invest in streets, sewers, libraries, recreation, affordable housing and social services.

Bring focus back to the core infrastructure and fiscal responsibility. Our operational budget needs to keep up with our operational needs. If we as community wish to continue to maintain, update and add infrastructure we need to ensure we our meeting the needs of what we already have in place.

3) LIBRARY/ART GALLERY

I like the plan currently being investigated, but I question the size and scope of the project. Most importantly I will continue to ask fundamental questions; is this what we need?, if so what will it cost up front and operationally through the years? Lastly do the tax payers want to take on this debt and extra cost? I keep hearing from people that the project is paid for by a grant. This is partially true, if the grant application is accepted, secondly only part of the building is paid, we as a town would still be responsible for at least $1.5 million, perhaps a lot more depending on the outcomes of grant applications. So the numbers need to be very clear to the public and it must go to referendum with details.

4) DOWNTOWN

I love our downtown and hope we continue to make improvements and carry-on with our theme. But we need to do more for businesses, we currently have about 15 empty commercial properties in our downtown core. This shows that our town councils focus on downtown has not been successful. Between high taxes and too many frustrating rules and regulations we have much to improve. Secondly, downtown is not the only part to our town and business community. We have many more businesses on the highway and other areas; we need to focus on being helpful partners with them too. The most common thing I keep hearing is that we have too much red tape and if elected this will be a priority to deal with.

5) HOUSING

The common understanding is that we do not have enough housing and therefore the cost of any available rentals is high and difficult to afford. This tells me that we have to make sure the town has development space and zoning for new development. Which I think we already have some and there are ideas to zone for even more. However, if there are no developers willing to take on projects then all the zoning changes won’t be very helpful. So we are going to need to come up with some plans (and update our Official Community Plan) to entice developers to build, which I understand is at an extremely high cost. So I am dedicated to help tackle this issues with those who are knowledgeable in this area.

6) CANNABIS LEGALIZATION

Legalization of marijuana in our country is the wrong decision and our Prime Minister has been short-sighted on this bill. Any indication from the authorities in Canada that sends a message to our youth promoting the use of such a substance as good thing is sending the wrong message.

However, this is not the discussion that the town needs to have. We as a community now have some decisions to make on the new legislation. As I have made it clear during some of the local discussions, bylaws should be created to address what our town will allow or not allow for issuing business licenses and any limitations on public use. I would encourage minimal additional rules as the federal and provincial rules already address many of the major concerns. The focus being on what we would allow for business licensing and location.

I am pleased that we have had a couple of our community members working on a survey to gain some kind of direction for what our community thinks about the issue. However, this data has some short comings and will require further community interaction, especially with our wise seniors.

If elected mayor, my direction will be to continue consultation on any bylaw changes with a target date of December 19th for adoption. Secondly and with high importance, we need to focus on educating our youth on the facts about cannabis use and its dangers.

7) TAXES AND SPENDING

At the current state of our budget I see a continued requirement to keep raising taxes. If we go ahead and start adding more infrastructure and fail to deal with our operation costs I can foresee some very unpleasant tax hikes. With some of our debts coming to end I would recommend we get the funds to our core infrastructure rather than taking on new debts. I think it irresponsible to take on additional new debt just because we will be paying off some existing debts. Furthermore, our current federal and provincial governments are taking on debt at an irresponsible rate and taxes are going up, up, up! I would prefer to see us get the municipal budget in a healthy position so we do not burden the tax payers even further.

8) CRIME AND SAFETY

We continue to have daily problems of indecency and illegal activities, more often at the Bovill Square location. The continued inaction has only made things worse. Addressing homelessness, addictions and crime requires not only compassion but smart governance with action. Simple talk and the right ‘buzz’ words will not improve the situation. We will need to have a change in our approach to start making a difference. As a council we will have to get involved with the organizations working on the ground, along with local businesses in the area, it is not fair to expect residents to keep putting up with the illegal activity.

9) INFRASTRUCTURE

I think that core infrastructure like sidewalks, roads, and sewers need to be a priority. Our current budget is not keeping up to the maintenance needs. Continuing to add more without taking care of the existing is poor management. I understand as a citizen this is not as fun and exciting as new building projects, but it would be a long term mistake not to address the core infrastructure.

10) LNG

The LNG project that is going through is good thing for BC as a whole, far too many anti-everything to energy and resource decisions have been made lately. I would think we will see some impacts in housing even though we are out of the way of the overall project, this has potential to pressure availability even further. Also, we could see an impact on our services like hospital care and we need to be aware and prepared for this increase.

11) BUSINESS / WORKER SHORTAGE

As a small business owner I understand the challenge of finding needed workers. I think that we need to tackle the affordable housing to help improve the shortage. Until we see this more availability our local businesses will continue to be challenged with the shortage. So I expect that many of our local businesses will be able to come to the table and help with ideas on reaching this goal, this will require collaboration between the public, town, businesses and developers.

12) ENVIRONMENT

We all share the same air, water and lands so it is essential that we collectively steward what we have

However, when environmental concerns are given too much emphasis, economic growth becomes impossible. So with any project/resource we have to look at the risk assessment to make good overall decisions. We also need to reflect on the reality of how we live; if you drive a car, use a cell phone, have electricity etc. we are using the energy and resources. So I think of this is terms of reduction and efficiency. Reality makes it clear that oil is a driving force behind so much of the economy everywhere and it’s not going anywhere. We really need to focus in on reduction of pollution, building smaller and smarter.

I know it’s a crappy thing to talk about, but we need to look at our sewage treatment for the town. If we want to be serious about keeping our water in good shape we need to invest in a real sewage treatment plant.

13) SPORTS

As a very active community in a variety of sports and recreation I would encourage our community as \ keep investing time, energy and finances into this. My current concern is with the joint use agreement that no longer exists between the town and school district #54. I don’t have all the details as to how or why this ended. My hope is that there is potential to re-introduce an agreement. As both parties and facilities are publicly owned; it makes good common sense to maximize the availability to the public. It’s not about fairness to each level of government, but what is best overall for the member of the community and I encourage that we would sit back down in good faith to make this happen. Moreover, the under usage of some of our facilities goes hand-in-hand with the need for more people and housing. It’s great to have facilities, but if we do not have the tax base it will become more difficult to keep funding. With an aging arena and pool we need to start planning for the future now.

14) TOURISM

We reap the benefits of people coming to Smithers to fish, hunt, boat, ski, and other outdoor activities. As an added bonus those visitors get to experience our unique downtown and the benefits of our other amenities around the hi-way corridor. As a town and community we want to continue to support our businesses that benefit and promote ourselves as a destination.

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