Few minds changed at debate
It was billed as a debate over the Lorne Street parkade, but it’s unlikely Thursday night’s (Sept. 15) two-hour battle between a pair of city councillors changed the mind of those in attendance.
More than 200 people packed a meeting room in the Desert Gardens seniors centre to see councillors Tina Lange and Denis Walsh square off against each other.
It began with Lange arguing in favour of the parkade and noting the high business vacancy rate downtown is due to a lack of parking, which has resulted in employees using street stalls.
She said the parkade would be self-sustaining, only costing taxpayers about $10,000 a year.
Walsh said he doesn’t dispute the need for more parking downtown, but countered the issue is about putting the parkade in parkland.
“It’s nibbling away at out parkland and we need to look at it as a heritage,” he said to loud applause from the crowd, the vast majority of which was opposed to the parkade at the Riverside Park location.
Walsh added that the downtown business community should subsidize any costs associated with the parkade.
Other residents expressed similar concerns during a question-and-comment session following the 10-minute presentations of Walsh and Lange.
There were some, however, especially those in the business community, who want to see the proposed parkade built.
Mona Murray, with MCM Real Estate Ltd., argued the vacancy rates downtown are high because businesses are leaving over a lack of parking.
The debate was held in response to the alternative-approval process counter-petition led by a group hoping to stop the parkade project from moving forward.
The debate, organized by the sponsored by the Kamloops Voters Society, the Kamloops chapter of the Council of Canadians and the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association,
was held to give residents an opportunity to hear arguments from both sides of the issue and get as much information as possible.
Afterward, Mayor Peter Milobar said that, if nothing else, the debate was cathartic for people and an opportunity for those on both sides of the debate to vent.
He said he didn’t hear anything that was unexpected, but cautioned residents to be patient and let the process play out.
Friends of Riverside Park, the group behind the counter-petition that has gathered more than half of the needed 6,500 signatures for a successful campaign, said the debate probably helped its cause.
“It’s hard to say, I think it was probably a positive thing,” said Jennie Stadnichuk, a member of the group.
She figured most people who attended the debate were probably well-informed on the issue, but added that those who might not be hopefully left learning something they didn’t know.
Steve Ceron, president of the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Area, said there appeared to be a lot of misinformation about the project.
“It seemed a lot of people were oblivious to what the facts are,” he said.
Ceron contends many people at the debate came in militant, noting the debate likely did little to change minds either way.
The KCBIA was hoping to get a few people to take their name off the counter-petition, but the effort didn’t succeed.
Opponents have until Oct. 11 to gather 10 per cent of the electorate’s signatures (6,533), forcing council to drop the project or send it to referendum.