Are You Well Enough to Serve?
I Am Healthy and Ready To Go.
We've been asked about my health a few times since entering this election. Rightfully so.
I am doing very well.
I would not be in this battle otherwise.
The 'health' question is actually two-fold: Life saving jaw surgeries and emphysema.
A rare bone infection was dissolving my jaw. The first surgery failed to solve the problem, however the second (11 months ago), succeeded. During the second operation (nearly nine hours in length) surgeons replaced the previously installed titanium plate with a larger one. They then removed nine inches of bone from my leg, cut it into various shapes, and grafted it onto the titanium within my mouth.
I have recovered from the infection in my jaw and well on the road to a full recovery - though I could use twenty pounds.
I now feel much better than I have the past three years when this journey began as an abscessed tooth.
Emphysema - I've been living with emphysema for nine years now. I often carry a portable tank at council or elsewhere. Sitting at a Council table listening, learning or debating is not a physically demanding task. I love the job of representing others.
Both my personal physician and lung specialist fully support my running and serving another full four-year term.
What About Crime in Kelowna?
Crime including health and safety are top priorities for many citizens in this election, especially regarding our streets.
There are four clear components impacting our streets: Truly homeless, mental health, addicted, and the criminal element. We need to clearly delineate between them and deal with each.
Homeless. Of the four issues Council has its greatest influence and impact with the homeless. We've done a good job of improving support for the homeless with more homes and assistance coming on stream. The Journey Home program and Council's work with various levels of supportive housing and programs is a positive step.
Mental Health. Jurisdiction resides mainly with the Federal and Provincial governments who need to re-open and fund housing and support facilities now!
Addiction. There is a pathetic short fall in effective rehabilitation facilities in B.C.. The Province need to help municipalities with funding and creating such projects. We have lost Crossroads and other effective programs where those with issues can receive proper help.
Crime. Some 25% of our budget is spent on RCMP however we have no say in how that funding is spent in deployment of officers or their priorities. We have good communication with the RCMP but do not run their day to day activity. Council can apply more pressure on the courts and governments to free up more court space and funds so that the criminal is not back on the street hours after being arrested, or not arrested at all.
In general I favour funding for RCMP rather than more bylaw officers.
I believe the eventual elimination of the Red and Orange zones may reduce crime in residential neighbourhoods.
For the criminal element, Kelowna should no longer be open for business.
What About the Speculation Tax?
The speculation tax appears as a quickly conceived plan put into place by the Province with little consultation involving with those directly impacted. It is focused on residential properties in selected urban centres around the province including Kelowna and West Kelowna.
Both Kelowna and West Kelowna Councils have sent letters expressing concerns with the new announcement and Mayor Basran and West Kelowna's Mayor Doug Findlater have had recent meetings at UBCM to attempt to alter the Province's plans. We have not had a chance to hear the results of those meeting yet.
Why I endorsed Colin Basran as Mayor?
I have no problem publically supporting Colin - for a couple reasons:
First and foremost I'm on record having said many times over many years that I would not support a candidate running for Mayor who did not have any council experience. That leaves Colin.
I can work 'with' anyone anointed Mayor.
My job is not to serve the mayor or staff. My job is to honestly and openly represent the best interests, needs, and concerns of the public - not Colin, Tom, or anyone else who lands in the big chair.
I took a similar stand last election (championing one mayoralty candidate over another) when I supported Sharon Shepherd running against Colin. I had served three years under Sharon and knew her abilities.
I've just spent four years in regular debates and decision making sessions with Colin and while we did not always agree, as the minutes will verify, we disagreed respectfully and effectively. Even in heated moments Colin did not abuse his position or impede my ability to comment.
I know very little about Tom Dias other than his effectiveness in various business roles. Seems like a good fellow and I'm confident we could work well together should that scenario unfold. I am sure, like Colin did, that Tom would be able to quickly move past my supporting his opponent and move on to serving Kelowna.
Anyone can talk quietly in the corner but I have little respect for that style. I believe if you have something to say of value, say it. When the camera man asked if I wanted to share my thoughts on Colin I started to walk away, but then I remembered a line my father (also a former Kelowna City Councillor) use to say, "Never be afraid to take a stand, plant your flag, and then stand by it. "
So I did.
If re-elected I will always try and make the best decision on the issue before us, no matter who is swinging the gavel. Nothing has changed with Charlie Hodge.
The Daily Courier Questions
1. Who are you and why are you qualified to be a city councillor?
I'm a good listener.
I'm not afraid to ask tough questions.
I provide a veteran voice at the Council table with 10 years City Council experience,10 years as Regional District Director, and three years as Southern Interior Local Government Association Director.
Born in Penticton and raised in Kelowna, I'm now a working author following a fun and amazing 35 years as a journalist. I have a flexible lifestyle suitable for council work.
I represent the average citizen and provide a voice of common sense and reason.
I'm married, have five cats, love hockey, and love Kelowna.
2. How should the city tackle the rampant street-level drug-use, addiction and resulting crime crisis?
Four components impact our streets: Truly homeless, mental health, addicted, and the criminal element. We need to clearly delineate between them and deal with each. That is the only way to resolve it. Not here in 100 words. Let's look after the homeless, mentally injured, and addicted best we can. When we do that, the criminal component will quickly be sorted out.
Mental Health: Federal Government must build safe places for those incapable of helping themselves.
Addictions: Pathetic short fall in effective rehabilitation facilities in B.C The Province needs create safe facilities,
3. What were the three biggest mistakes made by this council since 2014?
Time and others will make that judgement.
I am already on voting record on how I thought at the time it counted.
Certainly I was not happy with the location of the tourist info centre. It is built and complete so mentioning it I suppose is fair game.
4. Absent political parties at the local level, it's hard for voters to know anything about a candidate's broad political views. So which political parties do you support at the provincial and federal level? If you won't say, why won't you say?
I still see it through a journalist's lens. They are all wrong.
I am not a die-hard party politic person. I was raised in a Socred home, but as a journalist for 30 years I was supposed to remain open minded and neutral, so I made a point of doing so. I tend to go with the leader most often as well.
5. If the city were to unexpectedly receive a grant of $50 million that could be spent any way council chose, how would you advocate the money be spent?
That would likely help solve the homeless problem.
Certainly an addiction centre.
Seriously - I would want a staff report on some good options.
BONUS QUESTION: Which Canadian, American or world political figure has most inspired you over the years?
Info News Questions
1. Who are you and why should voters choose you?
I'm a best-selling author, award winning writer, and veteran Kelowna City Councillor, born and raised in the Okanagan Valley. I spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist, photographer, and editor and have a diverse background in public relations and strategic planning.
I co-hosted radio talk shows and still write a regular weekly newspaper and online column titled Hodge Podge, which I've crafted now for 41 years.
My biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me was a Canadian bestseller. I am currently working on my third contracted book, a historical/fiction novel based in B.C. I am a skilled facilitator, an effective personal coach, and impactful motivational speaker.
My hobbies include gardening, canoeing, and fishing. My wife Teresa (Tez) and I share our Kelowna home with four very spoiled cats.
People should vote for me because I am trustworthy, listen to people, and do what I say I am going to do. My track record proves that.It has been a very special honour to represent the citizens of Kelowna the past four years and I am hoping residents will return me to the council table.
2. Street crime, homelessness issues and discarded needles have become a major issue in the past few years, particularly downtown. Is this primarily an enforcement issue? If yes, should the City of Kelowna increase its budget to pay for more private security/bylaw officers/RCMP officers to deal with this?
It is much more complex than a simple yes answer. There are four clear components impacting our streets: Truly homeless, mental health, addicted, and the criminal element. We need to clearly delineate between them and deal with each.
Homeless. Of the four issues Council has its greatest influence and impact with the homeless. We've done a good job of improving support for the homeless with more homes and assistance coming on stream. The Journey Home program and Council's work with various levels of supportive housing and programs is a positive step. The next two or three years should prove impactful in this category.
Mental Health. Jurisdiction resides mainly with the Federal and Provincial governments who need to re-open and fund housing and support facilities now!
Addiction. There is a pathetic short fall in effective rehabilitation facilities in B.C.. The Province need to help municipalities with funding. We have lost Crossroads and other effective programs where those with issues can receive proper help. Courts have nowhere to send the addict that will help.
Crime. Some 25% of our Kelowna budget is spent on RCMP however we have no say in how that funding is spent in deployment of officers or their priorities. We have good communication with the RCMP but do not run their day to day activity. Council can apply more pressure on the courts and governments to free up more court space and funds so that the criminal is not back on the street hours after being arrested, or not arrested at all.
In general I favour funding for RCMP rather than more bylaw officers. I believe the eventual elimination of the Red and Orange zones may reduce crime in residential neighbourhoods. For the criminal element, Kelowna should no longer be open for business.
3. Some downtown businesses are concerned with the concentration of social services on the west end of Leon Avenue in the downtown core. Where, specifically, should they be in the city?
I guess that depends on who is asking and where the live (or work). Not an easy answer as you naturally want to keep resources together for the addict or at risk, yet clearly that causes issues as well. Ideally the services should be evenly spread about the town with support services (at the five or six hubs).
4. Do you support the recommendations of the Journey Home task force and if elected, would you vote to carry them forward? If not, how would you change the plan?
The majority of them so far seem logical but it will take buy in from all involved, funding, and patience. I am looking forward to the next session and when theory becomes action.\
5. Kelowna is undergoing an unprecedented construction boom. Planning staff have recommended, and Kelowna council has endorsed, several variances that allowed the height of downtown highrises to go well beyond what the zoning allowed. Do you believe development variances should be allowed or should zoning restrictions be adhered to?
Both. Some variances make sense and some zoning restrictions lack logic.
6. Do you support the city’s efforts to bring water quality and use under the management of City of Kelowna or should the other major irrigation districts be left to operate independently?
It is imperative that we continue to move forward with amalgamating our water systems. This is not a game.
7. Do you agree with the recently-adopted Healthy Housing strategy to push multi-family housing or should the market decide? Should the city continue to offer grants and tax exemptions to encourage construction of rental housing?
While I have no problems with offering incentives, it may be time for a serious look at where we are at with both rental housing availability and on-stream numbers.
8. Do you think it’s about time the City of Kelowna broadcast its own council meetings and take responsibility for ensuring public access?
Hmm I did not know we were now a radio or TV station. Sadly the coverage of late has been dropped which is too bad. I have always been thankful for SHAW and Castanet coverage.
1. How have you advocated for the LGBTQ+ community and supported inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community in the past (i.e. have you spoken out publicly for policies at your place of business, testified before government bodies, adopted written policies for your employees, marched for equal rights, etc.)? Please feel free to include events you have participated in and relevant organizations who have endorsed you.
Answer: I am the first (and one of only two) Honourary Lifetime members of The Bridge Youth and Family Services. I organized and hosted for 10 years the Night of the Arts fundraiser and awareness event for the Okanagan Youth and Family Services, then the Bridge, and eventually Metro. The event raised awareness about homeless, addicted, and youth at risk. I was also a Foster parent, Big Brother, and a coach for youth and addicted.
I have spoken and marched in Pride Parades as both a City Councillor and as a resident. I have advocated for the LGBTO and community most of my life and certainly at numerous events, times, locations and in various roles - Councillor, journalist, fund raiser, columnist, foster parent. My wife and I spent 10 years working hard legally to see that victims of the residential schools were finally financially compensated. All my life I have been an advocate for those without a voice or in need of support. My track record is proof of that.
Oh yeah, and I supported the painted sidewalks. lol
2. Please comment on your opinion of the SOGI123 resources from the Ministry of Education.
Answer: SOG123 is a breath of fresh air and a viable tool for teachers and schools to educate themselves, students, and parents. Stats suggest that 64% of LGB youth do not feel safe in schools and I would suggest that number is much higher. This resource available to all schools is a major step forward in helping that. In just two years it is already having a positive impact.
3. The LGBTQ community in Kelowna continues to face harassment, bullying and violence because of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. How will you work to promote a safer, more inclusive Kelowna?
Answer: Hopefully by example first and foremost. I am happy to do public presentations and write about such issues. Also policy and bylaw sometimes provide that opportunity. Education and openness is imperative.
4. Mental health and addictions issues have impacted our community like many others. The LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately affected due to many social and economic factors. What will you do to improve and address these issue, and improve the mental health and wellness of our community?
Answer: There are a couple of ways but first I believe we need proper facilities and enough workers to help those facing mental health or addiction issues. That means we need to lobby harshly for funds and facilities from both the Federal and Provincial governments who have basically disappeared from the situation. I will also lobby for any guidelines or bylaws that logically align with Cities Fit For Children and or Safe Cities targets.
5. LGBTQ+ youth and young adults routinely leave Kelowna for larger cities once they have reached the age of majority. What factors do you think lead to this mass exodus, and what would you do to address these issues?
Answer: Lots leave because that is how life works, however some feel safer in big cities because of more acceptance or the ability to blend in. We need to find jobs and housing that help them remain in town - which we are working hard at currently on council - with more light technology jobs and work and diversified housing on stream in the next two years. Also we must continue to be supportive of youth and LGBTQ feeling safe here in whatever means necessary including facilities and programs of inclusiveness.
6. Ally is a verb. How would you specifically support our QTBIMPoC (Queer, Trans, Black, Mixed Race, Indigenous, People of Color), immigrants and refugees, and ensure they see themselves represented in our community?
Answer: I already am and will continue to be your voice. Every Friday I meet with ANYONE who wants to chat with me over social or private issues that I, as a Councillor and/or as a columnist, may be able to assist with.
My life is filled with diverse interests and people and I am blessed to be here. I love to help people and see myself as the voice of reason and the voice of kindness, caring, and common sense.