What was Kamloops thinking about in February of 1988? Running bulls down Victoria Street and celebrating our Western heritage. This “Editor’s Notes” column was published Saturday, Feb. 17, 1988.
KAMLOOPS, ACCORDING to Vancouver entrepreneur Nelson Skalbania, should be proud of being a cow town.
Skalbania, who wants to turn the old courthouse (which he calls “sexy”) into an Italian restaurant, was here this week with some advice on how to get the city moving. He gave a speech to the chamber of commerce that sounded a lot like he’d scribbled out a few lines on some scrap paper while he was eating lunch, but it was mildly entertaining and provocative anyway.
He first recounted a few of his “best” and “worst” real estate flips. In the good ones, he made millions with a few hours’ work; in the bad ones he lost it. Interesting stuff if you enjoy hearing people brag about their money, but then he got to talking about Kamloops.
This is a city, said Skalbania, that is up for sale, cheap. He hoisted a map of the downtown area that showed a score of major properties that could be scooped up at what he calls “dirt” prices by anyone with an interest and a few million dollars.
Once fewer properties were for sale, value would start to go up. By re-developing them gradually, the owners could turn a tidy profit and change the entire image of the city.
Skalbania thinks, in effect, that Kamloops should be proud to be a western hick town and build on that; it should bring back a western-theme summer celebration, and as the highlight run bulls down main street, as they do in Spain.
As catchy as the idea sounds, we will never run bulls down main street. One can just imagine a large Hereford thrashing Ray Fuoco’s book store, or running amok through the 406. Not really a family event.
(Mayor) Phil Gaglardi wouldn’t allow it unless they ran in both directions and didn’t take up any parking spots, anyway.
It’s the kind of whimsy that entrepreneurs like Skalbania indulge in before jetting off to someplace else to make another deal, but for a few minutes he had people getting excited about the city again.
The real lesson in Skalbania’s speech was that before a city can help itself, it has to come up with some ideas. Preferably, I’d say, not ones that include turning our historic courthouse into a combination museum-Italian restaurant and bar. Maybe he could be talked into a wild west saloon.
– – –
Ron Hardie, formerly a local radio jock now toiling as media relations manager for IckyBicky in Vancouver, keeps pretty close tabs on what we editorial writers say about his employer.
In response to a recent editorial about the increase in car insurance rates, Ron sent along some newspaper clippings about what’s happening to the poor folks in Ontario and California, where some major private companies are refusing to sell auto insurance at all.
Ontario drivers face premium-rate increases average 35 to 40 per cent next year if an independent consultants’ report is adopted. And, Co-operate General Insurance, Canada’s largest direct automobile insurance supplier, will stop writing new business in metro Toronto because it pays out $1.50 for every $1 it takes in from policies.
In Los Angeles, several major insurance companies will get out of the auto-insurance business next April and another major company has done the same in Boston.
The reason, again, is that they can’t make money on it, and the result is that car owners in those areas are left to go in search of insurance anywhere they can get it, at any price. Or, worse yet, driving without insurance.
Hardie’s point seems to be that we in B.C. should consider ourselves lucky because ICBC insures all comers.