An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
SATURDAY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE a big day in Kamloops.
That’s when residents were scheduled to vote on a new performing arts centre. The referendum, of course, was sidelined by COVID-19.
But the pandemic shouldn’t stop us from looking beyond the pandemic. We can still think and talk.
Before the virus came along, there was optimism in the air about the referendum, much more so than in 2015 when the first vote failed. Mayor Ken Christian talked about it during his recent State of the City speech to the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce.
It was an excellent speech but some of his comments were surprising.
In trying to compare the now-postponed PAC referendum to the one on the Tournament Capital Centre 17 years ago, he claimed the TCC was criticized as a facility nobody would use, was too expensive and in the wrong place.
Only one of those was correct. Many thought $38 million was too much money. But there was next to no disagreement about the location, because it amounted to expansions of two already-existing venues — TRU and McArthur Island.
Both offered plenty of parking, a major consideration. That’s something the PAC plan doesn’t cover.
As to who would use it, the TCC was accurately pitched as being not just for elite athletes but for the general population, not just as spectators but as participants.
Christian can be forgiven for his failed comparison because he wasn’t involved in the TCC campaign, but we need to be clear on what the PAC plan is — it’s strengths and weaknesses. These are the kinds of things that need more public discussion.
When the referendum resurfaces post-COVID-19, people will be cautious. Let’s hope there’s still an appetite for a PAC, enough to have a robust community debate.
The question will be whether this plan is the right one. So let’s keep talking about it.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.