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EDITORIAL – Putting arts centre to vote this year could doom it to failure

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE has been on the books for 20 years and we might have to wait another 20.

That is, if a referendum is held this year. Let me explain.

A new arts theatre has been talked about for decades.  A referendum on building a new venue on the Kamloops Daily News site narrowly failed in 2015.

A second referendum, on a scaled-down version of the first proposal, was scheduled for April 4, 2020 but was shelved in the face of COVID.

Now, Mayor Ken Christian says the referendum should be held in connection with this fall’s civic elections because it would save the cost of holding a stand-alone referendum at some later date.

Such a move would put the project at serious risk. We have no idea at this point where COVID-19 is going to take us. The Omicron surge might be relatively brief, but the virus itself is going to be with us for quite some time, and new variants may even create new waves.

It seems highly unlikely we’ll be over the pandemic, and certainly not over the hangover that’s bound to follow, by October. What does seem likely is that, if the pandemic is on the wane, people are going to want to spend their money on travel and other things they’ve been passing up, not on boosting their taxes.

Getting approval for the PAC is a big challenge. A solid base of objectors doesn’t see the need for what they call a facility for the elite. That rationale is way off base but it’s one that’s hard to change.

There will have to be a highly effective “yes” campaign, strong backing from City council, and a groundswell in public support to get it through.

Timing is everything, and I fear a referendum this year would be doomed to fail. And that would set the arts centre back another 20 years.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (9125 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

7 Comments on EDITORIAL – Putting arts centre to vote this year could doom it to failure

  1. Jennie Stadnichuki // January 18, 2022 at 11:35 PM // Reply

    Not now, nor anytime soon! Covid-19 variants will continue to evolve. Will enough people vote yes when they still feel insecure about their personal vulnerability to contagion? I don’t think so. Those of us who attended the Sagebrush Theatre’s latest production in December were triple vaxxed yet had to sit with spaces between folks in front, beside and behind our seats. It worked well in the 700+/1 seat Sagebrush Theatre, but it is half the size of the proposed PAC and the structure has long been paid for. We need to be patient and support what we already have and hope the World Scientific Community develops the ultimate Vaccine – one that can keep pace and evolve as cleverly as the Covid-19 virus has done and continues to do. The most recent news has informed us that the evidence is clear the virus has been moving from animals to humans (or is it vice versa? it’s difficult to be clear on that). We now need to be cautious about Hamsters: poor little creatures! CBC interviewed a Scientist who had just moved to Canada and is working on identifying which animals have been part of the chain of spread. This process will probably take years. If we have the time and energy to lobby for a PAC, it might be better invested in requesting that all Municipalities lobby the Federal Govt to invest in funding more vaccinations to poor countries so the world can come closer to 90-100% immunity.

  2. L Dawne Taylor // January 18, 2022 at 4:08 PM // Reply

    I agree with waiting to put the PAC to another vote. I totally support a PAC which is desperately needed in Kamloops, but just not right now. To the convinced naysayers, if Kamloops can have the Tournament Capital building (in my opinion used by another group of so-called “elites”) which everyone paid and pays still for maintenance and upgrades, then surely we can also have a first class arts centre to go with it. If little Vernon can support a grand arts centre, then surely we can too.

  3. I agree with Mel’s assessment here, and have been thinking the same thing. Even as a PAC supporter in general, the only prudent move is to shelve it for this next 4 year election cycle and bring it up with a good grassroots push in 2025-2026. With a bit of luck Covid will be at least in our daily rear view mirror and with a functioning Council, other pressing issues the city faces can be dealt with first. Asking a lot, I know.

    Then … we can look at infrastructure like a PAC, and pretty much ensure its referendum success. What truly matters is that the Daily News lot is just left alone and forgotten about and very much kept out of the development market.

    Perhaps a tall ask for todays forgetful, kneejerk decision makers.

  4. If you think people are going to have buckets of money to spend, then let them spend it on building it and maintaining it, and using it. This is not for the every day hard working taxpayer and that was made clear in a vote by the taxpayers already, we do not need another referendum or vote. We need better health care, better snow removal, better infrastructure maintenance, not another white elephant draining our tax dollars. City council has to wake up and smell the roses and start managing the city for the benefit of the taxpayer.

  5. It certainly would make Kamloops a little less boring…slightly less. To have a swanky PAC I mean. Perhaps consideration should be given to increase property taxes only for properties with a value over a certain threshold. I agree that adding a referendum question to the civic ballot, while it may make sense from an economic sense, may further ruin the chances for it (the PAC) to happen during our lifetime.
    Much of the electorate has had enough with the TNRD scandal, the deteriorating social environment and the pandemic even if this latest point may have subsided by autumn. A blunt yes/no question will not be appealing nor appropriate.

  6. Maybe wait another 4 years until the NEXT civic election. It makes a bit more common sense to give some time to see where this pandemic is going to take us.
    It isn’t reasonable burdening people with this extra expense when no one even knows what capacity seating would be allowed, if mask-wearing and vaccination passports were needed for admission etc. Gyms are closed down again so why would anyone think a PAC would be open to full capacity?
    Not much fun watching a live performance with half the orchestra in place, all the musicians wearing masks and having prerecorded music played through a first class sound system.
    Perhaps let us see how a virtual PAC flies first. Time to strike up a committee and do a study.

  7. Yeah let’s build an arts center we can’t use anytime soon , and we xan just up people’s property taxes to pay for it , absolutely brilliant idea mel …… I am sure you can tack a few more tax payer funded parties and free meals on to that too …. we know how you city folk just love it when you have an excuse to milk the tax payer more … how many free meals we at now mel ….

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