A year ago, Dieter Dudy stood in front of City Hall, competing with the racket of the nearby trains as he announced his campaign platform, turning a no-contest mayoral election into a heart stopper.
It was one of the more interesting civic elections. Candidates talked about Ajax (though few actually took a stand), the parkade snafu, even hospitals, and all kinds of ideas for making Kamloops better. By my arithmetic, there were well over $100 million in promises — maybe “vision” is a better word — in that election.
So many ways to spend taxpayers’ money, so little time — arts centres, edible gardens, recreation facilities, highway corridors. It’s a candy store.
A few weeks ago I wrote about some of the civic brainstorms that have never gotten off the ground. Some, I wrote, are good enough that they incubate until the timing is right and the money is there.
Two I didn’t mention then, but which were part of the election campaign — a performing arts centre, and beautification of the city’s gateways. Maybe the time has come for both.
In 2003, the cultural strategic plan called for setting up a committee to look into building a new “arts and heritage centre” or — as some prefer to call it — a concert hall. This past June, council approved forming the committee. Last week, Mayor Peter Milobar promised he’s going to get on it. Between 2003 and 2012, the guestimated cost of such an amenity has gone from $15 million to $30 million or more.
When the committee eventually does get going, it will have its work cut out, since some people regard such things as a waste of money. Nevertheless, the concept of a new concert hall at the site of the Henry Grube Education Centre seems to be gaining some traction. And, intriguingly, I heard the Heritage House site and the Interior Savings Centre parking lot mentioned as contenders.
I won’t go into the negatives of those options, because you’re already familiar with them unless you just got off the bus. What’s interesting, though, is that they should come up at all, and really, if we’re going to open our minds to a new hall, why would we rule them out?
Not to worry, however. It’s possible, maybe likely, that we’re still years away from getting serious about it, by which time the cost should easily be up around $50 million (there’s a price to procrastination).
At least, though, people are starting to talk about it in terms of the possible. Beautifying the transportation corridors into the city, which also came up during last year’s election (and indirectly at this week’s council meeting with respect to better lighting on Tranquille Road), has been on the political wish list even longer than a concert hall.
It isn’t way up there as a taxpayers’ need or want, yet what makes many world-class cities great is the first impression they give visitors. Around here, we don’t exactly offer the wow factor to arrivals.
Happily, I’m told some progress is being made on plans for Tranquille Road out near the airport. What would it cost? Easily a million or so. The Trans-Canada in Valleyview, on the other hand, would be much, much more to do it right.
A waste of taxpayers’ dollars? Or an investment in building a livable city?