Saturday April 19, 2014

Gateway opens door

A City council decision to shelve a costly corridor upgrade in favour of a spartan approach opens the door to broader public involvement.

Council rejected a $24-million plan prepared by staff for the airport gateway/Tranquille Road corridor that runs through Brocklehurst.

The area hasn’t had any significant upgrades for 30 years, so it’s overdue for enhancement. Considering the safety of pedestrians and cyclists along the busy stretch and the route’s importance as a first impression for visitors arriving by air, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Unfortunately, there’s not plenty of money to pay for a comprehensive overhaul. Planners and taxpayers tend to prefer a thorough upgrade, including road improvements, tree planting, a separate multi-use path and moving utility wires underground because it’s practical and, in the long haul, more economical and less disruptive.

Instead of a total makeover, councilors opted for a more cautious approach. They voted to strike a public advisory group to look at low-cost beautification of the airport entrance.

At the same workshop, council received a report card from staff on efforts to improve citizen engagement in the city. The conclusion was basically the same as a recent assessment by Kamloops Voters Society: High marks for effort but needs improvement.

Overall, the trend is encouraging, though greater public engagement and improved voter turnouts should be the ultimate test.

The two are made for each other — a corridor upgrade without funding and citizens keen on civic engagement. The advisory group — council steered around the term “task force” since it might raise expectations of immediate action — could be a springboard for a more imaginative process.

Since there is an element of design to the gateway, why not throw open the doors to creative thinking on the part of the interested public? Hold a contest. Offer prizes. When people sense that their ideas are valued, they are motivated to become more involved in civic affairs.

Of course, the drawback of the piecemeal corridor plan is that it doesn’t accomplish the broader objectives that guided staff planning and can’t satisfy the interests of residents, even if it is more politically palatable. With the municipal election next fall, it’s likely that the costlier plan will resurface in search of a mandate.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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