Prospective Golden Mayors talk about the issues

Town of Golden: Two mayoral candidates went head-to-head at all candidates forum.

Two candidates are vying for the Mayoral Seat at the Town of Golden, and at last week’s All Candidates Forum they went head-to-head trying to convince voters who is best for the job.

Keith Hern and Ron Oszust, both of whom currently serve on Town Council, started the evening by explaining to the crowd why they are running for Mayor of Golden.

“I have fulfilled the role of councillor effectively and efficiently,” said Hern, adding that he has strong communication skills, and that his corporate experience has taught him how to follow through with difficult decisions such as firing staff.

Oszust talked about his wealth of experience in the community, both political and otherwise.

“These experiences have given me the opportunity to connect with people throughout the province, not only from different towns and communities, but at the provincial level,” he said. “They know me, and they know our community.”

Oszust also made it clear that had current Mayor, Christina Benty, been running for re-election he would not have put his name forward. And once he knew who’s name would be on the ballot, he decided to run.

Questions from the floor for the two Mayor hopefuls ranged from the importance of the UBCM Conference and public safety, to social responsibilities and unsightly properties.

The Golden economy was brought up several times, and both candidates agreed that the community is in need of some economic development.

“We need economic development to bring in a larger tax base,” said Oszust. However any model that comes in would have to be a joint effort between the Town of Golden, and Area A.

Removing barriers for businesses is also critical for the economic stability of Golden, and Oszust says that the best way for local government to assist would be to continue lobbying the Province to remove some of the red tape, as well as working with the local Chamber of Commerce to make sure the municipality’s policies are relevant.

Hern sees the lack of an economic development body, along with an “outdated” Official Community Plan (from which the zoning bylaw is derived), as the two main  barriers to new business in town.

He believes the best way to move forward on economic development is through Invest Kootenays, a joint-initiative of local governments, economic development organizations and Chambers of Commerce with the aim of attracting and retaining investment.

“This needs to move forward,” he said.

Even  though the economy may have been a top priority, residents were also concerned about quality of life in the community. Several questions centred around quality of life investments that don’t necessarily show a profit, but help attract and retain residents.

One attendee asked about Kicking Horse Culture (which is funded for the next three years through EOF money), and whether the candidates would support the organization with taxes in the future if need be.

Both Hern and Oszust agreed in the importance and success of KHC, but disagreed on how it should be funded.

Oszust said he would support the use of tax dollars to keep cultural services going, while Hern said he supports KHC, he does not believe it is an appropriate use of tax dollars.