Among the more than 200 people who came out to the Nov. 8 municipal election forum, several residents brought tough questions about candidates’ fitness for office.
Lance Hamblin fielded pointed questions about his decision to run for bot mayor and director of Electoral Area ‘G’: Houston Rural.
“Mayor or regional district? Pick one and why,” asked Karin Koppitz, a reporter with CFTK News.
“I wouldn’t pick one or the other,” said Hamblin, who is currently director of Area G and chair of the regional district. “I believe I can represent both jurisdictions very well.”
There is legal precedent to serve both, he said, adding that in practical terms Houston and the district have few boundary issues that would lead to conflicts of interest.
If elected to both positions, Hamblin has said he will serve in those roles full-time.
Hamblin was challenged again by incumbent councillor Rick Lundrigan.
“I wasn’t going to comment, but I can’t help myself,” Lundrigan said. “If you read Lance’s blog, he’s already picked and it’s the regional district.”
Hamblin quickly spoke to correct that claim.
“I haven’t picked. There are rules in place for conflict-of-interest,” he said, explaining that if a regional district priority did come to council while he was mayor, he would have to step aside and let the six councillors vote on it in his absence.
Hamblin is one of two B.C. civic candidates running for both a mayor and regional district director. The other is the incumbent mayor of Castlegar.
Bill Holmberg, who manages the Finning branch in Houston, spoke to questions about whether he has enough time for the job.
In the last council term, Holmberg delegated his role on the Omineca Beetle Action Committee (OBAC) to councillor Shane Brienen due to his busy schedule.
“There are some concerns about time,” he said. “But I assure you working for Finning I get to wear two hats. I get to go to a lot of mining symposiums and learn a lot of stuff there, too, free of charge for the town of Houston.”
Sue Jones, a former District of Houston recreation director who now works with Houston Link to Learning, asked Holmberg and all the incumbents to list what committees they joined last term.
After the incumbents responded, mayoral candidate Lance Hamblin said, “I think the answer everybody’s skirting is that this council in their first or second year of business disbanded the committee system they used to have.”
“If I’m elected mayor, I’m certainly going to reinstitute that,” he said, adding that council needs to work in more detail on some issues and it important to engage the non-council residents who had been part of those committees.
Later in the evening, Bill Holmberg took on a separate issue.
“Some people call it the mayor’s driveway, but we did upgrade Mount Harry Davis because it’s an emergency route if the bridges go out,” he said. “Honestly I wasn’t any part of that.”
Forum raises tax issue
While Hamblin and Holmberg took the most grilling Nov. 8, one man asked how all the candidates who live outside the District of Houston boundary how they can represent a town when they pay no municipal tax.
Phyllis Jellett said she does pay municipal property taxes on a house she rents out in Houston, and she also pays tax on business properties.
Lance Hamblin said he has lived and worked in the Houston area for 42 years, and feels he can offer something to the community whether he pays taxes or not.
Rick Lundrigan said he had lived in Houston a long time before moving to a place that better suited his family.