A lot has happened in the past three years in Penticton. But Julius Bloomfield has a firm eye on the future.
The realtor and former B.C. Green party candidate is challenging incumbent Dan Ashton for the mayoralty in Penticton, and recognized it’s impossible to undo cuts to staff or decisions made.
“What’s done is done. Let’s look at what we’ve got and move forward,” he said. “How can you keep moving forward if you keep looking back? You lose sight of the goal in front of you.”
And Bloomfield has spent a lot of time considering goals on the horizon. He said he’s getting a good reception on the streets because he has drafted a platform that covers everything in Penticton’s future from job creation and affordable housing to intelligent planning and sustainable energy.
“I think that’s where the people of Penticton are frustrated, because they don’t know where the leadership is right now, or if they do, then they’re not happy with it,” Bloomfield said, adding he’s sensed “there’s frustration with the current administration.”
He said an absence of vision and subsequent communication hasn’t helped foster a sense of transparency at City Hall, which he wants to rectify partially by publishing the mayor’s appointment book at regular intervals to establish trust.
“The people want to know who the mayor is talking to. They want to know what’s going on,” he said. “If they don’t know what’s going on, they always think there’s a back-room deal going on.”
He also wants to target morale at City Hall. Bloomfield said he’s not opposed to core services reviews, but feels they should become a regular procedure for managers that include staff in the process.
“If you include the employees in the process of making the municipality the best it can be, you will have a happy place — and a place people are happy to deal with,” he said.
“We’re not going in there to slash and burn, but to constantly seek efficiencies in the system will improve the operations and processes within the city which ultimately make it more efficient and more cost-effective.”
Bloomfield said city debt is one of first things he would want to tackle in an inaugural term as mayor. He’s content to let the B.C. Lotteries development assistance compensation (DAC) program cover the South Okanagan Events Centre debt off in 10 years, but wants to chip away at the operating deficit left by the amenity by reviewing management models, looking at how Moose Jaw and Calgary have incorporated best practices. But upgrades to water and sewer systems have left the city with a lot of debt to service, he said, and stressed that accelerated payments will be required.
Once those are addressed, he said, the city can move on downtown revitalization, water system upgrades and power generator placement on the pipes from Greyback Reservoir to build the energy capacity.
On the economic front, Bloomfield said he wants to see a focus on home-grown businesses: people who are from Penticton and the South Okanagan with a vested interest in staying in town. That’s why he wants to encourage students at Okanagan College Centre of Excellence to set up shop when they’ve finished their studies.
“First order of business, I think, for that kind of industry is to make sure there’s enough bandwidth coming down to the city. We’re losing high-tech jobs to Kelowna, and we can certainly ride on the back of that to some extent,” he said, adding Penticton is well-suited for high-tech medical applications.
“Not only do we have a local population of people who have a vested interest in the success of those companies, but they would be willing investors in those small businesses and could be clinical trial people for the end products of those small businesses.”
Although those are more long-range goals, the agriculture sector would also get more immediate focus. He said agri-tourism, production and processing are areas included in his short-term strategy for job growth. That would create local demand for produce, he said, which would foster a made-in-Penticton incubator farmer program to bring new blood into the agriculture business.
A proponent of “intelligent planning,” Bloomfield said voters can expect development that adheres to the official community plan. If it doesn’t, he wants developers to show City Hall marketing projections for a project’s feasibility.
“I’m pro development that has benefit for the city. Nobody wants to see any more projects going bankrupt,” he said. “I think it’s beholden upon a council that what is being proposed by a developer is actually marketable and doable.”
While he’s never held public office, Bloomfield says he understands the workings of City Hall through his committee appointments and, as a realtor, has always been paid according to his efforts.
“I make no promises to anybody that anybody’s jobs are secure or we’re going to enter a golden age. But I can promise that I’m going to be fair in every decision I make,” he said.
“We’ve all got the interests of the electorate and the residents at heart, and the long-term future and stability of the city. If we all have that same goal, then I don’t see why that would interfere.”