Jason Ryll is seeking a second term on Williams Lake city council in this year’s municipal election. Ryll said he believes being on city council is about representing a vision that is much larger than an individual’s ideas.
What is the solution to Williams Lake’s current housing and rental shortage?
What we need is the building and development of new housing and of varied types. Single family homes, townhomes, condos and apartment buildings. The result of this will work to our whole communities advantage in that it may drive down rental rates which are already becoming increasingly expensive. In the working conversations I’ve had with our Homelessness committee, the issue is twofold – not enough housing and not enough affordable housing. We’ve been working on solving that with the current building of a new 39 unit affordable housing complex that is now under construction and we’re eager to keep working with the Association for Community Living and other partners to create more. Every bit helps.
What are your thoughts on the proposal to burn rail ties at Atlantic Power?
Where this idea began was AP’s need for more fibre to be able to add to their mix of materials for incineration at the energy plant. They were not getting enough waste fibre from mills, and identified an environmental concern in the piles of replaced ties on the road and rail sidings. Incinerating these ties at their facility is less environmentally damaging than letting them rot on the side of the road, which is the current practice. Council received AP’s application to the Province for increasing the amount of ties they could use from 15% to up to 50%. Our stipulation for a letter of support was that any increase in burning ties is dependant on them meeting or exceeding environmental safety standards on air quality. We have to always balance the need for industry with being environmental stewards. Which is why I’ve put my faith in science and the opinions and recommendations of experts to help my decision making, and why I support our decision. As for access to enough fibre, now that we are surrounded by hectares of fire scorched trees that are quickly losing their market value, I don’t see access to fibre as an ongoing issue.
What measures by council do you think would help diversify and strengthen the local economy?
Strengthening and diversifying the local economy is the challenge of every Council everywhere. Which means that we are competing for investment for new industries and businesses with cities around the world. Governments don’t create jobs, we create the business environments for people to invest in creating jobs. Having run a zero percent tax increase for 3 of 4 years while identifying where money was previously being spent has resulted in a bit of an economic boom for our city. It’s also advantageous that our current Council is very well connected not only to the local community, but also outside investors in the business community. I firmly believe the health of a community is tied to the health of it’s business community. If business is creating jobs, then we are doing our job. We see that happening now when you drive through our city.
With the change in climate and increasing threat of wildfires, what strategies would you support to make the community safer and more resilient?
The issue of making our community “safer” from an environmental perspective in relation to climate change is a new challenge for communities. I believe that we are able to implement our Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which is being updated and I’d like to see the recommendations implemented as quickly as possible. We need to understand how we maximize our ability to do as many of the identified prescriptions in the CWPP as possible in order to increase our ability to tap into available grant funding and coordinate our efforts so that the Regional District, Ministry of Forests, the City of WL and our own Community Forest are all on the same page. Fire protection and water conservation need to be tops on everyone’s mind too though, and those practices start at home. I’m proud that the resolution I put forward around financial incentives or insurance breaks for homeowners to fire smart their properties received unanimous endorsement at our recent UBCM convention. That resolution now goes to the provincial and federal governments to implement.
Considering we always rank in the top 10 for crime severity, do you think Williams Lake is a safe place to live for everyone?
Absolutely! Williams Lake is a very safe community for everyone. Statistics don’t make a community safe, the attitudes of our community members do. We’ve identified a flaw within the way the crime stats are being reported out and both the RCMP and Stats Canada agree it needs addressing. We’re already working on resolving this issue and look forward to the more accurate placement in the middle of the pack for communities our size from across the country. Crime is an issue everywhere; Williams Lake is no different and I’m committed to keep working on this issue.
What would you do to protect and/or enhance the city’s air quality?
I have no reason to believe our air quality is poor. I often check our cities rankings on the Air Quality website www.bcairquality.ca and when we remove the anomalies of the last 2 wildfire seasons, our air quality is regularly quite good. When our air quality is poorest is during the winter time when people use their wood stoves. Combine that with occasional inversions which affect our valley and we have worse conditions. This seems relatively like common sense. Otherwise I have yet to see results of our city’s air quality being poor.
What ideas do you have for the proposed trail and amenities on the RC Cotton Site that would preserve Scout Island as a nature sanctuary and wildlife viewing area while giving residents more access to the lake?
I’m actually really excited about this. My ideas include a new, larger boat launch, a parking lot big enough to accommodate trucks with boat trailers, a green space, wide accessible trails that connect to South Lakeside and a connection to Scout Island via a pedestrian bridge. As for the rest of the property, I think we need to balance development with the natural aspects of being on the lake-head. What I’m most excited about though is hearing from the community what they want there. It’s my job to listen, consider and act on the wants and needs of the entire community. Tell me your ideas!