Area “D” issues trumped by exclusive Okanagan Falls agenda

“This meeting is truly for the whole of Area “D”,”

Those words were spoken by Area “D” Director Bill Schwarz at last week’s town hall meeting in Okanagan Falls.

It’s too bad that by the meeting’s unofficial conclusion, those words appeared to be nothing more than a politician’s rhetoric.

Out of probably one of the largest audiences to participate in a town hall meeting in recent years, there was a solid contingent of those attending that were from other parts of Area “D”, including Lakeshore Highlands, Kaleden, and Twin Lakes.

The official agenda for the meeting dealt exclusively with issues of consequence to Okanagan Falls, save for the late addition of a discussion on the possiblity of a remand centre locating in the area. The issues presented had also been discussed at the last two previous town hall meetings held in Okangan Falls, so there really was little new to report.

A group of Twin Lakes residents, spearheaded by Coral Brown, have been working tirelessly to have their concerns addressed by the regional district. They attended an open house meeting last year in an attempt to present their issues in the forum, but were denied. This year, they approached Director Schwarz’ office in early January to ask if the meeting included all of Area “D” and to request a spot on the agenda. At one point they were assured their concern would be added, but upon contact with his office again later in the month , they were told that the agenda had been mailed out, and they were not part of it.

“I was told initially on February 2 by the director’s assistant that we would be added to the agenda, but the response I later received was quite diiferent, said Brown, quoting an e-mail that read:

| “Director Schwarz had the following comments for your inquiry.

“If she wants to ask a question of staff she can. The open mike will come following the remand center discussion.”

Is this appropriate treatment afforded to members of a group who have been trying for several years to focus local attention onto a problem they believe is regional in scope?

The apparent depletion of the Twin Lakes aquifer is an issue that has the potential to affect everyone in Area “D”, and it deserves more than a shrug of the shoulders from the area director, even if some – or all – aspects of the issue are out of his jurisdiction.

He has the political acumen – and connections – to help this group answer their questions and get their message out.

As it is, they have been extremely resourceful researching this vey complex problem on their own, but they could use the help and advice that a regional director could give.

In short, this dismissive reaction to an honest request for time is no way to treat taxpayers who have actively involved themselves in the democratic process the way this group has.

Is there a quicker way to destroy morale and breed apathy than this?

In addition to the Twin Lakes representatives there was an obviously frustrated group from Lakeshore Highlands also wished to address their concerns publicly with the regional director at the meeting, but they were also stymied when the meeting dragged beyond two hours, many of the audience having departed before either group could get the floor.

Okanagan Falls is moving ahead with a number of inititatives that they hope will benefit the town. These are worthy initiatives, and we wish them well.

It’s high time, however, for the director to pay some real attention to the rest of the electoral area’s concerns. There appears to be growing discontent in the rest of Area “D” over the apparent fixation Mr. Shwarz has towards the needs and aspirations of Okanagan Falls over the rest of the residents in the area.