It was a full house of around 200 Penticton residents of all ages who came out to hear from council and mayoral candidates at the Seniors Drop In Centre Tuesday night.
The Penticton Chamber of Commerce hosted the two-hour business focused forum for the 22 candidates vying for a seat. The candidates answered questions pertaining to business taxes, development costs, housing supply, vacation rentals and even bike lanes came into the mix.
The format was a bit frustrating as each candidate was given three chances at the podium to answer one of 21 questions drawn randomly. Every candidate was allowed to introduce themselves with most saying the two large issues facing Penticton are public safety and housing. The public could not ask questions of the candidates.
School trustee candidates were also given time on the podium to introduce themselves and say what their focus is for education.
If you were unable to attend the forum but want to listen to what was said, Peach City Radio did record the entire night.
On the issue of crime and public safety, Katie O’Kell said while municipalities can’t change the judicial system and their catch and release of prolific offenders, she would continue to voice the city’s concerns to judges and Crown.
“If elected, I’d like to be a prolific complainer to the judges until they listen,” O’Kell said.
Helena Konanz said if elected she would look into how many prisoners from Oliver are being dropped off on Penticton streets.
“Drive down Main Street and it’s like Penticton’s East Hastings,” she said. “I’ve been knocking on doors and people are saying they don’t feel safe to go shopping.”
Shannon Stewart, who is the administrator of the group Clean Streets Penticton was asked about crime.
“The reason I stand before you is the safety of our city. Our Facebook group Clean Streets Penticton has 4,000 members and has created significant change. It’s given people a voice and we’ve really taken action on the ‘see something, say something.’ We’ve worked with RCMP, shelter operators and other agencies like bylaws. It’s that kind of collaboration I would continue with if elected.”
Mayoral candidate Julius Bloomfield said he’d like to see a Car 40 type program for the Penticton fire department that would pair a mental health expert with firefighters going out to help with the “sheer volume of overdose calls.”
Katie Robinson said after meeting with provincial ministers last week about public safety, it is clear communities are on their own and won’t be getting any help from other levels of government.
“We can keep hiring RCMP and they can keep arresting people only for them to be let right out again. We’ve talked until we are blue in the face to the Attorney General and I’m sorry to say they have no interest in helping with this or the opioid crisis. We are going to have to have a ‘made in Penticton solution.’”
Mayoral candidate Jason Reynen and founder of Clean Streets Penticton said he is a person of action and wants to bring back Penticton to a place where people want to raise their children.
Mayoral candidate John Vassilaki said council did the right thing to implement the Lake to Lake bike route.
“The bike lane was implemented properly. Every modern community is putting in protective bike lanes to protect cyclists. I know you are frustrated but give it time. Bike lanes are expensive but so are libraries and not everyone uses them but they are still needed,” said Vassilaki.
Nicolas Kruger, who is the first Penticton Indian Band member to run for council, said the bike lane is not in the right place and impacting some businesses.
“If elected I would research how it was implemented and bring the issue back to the people to see if they want it,” he said.
Isaac Gilbert is an avid cyclist who supports bike lanes.
“It’s an inexpensive and accessible way to get around town. A vehicle, insurance and gas are all expensive and this offers a way to get around safely,” Gilbert said.
Andrew Jakubeit made two suggestions to address the housing crisis. One idea is to lower development cost charges (DCCs) for developers who build employee and affordable housing as well as carriage houses. The second is creating a housing authority within the city.
“We can look to Whistler when they were struggling to find housing for their staff working there. They created a housing authority and Penticton could do that too,” said Jakubeit.
Amelia Boultbee said it’s important to keep DCCs low to keep developers interested in Penticton. She pointed to the fact that only recently Penticton increased their DCCs after five years of being below the average.
“We also need to grow up and out with all kinds of housing not just [one acre lots],” she said.
Mayoral candidate Cory Hounslow said a way to attract new businesses and help staffing shortages is to create affordable housing for staff. Lindsey Hall suggested the city could invest in low-cost housing on city land.
Mayoral candidate Owen Hayward’s suggestion of throwing out the parking meters downtown was met by cheers from the audience.
Ryan Graham, a former DPBIA president, said Penticton has a lot to offer but there has been a lot of talk and no action, which is what’s needed to clean up the town to bring back its vibrancy for businesses to thrive. He also commented on how good it was to see a mix of young and old in the audience.
James Miller said he only shops local and while on council questioned city staff’s decision to take the lease of the iconic Peach from a well-known community-minded business owner to a company in Alberta with no ties here.
Sept 29: Downtown Penticton BIA presents a casual all-candidates night in the upstairs of Neighbourhood Brewing
Oct 3: Seniors focus forum at Senior’s Drop In Centre
Oct 4: Cupe and DPAC all candidates meeting for school trustees
Oct. 5: South Okanagan Home Builder’s Association is hosting a private forum at Lakeside Resort