I usually start my morning reading the newspaper, surfing the online news services and returning emails and phone/text messages.
I noted a few recent comments stating that, from their perspective, there has been very little economic activity or entrepreneurism in the city over the last couple of years. Last year alone the City of Penticton issued over 400 new business licences and our construction value tripled to almost $200 million. We’ve been recognized by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business as the No. 2 and No. 4 most entrepreneurial city in Canada in the last two years. Two local entrepreneurs from Wine Crush Market recently won a provincial award, and People’s Craft Soda won a Dragons’ Den sponsorship. We are proud to be able to support our local businesses and celebrate their success.
I also saw a claim about population decline and while this may have been the case a few years ago, the 2016 census data shows Penticton has grown by 2.7 per cent since 2011 with almost 1,000 new residents arriving in our city (from 32,877 to 33,761). Population increases are tied to jobs and housing availability and affordability. While our growth is lower than the provincial average, we are working hard to tackle the challenges by creating a business and investment friendly environment and supporting housing densification.
Accountability, accessibility and reasonable was not just a campaign slogan and I assure you the lessons learned from the Skaha Park experience have changed the way we do business. We have never been more focused on process and communications as we are today.
As council members we work hard to understand the issues and try to make decisions that reflect the needs of the entire community. Making decisions that reflect the good of the many has proven to be one of the most challenging responsibilities as a member of council. We rarely make a decision that does not result in a “no” for someone. We take full responsibility for our decisions and value your input.
All members of council are accessible and work hard with many committees, residents and community groups to deal with the challenges we face in our community. My schedule is full every day and I spend the vast majority of my time talking with residents, the business community and community groups. Council and staff work in many capacities advocating for the community and work very hard to provide and improve city services.
It’s difficult to engage with 33,000 residents and I agree that we need to improve communications. Council recently supported a staff recommendation to take a step back from the parking discussion. We recognize that we need to do a better job of communicating the parking challenges and working with residents and the business community to define a strategy that is understood and supported. The development of the new Official Community Plan will be one of the most intensive community driven processes in Penticton’s history. Council has dedicated a considerable amount of time and resources to this project to ensure we get it right.
At the end of the day it’s not about elections, it’s about doing the best we can to make a difference and build a community that reflects the needs and values of our residents, our businesses and most importantly our families.
We have surpassed the two-year point in our council term. We have two years left to prove that we can learn from past challenges and continue to build on our success. As a former hockey referee I can tell you that the game is far from over and while we have taken a few big hits, I know if we work together the next two periods are going to be great.