As part of our Penticton city by-election coverage, the Penticton Western News asked candidates to submit a bio about themselves, and to provide their answers to questions that are important to the community.
Katie O’Kell is originally from Toronto, and has lived and worked in Penticton for 10 years.
She moved to Penticton “temporarily for nine months” a decade ago, and fell in love with the area. With a background in virology, there were no jobs in her field in Penticton. O’Kell started working in a vineyard, and has since worked her way up to head winemaker. She has also done taxes in Penticton for the last six years, which gives her a unique perspective on the financial picture for many of Penticton’s residents. She is passionate about creating positive change in Penticton.
Her vision for Penticton focuses on three main avenues for change – affordable housing for the working poor by encouraging density downtown, empowering the community to reduce crime by instituting a beat cop and creative policing strategies, and tackling homelessness through innovative programs with a proven track record such as paid cleanup programs and dry housing initiatives.
What O’Kell lacks in political experience she makes up for with practical wisdom. She believes that Penticton’s problems are not unique, and we are best served by adapting best practices and case studies from other cities around the world.
Q: How would you address the housing crisis?
A: Since Penticton is bordered by lakes and mountains, we have a limited amount of space to expand. I would like to encourage density in the form of more duplexes and carriage houses in Penticton – tall apartment buildings do not fit with the look and feel of our town. I would encourage this by tax incentives for developers who meet density requirements, and tax penalties for those who do not.
Q: How would you address rising crime rates and social issues impacting Penticton?
A: Every resident, no matter their age, race, or economic status, deserves to feel safe in their homes, businesses and our community. I will work with the RCMP to get a beat cop on duty.
A police officer walking downtown creates a visible deterrent to crime, and creates a sense of safety and security. We also need to lobby the provincial government for more funding to hire additional RCMP officers.
Q: How would you support small business?
A: We have all been struggling, but the problems for small businesses here go deeper than pandemic restrictions. Penticton has a lack of staffing, and security, both of which affect small businesses profoundly. Addressing the housing crisis and rising crime rates will help small businesses to thrive in Penticton.
Q: Do you support more low barrier supportive housing for the homeless or what do you think can address the addictions and mental health issues facing the community?
A: I believe that we have a duty to help and support those who are less fortunate that us, but not at the expense of our safety and security. Penticton needs more dry housing solutions – there appears to only be help available for those who are either using substances, or in recovery. I would request a change in policy with BC Housing, who fund many of our homeless shelters, as well as increased funding for mental health services. We appear to have more than our fair share of homeless shelters compared to other cities in our region, so we should also have more than our fair share of funding for mental health and police services.
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