Besides Penticton having another successful year, with strong numbers again for building starts, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said 2017 was a good example of improving communications.
“Our communication with the citizens, with the community, is vastly improved,” said Jakubeit, adding that many reports coming to council now contain indicators of how much community engagement happened.
“We’re getting those statistics and then the good, the bad and the ugly of what people are saying, what they liked, what their concerns were, what their suggestions were,” said Jakubeit. “We’ve never been that robust in our communications.”
Part of that change of culture is due to the introduction of Peter Weeber as the city’s chief administrative officer, taking over in December as the third CAO in two years.
“I think he’s garnered a lot of respect among, not just us in council, but management and staff.,” said Jakubeit, noting that Weeber’s father had been a mayor, giving Weeber an understanding of the politics that go along with municipal administration.
“He really understands from the operational side of things what we need to do as a city but he understands it’s not just a business,” said Jakubeit. “Sometimes taking more time to talk with the community and get that information out there is way further valuable than trying to fast track something.
“Council has been endorsing a lot of the changes that he has suggested and it’s proven successful for our community moving forward.”
2018 is also a municipal election year.
“Right now, my intention would be to run again. I’ve said that come May, I would formally announce,” said Jakubeit. “We’re on the cusp of doing a lot of good things in the community.
“We’ve done a lot of positive things and sometimes that gets overshadowed by controversy or negativity; some of our own doing but there’s also a lot of positive things happening.
“We have so much potential here in Penticton and it’s very rewarding to be part of that.”
Looking forward to 2018, Jakubeit is excited to see the YES (Youth Engagement Strategy) project to build a youth centre becoming a reality.
“It might take a year to get it in place. I’d like to see it sort of fast-tracked,” said Jakubeit, comparing it to the Brunswick Street housing project, which should start construction in 2018, after two years of consultation.
“The private sector would have had it up in eight months,” said Jakubeit. “That’s a bit frustrating.”
As development continues to ramp up in Penticton, Jakubeit is hoping to see that continue, and empty lots start being filled in.
“This year we had the Lakeside Resort add 70 rooms and we’ve approved two new hotels. We haven’t any new hotels since the early 80s,” said Jakubeit. “That momentum is contagious. That’s where I’m hoping some of those empty lots, or derelict and rundown properties, they start getting some new life and some new development and buildings.”
Work on the Official Community Plan will also be a major job for the city throughout 2018.
“It just gets us as a committee thinking outside the box of what do we want in our community,” said Jakubeit. “It’s kind of mundane but it’s actually sort of that cornerstone that everyone should be using it as a blueprint. If it’s outdated.
“I think that’s going to be healthy for our community.”