They came with their game faces on, ready to do political battle in front of 500 spectators.
Wednesday’s council candidates forum held at the Penticton Lakeside Resort filled an expanded conference room with residents keen on hearing from 19 would-be politicians seeking office during this civic election.
Burga Black was asked why she decided to wait so long to run for office, given she is now an octogenarian. “I had to work for a living,” she said, detailing her past experience of being an administrator to a real estate agent while raising four children as a single parent. “I decided that you needed an old bag on here to clean things up. There hasn’t been much I haven’t done, and I’m not above boxing ears if I have to.”
Jeannie Cavallo, who is a realtor, was asked if her profession would cause her to be in conflict of interest. “I’ve been asked that a lot. I don’t work with developers. I don’t do any rezonings,” she said. “I sell houses to people like you and me. … If I ever felt there was a conflict, I would leave the room. So not any more than any other job.”
Poonam Chahal was asked what she would do to preserve the environment. “Personally I love the environment. It has to be preserved for future generations,” she said, adding that she’d like to consider solar energy.
Frank Conci was asked if he thought, as a businessman, the city’s land sale deal to build a hockey dormitory on Eckhardt Avenue was a good decision.
“I don’t have all the details,” he said, referring to the in-camera discussions of land value. “I do have a problem with selling city land. Land is a resource that doesn’t go bad, doesn’t go rotten. It’s something that the community could use in the future.”
Jason Cox, who is also president of the chamber of commerce, drew applause when he was asked whether he felt the new tourism, economic development and visitor information contract was better than the chamber’s proposal.
“We don’t know the decision process and the formula that was used because it was discussed in-camera,” Cox said. “I can’t reasonably compare the proposal from the chamber, which has 30 years of experience and has won multiple awards for its services, with that of the new proponent because I don’t know what was in that bid. … I can’t really comment on what I don’t know.”
David Greenwood, who told residents he was in favour of implementing an election sign bylaw to prevent “visual litter” across the city, was asked about whether he would have supported the 911 dispatchers move to Kelowna.
“It’s jobs we lost, service we lost and these are things we can’t afford to lose,” he said.
Wes Hopkin garnered crowd appreciation when he suggested that decisions coming from City Hall need to consider how youth in the community are impacted.
“If you have a problem with your pipes, you call a plumber,” he said, adding if residents want to address the challenges facing youth, “you elect a young person.”
When asked what he has accomplished in his first term, Andrew Jakubeit said projects like bringing the Young Stars to town were among the highlights.
“I’m one who tries to get things going. Sports tourism was something that was a bit neglected before,” he said.
Lynn Kelsey was asked if she supported the deer cull.
“Do I want to kill Bambi? Probably not,” she said, adding she would like to embrace “humane” measures to control the deer population. “I’m not in favour of a deer cull. I’m in favour of all animals, two-footed and four-footed, living together in peace.”
Randy Kirkoski, a retired RCMP officer, rebutted a question about the city’s need to add more officers by saying police do a good job, but that the justice system lets residents down.
“The courts do not deal with these people properly,” he said.
Helena Konanz was asked why she wasn’t running for RDOS director as she lives in Kaleden.
“I own a business in Penticton, I volunteer in Penticton, I shop in Penticton,” she said, adding she’s one of the only head coaches at Pen High who is a parent. “Penticton is my home and this is where I would love to contribute. It’s up to you to decide if I contribute to this community enough.”
David Korinetz answered a question on zero-based budgeting.
“I don’t believe in spending money you haven’t made yet,” he said, suggesting a performing arts centre could be financed through donations and grants.
Gary Leaman answered a question about providing subsidies to for-profit entities to establish themselves in the city.
“Some of the organizations you may have to give seed money to,” he said. “But groups like Ironman, I question the money that was spent on that. … They say they could go to Kelowna. I don’t think so. I think some things have to be put to the test and some groups need to stand on their own two feet.”
When asked if he would vote to build the SOEC again today, Garry Litke paused a moment.
“I’ve asked myself that same question many times myself,” he said. “The events centre was a hard lesson, and had a few things that spun out of control.” Mostly, he said, he would not hand it over to an “American company to control.”
Kevin Noonan talked about agriculture opportunities in the city, noting that the city should look at luring food manufacturing and processing plants to the area. “Where it falls off the tree is where you get the best product,” he said.
Questions pertaining to the “transparency” of the hockey school dormitory project decision sparked an exchange between incumbents Mike Pearce and John Vassilaki.
Pearce defended the decision, noting the lots would be sitting empty without it.
“I told you I’m committed to building jobs,” he said. “I believe with the election right now, I think that we’re getting lots of criticism.”
Vassilaki used his rebuttal to decry the sale of city lands.
“I’m just dead-set against it. I do like the project for the hockey school, but I don’t believe in selling any public lands,” he said, questioning the logic of the city selling land for a discounted $925,000 price and then giving tax incentives to have jobs on site. “If that makes sense, if that’s fiscal responsibility, you can shoot me.”
When asked why she didn’t declare a conflict on the vote on Ironman funding, Judy Sentes said that conflict pertains to two things: financial investment or remuneration.
As a volunteer, “I had neither, and I was there to represent the citizens,” she said.
Terry Yeatman said he would like to investigate options that would provide children things to do for an extra shoulder season.
“I hear a lot about the water slides,” he said. “There’s not enough for young families to do if the beaches aren’t open.”