Penticton city council is divided on whether or not the city should hire a manager of social development.
The idea for the position was brought forward by Coun. Julius Bloomfield on Oct. 15, saying the role would help coordinate homeless and addiction services as well as programs for seniors and youth.
Bloomfield made the case the position would help the city collaborate with local organizations to address social needs for the homeless population and would help the city implement services focused on engaging and helping seniors and youth in the community.
It was also noted that similar roles currently exist in other cities that face similar social issues, such as in Kelowna.
“This, in my opinion, is an investment that would save the city money in the long run. Maybe we won’t need those extra RCMP officers if we have an effective social development manager,” said Bloomfield.
“This position would not just work with the homeless and those with addiction, they would, in fact, cover work being done for seniors in the community and childcare in the community. It’s social development, so it’s not just one particular demographic in the city, it’s focusing on all the different parts that need coordination from the city.”
Not everyone on the council agreed with Bloomfield, with Coun. Katie Robinson stating it was “premature” for the city to be considering the position at this time and that the responsibilities the position would oversee are the jurisdiction of the provincial and federal government.
“I believe that this is probably going to be necessary sometime in the future, but I feel really, really strongly that this is provincial and federal jurisdiction,” said Robinson. “It should not be municipal jurisdiction. I’m very cognizant of the amount of money municipalities are spending when it gets downloaded on and we start dealing with health and social issues that should not be under our jurisdiction,” said Robinson.
Coun. Jake Kimberley said opposed the need for the new role.
“The issue for me is that the more you take on locally from the different levels of government, the more they are willing to give it to you and let you take it on. Then we have to prove it’s a necessity for our community,” said Kimberley. “And there are services in the community right now doing this. That’s what we’ve heard for the last few weeks anyway, is that the homeless are being taken care of.”
Coun. Judy Sentes spoke in favour of adding the position, stating it is timely and that waiting for a problem to arise would have a worse result. She said current city staff, such as planning manager Blake Laven, have already taken on tasks that would fall under this role, meaning time is being taken away from their other responsibilities.
“I believe there is merit to this position,” said Sentes. “Our staff have full radars, and right now they’re trying to do this off the side of their desk so-to-speak.”
Despite being divided on the issue, the council voted in favour of discussing the issue during the upcoming budget discussions.
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