Election 2014: Head banging druggie’s rally for change at city hall

City of Penticton: Group formed on social media shows up to Penticton City Hall to demonstrate they should be taken seriously.

Only a week after starting a Facebook page, the Time for Change Penticton group made a strong showing at council this week, with about 75 people rallying in front of City Hall and filling the seats in chambers.

“Normally in Penticton, five is a crowd,” said Jennifer Taylor, one of the group’s co-founders, who was delighted with the turnout.

“I would say that is a very impressive turnout, given the short notice. We only decided late last week that we would in fact have a gathering outside city hall,” she said. “That alone tells me that the voice is only going to get louder.”

Taylor and several members of the group were wearing the now iconic “Head-banging Druggie” shirts but she said the focus of the group is now wider than issues related to Coun. Katie Robinson’s comment about Boonstock.

“I am actually starting to get tired about people referencing head-banging druggie, because this is much deeper than that with the other people that came out to support us,” she said. “The younger vote is core and central, but their issues are issues for the older demographic as well. The lack of transparency and issues that aren’t moving Penticton forward are universal.”

Hilma LaBelle, former executive director of the South Okanagan Immigrant Centre, came down to join the rally.

“When you have worked community groups for all the years that I have, you wait for that moment in time where these folks step up and speak for themselves. And this seems to be it,” said LaBelle, noting that the group is inclusive and represents a diverse swath of the community.

“It’s long been overdue. You can have as many committee meetings as you want, but if people don’t step up, then you are less likely to be paid attention to.”

While waiting for the City Hall doors to open, the group was joined by Mayor Garry Litke and few of the councillors. Taylor told the mayor that part of the group’s focus is to remind people they need to get out to vote.

“It would be great to have a full gallery all the time,” was Litke’s response, pointing out that getting people out on voting days is an ongoing issue.

Taylor said the City Hall rally and the ongoing conversation over change is a good opportunity for younger voters to get an understanding of the process. She added that a poll conducted through the group’s Facebook page (TimeForChangePenticton) of how many voted in the 2011 election showed youth are getting interested.

“There are a lot that said, ‘I wasn’t eligible in the last election.’ Now they are able to vote, and they are already asking really big questions,” said Taylor.

The rally, according to Taylor, met their goals.

“The purpose was to be taken seriously. This is not just a group of armchair advocates. We are here to stay and we are only going to get stronger and our voice more powerful,” she said, setting aside concerns the group wouldn’t be able to keep momentum up until the election or get people out to vote.

“It is a long time, but with the current council and all the gaffes that keep coming to the table, I think we will be perfectly fine. They are giving us lots of reasons,” said Taylor, adding that the group TimeForChangePenticton isn’t just about opposing the current council.

“I think the momentum for change is core,” she said. “If we just keep the conversation going, we will be absolutely stronger than ever by the time it comes to a vote.”

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