Penticton council gives veterans free parking

Veterans' association ask for exception to rule after tickets issued at memorial event

One group is going to be exempt from new city-wide parking regulations.

Drivers with a B.C. veterans’ licence plate on their vehicles won’t have to pay for parking anywhere in the city, thanks to a motion passed at city council this week.

The ruling comes after a number of veterans were ticketed in early June while attending a pair of special ceremonies at Veterans’ Memorial Park. The vets were gathered both to unveil a plaque honouring Capt. Jonathan Snyder, who was killed in Afghanistan five years ago and the new street signs for Veterans Way.

“All of the veterans’ vehicles were ticketed and they were ticketed heavily and there were hard feelings about that given the event of the day,” said Alan Kidd of the Penticton Veterans’ Association. Some of the vets, he explained, thought they had already had privileged parking with the veteran’s plate.

“Veterans come downtown once in while, but they don’t anymore because they are afraid of getting a ticket,” said Kidd.

Coun. John Vassilaki pointed out another instance of a group getting free parking, and suggested veterans are deserving of the same treatment.

“We allow all our mayors, past and present, to have free parking for the rest of their life,” said Vassilaki.

“I would rather give it to a guy that is going out there and taking a bullet for me than give it to a mayor who was in no danger at all.”

Coun. Wes Hopkin said he expected the community would likely be in agreement with free parking for vets which wouldn’t come at much cost to the city, but Coun. Helena Konanz argued against giving vets free parking, concerned that there would then be too many taking up downtown parking spots.

“We have no idea how many cars will be parked in these parking spaces.

“We need these stores and businesses downtown to have a turnover of customers,” she said.

“We can’t have people parking all day in a spot.”

Kidd said he wasn’t able to find out from ICBC how many veterans’ plates are registered but estimates the number is less than 1,000.

“There are a lot more veterans than that, but some have not bothered to get the plate, some of them don’t drive. It is probably closer to 700,” Kidd estimated.

That doesn’t count for a lot of parking being taken up, he continued.

“I don’t want to come in here and tell you we should have enhanced privileges throughout society, just because we served in the Armed Forces, some of us under difficulty,” said Kidd.

“I just ask for the privilege that some of us be enabled to come downtown and shop without extra expense.”

Most veterans, Kidd said, are on limited or fixed incomes,

“Most of them spent a long time in the Armed Forces at a very low rate of pay, therefore their pension is very low,” said Kidd.

“You make choices and sometimes those choices are easy, like going downtown. If I have to pay for parking, no.”