Penticton council switches up committee structures

And two elected officials question mayor's appointments to regional district

Penticton city council has changed its committee structure.

Along with new appointments made necessary by the recent byelection, council has set a limit on how many councillors can be on a committee and what position they can fill.

“Committees reported that there were too many councillors sitting at their table, inhibiting their discussion, so this is an attempt to equalize the workload, and restructure our representation,” said Mayor Garry Litke.

The new committee terms of reference now limit participation to one council appointee and one council alternate.

Coun. Wes Hopkin explained that the full impact of the committee terms of reference also included that those council members are non-voting.

“They are just there to listen to the committee, not give direction to the committee,” he said. “Or to chair the meeting.”

Council also plans to bring back committees of the whole, on a limited basis.

They will replace the workshop format council previously used to receive lengthy reports.

Minutes will be taken and the public notified when the meetings will take place.

“We are going to try committee of the whole meetings. In essence, what is happening is a hybrid of the old workshop for which no minutes were taken,” said Litke.

“It seems appropriate that those workshops should become part of the regular business of council.

“That is a direction for the future,” said Litke, adding that the meetings will take place, as needed, prior to regular council meetings.

Coun. Helena Konanz was concerned the switch might confuse some of the external organizations.

“I just want to make sure we contact each of these organizations very specifically so they know who their new contact is. Communications are really important, and we are in the middle of the year doing this, so we don’t want to confuse anything,” she said.

While most of the appointments, both to city advisory committees and liaisons to external organizations recommended by Litke were approved with little discussion, the city’s appointments to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen drew an impassioned speech from Councillor Vassilaki, who was being replaced by Hopkin.

Vassilaki said he wasn’t speaking for himself, but rather said he was concerned that Hopkin was not the best choice for the seat on the RDOS.

“I think the choice made to take my place is absolutely wrong,” said Vassilaki. “This councillor is not going to be here for the next term, he is not going to run.”

According to Vassilaki, either Robinson or Coun. Konanz would be a better choice. Konanz, he said, is next in line to go to the RDOS.

The source of Vassilaki’s concern was the potential loss to city council.

“I was there for 8.5 years. I was the longest sitting member of the RDOS as I am the longest sitting member here on city council,” he said, explaining that he had learned from his experience there, experience he and other RDOS appointees brought back to the city council table.

“It made me more passionate about how I feel about Penticton, learning from them as to how they felt about their areas. Some of those are very small, they only have one person running them, the director that has been elected,” said Vassilaki.

“I learned how those people feel, where they are coming from and where they are going. And I think the same thing happens here.

“All that education is going to remain here in the city of Penticton, it is not going to leave to go wherever Coun. Hopkin is going to go.

“I do believe that someone has to be on the board that will learn about our region that can be very useful around this table.”

Konanz agreed with Vassilaki’s opinion, noting that she had been filling in as an RDOS board member since Litke resigned his council seat to run for mayor.

“I have learned quite a bit. We need to continue to inspect what is happening, so we are not paying too much there, so we are learning what is happening with different things that affect us as a city,” said Konanz.

“I would like to ask how you decided to remove me as the RDOS representative.”

Litke, however, refused to answer publicly, only stating there was private information involved.

According to Hopkin, he has not decided whether to run in 2014. Like other councillors, he said, he was considering whether to run for a second term.

“Some, even though they may run, may not be here in 2014 either,” said Hopkin, though he agreed there was some merit in Vassilaki’s comments.

“But sometimes it is good to have a fresh set of eyes, I think I can provide that.”

When the RDOS appointments came to a vote, it was passed unanimously, including both Vassilaki and Konanz.

Along with Litke and Hopkin, Couns. Andrew Jakubeit and Judy Sentes were appointed to the RDOS, with Vassilaki, Konanz and Robinson as first, second and third alternates, respectively.