The second floor of Neighbourhood Brewing in Penticton was full of people Thursday night, as city council hopefuls and mayoral candidates made their pitch for public office ahead of the Oct. 15 election.
Each candidate was given three minutes to speak on anything they’d like during a Penticton election forum on Sept. 29, with some choosing to focus on crime and housing and others urging for more community engagement when multi-million dollar projects like the bike lane are tabled.
Mayoral candidate Corey Hounslow was absent, as was council candidate Wayne Llewellyn. Hounslow had recently closed his business for a week due to having a positive COVID-19 test in his family.
Penticton’s mayoral race heats up
Hosted by the Downtown Penticton Business Improvement Association, John Vassilaki, Julius Bloomfield, Owen Hayward and Jason Reynen – the four present mayoral candidates – each spoke with the Western News after the forum’s conclusion.
On housing, Bloomfield said he would like to see the city adopt a grant system for first-time home buyers, a strategy recently implemented in Langford.
Vassilaki, the incumbent mayor, says his experience as a Penticton businessman, along with the many relationships he’s built locally, makes him the right person to navigate through the community’s greatest challenges.
“My integrity is second to none,” Vassilaki said. “I’ll always tell you the truth and never tell you what you want to hear…I’ll tell it how it is.”
Hayward, a first-time candidate, wants to bring “back-to-basics” governing to City Hall. Under his watch, Penticton would no longer have paid parking downtown, he said. The city would also be home to B.C’s most efficient, effective and helpful homeless, mental health and addictions centre, he promised.
City council hopefuls talk bike lane, future projects
Penticton’s lake-to-lake bike lane went unmentioned for 25 minutes and then local litigator Amelia Boultbee took to the stand.
“While there’s not much we can do about the bike lanes that are already in place, respectfully, this is an example of how our current council has not always considered how its decisions will affect our businesses,” the council candidate said.
Former mayor Andrew Jakubeit says more funds should be distributed to arts and culture.
Most candidates expressed their desire to improve public safety, with Katie O’Kell saying she’d be a “prolific complainer” to the province and Ryan Graham scrutinizing the current council for not acting fast enough on local crime.
“We need to start having tough, candid conversations about this,” Graham said.
The downtown businessman recalls being in a room with a number of local groups in 2018 about mental-health professionals pairing up with RCMP officers. He says four years ago, it was very clear the idea needed to be implemented. “Now we’re in 2022, and they’ve reworded it as Car 40.”
Incumbent councillor James Miller took a community approach to his address, saying “my theme is supporting local” and that he’ll serve with dignity. Incumbents Katie Robinson, Campbell Watt and Frank Regehr also appeared at the forum to share their platforms on public safety and experience with local leadership and fiscal responsibility.
Helena Konanz, a Penticton councillor from 2011 to 2018, acknowledged the resiliency of so many local businesses through COVID-19, with Shannon Stewart saying it’s no longer viable to allow outside bodies, federal or provincial, to weigh in on what’s best for the city.
Lindsey Hall spoke about his history with community engagement, Isaac Gilbert offered ideas about affordability and sustainability, all in the name of building a vibrant four-season city.
Larry Schwartzenberger, meanwhile, said his recent run as an Oliver town councillor gives him the upper leg on hitting the ground with solutions right away. Davinder Sandhu also appeared, speaking about his experience as a local non-profit program coordinator.