John Vassilaki started his campaign for Penticton mayor by admitting that city hall hasn’t been operating as well as it should lately.
“The current situation at city hall is not working very well for anyone, that has to change,” said the 12-year veteran councillor. “We have seen lawsuits for example, the Eckhardt Avenue properties, the loss to the Penticton Hospitality Association and the incorrect tax notices.
“These are costing our taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and no one is being held accountable for these mistakes. That has to stop and it has to stop now.”
Vassilaki is the first candidate to confirm plans to run. Mayor Garry Litke, who was elected in the 2013 byelection, has yet to confirm whether he plans to run again, saying he will make his decision after the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention later this month. In the past, Vassilaki said he wouldn’t run for mayor, that he felt he was able to do more good as a councillor.
“I decided to run for mayor because of what has been happening here at the city in the last year-and-a-half,” said Vassilaki. “I can’t work under those conditions, I would go crazy. I don’t want to spin things, I want to say it as it is, the truth and nothing but the truth.”
Vassilaki said there have been times when he felt city staff had too much influence on council. He launched into the critique of the “one employee of council” policy, which was introduced in 2012, making the chief administrative officer the sole link between staff and council.
“We are restricted to what we can and cannot do with city managers or what we can bring forward,” said Vassilaki. “And that is what I want to get rid of and bring back that power to council where they make the decisions and not the bureaucrats.”
Vassilaki took questions from the crowd of about 100 people who turned out for his announcement at city hall. That included some tough questions from former mayor Jake Kimberley, who asked how Vassilaki could criticize issues that he voted for.
“I admit when I make a mistake and I criticize those mistakes that I made myself, just like I criticize others,” said Vassilaki. “I wouldn’t be much of a politician or much of a citizen of this community if i didn’t do that.”