As the date for the civic election approaches, it is surely time to consider the performance of the current council, many of whom have the temerity to apply for re-election.
On the whole, with the exception Mike Pearce, this council has been spineless. On all the main issues the members have maintained a discreet silence, lest they upset anybody by expressing a controversial opinion.
Despite voting to offer a site for the prison, most councilors did not offer a word of support for the proposal, doubtless paralyzed into silence by the flood of NIMBY letters, which greeted the idea. Only Mike Pearce had the courage to support the proposal, which would have helped this financially anemic city.
The same remarks apply to the deer cull. Again only Pearce has given full vocal support to the plan. Other councilors seem to support it, who really knows?
But surely the biggest criticism of the current council is its treatment of that elephant in the room, which everyone is trying to ignore. Here even Mike Pearce pussyfoots around the issue. I refer of course to the SOEC, which the mayor continuously refers to as “world class” without adding the necessary third word ‘disaster’. The council members are naturally frightened of this issue as many of them were members of the Kimberley council who voted unanimously in favour of the $81 million insanity.
The mayor was so afraid of the issue that he set up a board, where meetings were to be in private, to insulate council from dealing directly with the problem. At all costs prevent the public discussion of this disaster which involve losses approaching $200,000 on a single concert — losses which we, the taxpayers, had to pay thanks to a grotesquely one-sided contract with Global Spectrum. The board managed to curtail the losses but this was not really the triumph, which Pearce claims. The SOEC campus still costs us $1.6 million a year, at least $800,000 a year more than we were previously paying (and that was probably too much). All we are getting for that is extra ice for the Okanagan Hockey School, a profit-making business, and four country and western concerts a year.
Four concerts for $800,000, or $200,000 per concert. At a possible attendance of 5,000 for each concert, that means that every single seat is subsidized by $40 of taxpayers money. This is no triumph.
Much, much more could be written about the SOEC but that is enough for now. However, one more entirely different issue does require brief comment. Among a multitude of churches and charitable organizations being offered tax-free status we find the Penticton Golf and Country Club and the Yacht and Tennis Club. Why are these hangouts of the modestly affluent embedded in the list? Can they be regarded as genuine charities? I doubt it. Or is this some cozy arrangement between the clubs and councillors and administrators who may be members? In a time of fiscal restraint, this proposed tax exemption hardly seems to be in the best interest of the general public.
The composition of the new council lies in the hands of the voters but the present incumbents, with possible exception of Mike Pearce, do not inspire confidence.
Raymond S. Corteen