Facing up to reality is often a harsher test than we would like. That’s the situation Penticton finds itself in, both the city and the taxpayers. Years of small or nonexistent tax increases, combined with aging infrastructure and a tax base that is slow to grow has put the city in a place where new sources of revenue have to be found.
The city’s move to increase pay parking is a good example. It has the potential to generate a large amount of new revenue, so naturally the city is looking at it as a way to help pay for items like the $2 million in repairs required by Memorial Arena.
We agree that pay parking, especially along Lakeshore Drive — really, one of Penticton’s great treasures — is objectionable. But the harsh reality is that he city has to find more money someplace, and this may be one of the best sources. Responding to concerns raised by the community, the city has cut back on the extent of the pay parking to a section from Power Street to LocoLanding Adventure Park, using that as a test case to evaluate revenue generation and effects on tourism. That was a good move, but the city might have avoided the controversy all together, by putting the question to the community first. Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said city hall will now do this as they propose other revenue generation models to the community in the run up to the 2017 budget talks.
A referendum isn’t needed, but council and staff could have put the question to the city: pay parking or an extra $30 a year on your property taxes? Or perhaps ask which of several options for generating revenue would be least objectionable, before deciding to put pay parking along one of the community’s most treasured views and recreation areas.
In their quest to keep funds flowing into the city’s coffers, city hall needs to look at not just how much revenue can be generated, but also what the effect will be on the quality of life in the city. The ability to enjoy the beauty of Lakeshore Drive, the boardwalk, the beach and other amenities freely is one of the great treasures of the city, and shouldn’t be tampered with without real, open and two-way conversations with the community.