Rational arguments presented Monday night during three hours of citizen comments on the Skaha Marina/waterpark lease were ignored.
However, city council was attentive to other public input details, such as new “crowd control” technology. A computer screen timed presentation, flashing numbers counting down your seconds until they hit zero. Then the numbers changed to a red “debt clock” until the mayor signaled you to wrap it up fast and go to the back of the line if you wished to say more.
But when Trio Marine’s Tom Dyas took the podium at the end, the rules changed. Despite the three minute limit, Dyas spoke for 15 minutes, with the mayor interjecting that this wouldn’t be a problem because council wanted “all the information.”
So, it’s important to clear up a couple of statements made by Mr. Dyas:
First, his warning to council that the 400-plus signatures on the online Save Skaha Park Green-Space petition consisted of 25 per cent “out of towners” was vastly overstated. Plus, he forgot that many of those non-locals commented that they had visited and enjoyed Skaha Park with their children, and did not want to see the park’s greenspace turned over to private interests. They are surely among the tourists Penticton is trying to attract and retain.
Second, he commented that the Okanagan Lake walkway upgrade had made some people unhappy but now that it is complete, people love it. Dyas seemed unaware that the public input process for that project was thorough and detailed. Citizens had several opportunities to provide suggestions and views to staff, the Waterfront Committee and council. This resulted in much public “buy in” for that project.
By contrast, Trio Marine’s input process considered special interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce as “stakeholders,” worthy of special meetings, while Joe public had to be content with offering “drive-thru” comments, which no one appeared to be recording. Trio’s one page summary, contained minimal detail of that input, none of which is trackable.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that citizens are angry at city council’s trust in Mr. Dyas’ affirmations of support for his project. Moreover, council completely ignored people who attended a three-hour meeting, put their names on record, and asked council not to fence off 20 per cent of Skaha Park for the exclusive use of a developer’s paying customers. They supported a waterpark, but not its unfortunate location on public parkland.