Gauging the opinions of 34,000 residents on a variety of issues the city faces is a challenge and there will always be some lessons to learn along the way.
It is critical to ensure the public has the information they need to render an opinion and a feedback mechanism to let their feelings known to city hall — before we make a decision.
The waterslide in Skaha Park was part of an initiative to enhance the park and waterfront that has become a very divisive issue in our community. A lesson learned was the importance of giving the community ample time to study proposals, discuss the pros and cons, voice concerns, or propose options and alternatives of their own before a final decision.
There will always be some difficult and divisive issues, but challenging the status quo and forcing decisions that have long been delayed is the only way we can move this city forward. We will learn and move on from the current Skaha controversy as there are several important issues at our doorstep that we need to start addressing.
In order to prosper we need to grow our population, and we got an important wake-up call when B.C. Stats showed our population actually decreased by 0.3 per cent from 2014 to 2015 and this year one of our schools closed.
If our population growth continues to be stagnant it will place a heavier financial burden on the rest of us. We want to grow in the right way so we’re focusing on smart growth — investing in a revision of our Official Community Plan, updating our Parks and Recreation Master Plan, and creating an asset management strategy to plan infrastructure funding for the long term.
We have had some great success this year with our building construction values already over $160 million and expected to end up at a new record somewhere around $180 million. This signifies jobs, investment, population growth, and future tax revenues for the city, which is something to celebrate.
The first step in solving any problem is identifying the issues, then creating a plan, and finally executing the plan. One of the most pressing issues we need to resolve is how we are going to fund repair and/or replacement of city infrastructure. This infrastructure deficit has built up over years so it will take time to resolve.
Take Memorial Arena for example, it is an important part of our history and still a well-used facility, but it is 66 years old and in need of repair. A recent media poll was helpful in highlighting the divisiveness of this issue — half of the respondents want to prioritize the restoration of the building and the other half were either unsure or would not prioritize a restoration project. However, the poll question completely neglected cost and other important factors needed to help the respondents make an informed choice.
If you have an interest in Memorial Arena, you owe it to yourself to go to ShapeYourCityPenticton.ca right now and look at the information provided, including the engineering and cost reports and then let us know your opinion. You can leave your views online or plan on attending the face-to-face information sessions we are planning for the community. We have delayed passing of the city’s 2017 budgeting in order to have more time and more input on ways to deal with our ageing civic infrastructure.
We are committed to a more robust community involvement process going forward, especially with regard to issues that hold a great deal passion within the community. I urge you to make the time to get informed and participate in shaping your city.
Andrew Jakubeit is the Mayor of the City of Penticton.