Mayor John Vassilaki was elected in November 2018 and is just one year into his four-year term as mayor of Penticton. (File Photo)

Mayor’s Minute: Continuing to build public participation

“Are things now perfect? No, but progress is being made”

Listening to the public was top of mind earlier this month when staff presented council policy and framework for community engagement. While both documents trace their origin to a challenging time when concerns weren’t heard and frustrations were high, thanks to their creation, today the city is better prepared to receive and consider feedback before making major decisions.

To ensure the documents that council approved were the right fit for Penticton, staff had conversations or received input from approximately 150 residents who attended events downtown, completed a survey or dropped by one of two focus group conversations. Comments on the proposed policy and framework were also sought from our municipal peers in other municipalities. And finally, staff ensured both documents were aligned and consistent with community engagement standards set by the International Association of Public Participation.

Are things now perfect? No, but progress is being made through an engagement program that regularly encourages Penticton residents to attend events, complete surveys or visit websites that seek their comments, concerns or suggestions.

On Dec. 4 and 5, you’ll have another opportunity to engage the ears and minds of council and staff when the city hosts its Hot Topics engagement event. So what are these hot topics? Well, to start, there’s the 2020 city budget.

For several months now, staff have been preparing department business plans outlining how the city’s financial resources in the coming year will be aligned with community programming demands, service requirements and priority goals. This process involves weighing the needs and requests of the community while ensuring service levels can be met within the annual budget. The next step in the process is to hear from you via our annual budget engagement sessions. Are we on the right path?

Feedback is also sought on the lake-to-lake bike route, an all ages and abilities cycling spine that will connect our community from one lake to another. Initial public feedback received in October indicated wide support for increasing safe cycling opportunities, with the creation of a lake to lake route generating great discussion. Options for such a route, including choices around specific streets and roads, are now available for residents and businesses to comment on. Which option do you like?

And last but not least, work is underway to create a plan for Skaha Park’s east side. Planning for the park’s future will build on directions provided in the 2018 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, along with ideas drawn from a citizen-led park design process, championed by Peter Osborne. The public is being asked to consider the long-term vision of the marina, aging facilities and amenities like the boathouse and spray park, walking connections between the park and beach and environmental concerns like erosion. Is anything missing?

All of these topics deserve your input, so please attend and participate. To join us in person, visit the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, Dec. 4 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. or the Penticton Senior’s Drop-in Centre, Dec. 5 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Staff, information boards and handouts will all be available to answer questions and receive input. In celebration of the holiday season, be sure to bring an unwrapped toy, gift card or cash donation to support Penticton’s Toys for Tots to Teens event.

Can’t make those dates? For several years now the city has promoted its online survey platform, as a convenient way to share feedback. Registration now exceeds over 5000 people who have expressed a direct interest in influencing decisions that shape Penticton’s future. The upcoming Hot Topics event is another great reason to register, so please visit the website, sign up and contribute your thoughts!

John Vassilaki was elected mayor of Penticton in 2018.

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