Mayor John Vassilaki

What Penticton’s mayor learned from 2020

2020 was a difficult year, but we did work together

Looking back on 2020, the impacts of COVID-19 are hard to miss.

The pandemic has touched every corner of our lives, everyone we know. As our attention focused on the “new normal,” it was easy to spot what had changed, while perhaps overlooking some valuable lessons we have learned.

For me, here are five notable learnings from 2020.

Getting prepared.

The recent wildfires are a stark reminder of the importance of being ready and having a plan. This past August, the Christie Mountain Wildfire placed a large number of Penticton residents on evacuation alert as fire crews battled the dangerous blaze.

But while we all benefited from a quick, professional and coordinated response, the event served as an important reminder that we’re living in a changing climate where the risk of wildfire is high.

The key to our safety is being prepared by taking responsibility for our own readiness and following advice to eliminate any sources of fire around our homes.

Acting together.

Protecting our way of life from health threats involves thinking alike.

Thanks to your cooperation, including wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large events, cases of COVID-19 in Penticton have not overwhelmed our public healthcare system – and our families, loved ones and friends have remained better protected. Community spirit and compassion have truly shone through these tough times. Let’s keep this momentum going as we move into the new year.

Using technology.

While we’re quick to complain about how COVID-19 has impacted our lives today, consider what it would have been like 20 years ago.

Technology keeps us connected, virtually. Online meeting tools have kept businesses running, medical appointments scheduled and classroom lessons underway, not to mention the continued expansion of these same technologies into our own daily lives as we connect with one another.

This past year is a reminder of the increasing importance of these technologies and ensuring resources and solutions are in place for those without access to them, or knowledge to use them.

Striving for equality.

When COVID-19 first surfaced, we witnessed prejudice acts within the Okanagan unfairly targeting certain ethnic groups. Later in the year, systemic racism made the headlines worldwide with the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, triggering a global reaction.

Here in Penticton, hundreds gathered in Gyro Park to share personal experiences and ideas that we, as a community, need to do to make things better, to stand up for the rights of all people.

If we continue to work together, we can start by ensuring our corner of the world is a peaceful place for people of all backgrounds.

Showing kindness.

If there’s a silver lining to these difficult times, it’s how this situation has joined us in our efforts to help one another. Whether it was providing information to our neighbours during the evacuation alert, sharing supplies when stocks at grocery stores ran low or simply checking in and saying “hello,” Penticton residents looked out for each other, time and time again.

We also saw heightened cooperation between citizens, elected officials and administrators from the RDOS, the Penticton Indian Band, West Kelowna and Kelowna, along with different provincial agencies and ministries, all sharing updates and knowledge. By working together and showing kindness, we can do great things.

Every year brings different challenges.

It’s how we approach these challenges and what we learn along the way that makes every year unique and worth remembering. This hasn’t been an easy year, but among the hurdles we’ve seen some incredible examples of people coming together around the need to act differently. And for that, we’re stronger. Let’s keep that spirit alive.

We’ll be starting off 2021 knowing the distribution of a vaccine is underway throughout B.C. .

On behalf of Penticton city council, I wish you and your family a safe Holiday Season and a promising New Year.

— Mayor John Vassilaki