That was quite the dog and pony show as the mayor and his band of, well, we’ll leave that alone as no need to get personal, and the irate citizens of what was once a beautiful little city.
Now, according to one reader, it’s going to be a “ghetto for seniors.” Imagine some poor senior waking up and crying “they dropped our $300,000 condo in the middle of a ghetto.” I’ve been looking for the letter but no luck. I would suggest the reader look up the meaning on the word “ghetto.”
Can you believe that not pumping up a couple of plastic slides, at the cost of the ninth most beautiful park in Canada, will slide us into a ghetto?
They moved a few greedy grabs around, such as the concession stand lease being given to Trio, a gift of the dragonboat shed, and from what little we’ve been told, part of the beach.
Why were the present operators of the concession stand shown the door? Where are they going to house the dragonboats or is this another Penticton loss?
Remember when people used to camp out on Highway 97, both north and south, and money was being spent in local small businesses? Penticton was a family destination for holidays. We had raft races down the channel and companies would put together fantastic rafts, some water cannons and people had high-powered water guns and they fire at each other from the bridges and the rafts.
We had community spirit. We weren’t trying to be Kelowna South.
One reader commented that Trio has had nothing to say. Why would they? Once their greasy toe is in the door they will slowly
wiggle in the rest of the foot and we’ll be on our way to condos, complete with marina, beachfront property and any other toys and rides they can slowly slide in.
From their body language and snickering at the Nov. 23 public meeting, I got the impression they had a signed deal in their back pocket and they were laughing at us ghetto dwellers.
Please, take your hustle somewhere else. Imagine how your family will feel if the protests, that are sure to come, are splashed across the evening news complete with names and photos.
It’s not easy being a city councillor, according to the pollster who determined Penticton’s elected officials have a collective approval rating of just 21 per cent.
Results of the poll commissioned by The Herald show 71 per cent of voters disapprove of the job council is doing, while another eight per cent are unsure.
Support was highest among wealthy, male, middle-age voters, according to the survey conducted earlier this month by Oraclepoll Research.
Company founder Paul Seccaspina said councils typically poll poorly because they’re first in the line of fire when something goes wrong.
“It’s that level of government that really is closest to the voters, so (voters) tend to be more critical,” said Seccaspina.
“The street wasn’t plowed. Who do you blame? My water’s off. Who do you blame? There’s a pothole that blew my tire. Who do you blame? You tend to blame council.”
Penticton’s current council is at the midway point of its four-year term.
Excluding the mayor – whose approval rating will be revealed separately on Friday – the group is composed of two women and four men.
All of the men – Andre Martin, Max Picton, Tarik Sayeed and Campbell Watt – were elected for the first time in 2014.
The women, Judy Sentes and Helena Konanz, took office in 2008 and 2011, respectively.
Sentes wasn’t shocked by the group’s poor showing.
“Given there is a very organized group stating some dissatisfaction with the current council’s leadership, I am not surprised by the poll’s indication of a low percentage of approval,” she said in a statement.
“I had hoped for a better outcome as this council has achieved several positive outcomes which always seem to be overlooked in conversations of criticism.”
Sentes pledged to take the approval rating to heart as she goes about her political business.
“Councillors must gather as much information as possible on matters requiring our authority and so I will be cognizant of this poll’s information as I continue in the process of ongoing governance,” she said.
Council’s approval rating was highest at 29 per cent among those ages 35 to 50, followed by 26 per cent among those in the 18 to 34 range. It tapered off to 17 per cent among those ages 51 and over.
Men came up with an overall approval rate of 23 per cent, well up on females who checked in at a collective 19 per cent.
Wealthy people also tended to give a more favourable assessment of council.
Those whose families earn between $75,000 and $100,000 annually registered 29 per cent approval, followed by 25 per cent support from those making over $100,000.
The approval rating stood at 18 per cent among those earning under $50,000, and 17 per cent in the $50,000 to $75,000 range.
Toronto-based Oraclepoll Research, which has done work for federal political parties and government agencies, was commissioned and paid solely by The Herald.
The poll is based on responses received Oct. 5-7 from 300 randomly selected city residents who were contacted on land lines and cell phones. The results are considered accurate to within 5.6 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
So now our illustrious mayor and city council want to hire an engagement contractor to the tune of $85,000 per annum for one year with an option to renew. What’s wrong with themselves listening to what the voters have been, and are still, saying to them about public park usage?
And how much was spent for the consulting firm that led “us” into the development of a Master Plan for Parks and Recreation?
Mayor and Council, listen to the people of the city and stop wasting public funds! Instead, cancel the contract with Trio and do not continue with the installation of pay parking on beach and public areas!
March 23, 2016
Almost 9 months have passed since the Skaha Lake Park waterslide proposal first raised its ugly head, and almost 6 months since we filed our Civil Claim in BC Supreme Court challenging the City’s authority to approve this agreement. What has been going on? Why haven’t we heard more? Why haven’t we been campaigning more aggressively? Does the delay harm us? Can we still win the battle to save Skaha Park? We will answer these questions. But we want to state up front that despite the long delay we have been busy in many ways, always focussed on winning; that our lawyer is confident we have a strong case; and that the SSP Advisory Group is more confident than ever that we can and will prevent the commercial development of Skaha Park.
The legal world operates differently for government affairs than it does for private sector. The process has been a learning experience for us.
BC Supreme Court rules state that the defendant named in a civil claim has 3 weeks to respond. Our lawyer, an expert in municipal law, has introduced us to a different reality. Civil claims against government bodies often take much longer, and this is tolerated by the courts, which are (understandably) reluctant to rule against elected bodies without being certain they have been clearly heard. Beyond the statement of claim, there are many steps to the claim process, including the defendant’s response to the claim, filing of documents for discovery, and finally, the trial. We assumed that this might take a while, but, like you, we expected there would be steady progress toward resolution.
The City has not yet filed its response. Our lawyer continues to reassure us that this is not a problem. There may be many reasons, none of which put us at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, the Advisory Group and several of our loyal volunteers have clocked hundreds of person-hours in the Penticton museum archives, where we have uncovered a wealth of locally available information that will support our case in discovery.
The path to success isn’t always linear or simple
Our primary goal is to prevent implementation of the waterpark agreement that was approved by the City in a blatantly undemocratic process. The civil claim was our only recourse at the time. The passage of time creates a changing reality for both the City and the developer. From this, alternative steps, not initially considered by the City or developer, may well emerge that could achieve our goal without compromise at significantly less cost to taxpayers and to our supporters. While we will remain open to such potential developments, we will not let up in pursuing and preparing for the possibility of discovery and a trial.
Time has always been on our side.
As long as the civil claim is before the Court, the waterpark agreement is stalled and the City operates under a cloud of public mistrust, resentment and even contempt. This cannot be a good thing for either the developer or the City. While we have no wish to delay a resolution to this dispute, if the City chooses to delay the process, we will be patient but ever resourceful and determined
Our position is strong
First, our legal case has a strong underpinning that defines the many ways in which the City has made a commitment to the developer that exceeds its authority or violates its own rules and bylaws. In support of this, our research has identified historical facts that strongly reinforce our claim. Second, the petition signed by over 5200 residents and 3200 non-residents makes it clear to the City that the movement to save Skaha Park from commercialization represents dominant public opinion. This fact clearly has not yet led them to re consider their role as public servants, but it certainly must give them cause to pause and reflect on their chances of getting re-elected. They must also be aware that a City that has lost the trust of its electors is not an attractive place to invest. Surely, as this reality becomes apparent, it must motivate them to find an off ramp.
We need to show our strength: Strength in numbers.
Don’t let the relatively quiet time over winter months lead to false conclusions that we are weak or have lost motivation. One hugely disappointing challenge we faced in reaching out to our community was the refusals by all of the shopping malls to allow us to set up a booth to meet the public. This includes Cherry Lane, Walmart, Safeway and Superstore. Without these venues, it was very difficult to reach out to our public, and easy for observers to think we’re weak. We owe deep gratitude to David Prystay for allowing us to sell memberships at the Lakeside last November; we were inundated with supporters who happily joined us.
But now our most important objective must be to translate the huge support for saving Skaha Park that we know exists into paid memberships. The reason is simple, but extremely important: Petition signatures are one thing, but Society members are a much firmer indicator of our depth of support. And it is this measure of support that will both weigh heavily in a judicial decision, and also reinforce to our Council the hard reality they face.
We know the support is there. Members can join on line or by completing a membership form. Many of our supporters prefer the latter, and as well, the personal contact makes a big difference in catching attention. So, the Advisory Group has placed a top priority in organizing a membership blitz and in creating the events and other opportunities to make it happen. We now have 1354. Knowing how strongly our citizens feel about preserving Skaha Park, we are confident that a target of 10,000 SSPS members is both realistic and achievable.
- Why has the City taken so long to respond to our claim?
We can only speculate. Possibilities include: they think we will lose interest and fade away; they feel our claim is strong and are having trouble refuting it; there may be issues between the City and the developer of which we are unaware; the PIB demands for an environmental and archeological assessments may further complicate their options.
- Why haven’t we pushed the Court to declare a default judgement?
The BC Supreme Court is always very cautious about overturning a municipal government decision because they were elected to make decisions and they will often be unpopular with a segment of the voters. If we appear aggressive and strident that could work against us. Besides, time really is on our hands. The longer the pall of civil action hangs over Council’s head the harder it will be for them to do business and to get re-elected.
- Why haven’t we heard more from SSP leaders about what’s going on?
We have sent out periodic newsletters. But with the civil claim on hold while we await a response from the City, there is not much we can say that is newsworthy. But a big reason you haven’t heard more is that we have been denied access to all of our malls, greatly limiting our ability to meet the public during winter weather. We have some great plans for the spring. Stay tuned.
- Is the developer still committed to the waterpark?
We don’t know the answer. Rumors abound that there have been significant changes at Trio, and we can only wait and see.
- Is there any indication some Councillors are having second thoughts about the waterslides?
Not to our knowledge. Given the civil claim, we and they have been understandably cautious in initiating dialogue due to the risk of miscommunication.
- Why didn’t the City terminate the agreement with Trio when they defaulted last October?
We don’t know all the reasons, but one reason was that the controversy is over the waterpark agreement, but it was the marina improvement agreement that faced a financing deadline, and none of us are opposed to the marina. Another factor could have been the surprise action by PIB to seek environmental and archeological assessment.
- The City’s lawyer said the City’s response to our claim would be filed by the end of February and we are still waiting. What are you doing about it?
We are advised by our lawyer that this should not be an issue for us. As previously stated, time is our friend. Our goal is to see an end to the Skaha Park Waterpark agreement. That could occur by the court proceedings, but it could occur in other ways at less cost to all and as time passes, the likelihood of that happening increases.
“In a democracy, it is vital that citizens feel able to express critical or dissenting views (through lawsuits or other means) without fear of being shut out of the democratic process in the future, or of reprisals of other kinds. In this regard, your comment—that you consider the actions of the Save the Skaha Park Society to have negated their right to be considered for participation in the select committee—is very problematic,” wrote Micheal Vonn, policy director of the BCCLA, in a letter addressed to Jakubeit and copied to the Skaha Park Society.
Full text of the letter.
Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2016 5:39 pm
Opponents of a planned commercial development in Skaha Lake Park say they’re expecting the City of Penticton to finally respond to their lawsuit by the end of the month.
The Save Skaha Park Society filed papers with the B.C. Supreme Court in September 2015 in a bid to squash a 29-year lease agreement between the city and Trio Marine Group, which intends to build waterslides on a corner of the site.
Society spokesman Gerry Karr said Thursday the city’s lawyer promised a reply by the end of February that he fully expects will reject the claims of his group, which nonetheless remains undeterred.
“We’ve been so encouraged by the many thousands that have supported us. In fact, we feel a sense of duty to pursue this as far as necessary,” he said.
Karr is still holding out hope the city will find a way to scrap the Trio deal and avoid the need for an expensive court battle for which taxpayers will be on the hook.
But the final analysis is there’s a democratic principle at stake here that has aroused the anger of 5,000 residents and thousands of tourists,” he added.
“We know that’s not trivial. That concern among our citizenry has to be respected.”
Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said collecting all of the information required to respond to the lawsuit has taken longer than expected, but confirmed a response to the lawsuit is expected soon.
While the project is still a go from the city’s standpoint, he’s hoping all sides will sit down together to see if there’s a way to avoid going to court.
“I think the next step really is for Trio in particular, since they are the developer, to meet with the society to discuss some concerns and if there are any opportunities for resolution or common points to help them determine how to move forward,” said Jakubeit.
“I don’t think anyone wants to go through another summer of protests and tension. It would be nice if we can get some understanding of how we’re progressing and to what degree.”
The lawsuit outlines 10 ways in which the City of Penticton allegedly ran afoul of various provincial laws when it inked the 29-year deal with Trio.
Meanwhile, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has also stepped into the fray, penning a letter to Jakubeit claiming it was unfair to cite the lawsuit as a reason to block a society member’s bid to sit on a committee that’s been tasked with drawing up a new parks master plan.
“In a democracy, it is vital that citizens feel able to express critical or dissenting views (through lawsuits or other means) without fear of being shut out of the democratic process in the future, or of reprisals of other kinds,” policy director Michael Vonn wrote in the letter, which the society released Thursday.
After eight months of protests which pitted City Council members and thousands of residents against one another, all over a hasty decision to commercialize part of Skaha Lake Park, I initially thought that the new Parks and Recreation Steering Committee might be a good thing: something to start the healing process.
I was shocked, however, to learn that instead of extending an olive branch to the 4,000-plus citizens so vocally apposed to giving up a cherished piece of their parkland, council plans on excluding anyone who presumes to disagree with their collective vision of Penticton; which on the surface appears to be a Vegas-style playground for well-to-do tourists, instead of a comfortable and affordable place for the diverse group of people who choose to live here.
According to what I read, the mayor believes that opposing viewpoints will still be fairly represented, even though they have excluded everyone who has joined the Save Skaha Park movement, which incidentally is close to half the number of the people who voted in the last civic election.
To me, this sends out a draconian message that if you are not with us, then you are against us. Whatever happened to being elected to serve and representing all the people of Penticton?
My message to our mayor and council is please be the ones to take the first step in reducing this polarized rift that has divided our small community. Offering members of the Save Skaha Park movement at least one or two seats on the Parks and Recreation Steering Committee would provide this group of concerned citizens with representation.
Let’s start the new year right. It could very well be the first step in a process that might reverse the damage done to our community.
As public opposition built this summer against the city’s decision to lease a portion of Skaha Lake Park for a waterslide development, the Penticton Indian Band complained privately about being left out of the loop.
“After carefully considering all of the information PIB has acquired, we write to inform you that a respectful government to government process has not been followed and therefore we do not approve, consent or in any manner agree to the proposed expanded development,” Chief Jonathan Kruger said in an Aug. 28 letter to city officials.
The letter, obtained by The Herald through a freedom of information request, goes on to explain the need for archeological and environmental impact assessments in consultation with the PIB before any projects in Skaha Park go ahead.
City council cited the PIB’s concerns when it voted Sept. 28 to give developer Trio Marine Group a one-year extension to complete those studies before finalizing its plans for the waterslides and a separate marina expansion.
Both projects have the potential to impact the PIB’s title and rights to the land, and pose cultural and environmental concerns, said Kruger.
“The development site is located within a region that has been identified as having very high PIB archeological potential. This means that any ground disturbance (including pile driving in the lake if required) has a high likelihood to impact PIB cultural heritage resources,” he wrote.
And large marina projects, the chief continued, can “have negative environmental consequences,” so the potential impact on water quality and fish needs to be studied.
“As you are aware, the Penticton Indian Band and Syilx Nation have invested an enormous amount of time, effort and finances to reintroduce Okanagan sockeye into Skaha Lake,” Kruger noted.
The letter goes on to claim a 2004 protocol agreement between the city and band intended to establish a working relationship was ignored when council “voted to proceed with the marina expansion and Skaha Park redevelopment without following due process and directly engaging PIB.”
A second letter, dated Sept. 25, recaps a meeting a week earlier during which the two sides apparently resolved their differences and committed to work together on the assessments.
“We must point out that the Penticton Indian Band is not opposed to economic development, but as acknowledged, these developments must be carefully considered to ensure that they do not have a substantive impact on cultural heritage or the environment,” Kruger wrote.
“Once further information is acquired regarding the proposed developments, the Penticton Indian band and City of Penticton will be in a better position to determine if modifications to the original plans need to be considered. Once these determinations have been made we can then proceed to further discuss the economic components of these developments.”
In an interview, Kruger declined to elaborate on the reference to “economic components,” but said he’s pleased the band and city are now working together through the assessment processes.
“We’re putting the protocol to work, and I think council is respectfully working with us,” he said.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said in an interview the city was in touch with the band early regarding the planned first phase of development – the expanded marina and new restaurant – originally set to open in 2016, and planned to consult on the second phase – the water park – as the anticipated 2017 groundbreaking drew nearer.
“I think the (Aug. 28) letter was more about ensuring as the process unfolds that they’re part of the mix and any environmental or archeological concerns get addressed,” said Jakubeit.
He noted those concerns were expected to be addressed anyway as Trio sought necessary approvals from the federal and provincial governments.
Trio now has until Oct. 1, 2016, to complete negotiations with the B.C. government on a tenure agreement for the marina, finish the environmental and archeological assessments and present the city with a financial plan for its projects.
It has not announced updated timelines since the one-year extension was granted.