The Herald asked individual members of Penticton City Council:
What’s your take on the division of opinions in the community over the Skaha Lake waterfront?
There has been a huge division of opinions on this issue in Penticton. This is a spectacular waterfront park, and the division in opinions only shows how much Skaha Park means to everyone. This project represents change, and everyone who lives here has differing ideas of what this change should look like, or whether we need change at all.
It is obvious Penticton is going through some growing pains. But no matter where we stand on this particular issue, what we all have in common is our love for this beautiful city we call home.
People are passionate when it comes to change if they are or are not in favour of that change.
It is sad to see the personal attacks the citizens are placing on each other versus having a conversation about each other’s views and looking at it from another point of view. Some are blaming Council for this division and that is fine, that is what we get when we run for public office.
There are a number of misleading statements out there and it seems we can’t see the forest for the trees. Claims we are selling the land… that is simply just not true… why would we be getting lease payments?
The community was divided over the South Okanagan Events Centre and the Okanagan Lake walkway, once it was completed it seem to dissipate except for a few who continue to bring it up, and the same can be said for the SS Sicamous area upgrade. The project is moving ahead, most have accepted and move on. I think the biggest thing in all of this is the fear of the unknown.
Okanagan Lake walkway had a long public consultation and yet there are those still bitter and continue to reference it during this process.
Many previous mayors and councillors have come out against this yet we are not changing the land use which was set in place by previous councils. If it isn’t right now, why was it right then? Maybe the wind was blowing North that day.
I believe they left that for future councils to decide and the future is today.
One thing became quite clear during this process – there has been a lot of misinformation circulated regarding this development. I feel the misinformation has become a large part of what has created the division of opinions in the community and we certainly need to find a better way to ensure that actual facts are reaching our residents.
During this process, some residents expressed frustration, commenting their council was “not listening” during the public hearing or rallies – please be assured that your voices were certainly heard! Every piece of factual information presented was carefully weighed during the decision making process.
When reading the emails or speaking with Penticton’s citizens who were against the development, I must admit that I too would be opposed if I believed some, or any, of the rumors being referenced as fact, to be truth.
If we were actually bulldozing all of the trees, removing the beloved splash pad, closing access to a section of beachfront, selling our valuable parkland, developing over 25 per cent of the green space, paying for this with taxpayer dollars, etc, etc. I most certainly would not have been in favor.
At the end of the day, I truly believe that the majority of our residents will be pleased with the outcome of this development. There are some who will always believe that a park is to remain untouched, and I certainly respect that opinion, but it is my belief that a park is meant to be for everyone to enjoy, and that can include options both paid and free.
Diversity is important within our community and I believe that many people will enjoy the added diversity to this park for years to come.
It has certainly segregated the community and I hold three parties responsible for this – City Hall, Penticton Herald, and The Opposition. We all need to reflect on our actions.
Council could have engaged the citizens earlier by promoting the facts prior to the public hearing. We also need to look at the ‘process’ of public engagement and consider different mediums of information dissemination. For example, I think the citizens would have appreciated a detailed break down report and also a concise information handout.
Public hearing is a very important process and appropriate acknowledgement needs to be given to everyone. In my opinion some public hearing decisions should be made after we get the chance to ‘take it all in’. It is important to have that personal space to reflect upon what everyone shared, sleep over it, and then make a decision. After all, there is a reason a judge calls a recess before making a significant decision.
I love Penticton just as much as you do. We may have a differing view but that does not mean we cannot have a meaningful discussion. I regret to share that none of the key organizers from the opposition made an attempt to reach out to us individually before organizing the rally. This is disappointing because everyone of us is passionate about where we live.
The leader of the opposition should have followed the behaviour that conforms to accepted standards of morality and respectability. Diplomacy failed because it never existed.
We could have managed our relations better to find a compromised solution but pride and self importance sweeped into our way.. Essentially hurting all of us no matter which side we were on.
As for the Penticton Herald, there is a fine balance between creating and instigating a news story. In my opinion, this time it was tipped over by just a little bit. I wish we received these set of questions before the second rally occurred. Not after the decision is already made.
In conclusion. There is room for improvement for everyone of us. We are all passionate about Penticton so let’s focus on our human consciousness and work together to have a better Penticton. I was elected to council to be responsible, stay true to who I am, and make a sound judgement based on the facts provided.
I understand that I will not be able to satisfy everyone with every decision I make. As a matter of fact it will be injustice if I am trying to please everyone as it will reflect that I am not forming my own opinion.
Judge me not only by this decision at the moment but over the next few years for my overall integrity. At the end, you will have the power to remove me from council if you wish to.
There are many communication strategies available in today’s world and people have choices as to how they use them.
A municipal council will seek to engage their community in regard to proposals for many issues, and are expected to make a decision based on what is good for everyone. It has been encouraging to hear from so many in regards to the Skaha Park development. While some people choose to be very vocal and demonstrative in expressing their opinion others choose more subtle forms of communication.
Councillors endeavour to hear all opinions and ultimately base their decision making on what is good for the whole community.
My take on the divisions of opinion is that is shows the tremendous passion that our citizens have for our community and I believe that is a wonderful thing.
We all love where we live and understand Penticton is a true treasure in the world.
Unfortunately in this particular case the passion has gone beyond just the Skaha Lake waterfront issue and is creating a deep negative divide in our community.