A former city councillor and 2014 mayoral candidate is critical of the present council for not taking the Skaha Lake Park water slide issue to referendum.
“City council is reckless and irresponsible in what they’re doing to the community,” John Vassilaki said in an interview, Tuesday. “City council doesn’t have the vision to put the community first, before anything else. They’re also dividing the community in half and that’s not healthy for any city to always be at each other’s throats.”
Vassilaki, who sat on council for 12 years, ran unsuccessfully against Andrew Jakubeit in the 2014 municipal election. He’s remained silent on civic issues since the election but made a surprise appearance at a public rally against the waterslide development held earlier this month.
“People are not opposed to the waterpark, they’re opposed to location. Putting a waterpark right on the water doesn’t make any sense. It’s a commercial venture that’s going to be utilized by a for-profit company and to put it there, getting rid of green space to benefit one company, is wrong. It needs to go before the people and put to referendum.”
Vassilaki doesn’t agree that a waterpark will kick start tourism, believing the focus of economic development needs to remain on the industrial sector which provides high-paying, year-round jobs.
“Ninety-five per cent of people who will come to town won’t even know that a waterslide is there. They’re going to use it because it’s there but the reason people come to Penticton is for our beaches, weather, fruit, festivals and now many adults are coming for the wine. I wish the City could come to terms with the Penticton Indian Band and develop the channel parkway to where it becomes a No. 1 world attraction.”
Vassilaki said that with only one exception, during his tenure on council he always voted against selling public lands, most famously in 2011 when he was the lone voice opposed to releasing land on Eckhardt Ave. W. for a hockey dormitory that never materialized.
His outspokenness often drew the ire of other councillors during his 12 years. He believes more should speak out when something doesn’t seem right.
“Councillors need to be individuals and not follow the leader. It’s just not Penticton but in a lot of other municipalities. It goes back to the regional district. They don’t want to lose their position on the RDOS because that translates into a paychque of $12,000 to $13,000 annually and they don’t want to get on a mayor’s bad side.”
He questioned whether council served the public’s best interest by voting on the waterslide issue during the same meeting as the public hearing.
“You need at least two weeks to digest everything that’s said to you. That’s something that has always bothered me about public hearings, when a decision is made right away.”
He also opposes relocating a BMX track to Munson Mountain, but for different reasons.
“A BMX park needs to be in a location that’s easily accessible by youth. That’s who will be using it. Kids from the age of 9 and up, for them to ride their bikes to go way up there, on probably the worst road in Penticton for safety, is outrageous. There’s also no infrastructure up there.”
Vassilaki stresses that he personally likes Jakubeit and the other members of council, as well as one of the partners of Trio Marine, whom he’s met several times.
As for a political comeback in 2018, Vassilaki replied, “I don’t know.”