Due to widespread discontent by the residents of Penticton regarding the direction that the current mayor and city council are taking the city, the city has entered into an engagement process to deal with upcoming important initiatives.
The city has hired an engagement consultant at considerable cost and will hold open houses on various issues such as future infrastructure spending and parks policy.
The residents will be asked to give input prior to decisions being made regarding these issues.
While this all sounds very participatory and democratic, I have not heard how the decision making process will be handled.
Unless the decision making process includes a referendum, the residents will just be participating in an elaborate “dog and pony show” rather than a truly collaborative process.
We are just in the midst of a very costly fiasco with respect to Skaha Lake Park due to the fact that the mayor and city council ignored all the input from the residents (in the form of mass protests), and signed a binding contract to lease out a large portion of Skaha Lake Park for commercial purposes. In other words, utter disregard for the electorate.
Consequently, they now have no credibility whatsoever. The mayor, in the face of the current situation, will only say that, knowing what he knows now, things “could have been done differently.”
If he cannot even bring himself to say that it should have been done differently, hope for an improved future participatory process is bleak.
In other words, in his mind, no mistakes were made on the Skaha Lake Park issue: it just didn’t work out (undoubtedly due to meddling malcontents).
The mayor appears to be very cost conscious with respect to holding referendums even if that cost consciousness does not apply to matters such as unnecessary legal expense to extricate himself and council from costly blunders.
This concern for referendum expense can be resolved as follows:
1. Hold the consultative process with the residents over the next two years.
2. From this consultation come up with various recommendations on each item that clearly reflect the input received.
3. Hold a referendum on the items along with the scheduled vote to elect a new mayor and city council (and when I say new, I mean completely new).
This could be a plan worth considering, except it may be too simple for this group to comprehend and doesn’t have the requisite ‘wow’ factor.