Big Year for Big Ideas

Next week the City is hosting several community outreaches (ExpOCP) at 249 Westminster Ave.  It is an opportunity to provide input to update our Official Community Plan. Everyone has opinions on what we as a community should be investing in, focussing on, creating, exploring, and implementing.  The challenge in the past has been capturing people’s dinner table, water cooler and social outing conversations about the City. You can participate in person, online, or via email www.shapeyourcitypenticton.ca

You might have heard that Penticton will be participating in the Smart Cities Challenge which is a federally funded contest to create smarter communities by leveraging data and technology.  Top prize for the category we will be perusing is $10 million and each finalist will get $250,000 to go towards developing their plan. While some may think big cities have an advantage over Penticton, I would argue that we are well positioned to be successful. Part of the Federal Government’s objective is to create new strategies that all communities can benefit from. Problems in Penticton with infrastructure, aging populations, housing, economy, health and safety are similar elsewhere in Canada.

With our OCP review taking place right now, the timing is perfect to correlate ideas for both a Smart Cities Challenge and innovative concepts for what we want our City to have, be or strive for.   On many levels, Penticton punches above its weight class and excels in comparison to other communities our size.  The Smart Cities Challenge has a short window to submit and, like most good ideas, it needs a champion to breathe life into it and get others excited about it. This initiative is community driven and the City is happy to endorse and invest into exploring how we can better utilize technology and data to improve decision making, daily operations, and a better community.

Even if Penticton isn’t a finalist, the ideas generated can be incorporated into our Official Community Plan, operations, or be concepts to explore further. If you remember, the opportunity to have Penticton as a destination for WestJet led a small number of residents to champion the cause and create a flash mob video to demonstrate community spirit and the need for WestJet here. The community also came together to fast-track the new hospital tower and the Rotary service club championed starting a new festival (RibFest) which is now an annual event. My point is, people have great ideas, but few take the time to action their concept.

Many have travelled to other communities near and abroad. I’m sure you’ve noticed things that added character, uniqueness, or a certain wow factor that perhaps could be incorporated here.  We are looking for innovative ideas because our world is changing and the traditional methods are either too expensive or not working. Our key focus areas for the OCP are around Agriculture, Arts & Culture, Economy, Environment, Healthy living, Heritage, Housing, Infrastructure and Transportation. I’m pretty sure each of you have an opinion, idea or concern in relation most of the focus areas.

Next week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) there will be a series of drop-in sessions for people to see what was in the old plan and some initial findings that we should be considering for the new plan.  Interior Health has created an impressive display about being a Healthy Community, which should underpin all aspects of our community plan. There will be representation from local City committees, stakeholders, high school, and the general public. I encourage you to come out and participate.  Don’t assume other like-minded people will share your ideas…every voice is important!