August 26, 2020
Penticton is one of only two cities in the world that is situated between two lakes. Every summer we enjoy great natural amenities and some of the hottest temperatures in Canada. And while all these features make us a fantastic year-round destination, our beautiful setting comes with the risk of fire.
This last week, we witnessed how different agencies of government can come together in an emergency to protect ourselves, families and homes when disaster strikes. We saw how residents and businesses rallied to support their neighbours and work with firefighters.
And so while this past week was filled with worry, this week I am filled with immense pride.
On behalf of Penticton City Council and all our residents, we are incredibly thankful to everyone and all agencies who helped us during this challenging time. I also want to thank the media who regularly assisted our Emergency Operation Centre in getting information out, not only to our residents and businesses, but to everyone who cares about Penticton.
The response to last week’s fire was led by professional firefighters from the Penticton Fire Department and BC Wildfire Service. Together, their coordination and quick response avoided the devastating blow that other communities have recently suffered by fires. We collectively owe them a tremendous thanks.
Also active were members of Emergency Support Services (ESS). This critical team of volunteers sets up our reception centres and coordinates important services like transportation, temporary lodging, food, clothing and emotional support. Like many non-profits, the demand for ESS supports can quickly exceed their supply of volunteers. If you’re able and have time to help, I encourage you to take up the call to serve this important organization.
Finally, I wish to give a big thanks to everyone in the evacuation alert area who remained informed and prepared to leave. Whether as individuals or families, by planning our emergency departure in advance, we collectively contribute to our community’s overall success when responding to the real threat of fire that surrounds Penticton every summer. Thank you for getting ready… and working together to stay ready.
Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki
As the City works towards recovery from COVID-19, we thank you for your patience and cooperation. This process is not as easy as flipping a switch. Each phase we plan is carefully assessed by Penticton’s Emergency Operations Centre and follows Provincial Health guidelines.
Speaking on behalf of City Council, we’re greatly appreciative of all the people who are working to help our community build strength. This includes the support groups, business leaders, volunteers who sit on the Economic Recovery Task Force, our arts and culture organizations, and so many more.
The Love Local campaign is a great example of how we are pulling together to support each other and all things local.
We may only just be in the beginning stages of recovery, but we’re moving in the right direction. Stay strong and choose local first. Thank you!
Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki
Restart the City Plan
The City is currently in Phase 2a (as of May 27, 2020), which has involved reopening certain outdoor facilities. The timing of these future phases will be based on direction from the Province, community need and signs of progress. Next stages include:
Phase 2b: Resume activity for basketball and volleyball courts and playgrounds. Restore certain public services at City Hall. Select outdoor facilities (such as soccer fields, baseball diamonds and parks) may be available for rentals and organized use.
Phase 3: Select indoor recreation facilities (such as the Community Centre, arenas, Cleland Theatre, Penticton Public Library and Penticton Museum & Archives) will start being made available for modified programming and limited rentals.
Phase 4: All outdoor/indoor recreation facilities open for the ‘new normal.’
All updates involving the reopening of City facilities and services will be posted to our Restart the City page.
City Offers Relief Options
City Council has delivered a package of relief options for residents and business owners. This includes a savings on property taxes, utility bills, building permit fees and more. Visit our COVID-19 Support Toolkit for details as well as for information about deferring your property taxes.
COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and every single one of us has been affected in some way.
Speaking on behalf of Penticton City Council, we want you to know that we are listening. We know this health crisis has taken a huge financial toll.
We have heard your stories and appreciate your feedback. After considering various options during our recent April 23 Special Council meeting, we have agreed on a package of options to help provide relief.
I am deeply thankful for your patience, kindness and community spirit as we work together to get through this. Thank you and stay strong!
Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki
The City is offering the following relief options:
Property taxes: The 2020 property tax increase of 2.9% has been offset with a one-time grant to all taxpayers effectively reducing the increase to 0%. While taxes are due July 31, a penalty-free grace period for payment is available to Sept. 30, 2020.
Utility bills (electric, water and sewer): All utility bills will see a 10% discount regardless of when they are paid. Also, you can defer payment until June 30. The City is seeking an electrical subsidy funding from the Province, which would enable us to match BC Hydro’s three-month credit.
Building permit fees: Planning a homeowner renovation? These fees are being waived for projects up to $100,000 in construction value until October 2020.
Business tax multiplier: A neutral effect will be applied to the tax amount, providing relief to businesses.
Visit Penticton's COVID-19 Support Toolkit for further details as well as other community support information.
On behalf of my colleagues on Council and our staff at the City, I would like to wish all Penticton residents a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season.
Of the 12 months we experience each year, December’s arrival triggers a trio of thoughts – thoughts involving the past, thoughts about the present and thoughts to the future. This attention to time makes December a natural month for key decisions, and when it comes to the City, no decision is more important than setting the annual budget.
Earlier this month, Council completed three days of deliberations on the City’s 2020 to 2024 Financial Plan, a process that began this spring with the results of the Citizen Survey identifying Penticton’s most pressing interests. Having heard those interests, Council used them to create three strategic priorities – Asset and Amenity Management, Community Safety and Community Design – and then directed staff to carry them out.
The Citizen Survey was also clear on the subject of taxation. When asked about raising revenue to pay for rising service costs, increasing taxes was the third least favored option.
For 2020, staff would need to propose a tolerable tax increase, a figure that accounted for 2% inflation, while providing a modest amount for growth - 3 per cent, or less.
And finally, during a meeting this fall, Councilors brought forward individual Notices of Motion identifying specific projects and initiatives, for consideration during the budget deliberations.
Based on this strategic direction and fiscal expectations, staff rolled out a budget process that began in August and concluded in December. Include along the way were:
- $18 million in general capital requests, with staff proposing $9 million;
- $1.1 million in grant and partnership requests to fit into a proposed $.6 million budget;
- 20 staffing requests, reduced to proposed 7 new positions
- Over $4 million in operating requests – proposed $2.1 million general increase
Mid way through the budget process Notice of Motions were also welcomed by Council identify specific projects and initiatives within the Council priorities that they would like to see advanced.
Staff worked hard to rationalize these various requests and the approved notice of motions to fit everything within the Council’s fiscal expectations.
At the end of the day Council set clear direction and expectations up front. Staff followed that direction and provided a proposed budget. Over the course of three days Council deliberated and discussed the proposed budget and the conclusion reached is staff effectively did their job to deliver a proposed budget that aligned with the expectation that met Council’s expectations.
As an alternative staff could have proposed a “padded budget” with extra items for Council to cut during the deliberations – to create a good show, however neither Council or staff felt that we a good use of everyone’s time.
Mayor of Penticton
Listening to the public was top of mind earlier this month when staff presented Council a policy and framework for community engagement. While both documents trace their origin to a challenging time when concerns weren’t heard and frustrations were high, thanks to their creation, today the City is better prepared to receive and consider feedback before making major decisions.
To ensure the documents that Council approved were the right fit for Penticton, staff had conversations or received input from approximately 150 residents who attended events downtown, completed a survey or dropped by one of two focus group conversations. Comments on the proposed policy and framework were also sought from our municipal peers in other municipalities. And finally, staff ensured both documents were aligned and consistent with community engagement standards set by the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2).
Are things now perfect? No, but progress is being made through an engagement program that regularly encourages Penticton residents to attend events, complete surveys or visit websites that seek their comments, concerns or suggestions.
On December 4and 5, you’ll have another opportunity to engage the ears and minds of Council and staff when the City hosts its “Hot Topics” engagement event. So what are these hot topics? Well to start, there’s the 2020 City Budget.
For several months now, staff have been preparing department business plans outlining how the City’s financial resources in the coming year will be aligned with community programming demands, service requirements and priority goals. This process involves weighing the needs and requests of the community while ensuring service levels can be met within the annual budget. The next step in the process is to hear from you via our annual budget engagement sessions. Are we on the right path?
Feedback is also sought on the Lake-to-Lake Bike Route, an all ages and abilities cycling spine that will connect our community from one lake to another. Initial public feedback received in October indicated wide support for increasing safe cycling opportunities, with the creation of a lake to lake route generating great discussion. Options for such a route, including choices around specific streets and roads, are now available for residents and businesses to comment on. Which option do you like?
And last but not least, work is underway to create a plan for Skaha Park’s east side. Planning for the park’s future will build on directions provided in the 2018 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, along with ideas drawn from a citizen-led park design process, championed by Peter Osborne. The public is being asked to consider the long-term vision of the marina, aging facilities and amenities like the boat house and spray park, walking connections between the park and beach and environmental concerns like erosion. Is anything missing?
All of these topics deserve your input, so please attend and participate. To join us in person, visit the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, December 4 from 3pm to 7pm or the Penticton Senior’s Drop-in Centre, December 5 from 3pm to 7pm. Staff, information boards and handouts will all be available to answer questions and receive input. In celebration of the holiday season, be sure to bring an unwrapped toy, gift card or cash donation to support Penticton’s Toys for Tots to Teens event.
Can’t make those dates? For several years now the City has promoted its online survey platform, www.shapeyourcitypenticton.ca as a convenient way to share feedback. Registration now exceeds over 5000 people who have expressed a direct interest in influencing decisions that shape Penticton’s future. The upcoming Hot Topics event is another great reason to register, so please visit the website, sign up and contribute your thoughts!
Last week, a vote by Penticton City Council supported the first, second and third readings of proposed amendments to the City’s Good Neighbour Bylaw. If approved during the upcoming June 4 Council meeting, these amendments will provide our bylaw officers with new tools to address some of the unacceptable behaviours we are seeing downtown. The goal of this effort is to create a safe and welcoming environment for residents and visitors. Council is committed to finding a solution to some of the challenges we are seeing and this amendment is a step in that direction. Not surprisingly, it has generated much discussion in the community and I want to use this month’s Mayor’s message to clarify some of the misconceptions about the intent of these amendments.
Contrary to what we may read and hear, Penticton Bylaw Officers do not indiscriminately issue fines. A fine is given when efforts to communicate bylaws through signage, conversation, reminders or warnings are unsuccessful. Of the thousands of interactions between the public and Bylaw Officers each year, only a small fraction of them result in fines. If spoken to, reminded or warned, most people do cooperate once engaged. But for a small number of people, cooperation with Bylaw Officers and compliance with our bylaws is not guaranteed. In some of these cases where there is evidence of intoxication, mental health or drug use, responding Bylaw Officers may, at their discretion, forgo issuing fines in favour of contacting other resources to access support or care.
Since our last Council meeting, concerned residents have said the proposed amendments will impact those without a home. That’s possible. If someone who is homeless is obstructing passage along one of three designated sections of downtown high-traffic sidewalks, May through September, they will likely be approached by Bylaw Officers and be asked to move. The rules apply to everyone, and everyone should have the ability to walk on a public sidewalk without obstructions.
Penticton City Council has some tough decisions to make concerning the environment of our downtown. Whether it’s the people I speak with weekly, the supportive email I receive, or the voices expressed in online discussions and polls, there is wide support for Council to take action. Downtown residents and businesses are tired of the bad behaviour and brazen crime they are witnessing and they’re demanding more solutions. Solutions already in place include new housing for the less fortunate, supports for those in need, multi-agency collaboration with the CAST- Community Active Support Table, greater resources to make our community safe, including the hiring of two Community Safety Bylaw Officers, reminders to say something if you see something and, yes, aligning our bylaws with a changing streetscape.
For each of these solutions, plus others, the City of Penticton has had, and will continue to have, a critical funding, partnership and organizing role. Some of these solutions may be popular, others may trigger debate, but collectively they each play a part in moving us towards our collective goal of gaining the upper hand on the challenging circumstances facing our community.
After serving six months as your mayor, I have witnessed more passion and dedication to this community from residents than I knew existed during my previous 12 years as a councillor.
There is a strong desire to see Penticton flourish. As the council gets ready to develop the priorities for the city, there is no better time than now for residents to provide feedback through the 2019 Citizen Survey.
What’s a citizen survey?
Citizen surveys are used by local governments to evaluate their services and collect input on the quality of life and future priorities. As Penticton grows and develops, understanding the needs, wants and desires of residents is extremely valuable. The City of Penticton last completed a citizen survey in 2013, so it’s definitely time to reintroduce this important form of engagement to help support city council’s strategic planning.
When used regularly, surveys help council measure improvements and benchmark services with other communities. Obtaining accurate and meaningful information also allows our city to plan for the future and compare year-over-year data. Everything that is collected is vitally important as we continue to grow Penticton into an even more beautiful and prosperous community.
Time is running out.
This year’s survey kicked off April 18 and runs until May 3. We’re now approaching almost 1,000 responses, but let’s not stop there. Decisions made at the local level have the biggest impact on our community, so I strongly encourage more residents to complete the survey in the time that’s left.
Your participation is a great opportunity to provide meaningful feedback to the council. If improvements need to be made, now is the time to voice your opinions and ideas before the council begins the process of creating our strategic priorities. Not only will the feedback you provided help with our planning process, but it will also assist us to project budgets and plan for the future.
Ready to have your say? Please complete the survey online at shapeyourcitypenticton.ca or fill out a hard copy at the seniors’ drop-in centre, city hall, the library and community centre.
Hello Penticton, on behalf of council and city staff, we wish you a happy and successful 2019.
January is a month that focuses our attention forward to the year ahead, a time of planning, when we take stock and set goals. While the days in January are short on light and low on temperature, the underlining potential that accompanies the arrival of the first month of a new year triggers feelings of confidence and optimism.
Let’s get started!
Last October you elected a new city council. As our community’s mayor, I’m delighted to work alongside six incredible councillors who, individually, offer a diverse set of perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing Penticton while, collectively, share common values on the need for transparent processes, wise spending and respectful dialogue.
During our first three months working together, we’ve reviewed and consolidated the issues and priorities we each discussed during our campaigns and, with staff’s assistance, will incorporate these issues and priorities into the upcoming business planning discussions that will accompany our 2019 budget deliberations in February. More affordable housing, reducing crime, infrastructure renewal, economic development, support for youth and seniors, transportation links, emergency readiness, working with First Nations and rolling out a new Official Community Plan are all areas that require council’s immediate attention.
Finding a new CAO
In early January the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Peter Weeber, announced to council his decision to accept a new position in the private sector. Peter’s time with the city coincided with a challenging period in our community’s history and Peter and his team worked hard to resolve several high-profile issues. He has been a tremendous asset to Penticton and served as a strong leader who understood the business of local government and the role that a proactive CAO plays in the community, leading the corporation and advising council. The process of choosing a new CAO is now underway and council looks forward to announcing the name of the successful candidate once that process is completed.
Seniors and youth
During last fall’s election we heard about the gap between seniors and youth. Exploring ways to close that gap is something I’d like to address during my time as mayor. Despite differences in age, seniors and youth both share a common interest in the well-being of our community, each seeing it from their own experienced perspective.
Bringing these groups together holds tremendous potential for sharing ideas, creating solutions and passing on knowledge. And when it comes to meeting with seniors and youth, there’s also a role for the city to play.
Barriers to information, combined with a lack of knowledge on how to participate in the public process, are sometimes cited as problems for both groups. To address these concerns, the city is designing its engagement events to be considerate of the needs of seniors, including how information is accessed, where events are held and at what time. Similarly, planning is now underway to host a council meeting oriented towards youth, to be held at Penticton High School in the month of May. Students attending the meeting will learn about local government in Penticton, the services the city provides and the process by which decisions are made, all via an agenda that caters to the interests and concerns of young people.
One of the biggest challenges facing local government is the impressive scope of opinions and ideas that emerge on any one topic.
When making a decision on a difficult issue, individual members of council rely on input from the public, staff, experts and each other before determining their position. Progress can be slow. To keep the decision process focused, I encourage individual groups to identify areas where, collectively, they hold mutual interests.
A great example was recently seen in the area of arts and culture. During a forum hosted by the Okanagan School of the Art at the Shatford Centre, efforts to bring several groups together led to a thorough and well attended discussion on the future of that organization and facility. Similar results are being seen through the city’s regular public engagement program which, in the span of only a few months, can schedule a variety of events, meetings or surveys designed to gather common points of view from those participating.
If you’ve never attended one of the city’s public engagement events, I encourage you to do so this coming year. Make it a goal to get involved!
All the best for 2019.