News

2011 Year in Review

Where did the past year go? Today, we begin a two-part series, taking our annual look back at what made news in the Capital News pages over the past year. - kiana Haner-Wilk/graphic design/Capital News
Where did the past year go? Today, we begin a two-part series, taking our annual look back at what made news in the Capital News pages over the past year.
— image credit: kiana Haner-Wilk/graphic design/Capital News

Where did the past year go? It is a refrain we often say within the context of our busy lives, wondering how time can fly by.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were welcoming in 2011, wondering what the next 12 months would bring to our lives and to our communities.

Well, that time has passed and with it has come and gone a myriad of events, both sad and happy, about achievement and loss, that made an impact on the Central Okanagan.

Today, we begin a two-part series, taking our annual look back at what made news in the Capital News pages over the past year, starting with January to June in today’s issue, and continuing with July to December in our Dec. 29 issue.

January

• Kelowna’s new fire chief, Jeffrey Carlisle, started work in his new job, moving here from his post as chief in Vernon.

• The Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative put its north end Kelowna packinghouse up for sale, along with other strategically-placed facilities in downtown Summerland and on the lakefront in Naramata, due to shrinkage in the industry It amounted to more than $20 million worth of real estate.

• Plans to switch to a semester system at Kelowna secondary school enraged parents at the school because they said there was no consultation.

• Only one person in B.C. was found with West Nile Virus in the previous year, said health officials.  The infected person was in the Central Okanagan, but the valley’s climate isn’t favourable to the species of mosquito that’s most likely to carry the virus. It’s a disease of birds that can be passed on to humans.

• An American couple were caught smuggling 83 one-pound packages of cocaine over the border in a hidden compartment of their minivan. Scott and Diane Powers were charged with importing and possession to traffic.

• Tolko Industries closed its Kelowna veneer plant permanently. The plywood plant closed in January, 2007. The sawmill operation wasn’t affected.

• RCMP Const. Geoff Mantler was suspended from the force while an investigation into an allegation of him using excessive force was launched. He was caught on video kicking Buddy Tavares in the face during his arrest, following a complaint about shots being fired.

• A surprise dump of 30 cm of snow fell on Kelowna overnight, although only four to six were forecast.

• Kelowna planned to sell some waterfront properties in a Pandosy neighbourhood for development, got some area residents up in arms.

• Cleanup of the chemical spill into Mill Creek during the fire in the Stewart Building cost $4 million, but no long-term environmental effects were found.

• Kelowna’s Advisory Planning Commission heard from people opposed to development of waterfront property in the south Pandosy area, prompting them to recommend against a staff proposal to sell part of the city’s property, while developing the rest of it as park.

• A ban on smoking in Kelowna city parks was announced to come into effect Feb. 1, bringing it into line with West Kelowna and the regional district.

• Allegations of a second assault are levied against Kelowna RCMP Const. Geoff Mantler from an incident five months before he was suspended from the force for his actions during the arrest of Buddy Tavares.

• Kelowna city staff received1.5 per cent raises in each of four years of a new contract, retroactive to expiry of the last agreement a year previous.

• Former Olympic athlete Emily Brydon welcomed young athletes to the 2011 International Children’s Games in Kelowna.

February

• Officials were impressed with Kelowna’s hosting of the International Children’s Winter Games.

• A B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association convention was marred by controversy over the genetic modification of apple varieties, which a majority of growers object to.

• Construction of a new stretch of Highway 97 between Winfield and Oyama in Lake Country received the green light from the federal environment ministry.

• A stabbing victim opposed a jail sentence for his attacker, taking into account his youth and the impact of jail time, asking instead that he get help.

• Downtown business owners disagreed on the need for downtown revitalization.

• Strict bail conditions were imposed on the third accused in a cross-border cocaine importing and possession bust.

•A  Kelowna Secondary’s parent advisory council member went above the school district superintendent’s head to object to the decision to move the school to a semester system.

• Regional rescue needs led to an increased request for funds from the upcoming regional district budget.

• Rutland continually gets the short shrift from Kelowna city council, said Todd Sanderson of the Uptown Rutland Business Association.

• West Kelowna opted out of a regional system that allowed garbage trucks to take  photos of  residents’ garbage bins, because of privacy concerns.

• A pay raise was not in the cards for West Kelowna councillors, they decide.

• To the surprise of the mayor, Kelowna was not in the running for a provincial prison because it didn’t meet the criteria.

• Canada’s eight top chefs gathered in Kelowna for the grand finale of the Gold Medal Plates competition. It will be held here annually for the next five years.

• Provincial funding to deal with water quality issues was deemed to be a top concern in a survey by the three Kelowna-area MLAs.

• The Crown dropped all charges against Buddy Tavares, the man who was kicked in the face while being arrested. B.C.’s RCMP commanding officer flew into Kelowna the same day to personally apologize to Tavares for the incident.

• Univar Canada filed a lawsuit against the Kelowna Fire Department for damages in the Stewart Building fire, but the fire chief said they had no merit.

• Surcharges at Kelowna’s airport were sending passengers south of the border to fly out of airports where it’s cheaper.

March

• The school district and the City of Kelowna planned to discuss a dangerous road problem at North Glenmore Elementary School.

A new road configuration around the property, spurred by the creation of the Glenmore Bypass, created problems

• Local MLAs Norm Letnick and Steve Thomson said Christy Clark will make a great leader of the Liberal Party and next premier of B.C., although she wasn’t their first choice.

• Kelowna’s transit workers voted 94 per cent in favour of a job action, although union reps assured customers a strike would only happen in the worst case scenario.

• Houseboats moored on Okanagan Lake  turned the heads of Kelowna bylaw authorities,  earning notices of trespass and non-compliance.Notices followed noise complaints from area residents

• The apple industry was deemed to be in dire straights by local orchardists, who spoke with NDP MLA Mike Farnworth when he stopped into the city.

“This industry is beyond in the septic tank,” shouted one angry apple grower who declined to give his name.

• Kelowna Mountie  Const. Steve Conlon was found guilty of assault for punching a pregnant woman. Conlon’s episode of aggression played out at Thompson Road house on Feb. 13, 2009, as police pursued a suspect for another crime.

• UBCO engineering students hung Ogopogo from the middle of the new William R. Bennett bridge, or so the community suspected. Ogopogo’s neck stood tall and proud over the front of the Maria, a 16-foot motorboat used to hold the beast over Okanagan Lake.

• The Kelowna Mountie found guilty of assault for punching a pregnant woman was also slapped with a lawsuit from his victim Crystal Young , who alleged Const. Steve Conlon caused her  physical and psychological pain.

• Lake Country orchardist Tarsem Dhoot was presented with the Compact Orchard Award at the industry’s annual horticulture forum in Kelowna. Dhoot has his masters degree in agriculture and his family operates 10.5 acres of Ambrosia, Gala and McIntosh apples.

• Kelowna orchardist Dave Stirling was elected president of the Okanagan- Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association at its annual general meeting in Kelowna. Stirling’s family had been farming in the east Kelowna area for 101 years.

• A Kelowna man who was the first person in B.C. to be convicted under a law targeting criminal organizations saw his 10 year prison term shortened because of poor conditions in jail. Thomas Donald Fraser, 34, was handed eight years for trafficking cocaine in the summer of 2006 and two years for instructing to commit crime for the benefit of a criminal organization.

• The Central Okanagan’s representation in the B.C. cabinet was cut in half. While Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson was re-appointed to an enlarged ministry that included forests and lands as well as his former natural resources operations portfolio, Westside-Kelowna MLA Ben Stewart, the former agriculture minister, was dropped from the cabinet by incoming premier Christy Clark. This area’s third Liberal MLA, Norm Letnick was also excluded from cabinet.

• Local schools made plans to absorb students from a private institution in Summerland that shuttered its doors with little notice. Superintendent Hugh Gloster said there were at least two calls to his office, from worried parents looking for somewhere to place their children.

 

• The first round of smoke-free park signs went up around Kelowna. Kasugai Gardens, City Park, Waterfront Park and the Parkinson, Rutland and Mission Recreation parks, were the first to be peppered with the encouragement to stay smoke free.

Nearly 200 signs were slated for the region’s 45 parks.

• Dozens of Kelowna seniors were displaced from their homes following a fire in a North End seniors complex.

• Post-secondary students from across B.C. gathered at the legislature building, to rally against a two per cent tuition increase.

• Stockwell Day announced his intention to step down as MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, prompting a flurry of candidates to step up. Not all were successful, however. Several candidates claimed the nomination period was too narrow to file papers in time, implying the process was fishy.

• Kelowna city council got a road safety snapshot from ICBC and learned there are around 8,700 crashes and 2,700 people injured on local streets each year.

•A movement to get rid of federally sanctioned grow ops made its way to Kelowna city council. Fraser Valley mayors had already banded together to speak against what they deemed to be a growing problem to the health and welfare of their cities.

• Police and Crown Counsel officials confirmed Const. Geoff Mantler, was awaiting a decision on a more than just one  assault charge. In addition to the Jan. 7 incident with Buddy Tavares, there was another from Aug. 10 that Crown Counsel was reviewing.

• The federal government came out with its budget. Local business groups said they were pleased with some measures aimed at helping small businesses, although more would have been welcomed. It didn’t really matter, as an election loomed.

• The Mountie who gained national attention for kicking Kelowna resident Buddy Tavares in the face, was charged with two counts of assault causing bodily harm, while action on a third complaint of excessive force awaited.

The third was eventually dismissed.

• Outgoing Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day claimed the Opposition “engineered” the call for a federal election with a plan to form a coalition government if his party, the Conservatives, couldn’t form a majority government.

• An estimated three dozen employees from Shaw Communications’ Kelowna operation got their walking papers. Peter Bissonnette, the CEO of the communications giant, announced the company’s delivery of 500 job cuts across Canada as part of a company reorganization. The operations were, over the year, whittled down from 18 regions into seven larger regions, which Bissonnette said would reduce the cost of business.

• Beaverdell residents were left wondering how they would cope with the heart of the town gone. The Beaverdell Hotel burned down, leaving locals and tourists alike a bit stunned. “People are just crying,” said area resident Lorna Hollingsworth. “When the town was active, it was like everybody’s front room.” Constructed in 1897, the hotel opened in July, 1901.

• Kelowna city councillors chose not to be dragged into the discussion around  growing medical marijuana, snuffing out a movement that started in  Fraser Valley, saying they didn’t believe it was a big problem locally.

April

• An effort by  South Pandosy residents to quash a proposed waterfront development on Cedar Avenue gained momentum. Those most ardently against the plan aimed at flipping seven waterfront properties to a  combined park, commercial and residential space encouraged community groups from across the city to rally in opposition at a public hearing.

• A Kelowna woman stepped out of the driver’s seat and into Greyhound history. Colleen Snelson retired as a bus driver, but not before making an impact. She was one of the first women to drive a Greyhound bus 30 years earlier and the first female driving instructor 10 years prior.

• Kelowna was ranked 121st of 180 Canadian cities in Moneysense magazine’s 2011 Best Places to Live survey. The rank was six places lower than the previous year.

• Kelowna’s  Sikh community announced it would hold the first Vaisakhi parade, mirroring activities that have traditionally rolled out in larger urban hubs.

• The Kelowna Fire Department announced they responded to 10,000 emergency calls in the previous year.

• The Kelowna Mountie notorious for acts of brutality in the line of duty got good news. A third charge for an allegation of excessive force against a repo man, was dismissed. Supt. Bill McKinnon, however, announced  he believed Const. Geoff Mantler was “51 per cent at fault” in the incident and the case would be included among “three allegations of disgraceful conduct” to be dealt with at an RCMP disciplinary hearing.

• Just over 200 Kelowna residents converged at City Hall to attend a public hearing on a contentious Cedar Avenue proposal, with the vast majority aiming to put a stop to the plan. Armed with signs with pithy sayings like, “parkland not pavement,” they filled council chambers until well after midnight.

• Political hopefuls from all federal parties shared their political platitudes at all-candidates meetings across the valley.

• People for the Park announced that a benefactor was waiting in the wings to fund a $2-million-plus transition of residential properties on Cedar Avenue to parkland, should the city see fit to ditch their proposal. Nobody could say who the mystery man or woman was.

• Kelowna  firefighters scrambled to get ahead of a fire that moved into Action Metals workyard. It started as a grass fire, jumped, across Mill Creek and was burning in the direction of Highway 97 North, toward the scrap metal recycling business.

• The charred remains of a portion of Laurentian Heights condo complex loomed over the intersection of Harvey and Burtch.  The fire displaced about 100 residents and is still under repair.

• A spark of hope for a new off-leash dog park in Kelowna was snuffed out, when a city staff report cited a cost of $20,000 to bring the site up to snuff.City councillors asked staff to look into using a portion of the future DeHart Park in the Mission as the temporary offleash dog park, weeks earlier.

• Kelowna’s Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar was judged the best Okanagan restaurant in the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards, while Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Estate Winery in West Kelowna was chosen the best winery/vineyard dining.

• Despite numerous inquiries, the man or woman allegedly willing to ante up $2.3 million to turn seven city-owned properties on Cedar Avenue into a park remained unnamed.

• Kelowna Yacht Club members were asked to vote on a new design for their amenities. Three  submissions from local architects were up for debate.

• In the 11th hour, a person willing to discuss anteing up $2.3 million to create a park on city lots on Cedar avenue stopped the political process. No decisions on the space, therefore, were passed down. In later months, it was revealed that the person who stopped proceedings wasn’t actually the much discussed, secret benefactor.

• Kelowna residents learned how much parade related pomp $50,000 could buy Monday morning, when the newest Ogopogo float was unveiled.

• After a passionate struggle to keep the Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre open, co-ordinator Micki Smith  announced the facility’s permanent closure.

• Kelowna Yacht Club representatives revealed they’d chosen Meiklejohn Architects’ proposal for their new clubhouse.  “It’s quite unique—it has a nautical theme to it,” said Jim Kay the club’s general manager. “It’s designed to look like a large boat.”

• Beloved community member Albert Baldeo wrote a Capital News column about his pending mortality. “But do not weep me for I have gone for my coronation where I will meet with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. My new destination is heaven, where there is no sickness, there is no Parkinson’s Disease, there are no hospitals…and there is no HST,” he wrote. Baldeo would pass away the same month.

• Kelowna’s entry into the wave of youth activism sweeping across Canada in the form of Vote Mobs brought out around 100 participants.

• Local librarians told city council that they were struggling with a demand for electronic books. “Content management is more difficult than it used to be because you don’t have the physical object like you used to,” said Lesley Dieno, executive director of the Okanagan Regional Library.

• Retired Reverend Albert Baldeo’s passing was announced and the community outpouring was substantial.

• Kelowna cop Const. Geoff Mantler, 28, made his first court appearance on two charges of assault causing bodily harm.

• Wills and Kate madness spread across the pond in the lead-up to their royal nuptials.

This colony’s residents were on tenterhooks waiting for the wedding of the century to unfold, and holding a vast array of events to celebrate the occasion.

• The community said goodbye to longtime women’s advocate Micki Smith, as the Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre shuttered its doors.  “The centre means so much to me because it gave me my voice,” said Smith.

• Millionaire philanthropist Thomas Budd was named Man of the Year at the 36th annual civic and community awards.

May

The union that represents bus drivers in Kelowna managed to avoid a strike.

Capital News reporter Judie Steeves had her first cookbook published to much local fanfare. Jude’s Kitchen offered around 200 recipes of B.C. inspired nosh.

• Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan won a third term in office with an increased share of the vote. The popular MP took 58 per cent of the vote in the riding that had been dominated by conservatives, of varying political affiliation, for nearly six decades.

• Flood warnings started to pour in when it became clear that  a cold spring stopped much of winter’s snow to melt at its usual point.

• Canada started to come to terms with the fact that the Liberal Party  was decimated in the federal election, earning only 18.9 per cent of the national vote. Results closely mirrored the 1993 election when Progressive Conservatives got 16.4 of the vote, all but eliminating the party from the House of Commons.  It eventually merged with the Reform Party to stay afloat.

• Kelowna transit awash in secularism became victims of crime. Atheist ads proclaiming: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life,” were stolen, sparking an atheist outcry.

• Not a single person attended a public hearing to comment in favour of or against the Central Green development that was slated to eventually be home to 700 units in a mix of high and low rise buildings.

• Complaints about a windy stretch of Westside Road were refreshed when a deadly crash exposed its flaws. The B.C. Ministry of Transportation answered those complaints by pointing out plans for improvements were forthcoming. Up to 10 pullout sites are planned to enable slower-moving vehicles  to safely pull over and allow other vehicles to pass.

• Courts learned that Crown prosecutors in Kelowna were maxed out and couldn’t take on any more trials until the following fall. Administrative Crown counsel Wendy Kavanagh told Justice Randall Wong that there aren’t any prosecutors available until October in response to a defence lawyer’s request to set an early trial date for her client.

• The third largest snowpack in 35 years was sitting in the Okanagan watershed, just waiting for warm weather to melt it and send it rushing down into the valley bottom. As such, the city was on high alert for floods.

• As a highly-touted prospect at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, Danny Watkins achieved a certain degree of fame in the football world. But the  6-foot-4, 310-pound West Kelowna product expressed surprise over the  magnitude of fanfare and adoration he experienced in the wake of being chosen as a first round NFL draft pick for the Philadelphia Eagles.

• The B.C. Dragoons unveiled a  one-tonne marble statue called Coming Home. It was presented to the city and  installed in the airport, in hopes that the  statue will help more people learn about the military contingent.

• Police found a body of a Kelowna teenager in Okanagan lake and police said the circumstances weren’t suspicious.

• The provincial government announced legislation to create a civilian-led office to conduct criminal investigations into incidents involving police. “It is critical that British Columbians have confidence in our police and that the police are accountable to them,” said Premier Christy Clark.

• The Harmonized Sales Tax referendum was looming and proponents of the controversial levy worked overtime to get their message out. Anti-HST rhetoric was also in heavy supply.

• The police gang task force said they’d be in Kelowna to deal with a Hells Angels event that was expected to increase the numbers of bikers in the local area significantly.

• The new Official Community Plan was up for debate at a public hearing.

• Rutland May Days were deemed a success, thanks in large part to a Chilliwack concert that brought in 1,0000 watchers.

• Gropers were busy in Kelowna. RCMP announced a weekend groping in Rutland, noting it had no connection to four gropings at the Mission Park Greenway, the week prior.

• Slave Lake Alberta was consumed by fire, sending residents to seek safety. Evacuation was a painfully familiar scenario for former West Kelowna resident Kathy Dickson, who moved from the Okanagan to Slave Lake, in hopes of finding a smoke free environment air for her young children. She returned to the valley, to wait out the ordeal.

• Kelowna’s retail offerings failed to live up to expectations of those anxiously awaiting the chance to zero in on an American sized deal.

• U.S. retail giant Target announced  which 105 Zellers stores it will take over first, at the cost of around $10 million apiece, in its hotly anticipated move into Canada. Kelowna and West Kelowna were not on the list.

• CBC announced it would be expanding local content in the B.C. Interior, adding an afternoon show to Kelowna  and a new morning show out of Kamloops.

• A Kelowna Mountie convicted of assault for punching a pregnant woman in the face two years earlier learned he could avoid a criminal record so long as he completed 40 hours of community work in the following six months.

June

• Both sides of the HST debate stopped in Kelowna for presentations at Okanagan College. Former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm said he was leading the movement against the levy because of a lack of trust in government, and he opposed the unified tax. Local orchardist Christine Dendy said the HST was a cost-effective and fair taxation system.

• The RCMP decided to stop paying Const. Geoff Mantler, who was suspended from the force while being investigated for an assault allegation that stemmed from an incident where he kicked a prone suspect in the face while he was arresting him.

• Crops were late getting started in the Okanagan because of a cool spring, but there was little frost damage to blossoms.

• A display of fireworks in Peachland were arranged to mark the first anniversary of local teen Ashlee Hyatt’s death. Another Okanagan teen was charged in her death.

• A Kelowna flagger put pen to paper to remind people to slow down in construction zones. Judy Stewart wrote a poem to make her point to the driving public.

• Kelowna city council members debated the controversial issue of building heights in the downtown core, as part of discussion of the Official Community Plan.

• Cool weather slowed the melt of high elevation snow, which meant those on floodwatch in the valley bottom got a break. There was still a record amount of snow in the hills around the valley.

• Canuck fever hit the Okanagan as the team battled for supremacy in the Stanley Cup. Some locals painted cookies and others their houses with the Canuck green and blue.

• Mission Creek overflowed its banks in some spots, requiring city crews to untangle logjams and construct emergency berms.

• The Kelowna Yacht Club expanded its boat slips by 296, adding to existing moorage on the downtown waterfront.

• The number of rental properties available in Kelowna increased due to the city’s weakened real estate market.

• Car surfing led to the death of Kelowna man Jody Rud, a day before his 25th birthday, on the Bear Main Forest Service Road.

• Kelowna City Council turns down the offer of a free Jock Hildebrand sculpture of herons because it cost too much to install, and didn’t fit the parameters set by the public art committee.

• Local fruit growers appealed to the public to support the industry during very difficult economic times by purchasing local tree fruits.

• In discussions around a new Water Act for B.C., farmers called for an inclusion of a water reserve for agriculture, since agricultural land is tied up in a reserve.

• A Kelowna man was admitted to the intensive care ward in the hospital after a brawl broke out on a Rutland street corner. The fight was believed to be between two feuding families.

• The federal government introduced back-to-work legislation to end the Canada Post labour dispute, meaning ballots for the controversial HST question in B.C. could get out to residents.

• Dain Phillips  died of his injuries after the street brawl in Rutland. Police said they believed he was caught in the midst of the fight, which involved nearly a dozen men.

• The  Capital News changed its publishing days to Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

• Okanagan Lake rose to seven centimetres above what’s called full pool, or the optimum operating level for the lake.

• A report to council showed that  specific demographics in Kelowna’s homeless population were showing signs of growth. There were more younger people on the streets than in years past  as well as more older women. There were also more people with mental health issues according to the regional district survey.

• Public opposition to plans for both development and park in the Cedar Avenue area led council to quash plans for the mixed-use development.

• Rosalind Neis, the first mayor of West Kelowna,  announced she would like to run for mayor again, after serving a three-year term as a councillor in West Kelowna.

• Local chef Willi Franz is judged by his peers as tops in Canada, It marked the first time the Chef of the Year honour has come to the Okanagan.

• Teachers in the central Okanagan were expected to vote in favour of taking job action.

• Kelowna city council looked at a noise bylaw with teeth to take action against noisy motorcycles and boats.

• Hells Angel member Robert Leonard Thomas, charged in the murder of Kelowna resident Dain Phillips, turned himself in after an arrest warrant is issued for him. Six others were already arrested and charged with second degree murder.

Watch for our July-December review in the Dec. 29 issue of the Capital News.

 

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