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Kelowna mayor bristles at criticism of his city

Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray is upset with a Vancouver newspaper story that characterized his city as a centre of organized crime. - Alistair Waters/Capital News
Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray is upset with a Vancouver newspaper story that characterized his city as a centre of organized crime.
— image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

Kelowna’s mayor has lashed out at the Vancouver Province newspaper, accusing it of “lazy” reporting in a four-page spread that appeared on the weekend characterizing his city as a centre of violent crime in B.C. and a place plagued by poor development planning.

“This was a slaughter. My God, it was four pages long, embellished with photographs,” said Walter Gray when asked about the article following Monday’s city council meeting.

“Clearly the article had been written before (a Province reporter) talked to me,” he added.

He noted the reporter who interviewed him was not the same one whose byline appeared on the story, and said his comments would be handed to an editor to use with the story.

The mayor said the article, which he described as “brutal,” ignored many of good things the city has done in terms of both policing here and development, including having more kilometres of bike path per capita than any other city in Canada.

Instead, it focused on a recent double murder that took place in West Kelowna, the August 2011 gangland-style shooting outside the Delta Grand Hotel that claimed the life of Vancouver gang leader Jonathan Bacon and what the newspaper called “the disjointed ugly patchwork of parking lots and strip malls.”

Just as council was preparing to meet Monday afternoon, the RCMP in the Lower Mainland suburb of Delta announced three men—all from the Lower Mainland and all believed to have gang connections—were arrested Friday and have been charged in the Bacon shooting, which also injured three other people, two other Lower Mainland gang members and the niece of a Lower Mainland Hells Angel.

Gray said the arrests of people from outside the community showed the Bacon shooting was a story about crime in B.C., not crime in Kelowna, despite the fact it took place here.

As for The Province article, Gray was particularly incensed it provided no statistics to back up claims that people here are frightened of what it called “visible violent criminals.”

“I was disappointed in The Province article because it lacked any sort of proof and was void of any statistics,” said the mayor.

He said the criticisms of planning here failed to take into account that 44 per cent of land in the city is in the Agricultural Land Reserve and is thus protected from development.

He added that some of the development singled out for criticism happened outside of the city before Kelowna expanded beyond the area around the Capri Hotel in the mid-1970s.

As for complaints about development on the Westside, the mayor noted much of the “big box” store development and strip malls slammed by the article are located on Westbank First Nation land and are not subject to the same development rules that exist if they were on land under municipal jurisdiction.

The mayor, who admitted the article angered him, said he plans to respond to The Province in a letter.

 

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