Mayoral candidates (from left to right) Colin Basran, Tom Dyas, Bob Schewe and Bobby Kennedy discuss issues during Tuesday night’s mayoral candidate form hosted by Black Press and Third Space Coffee. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Kelowna mayoral candidates square off over downtown safety

Issue has become a key one in the race to be the city’s next mayor

It’s become one of the main issues in the Kelowna mayoral election campaign—dealing with a growing sense that safety downtown is deteriorating.

The four men running for mayor tackled the issue head-on Tuesday night in the first debate of the campaign that saw them address each other directly on the issue.

And, as expected, incumbent Mayor Colin Basran and his three challengers, Tom Dyas, Bob Schewe and Bobby Kennedy had different takes on the current state of downtown and what is being done to address the problem.

“I am a business owner in the downtown core and over the last four years I’ve been seeing this get worse and worse,” said Kennedy, Kennedy runs a skateboard shop on Pandosy Street and said: “It’s absolutely imperative we start doing something.”

He said the attack of a woman in the area last Friday night is just the latest example of problems in the area.

Basran said a key is making sure there are resources available for the police and bylaw officers, noting the city has added 18 more RCMP officers and seven more bylaw officers in the last four years, as well as hiring private security to patrols areas of the downtown.

“It’s a balance between enforcement and making sure people have a sense of safety,” he said.

And he said the city’s Journey Home strategy to not only address homelessness but try and get more support services for those on the street will also help.

But Dyas accused the current city administration of not addressing the situation downtown properly over the last four years, claiming the business community offered its help but was shut out.

“We wanted to talk, we wanted to help but the door was shut on us,” said Dyas, a former president of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

He said he believes what’s needed is a return of RCMP auxiliary officers to the area, more involvement by the faith community in the city and neighbourhood associations, as well as the city advocating for a return of community courts.

“If we do not address the problem what is going to happen is that the business that are down in that area are going to leave,” said Dyas.

Basran countered, saying the removal of auxiliary offers was a provincial decision not a city one, as the situation has become more complex with addiction and mental health issues church groups have found themselves not trained to deal with problems and that why the city is employing a strategy of enforcement and help.

He said a key is getting people off the streets and into treatment programs, and that’s where the Journey Home strategy will help.

“It’s about making meaningful change,” said Basran.

Kennedy challenged the incumbent mayor on the issue, saying over the last four years it appears the city’s answer has been to simply to add more enforcement.

He characterized city bylaw officers as “super expensive alarm clocks” because he feels all they do is roust the homeless first thing in the morning if they have been sleeping in city parks.

“We’ve put more and more money to police. Maybe we should put more money to prevention,” he said.

Basran said the reason the city is implementing the Journey Home strategy is so it will not have to keep hiring more police and bylaw officers.

And, in response to Dyas’s criticisms, he noted the Chamber of Commerce, under Dyas’s leadership, supported the Journey Home strategy and signed off on it.

Dyas said while he thinks the strategy is excellent, it does nothing in the immediate term.

Schewe, a retired city bylaw officer, has made public safety one of this main election campaign themes.

He said he believes there are two type of people living on the streets in Kelowna—those who want to work and get into programs that will help them and those who prey on other more vulnerable individuals. He characterized the latter as drug dealers, pimps and thieves.

He said they must be shown they are not welcome in the city.

You can watch the entire debate, which was streamed live on the Capital News website, at kelownacapnews.com.

The civic election is October 20.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Seats were filled during the Black Press mayoral candidates forum Tuesday night at Third Space Coffee. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Mayoral candidates Colin Basran and Tom Dyas weigh in on topics during the Black Press mayoral candidate forum Tuesday night at Third Space Coffee. - Carli Berry/Capital News

Just Posted

Central Okanagan school trustees ponder future of Rutland Middle School

Planning and facilities committee to weigh in on frustrating lack of progress

Your guide to winter light ups around the Okanagan

From Vernon to Summerland, with a stop in Kelowna, we’ve found some activities for you to enjoy

Kelowna RCMP look for suspects of Rutland break-in

Police are looking for two suspects after man was found with blood on his hands and face

Work on revamp Rutland Transit Exchange in Kelowna now complete

The transit exchange and extension of Shepherd Road will open Saturday says city hall

Movie-making in Kelowna

Film crews will be shooting scenes around the city for a new movie until early December

Feds give formal notice for law to end Canada Post strike

Trudeau government ready to legislate employees back to work after five weeks of rotating strikes

Getzlaf lifts Ducks to 4-3 win over skidding Canucks

Vancouver now winless since Nov. 8

Pressure builds for B.C. to recognize physicians assistants

“We can make a difference and I think we’re being overlooked.”

Senators urge Trump to expedite congressional vote on USMCA

The 12 Republican senators are warning of the dangers of getting the trade pact approved in 2019

Okanagan College professors introduce e-textbooks to ease student costs

Okanagan College ranks sixth in the province for open textbook adoption.

Bill just one tool to deter foreign interference in Canadian elections: Gould

Bill C-76 is just one means to deter outside interference in Canadian elections

Investigation into B.C. legislature officers began in January

RCMP brought in months after former prison administrator started

Legal challenge filed over high-stakes competition to design $60B warships

The federal government had originally said it wanted a “mature design” for its new warship fleet, which was widely interpreted as meaning a vessel that has already been built and used by another navy.

‘There has to be accountability’: victims of sterilization demand action

Morningstar Mercredi says she woke up from a surgery at 14 and immediately broke down when she discovered the baby she once felt inside of her was gone.

Most Read