As the municipal election date nears, once silent supporters are coming out of the shadows to use their influence for those they say best represent Kelowna’s needs.
First out of the gate was FourChange.org, a group which announced they’d be backing a slate of four business friendly council candidates.
Now a group of three behind the Save Downtown Kelowna Alliance are throwing their weight behind a mayoral candidate they also believe has a business friendly bent, although their focus is downtown-centric.
“Well, put it this way: Sharon Shepherd thinks the downtown core ‘is just fine the way it is,’ and Walter Gray thinks we need some significant improvement,” said Dale Manton, one of the group’s founding members.
“You do the math. Our opinion is that without a major injection of time, energy, money, intent and development, our downtown core is in a lot of trouble.”
Manton points out that there’s nothing wrong with the Bernard Avenue stretch, but Leon and Lawrence Avenue now have more closed than open businesses and that’s a blight on the city.
“There’s been no growth in that area whatsoever in the last six years and it doesn’t seem they’re at all concerned with revitalizing it,” he said, adding all the conversations and planning sessions in the world won’t amount to a shovel in the ground.
That, he said, has unfortunate spinoffs.
Crime, he said, is one of the spin-offs of that lack of investment and he said few are willing to even walk those streets in the late evening hours.
The group also believes that further investment in the downtown will lead to further opportunities for the community’s youth, who continually leave for greener pastures.
While the mayor position is one key element of changing the political climate, they’ve also panned their focus to council candidates and have issued a questionnaire to the dozens of council candidates running.
They’ve asked what they would do to improve things if they were to get elected. The responses are listed on savedowntownkelowna.com.
A decision on whether they’ll be backing a set of candidates that represents their concerns should be made by the three-person steering committee this week.
“Our main goal is informing people of what the issues are, and what the downtown concerns are, and where the candidates stand,” said Manton.
“In the past there hasn’t been enough communication for the public so they could be properly informed on what the candidates stand for.”