A year ago Monday, the current Kelowna city council was sworn into office.
And in just 12 short months, with a new mayor and four new faces among the five men and four women sitting around the council table, this council seems to have fully embraced Mayor Colin Basran’s election campaign promise to make Kelowna “open for opportunity.”
It has seized on the opportunity to buy lakeshore parkland, attempted to show a more inclusive face of the community to residents and outsiders alike with the creation of the city’s first “rainbow” crosswalk and jumped on the opportunity to sell use of its “dark” fibre network for moving large amounts of computer data. Oh, and it also led the successful bid by several municipalities, including Kelowna, to buy the abandoned CN Rail corridor between here and Vernon for future use as a recreational trail. A purchase described as a “once-in-a lifetime” opportunity.
And that’s just a few of its first-year check marks. There was also the usual plethora of plans associated with running a city, everything from the budget to how to develop the civic centre of the downtown core.
“This past year has flown by,” said Basran, adding he’s not only happy with how his council performed during year one, he’s also proud of what it achieved.
He’s glad the province introduced four-year terms for municipal councils to replace the previous three-year terms because it not only gave him and his council time to deal with the inevitable learning curve associated with rookie politicians, it gave them time to start getting things done early.
“Based on the old (three-year term) system, it’s like we are now just starting our term now,” said Basran, who sat as a councillor for three years prior to running for mayor.
Exhibiting a youthful exuberance for the job his predecessors—all older—did not have, the 38-year-old mayor used a word of today to describe his feelings about his first year as mayor: Awesome.
Looking back over the last year, it’s hard to find examples of where this council may had fallen off the rails in its decision making. And if it did, it picked itself up quickly and got back on track.
If you ask Basran where he sees his council differing from the previous Walter Gray-led council that he served on from 2011 to 2014, he’ll say in the area of social policy.
Economic growth is important but social planning has taken on a much more prominent role under this council than the previous one. It’s not at the level of the councils led by former Mayor Sharon Shepherd but it has also not blinked before business either.
“It’s a small thing but creation of the rainbow crosswalk (painted just before the city’s annual Pride Festival this past summer) is an example of our commitment to social issues,” said Basran.
He said it shows his city is a more inclusive place, something some may have felt was not the case before.
In terms of priorities moving forward, infrastructure, particularly water, remains top of the list for council, according to the mayor. And when you preside over one of the fastest growing cities in the country, providing top-notch services for a growing population has to be job one.
It remains to be seen if the council can keep up the same pace for the next three years that it set during its first year. But Basran, as you would expect, says his council is up to the task.
“I think we’ve done pretty well so far,” he said.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.