City council got a look at how it is handling priorities through the Imagine Kelowna initiative.
The initiative covers council’s 2019 to 2022 term, with councillors receiving an update this week on progress made in 2021. Priorities include community safety, social and inclusive, transportation and mobility, vibrant neighbourhoods, economic resiliency and environmental protection. The report shows the city trending in the desired direction in most categories.
Those deemed not trending in the desired direction include the property crime rate, homelessness, greenhouse gas emissions, and affordable and attainable housing mix options.
“Like the trend in other major cities in B.C., property crime in Kelowna decreased in 2020, but increased again in 2021,” said Sigrun Geirsdottir, performance improvement consultant. “This is a return to pre-pandemic rates, with 2021 crime rates still coming in at 3 per cent lower than 2019.”
Councillor Loyal Wooldridge questioned staff as to what work was being done regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The city’s current climate action plan will expire next year.
“We need to develop a new plan,” said Chris Ray, community energy specialist. “It’s intended to have both mitigation and adaptation components. We’re going to be looking to see what it takes to meet our aggressive emissions reduction targets. In the short term, the key deliverable coming back to council to do with recommendations to advance climate action and environmental protection will be some short term items we can do to move the needle.”
The report showed, that for the third year in a row, environmental protection was not trending in the desired direction. Wooldridge also raised questions about homelessness and housing.
“When we speak about homelessness, we’ve seen significant investment in the last seven years and the report has shown that we’ve actually surpassed what Journey Home had forecasted. Are we beginning to forecast how much more we need to be building so that it’s not reactive?”
City of Kelowna Social Development Manager, Sue Wheeler, explained progress has been made in what is actually happening in the community in terms of homelessness.
“How many people are experiencing it and how many people are flowing through into housing, etc. What we undertook with Journey Home these past several months is a new project to be able to predict the number of supportive housing units that are going to be required in the community over the next five years. It won’t be a perfect report, because it’s lacking that level of data that we need to inform it, but it will give us a sense and an ability to start advocating to senior government for investment.”
The progress report also looked at the corporate side of city hall. Covering financial management, clear direction, and people. It found almost all categories trending in the desired direction. The one concern was the ability to attract, select and retain talent.
“We had very high levels of retirement and turnover through the year,” said Stuart Leatherdale, human resources manager. “This year, we’re beginning to catch up. We’re continuing to be able to attract very good staff to the city. We’ve made some adjustments to increase our capacity in HR to try to catch up on the gap that we had through last year.”
The progress report is available on the City of Kelowna website.