Year one. Round two.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran has had a turbulent year since taking office for his second term in October 2018.
After a year laden with community outcry and even a death threat, Basran said he is trying his best to look on the bright side.
“Some of the major initiatives we’ve tackled so far in this first year have been difficult to put into place but I’m really excited about the fact that they will benefit the community long after I’m gone from office,” he said.
“This past year has been a real challenge, but over the long term, the things we’ve done in this first year are going to serve our community well.
”I’m really proud of my council for the fact that it would be easy to sacrifice the long term vision of the community for short term personal gain, but they’re choosing the longer-term vision.”
When asked for specifics, the mayor pointed to the recently implemented infrastructure levy as a high point of council thus far.
The levy was part of the city’s 2019 budget as a means of tackling infrastructure needs the city estimates will rise in the coming decades. The levy was part of the overall 4.1 per cent increase on property taxes, accounting for 2.27 per cent of the total.
“We know that in the next 20 years our community is going to need infrastructure to keep up with growth, as well as aging infrastructure that needs to be renewed,” said Basran, estimating the price-tag of such projects will add up to around $500 million.
“This infrastructure levy will help pay for some of those projects that before we would not have been able to undertake.
“If we don’t deal with some of the infrastructure deficit we’re just pushing off projects that are only going to get more expensive down the road and we’re just going to increase the burden financially on future generations of our city.”
On the flip side, Basran said the lowest point of the last 12 months has been community pushback on supportive housing projects.
Supportive housing has proven to be a contentious topic within Kelowna, with residents — specifically of the Rutland area where many of the projects have been proposed — being very vocal about their disdain.
“All we can do is do the best we can, stay the course, try to get people housed and continue to advocate for more supports,” said Basran.
“We will continue to do that, but certainly that’s been the biggest challenge this year so far and I don’t see it going away anytime soon.”
Basran attributed the unpopularity of some decisions made by himself and city council to people being “resistant to change.”
“Some of the things that we’re implementing are changing the way that things have been done in our city in the past,” he said.
“It’s a different way of doing things. Until people see the results, they’ll be skeptical or unhappy with it.
“But we know we can’t continue to do nothing about climate change.We can no longer continue to ignore our social problems.”
In April, divisive community opinion about the mayor led to a death threat on Facebook, which led to the arrest of a 52-year-old Kelowna man.
At the time, the mayor, flanked by his wife, mother, two young children and two city councillors, made a plea for civility.
“It’s unacceptable to me, it’s unacceptable to my family and I am sure it’s unacceptable to the majority of society,” said Basran during a press conference on May 15.
“Democracy is sometimes messy, and controversial issues sometimes generate strong feelings. But that’s what makes our community strong — exercising an open mind, humility and mutual respect and especially with those with whom we disagree.
“The bigger issue here is about civility and a collective commitment to civil discourse. More than ever, it’s vital to challenge those who use personal attacks, online bullying, or vulgar language to stifle opposing points of view.”
Basran said that experience and the past year overall has made him realize his family is what is most important to him.
“Family for me in this past year has been absolutely essential,” he said.
“In this last year, I’ve become more cognizant of the fact that I couldn’t be doing this job without my family and while this job is important, my family is far more important.
“My time in this chair will come and go but I only have one opportunity with my family.
“It’s been a huge eye-opener and a lot of personal growth for me to recognize. While this job is great, nothing is more important than my family.”
While Basran said it is “way too early to tell” whether his name will be on the ballot for the 2022 election, his family will play an integral role in that decision.
“Stay tuned,” he smiled.