For Kelowna city council, everything old is new again.
On Monday night, eight returning members of city council, including Mayor Colin Basran were sworn back into office, along with newcomer Coun. Loyal Wooldridge.
The ceremony, at the downtown Rotary Centre for the Arts, saw Basran and Wooldridge join re-elected councillors Maxine DeHart, Gail Given, Luke Stack, Brad Sieben, Mohini Singh, Charlie Hodge and Ryan Donn—all re-elected in the Oct. 20 civic election— sworn in by local judge Lisa Wyatt.
In his second inaugural speech, Basran said the city’s top priority will be the continued effort to address homelessness through the ongoing implementation of its Journey Home strategy.
And while he acknowledged the work done to date on the strategy, he said tough decisions concerning implementation of the strategy lie ahead for the incoming council.
“I think we all know the tough decisions will be where some of supportive housing project will be built,” he said following the swearing-in ceremony.
The fist of those decisions will be the future of a proposed supportive housing development on Agassiz Road, which has public hearing coming up later this month.
Basran said that controversial project will be the first big test for the new council.
The mayor also talked about crime downtown, one of the main issued raised during the recent election campaign.
The city is waiting for a report later this month from retired RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon, the city’s former top cop, hired to look at what can be done to improve safety in the downtown core.
McKinnon has said the city will not be able to “arrest its way out” of the current situation. In his speech, Basran praised the work the RCMP is currently doing to look at alternate ways of tackling the problem, including pairing social workers with police officers who patrol downtown in a bid to get those on the street help the need from social service agencies instead of simply arresting them in some cases.
But social issues were not the only focus of Basran’s comments.
During his 20-minute speech, he touched on the need to address climate change and the city’s work to do that, the need for transportation, housing affordability, economic growth and infrastructure improvements—an area where the mayor said Kelowna is starting to fall behind.
“We need to be motivated and focused if we are going to make the positive impact we think we can,” he told his council.
Following his speech, when asked by reporters about criticism during the campaign that the city does not listen to and consult residents enough, and if changes would be made in that area, Basran shrugged it off.
He cited several examples of city plans that relied heavily on public input, including the Journey Home strategy, the Imagine Kelowna initiative, city’s agricultural plan, and the healthy housing strategy.
And he said often, the charge of not listening is levelled when people disagree with what the city is doing.
But, he said, council has to look at the big picture and do what is right for the entire city, even if some individuals are opposed or upset. It was a message he also delivered in his speech.
Council, he said, must look at the big picture when it comes to its decision-making.
And to do that, he said city hall will continue to reach out to the public for input as his new council moves through its agenda for the next four years.
Included in Monday’s ceremony was the announcement that all members of council, with the exception of Singh and Donn will be appointed to represent Kelowna on the Central Okanagan Regional District board. Singh will serve as an alternate regional board director. Donn’s employment with the District of Lake Country precludes him from sitting on the regional district board.
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