North Okanagan downtown safety issues prompt need for discussions

Town hall meetings approved as city struggles with public concerns

Vernon council almost needed a town-hall-style meeting to see if they should host town-hall-style meetings.

After 40 minutes of debate, council voted 5-1 (Coun. Kelly Fehr was absent from Tuesday’s regular meeting) on a notice of motion put forward by Coun. Kari Gares to direct staff to arrange a town-hall-style meeting to provide Vernon residents and business owners the ability to direct their concerns and issues relating to crime, vagrancy and drug use, whereby there is a negative impact on the downtown core and surrounding neighbourhoods through an open mic dialogue.

The meeting, said Gares, would provide council with a better understanding of the concerns in the downtown core so that council can provide targeted solutions to help mitigate the issues.

Gares put forward the motion to try and build better relationships.

READ ALSO: Issues with street-entrenched people increase for Vernon business

“We hear it all the time some people feel that council just doesn’t care. The reality is we do care, and here’s our way in which we’re going to show that we do care by building a relationship with our constituents,” said Gares. “Out of those relationships being built, we’ll be able to create these solutions. I’m not expecting a solution to miraculously appear at a town-hall meeting.

“We’ll listen, we’ll engage and we’ll build relationships so that people will be more receptive…If you’re open and willing to say ‘I’m here, we’re in this together, let’s build relationships so we can create solutions that are going to fix the problems,’ that’s what people want to here.”

Support originally came from Couns. Scott Anderson, Brian Quiring and Akbal Mund.

“As an elected official, I’m to the point where I feel the need for the public to be heard,” said Quiring.

Added Anderson, who was pushing for a topic-specific meeting on overdose prevention sites: “It’s (town-hall meeting) an opportunity and a cathartic experience for people to be able to say what their problems are. That in itself is a help. It’s crucial to give the public a chance to voice their opinions about this.”

Mund cautioned that such meetings can generate a lot of hard feelings.

“I have no problem holding a town hall on any issue in the community, but one selective issue can bring out a lot of anger,” he said.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal was originally against the notice of motion, saying council already knows the problems in the downtown core.

“If I’m going to sit there just to hear the same problems over and over that are already mentioned on social media, that we’re already getting e-mails about, and we’ve already done town halls, I don’t see the point,” said Nahal. “That’s not going to offer solutions. We already know what the problems are. There’s no solution listening to a problem that we’ve already heard over and over. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time. I just can’t support this.”

Nahal voted in favour, however, after Gares agreed to Nahal’s request for a one-off attempt at a town-hall-style meeting.

Lone opposition came from Mayor Victor Cumming, a 40-plus-year veteran of town halls, who said such meetings are “a place to air concerns for a very small group.”

“All the ones I participated in, it hasn’t been a discussion or effective tool to share ideas,” said Cumming. “It focuses on a certain type of response…It doesn’t create a representation of diversity of views…It rarely informs.”



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Number of Kelowna-linked COVID-19 cases grows to 159

Interior Health reported four new cases region-wide on Friday, 18 remain active

Okanagan, Creston cherry and apple farms in need of workers

The worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international travel

New team focuses on troublesome Kelowna properties

Recently, a property owner was handed six tickets amounting to over $2,500

Police watchdog deems Kelowna RCMP not responsible for man’s death

The man spoke to police after a car crash before leaving on foot; he was found dead six hours later

Central Okanagan adds 3,600 jobs in July: Statistics Canada

The region’s unemployment rate decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 10 per cent in July

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Vandals target North Okanagan camper

COVID-19 ‘No camping’ warnings sprayed on local camper

Pup stolen from Vernon temporary shelter

Nicola Sanders hopes to spread the word to get Nala home to her son, the rightful owner

Evacuation alert for 43 homes near Dry Lake fire rescinded

Fire status changed to Under Control, crews remain on site patrolling and extinguishing hot spots

Most Read