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School for council hopefuls

Those interested in running for Kelowna City Council are invited to an information session in Council Chambers on Wednesday, Sept. 24 starting at 6:30 p.m.

City staff will present an overview of how council operates, the roles of mayor and councillor, and what to expect if elected to Council in November.

“The session is an opportunity to ask questions on what to expect if elected to council,” says City Clerk Stephen Fleming.  

“Serving on council is a significant commitment and the evening is meant to help make sense of how council makes decisions, and what to expect once elected. Anyone who plans to run for mayor or councillor is encouraged to attend, as well as members of the public who would like to know more,” adds Fleming.

Election day is Saturday, Nov. 15.

Candidates for mayor or councillor must be nominated in writing by 25 eligible voters living in Kelowna or from those who own property in the city.

Nominations must be filed at the Office of the City Clerk starting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 30 through to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10.  Appointments are recommended.

Candidates do not have to live in Kelowna to run for council or school trustee, but must meet the age and BC residency requirements.

Candidates must have lived in the province for the past six months, be a Canadian citizen and be 18 years of age or older on election day. Incumbents may seek re-election.

Those interested in running for City Council or the Board of Education for School District No. 23 can pick up a nomination package at the Office of the City Clerk in City Hall.

To date, 56 nomination packages have been picked up including 14 for mayor, 33 for council and nine for school trustee.



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Community makes home a reality

Just weeks away from opening, Inn from the Cold incurred an unforeseen setback in renovations, which caused financial trouble for the organization.

However, the local community never failed and came together to ensure the Chandler Street Housing Project would open on time, and with the building up to code.

“We’ve got the money together to complete the renovation. Big donations from companies like Gorman Brothers, also from in-kind donations, from Ace Plumbing, and Crack Electric,” says Inn from the Cold coordinator Tara Tschritter, who explains she had no doubt in her mind that the community would step up and come together.

“There are so many caring and kind individuals that really do want to make their community a better place.”

In fact, once Gorman Brothers heard about the need and the fast approaching deadline for doors to open, they donated $10,000 to the charitable organization.

“It just seemed to be one of those things that fit with our philosophy of helping out in our community,” says Doug Tracey, operations manger with Gorman Brothers. “Especially people that are really at need in our society.”

Inn from the Cold welcomed the public to an open house on Tuesday afternoon, as visitors got a sneak peek at the Chandler house.

While many toured the building, they told Tschritter how safe the space felt and how the charity managed to capture the true essence of a home.

Local resident, Chad Smith volunteered his time to put the flooring down, just days before the official opening.

“I saw it a couple weeks ago and there is no way they are going to get it done for Tuesday, but everyone pulled together,” says Smith. “We had so many volunteers here the last couple of days it has just been fantastic.”

“We have already got six of the eight individuals, who are currently living on the street in Kelowna, lined up to start moving in this Thursday and they are just ecstatic about the accommodation,” explains Tschritter, who will help choose the other two men who will live in the home.

A partnership with the Kelowna food bank is also underway to ensure the cupboards stay stocked for the residents of the Chandler House.

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Man sentenced for targeting kids

A West Kelowna man who pleaded guilty to various counts of lewd behavior involving children will spend the next year in jail.

Jason Antonio White was sentenced on Tuesday for exposing his genitals to a person under 16, and invitation to sexual touching. The charges stem from separate incidents beginning on July 8, 2012.

That’s when the court heard White had been seen masturbating in a park near Watt Road on Okanagan Lake.

Two 12-year-old girls saw him and told a parent, who in turn called police. But by the time they arrived, White was gone.

On July 17, one of the girls again saw White and said he was waving at her. Two days later the original pair of girls saw him once again at the park, again masturbating, but this time one of them was able to take his picture with a cell phone.

Police identified White as a person of interest, and when they stopped by his home – which he shared with his mother – the court heard she admitted the photo looked a lot like her son.

The three girls involved were shown a police lineup, but only one was able to pick White out. He was finally arrested Sept. 9, 2012, but released on bail the following day under a no-contact order with anyone under the age of 16.

Less than two years later, the Crown says another woman told police her daughter had been sexually assaulted by a friend, named Jason.

The allegations from that incident involved five and 10-year-old girls, who along with their mother, White, and others, had gone snowmobiling on March 16, 2014.

Just after midnight on March 17, the mother went to a store and left White alone with the two children.

According to the Crown, the children began putting facial cream on each other, but when the elder child returned from the bathroom, it’s alleged White was seen laying on the couch with an erection and attempting to entice the five-year-old to touch his penis, telling her it was OK.

The 10-year-old told her mother when she returned, who is said to have chased White out of the house with a knife.

Crown Counsel David Grabavac says these events show an escalation in sexual offences, and something that deserves serious denunciation and deterrence.

None of these submissions were disputed by White’s defence counsel Michael Newcombe, who instead told the court of his clients learning difficulties, which began as early as the first grade.

White is said to have severe intellectual disabilities, and a report from his high school in Grade 8 pointed out his learning level as that of a student in grades 2 or 3, and that he may have mild mental retardation. A recent psychological report also pegged him as a moderate to high risk of re-offending.

Newcombe agreed that controls must be put in place for his client, but argued that jail would not assist him, saying White has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks since his incarceration.

When offered the chance to speak, White told the court he is taking full responsibility for his actions and still has trouble coping with what he’s done. He then broke down in the prisoner’s box, with a sheriff having to bring him a box of Kleenex.

Justice Anne Wallace noted how difficult it is to sentence these types of crimes given the circumstances of White’s mental state, but weighed that against the balancing act of ensuring the sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime.

“These types of crimes really outrage the community,” she said, pointing out that White was on bail for sexual offences against children when the second incident occurred and also in a position of trust and authority.

White was given credit for time served since his arrest in March, but will still spend the next 14.5 months behind bars.

Upon his release, White will be registered as a sex offender and must serve three years of strict probation. He will also not be allowed in any public park or swimming area where there could be kids under the age of 16.

Police in Kelowna issued a public warning about White earlier this year, asking for any other possible victims to come forward.



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Scam man has 44 convictions

Kelowna RCMP are warning the public to be on the lookout for a prolific offender with a history of fraud.

Despite 44 convictions between 2002 and 2012, RCMP say a recent investigation suggests he is still out plying his hard-luck scam.

The unidentified 40-year-old Kelowna man has 10 convictions for fraud and another 18 for false pretence offences over that 10-year-span.

According to Cst. Kris Clark, reports of the serial scammer are often eerily similar as he provides the victim with his name and then offers one of two different tales in order to misappropriate their money.

"The most common scam he uses is that his truck has broken down, has been towed, or has run out of gas and that he needs money to pay for a tow, for fuel, or to get his vehicle back," says Clark.

"The second story he uses, although a little less frequently, is that he is a new neighbour and has locked his keys in his residence and requires money for a locksmith."

 Clark says the man is known to police to use crack cocaine and supports his habit through the commission of his scams.

"Over the years, he has taken thousands of dollars from dozens of victims and there are probably countless unreported incidents."
 
He is described as:

  • Caucasian male
  • 40 years
  • 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
  • 190 lbs (86 kgs)
  • Short brown hair
  • Hazel eyes

Don't fall victim to scams:

  • Don’t feel pressured to give money,
  • Don’t disclose personal financial information,
  • CALL THE POLICE

For more information on fraud prevention, please visit the BC RCMP website or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.



2.5 times over the limit

A two vehicle crash in Glenmore Monday evening could result in both drivers being charged.

The crash occurred shortly before 8 p.m. at the intersection of Glenmore and Kane.

According to witnesses at the scene, a northbound Ford Ranger entered the intersection on a yellow light where it collided with a southbound Ford Fiesta making a left hand turn.

The force of the crash sent the Fiesta spinning onto the centre median on the north side of the intersection.

Both vehicles suffered extensive damage. The drivers suffered minor injuries.

The 17-year-old driver of the truck was issued a ticket for failing to stop for a yellow light while police say the 26-year-old driver of the Fiesta showed signs of impairment at the scene.

He failed a roadside test and was transported to the Kelowna RCMP Detachment where he provided breath samples in excess of 2.5 times the legal limit.

He faces potential impaired driving charges and was released for Court at a later date.

--Send pictures or video to [email protected]



Horning making a comeback?

Al Horning may just decide to make one more political comeback.

Horning, who last held political office in 2009, as MLA for Kelowna Lake Country, has picked up City Council papers.

Contacted Monday night, Horning, 75, says he's been getting pressure to run again.

Although he picked up the necessary papers, Horning says he is unlikely to run.

"I'd says it's about 90-10 that I'll run."

Horning was elected MLA in 2005 but served just one term after suffering a debilitating stroke in 2007.

Right now, he says he feels fine.

Horning is no stranger to municipal politics.

He held a seat on two separate occasions, from 1980 to 1988 an again from 2000 to 2005.

Between those two stints, Horning also served five years as a Member of Parliament under Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell before being swept out of office during the Conservative purge in 1993.

When he announced his retirement following his stroke, Horning said he would not rule out a return to politics but added, " I'm going to be 70 years old. This is a young man's game and I'm not young anymore."

Horning is one of 33 people who have picked up council packages to date.

This includes only three incumbents, Luke Stack, Mohini Singh and Gail Given, who has decided to run for a second term on council after kicking around the notion of running for mayor.

Maxine Dehart has indicated she plans to seek a second term as well.

Gerry Zimmermann and Andre Blanleil have announced their retirements while Colin Basran is running for mayor.

Councillor Robert Hobson, who has stated this would, in all likelihood be his last term on council, has yet to make a formal announcement.

Candidates can begin filing nomination papers 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept 30.

The deadline for filing is 4 p.m. Friday, Oct 10.



Escape from Cabo

Video by Trevor Rockliffe

Since Castanet's first story on the Kelowna couple who survived Hurricane Odile, a few other Okanagan residents have shared their stories, adding to the picture of chaos that ensued in the wake of the storm.

The category 4 Hurricane Odile ravaged Mexico's Baja Peninsula on Sunday Sept 14. There was widespread destruction and more than 30,000 tourists were stranded in the country. This is in addition to the tens of thousands of locals who lost their homes or places of work.

In the days that followed the hurricane locals, tourists and ex-pats took to the streets for survival. 

Lisa and Kurt Nordstokke retired this year and had been living in their condo in Cabo San Lucas since June 1. They had just returned from buying supplies at Costco when the hurricane hit.

"We could hardly get back to our condo," Lisa said in an interview. "And then it just picked up. We lost TV at 6:30 p.m., and we lost total cell service at 9 p.m., I sent my daughter a message and that was it. After 9 p.m. that's when all chaos broke loose."

"We hunkered down in the bedroom and the winds were crazy, of course, and rain - we were in the eye-wall, so at one point it stopped. All of the sudden it's quiet and it was the weirdest thing when it picked up. The winds were coming one way and then after the eye-wall they whipped around the other way."

The change in wind direction caught the neighbours windows on the floor above them. "We heard glass smashing and furniture flying above our heads and we thought 'Is it going to cave in? What's next?'"

Around first light the next morning, Nordstokke said they crawled out and saw massive destruction.

"One man from Calgary had all of his living room and bedroom windows blown out. He had to crawl through glass to get to a neighbour in another building."

By 9 a.m. Lisa and her husband saw people looting an Oxxo store which is similar to our 7/11 stores.

What surprised them the most was seeing people from their own condo complex joining in the spree.

"It wasn't only locals, it was gringo or tourist populations looting as well."

"We watched as one couple carried in numerous bottles of wine they had taken from a specialty wine store that had been completely destroyed," she said. "We witnessed the military and police doing little to nothing to stop the looting, and in some cases, helping. In other instances the local police were seen filling their cars with big screen TV's and other electronics like washers, dryers and fridges."

Thousands and thousands of homes that belonged to residents of Cabo San Lucas and the surrounding area had been destroyed. 

Notwithstanding that, Lisa said many Mexican locals stayed at the resorts to take care of the tourists. 

"They're amazing, " she said. "When you've lost your entire home, and maybe even some family members and you're still working. Most of us, there's no way, after a disaster if you lost your entire home, could you return to work that day."

However, Nordstokke said when they saw Costco and Wal Mart had been looted out, they knew they had to get out.

Thankfully, their building manager had offered sound advice before the storm hit. 

"We asked our property manager what to do before the hurricane hit and the best advice we got was to fill the gas tank. They said not to worry because the hurricanes never hit."

Nordstokke was worried, so she got gas, water and enough non-perishable food to last five days, if they rationed.

On Tuesday the Nordstokkes along with their neighbours in the condominium, an American couple in their 60s, headed for La Paz. La Paz is about 160 kilometres north of Cabo and suffered less extensive damage.

"La Paz was damaged as well and functioning at maybe 50 per cent after the hurricane, compared to Los Cabo which was not functioning at all."

They had found a hotel which was on a military grid, so it had some power and water. They arrived that night and were finally able to get a message out to their families on the Wednesday.

Although La Paz had suffered to a lesser extent, there was still no cell service for days and bank machines weren't operating.

"It was a cash only society for a few days and we were lucky our friends had enough cash on hand to help us make it through until we were able to access our bank accounts. Nothing is more frightening or stressful than being in a foreign country during a natural disaster with very limited cash and no access to your bank account."

They began to hear horror stories from other people fleeing Cabo. It was rumoured that jails had broken and organized gangs were in the streets killing people. Eventually the Mexican military came in full force and established curfews to curb the violence and stealing.

Looking forward, Nordstokke said their foursome is going back to Cabo on Friday to try and get their belongings out of their condo. Then for them, it's back to Kelowna. 

Their condo wasn't damaged except for some water. However without power or air conditioning, and with all grocery stores looted and destroyed, they have to get out. 

"This disaster will affect me now, but in the long run, I would come back here in a heart beat," Lisa said. "It's just right now, you kind of want to hug your family and go home to what you know."

They will be driving back on Saturday Sept 27.

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YLW linking to San Francisco

Kelowna International Airport (YLW) became San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO) seventh Canadian destination and 84th North American destination when United Airlines commenced its daily year-round, non-stop United Express service on Saturday, Sept. 20.

SFO, the “gate-way to the Pacific,” served 45 million domestic and international passengers in 2013, it is the seventh largest airport in the U.S., and one of the world’s 30 busiest airports. United, together with United Express, operates nearly 300 flights a day from the airline’s SFO hub.

Saturday’s inaugural flight was a cause for celebration at YLW. “San Francisco is a great destination,” says Airport Director Sam Samaddar. “It provides travellers’ better connection points to many more U.S. cities, as well, the San Francisco Bay area is a great region to visit.”

Tourism Kelowna and Big White were on hand to welcome the inaugural flight. On board the 50-seat aircraft included five Bay area travel writers who came in for a familiarization tour of Kelowna. 

“Generating travel articles and blog posts allows us to showcase Kelowna and the Okanagan to many thousands of readers,” explains Tourism Kelowna CEO Nancy Cameron. “We know that readers in the Bay Area will be very intrigued by our beautiful destination and will want to jump on the United flight so they can explore for themselves.” 

In addition, two travel directors from the Bay Area Snow Sports Council also took the opportunity to tour Kelowna and Big White and were expected to report back to the more than 30 ski clubs in the Bay Area regarding the Okanagan as a possible ski holiday. The San Francisco ski group market holds big potential for local ski hills, as the Bay Area ski clubs take several ski trips each winter and they can now access the Okanagan with one short flight. 

“We’ve already secured a group of 60 skiers from a Bay Area Ski Club on the new United flight,” says Katie Balkwill Regional Sales Manager for Big White Ski Resort Ltd.

“They really like the idea of skiing our Champagne Powder and taking in the fantastic wine offerings our region has. They have already planned to take a day off from skiing to enjoy a guided Kelowna wine tour during their stay.”

The new daily service is expected to meet the travel needs of the Okanagan’s growing technology industry.

“Despite all the technology that connects us to other markets, we still depend on air travel for some of our most important meetings,” says Andrew Greer, Program Manager Accelerate Okanagan. 

“We anticipate that daily flights to SFO will continue to help grow the Okanagan technology community, which is already about $1B industry. Within a year of Victoria starting daily flights to SFO, their venture capital investment grew about 200 per cent. We could see growth like that here in the Okanagan.”

United’s non-stop United Express flights between YLW and SFO can be booked on-line at united.com. For more information about YLW, its destinations and services, visit the airport’s website.



Smoke forces evacuation


Residents were evacuated from their apartment building at 1475 Bertram Street Monday afternoon after the second floor filled with smoke.

Platoon Captain Steve Wallick says crews first responded with one unit but on the way to the scene the call was upgraded and additional fire trucks were deployed.

“Once on scene there was smoke on the second and third floor, the building was evacuated and fire fighters did an extensive search and discovered that a heater had failed.”

While there was no visible flame, residents claim there was thick smoke throughout the building which is mostly occupied by seniors.

Fire crews remained on scene to determine what type of space heater malfunctioned. Once an investigation is complete residents will be allowed back in the building.

Bertram Street starting at Bernard Avenue was partially blocked while crews were on scene.



Four vehicle crash kills bear

A four vehicle collision on Highway 97 at the north end of Kelowna has claimed the life of a bear.

According to police a four vehicle crash was reported on the highway at Duck Lake shortly before 8:30 Sunday evening.

A large black bear had been struck by four separate vehicles and was found dead at the scene.

None of the occupants of any of the vehicles were hurt.

All four vehicles sustained various degrees of damage.



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