In part nine of our 10 part series questioning the 31 candidates running for one of eight councillor positions in Kelowna, Castanet News asked each candidate:
Question #10 - City Park has been called Kelowna’s crown jewel, the gateway to our community. Unfortunately, over the past several years, an unsavoury element has taken over much of the park. As a councillor, would you direct staff to find the funds necessary to fast track the redevelopment of the park?
--Note: Candidates who do not appear did not send in an answer in time for this feature.
Billie Aaltonen - No response
Ken Chung - I am all for cleaning up the negative element in but would like to discuss some creative options before commenting on this issue
Cal Condy - We need more traffic flow through there. We need all kinds of events...we need the vendors back there used to be tons of them...how about a summer fair in the park? Why do we have to go to Armstrong? Lots more stuff!!
Maxine DeHart - I believe that City Park is a Jewel and needs to be a focus of the next Council. I think it will be important to work with community user groups, the RCMP, and Staff to develop the park into a safe, active place that is welcoming and accessible to Kelowna residents as well as tourists. Combined with the new marina, new Yacht Club and expansion of Stuart Park, the completion or redevelopment of City Park is integral to building a liveable downtown core.
Ryan Donn - My day job at Parks Alive! was started based on the concept that an animated public space would draw the community together and have the natural side effect of dispersing the so called “unsavoury” element. Working with our non-profit partners we need to ensure that our underserved have the support needed. I'm excited to hear more details about the much rumoured initiative by Metro. As a community we are making it cumbersome for people to have simple gatherings in parks due to our overregulation and the genuine desire of our citizens to live “within the law”. Folks, these are our parks you don't have to call and get permission to use our public parks. I believe that the key to animating our parks has very little to do with the redevelopment of the parks but has more to do with encouraging our community to connect. When the report from the neighbourhoods engagement research comes back to council early 2015 I expect it will call for the establishment of neighbourhood bloc parties where people can genuinely connect and come together I will fast track that concept. If your curious about the potential google: Edmonton Block Party 2014.
We need to encourage our citizens to connect by reducing the rules around public gatherings and get back to the days where we know our neighbours. I work at Parks Alive! because I am passionate about our community coming together and the effect that Parks Alive! And the Kelowna Buskers program have on positively animating our public spaces.
Ken Finney - City park is indeed a jewel. Evaluating the needs of the park, what we require it to represent and provide, will determine the urgency and need of redevelopment or upgrade.
Gail Given - While I would agree that undesirable activities occur in one quadrant of City Park, I don’t believe it’s the majority. As council we need to balance many demands against scarce resources. Fast tracking City Park would not be my priority as that would displace needs elsewhere in the city.
Carol Gran - City Park is the gateway to our community and deserves the full attention of City Hall. Whether spending more money in the park will do anything to remove drug dealers and other unsavory activities is difficult to say. Most communities the size of Kelowna and larger have the same problem. Answers must come from Law enforcement, residents and from the many wonderful non-profit groups that work tirelessly to make a difference in this area. A change at the senior levels of government on how to handle mental issues, drug and alcohol treatment, and petty crimes has to happen. Local taxpayers cannot afford to foot the bill for these problems.
Tracy Gray - The more people that are working, living and playing in an area, there is less opportunity for crime and other issues there area and this goes for downtown or for any other area. With some major developments downtown that will be underway during the next term of council, this will being more people to the area both residents and visitors. I know there are plans to redevelop City Park and look forward to seeing those proposals.
Charlie Hodge - I was raised in Kelowna and City Park has long been a source of debate regarding the safety from the ‘unsavoury element’ you mention. That issue is somewhat separate in my mind from the redevelopment of the park. Quite simply we need to have the RCMP get out of their cars and step up the foot and bicycle patrols of the park. In addition, we must demand that bylaw officers either better enforce our existing bylaws or else eliminate either the bylaws or the bylaw officers. I believe we need to fine tune our City Park plan again with the new council, create a practical and attractive Regatta facility akin to what once existed, and once again shine up the crown jewel. I will also fight to reduce the number of events that demand our City Park be fenced off from the taxpayers. I have no problem with events that attract revenue and interest to Kelowna; however residence should not regularly be blocked from entering their own park.
Beryl Itani - I believe that according to the paper this is already in place and is being taken care of as we speak.
Graeme James - Fast-tracking the redevelopment of City Park will not solve the problem of the “unsavoury element that has taken over much of the park”. I have been in City Park numerous times over the last several years and have observed large crowds of people (families, seniors, and young people) enjoying the beach, walkway, playground and water park and far outnumbering any unsavoury elements. The key to a healthy City Park is many people enjoying its amenities as well as a visible presence of uniformed officers. Support for the mental health, drug, and alcohol issues which are behind many of problems in City Park must come from senior levels of government.
Leslie Kendall - I am not a proponent of the words 'fast track'. Careful thought must be given to the development of City Park with consideration given to all aspects of the needs and requirements of the citizens of Kelowna and it's visitors. In the end, it must be sustainable into the future.
Bobby Kennedy - City park revitalization is one of my main focuses in the next four years. My business partner sits on the City Park committee representing the skateboard society. There is all sorts of groups and ages representing different views and committees but we all share ONE common goal to make City Park the best it can be and one that people come from all parts of the globe to enjoy and talk about. By continuing to work with Pat McCormick the planner in charge of this project I have no doubt it will be world class as well as sustainably re done.
Mike McLoughlin - RCMP need to have the resources necessary to move people along who inhabit public spaces.
Gwen Miles - City Park is the hub of where the tourists gather, and our residents enjoy. It is indeed one of our Crown Jewels. I am not certain on what the question is alluding to when it says “ an unsavoury element”. Is it unattended dogs in the park, with their owners leaving behind droppings. Is it transient people hanging out in the parks a little too long, people smoking pot, random music being played. Frisbee throwing, drinking of alcohol, the list just goes on. I would not try to fast track the park, as l do not see the emergency of it. We have other areas of need (sewer systems to be brought up to the 21 century) and creating all levels of housing for all residents of this incredible City.
Alan Monk - Support for public spaces is one of the highest priorities in my platform (See votemonk.com). Within the framework of sensible fiscal policy, I would advocate for fast tracking improvements to our city park. Kelowna has a premium brand image as a top tier destination for tourism and for relocation of people and businesses. A recent study done by UBCO Associate Professor Bernard Momer shows that up to 70% of people find a place where they want to live and then find a job or start a business in that location to facilitate that decision. To create the jobs that will retain our youth in this city, we need to be the city that people and businesses want to move to. Keeping Kelowna a desirable place to live or visit is an investment in a key economic driver in our city and will pay off in the long run for our businesses and all our citizens.
David Mossman - I don’t agree unsavoury elements have taken over the park. My family and friends spend a lot of time at city park and its fabulous. You better believe there will be more homeless people and addiction issues in the downtown core once you increase density so services to help those will make the location continue to be a great venue for families & tourism.
Dale Olson - I will be discussing this thru our TaxpayersFirst platform roll-out over the next few days. It's all about money to create the needed outcomes and solutions. Our vision and creative solutions will create wealth for Kelowna from sources other than more and higher taxation. Our goal is to make Kelowna the greatest small city in the world.
Brad Sieben - I believe that City Park has the potential to be a world class asset for Kelowna. In the 30 plus years I have frequented City Park, it has failed to realize its true potential. I believe work must be done to plan the park to draw more citizens and put more “people in the park.” I would make the re-planning of the park a strategic priority.
Mohini Singh - As an incumbent I am well aware of the importance of the need for the re-development of the park. It is something the city has been working on and yes I will definitely support moving the upgrade forward as quickly as we can.
Derek Somer - To reach out to business, all City Parks should be sold to the highest bidder and the proceeds used to reduce business tax to zero as long as the money lasts. Let the private sector police the new lands they now own. Parks are a luxury that is neither affordable nor practical in Government hands. Property tax for all other payers will still be payable. Unlike business who can deduct mortgage interest and property tax from income tax, you the Joe tax payer will have to pay the City of Kelowna in after tax dollars for the City taxes plus insurance, and interest. This sounds like a really good deal! City Council should have nothing to do with redevelopment, the private sector will do a much better job.
Luke Stack - No. We have developed a long-term plan to redevelop the park, but currently have not secured the funding. This last year saw improved lighting to the Tennis courts at City Park. This was done to brighten up this area of the park and improve safety. We need to balance our desire for park regeneration with the fiscal realities of what people are willing to pay. City Park is central to Kelowna, but is functional at the moment. There are many other important parks that are waiting for funding. These include the Glenmore Sports Fields, Dehart Park in the Mission, Munson Pond, and Rowcliffe Park at Central Green, Pandosy Waterfront Park and now Centennial Park in Rutland.
Laura Thurnheer - Yes, I believe this is important since the park should belong to the citizens of Kelowna and we should feel safe and comfortable using our own municipal park. As well, the park is an essential element of our waterfront walking path downtown and this path needs to be promoted for use by both locals and tourists. As more and more people choose to live downtown this path becomes more and more important as a recreational corridor and the park is an important piece of this corridor.
Sean Upshaw - I strongly believe the transformation of City Park into the most desirable city park in all of Canada is the number one investment the City could make. We must take the desires that have already been expressed through previous consultation and filter them through the best urban park planners we can find on the globe. City Park is tired and not as cohesive as it should be. We must dream big and rally all community sectors to come together and make this happen. If it isn’t spectacular and amazing, then we don’t have the right plan yet. Getting this one thing right will be the catalyst of good growth for decades to come. What would New York be without Central Park or Vancouver without Stanley Park? Will it cost money? Yes all great investments cost money! But a truly great investment pays dividends too. Maybe we could hold a referendum and see if the citizens of Kelowna want to use the $30 Million Dollar BC Gas Legacy fund to pay for this. Essentially if that is the desire, start work on the Park today and then eliminate the loan when BC Gas is forced to pay out this credit that is due Kelowna in 2018.
Dayleen Van Ryswyk - I would indeed support fast tracking funding for City Park. I do agree that it’s a very important part of Kelowna and it should be revitalized to better fit our needs going into the future.