Castanet News has distributed a questionnaire to each candidate running for local council in the South Okanagan.
All candidates have been given the same questions, and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity when needed. An interactive database of Okanagan candidates, including previous questionnaire stories, is available here and is being updated daily.
Election day is Oct. 15.
Ryan Graham: Penticton council candidate
Why would you make an effective city councillor?
My ability to bring people together! Collaborate with non-profits, the front-line shelter and other non-profit groups that run these facilities, not some executive director living in Vancouver with no skin in the game, but the amazing local people in this community that are running the day-to-day operations.
We need to be able to have tough conversations on the many issues our community is facing. Housing, crime, lack of fire department funding. Finally, the most important social issue, the opioid crisis. Allow people to be to finally actually heard, let them express their frustrations, see what they need immediately to support these amazing front line workers. Then we get to work! No more continual talk and no execution!
In your view, what is the number one issue facing the city today, and how would you deal with it knowing City Hall only has so much power?
The opioid epidemic hands down! It starts and ends there; we need to get in front of this and be proactive forward thinking not stuck in the mud with our blinders on, and acknowledge the problem.
The countless lost souls in this community with no support… when we become acclimated to the daily overdoses and this becomes the new normal here in Penticton that’s a massive problem. The crime rate in this community is sickening no doubt. But I believe 90 per cent of our community’s crime is directly related to these individuals stealing to support their addiction and habit.
We have some prolific offenders that operate with absolutely no accountability... that needs to end! The judges in this community need to finally get tough on these individuals. The RCMP need to know the judges have their backs and start putting repeat prolific offenders away.
How would you make Penticton more affordable?
I grew up here, I am a hometown kid, I was fortunate enough to go to school here in District 67 from kindergarten to graduation at Princess Margaret’s first grad class of 2004 with the amazing late Bruce Johnson as my principal.
We need to redefine what is “affordable,” “low income” housing. We also need to understand we are a unique community as we are one of only two cities on this planet between two lakes!
I experienced the [housing] shortage firsthand. I am not a homeowner, I am a renter, we had to find a new place with my wife and our two children and little dog Chloe. I am a well-known guy and we had to spend three months this year up Apex as we couldn’t find anything in this community… trust me when I say I understand and can relate! Builders & developers are crucial in teaching the upcoming council how to achieve this.
What is one example of a time you agreed with city council over the past term, and one where you disagreed?
The “Car 40” Program hands down, that pairs an RCMP officer along with a mental health and addiction councillor at mental health calls. This program would allow then to free up an additional officer that could be on duty throughout the community.
When I was president of the Downtown Penticton Association, now the DPBIA, in 2018, we asked for this exact same thing. We worked with all agencies came up with a very forward-thinking progressive way to support mental health and addictions here in our community, it felt on deaf ears… ultimately the program never came to reality... now with an election coming up some council and mayor have reworded it “Car 40”. That’s cute. well, I hope it does happen and I hope Interior Health can provide support.
If you had $1 million to spend on anything in the city, how would you spend it?
$1 million in today's economy really doesn't go as far as it once did especially when talking about spending on city assets and allocating funds that are needed throughout this community, but I would immediately allocate $500,000 to the Penticton Fire Department. They could hire two new firefighters and upgrade some equipment, a start to get them on par with other municipalities.
I would allocate $60,000 towards our world class skate park! We need to find balance in this community and we cannot forget about our youth! Penticton has an amazing skateboard park which hosts a wide range demographic from our littles ones to parents and everyone in between. This facility could potentially operate nine months out of the year, the major investments have already been made but unfortunately there are no lights, there's no water, and it hasn’t been maintained
The remaining $440,000 I’d like to see us reinvest in assets the city already has that have been forgotten.
Picture Penticton 20 years from now. What are the key aspects that are making it thrive?
Four busy seasons, local businesses fully staffed and making money year-round. I want tourism back and back in a big way!
New festivals, new annual events, go out and attract new fresh ideas and concepts for this community. We are so stagnant with the same old same old events and festivals. I love Peach Fest, Rib Fest, Elvis Fest, and the dragon boat events, but why must we go to Kelowna for Wake Fest? We have two lakes to offer. Or we head to Merritt for Rocking River Music Festival? We have become too passive with what we have become comfortable with!
New events and festivals bring new money into this community. I want us to go and find major trade jobs, help these potential new employers with zoning making it easier for them to invest in our community with trade and higher paying full time jobs right here in the Pencity.
Finally, a safe, clean, community not divided but together in a thriving Penticton.