This article appeared in the Capital News. I thought it summarized the many city centre changes I have overseen in Kelowna in recent years.
Mayor Colin Basran provided his annual speach to a "full-house" of the Chamber of Commernce on January 26, 2018. He highlighted the many good initiatives underway in the City in 2018. The economy is strong, culture is booming, and there is a high level of satisfaction with City services provided to the public. There is a sense of optimism moving forward in 2018.
“Council understands and is reflective of our entrepreneurial city,” said Mayor Basran. “Even with all the growth we’ve experienced in recent years, we remain a diverse, small-business economy that is adept at changing with the times.” He cited the city’s ranking last autumn at the top of BMO’s annual list of the best job markets in Canada as an example of how the local economy is performing. He also noted Kelowna’s inclusion in the Smart21 Cities of the world as further evidence of a city that looks for technological and cultural innovation to improve citizens’ quality of life. His speech went on to identify a number of challenges the City is challenged with - particularly in affordability and homelessness.
The Chamber presented the City with this portrait of the late Gordon Downie in appreciation.
One of the speakers at Saturday's event was Tun Wong, a longtime Kelowna resident who was born in Chinatown, which used to be enclosed by Harvey and Leon avenues and Abbott and Water Streets. Wong's mother, who was born in China, moved to Kelowna as a child in 1929 and raised Wong and his 10 siblings in Chinatown. “I've tried for years to try and get a plaque or a sign to designate Kelowna's Chinatown to honour its past residents and the sufferings they went through,” Wong said Saturday. “This sign has far exceeded what I ever had in mind.” The last of the buildings in Kelowna's Chinatown were demolished in the 1970s, but the new sign will preserve this history for generations to come.
The sign was designed by Arthur Lo, a retired Kelowna art teacher who sketched the design in 30 minutes during an Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association meeting in 2015.
After two years of planning, the sign was finally installed Friday.
The $32,000 sign was funded in equal parts by the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association, the City of Kelowna through the federal government's Canada 150 grant and the Central Okanagan Foundation.
Congratulations to Kelowna's newest recuits. These men and women are joining the Kelowna Fire Department. Today they participated in a ceremony marking the completion of their training. Each was awarded an official hat to mark the transition. Chief Whiting,and all in attendance, were proud to welcome them to the Kelowna Fire Department as both Fire Fighters and Dispatchers.
"I am prepared to lose votes, I am prepared to lose friends, because I believe that this is what's best for our community.
"I will stand up for that, and I will look anyone in the eye in regards to that because that is what is best for our community."
With that, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran cast the final affirmative vote as city council approved rezoning and OCP amendments for a four-storey supportive housing project in Rutland for men recovering from addictions.
The vote was 6-3 in favour, with councillors Charlie Hodge, Brad Sieben and Mohini Singh voting against.
"I want to thank my council colleagues for supporting this, because that has taken a lot of political courage for you to do that in light of all of the things that have been said here tonight," added Basran.
A lot was said during an emotionally charged public hearing attended by upwards of 300 people who packed council chambers and spilled out into the foyer Tuesday night.
Sixty people took to the microphone to say their piece, 35 of those against the project at McCurdy and Rutland roads, many of whom live in the neighbourhood.
Some noted there are four schools within a short distance of the apartment building, while others said they are concerned for their children's safety with "those people" around.
One resident who lives next to the property said nobody wants this in their neighbourhood and that the project was getting shoved down their throats.
Others told individual councillors if anything happens, "it's on their head."
Several of those who spoke in favour have a direct connection with Freedom's Door, the recovery house that will operate the facility. They applauded the program and the men who voluntarily enter it.
They stated the men wanted to clean up and stay sober.
While most people spoke about the program's clients in a positive or negative light, it was zoning and land use, not occupancy, that council had to decide.
Coun. Luke Stack said he had no issue with the location or the size, saying it makes sense to him. But, he did read an email that challenged him to make a decision.
"If you can look me in the eye and honestly tell me you would be OK with this building right in the path of your children or your grandchildren, then go ahead and pass it," Stack read.
"I reflected on that, and I can honestly say I can look this woman in the eye and say I am OK with this."
The three who voted against felt the building is not in the right location.
Sieben called this the most difficult decision he has encountered on council.
He said the project is part of the solution, not the problem, adding the city has a lot of drug issues that lead to crime.
While those in the gallery were vehemently opposed, councillors pointed to the Cardington Apartments on St. Paul and a NOW Canada complex on Tutt Street across from Raymer Elementary.
There was strong opposition to both and, by all accounts, there have been no issues at either.