WEST KELOWNA - Opponents of the district’s push to seek city status say mayor and council have tried to slide the issue under the radar when it deserves a full and open public debate.
Gordon Ficke, President of the Historic Westbank Association, says council ignored a request from the group to hold a townhall meeting on the issue and have done the bare minimum to promote the alternative approval process currently underway.
“I spoke with the mayor on this issue and was pretty much told ‘thank you for your letter on this matter, and that was it,” Ficke says. “They put two small ads in the paper, so unless you actually read the paper, which a lot of people don’t, no one sees it.”
Ficke says his association’s informal polling of friends and relatives found most of them had no idea the district was seeking city status.
“Half of them didn’t even know what the alternative approval process was about,” he says.
The alternative approval process requires 10 per cent of eligble voters — 2,306 in West Kelowna — to file a counter petition opposing the district’s plan at the municipal hall. The deadline for filing is 4 p.m. next Monday, May 11.
Should that number be met, the district would be forced to reconsider its request to the Minister of Communities Carolee Oakes or hold an election-style referendum, which would require 50 per cent approval from voters.
Mayor Doug Findlater previously said the move to city status is will help promote the district as a place for business investment and for attracting new residents.
Ficke says his group maintains the jump to city status is not necessary and would hurt the Westbank downtown area by taking development focus off it.
“People are happy where we are right now,” he says. “We should be focusing on working with the Westbank First Nation which are the biggest economic driver in our area.”
With the deadline looming, Ficke says the association has been trying to get people to sign and file the counter petition, as best they can within their limited budget.
“We’re trying to mobilize the troops, we’ve made a short video and we’ve sent out public service announcements to radio stations,” he says.
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