Concerns raised about reducing input from Kelowna resident associations - InfoNews

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Concerns raised about reducing input from Kelowna resident associations

Kelowna from Knox Mountain Park.
June 11, 2019 - 7:00 PM

KELOWNA -  Kelowna city council quietly amended a bylaw yesterday, June 10, that cuts the time resident associations can speak.

The Council Policy Bylaw provides five minutes of speaking time instead of 10, putting them on an equal footing with almost any person speaking to council.

The only exception to the five-minute rule is someone applying for something staff recommends against. That person now has 15 minutes to speak instead of five.

“That’s ridiculous,” Tara Godwin, president of the Clifton Highlands Community Association responded when told of the change by iNFOnews.ca.

“They have talked to us in the past about how they can seek greater engagement with the community associations,” she said. “They talk a big game, then they turn around and do something like that. That’s ridiculous.”

It was at least five years ago, when Walter Gray was still mayor, that about 10 neighbourhood associations banded together to meet with council and try to speak as one voice. But, Godwin said, a key player in that effort stepped away and there’s not been much communication between the groups since.

Some years before that, Sharron Shepherd rose from her position as president of a neighbourhood association to win a seat on city council in 1996 before becoming mayor in 2005.

Sharon Shepherd rose from the ranks of a Kelowna residents association to become mayor.
Sharon Shepherd rose from the ranks of a Kelowna residents association to become mayor.

In 2002, the city adopted Policy 305: Guidelines for Communications and Cooperation Between the City and Residents Associations.

It provides $500 in start-up funding and directs the Community Planning Manager to provide assistance to the associations and staff to attend meetings. Staff does still meet with associations at times.

Contrast that with West Kelowna.

On May 13, its neighbourhood associations and others were given time to present an annual update to council. Their concerns were raised and councillors took note.

Godwin said Kelowna associations would welcome such a call.

But she may be a lonely voice if given such an opportunity.

In March, iNFOnews.ca sent email questions to the 10 associations listed on the City of Kelowna website, asking about their groups and whether the city listened to them. Despite follow-up requests, only four responded, including Godwin’s.

When asked if the city listened to their association, most of those said it usually comes down to motivating individuals to write letters rather than presenting as a group.

Godwin pointed out that some of the fault for lack of communication lies with the residents themselves.

“You get little surges, every once in awhile, where someone says ‘we should all get together and be able to speak as one voice,’” Godwin, who has been president of Clifton Highlands since 2013, said. “But that person never stays on board.”

Plus, association members are volunteers and don’t always have the time to devote to the task. Not that it will necessarily do any good.

“City council, I don’t think, go out of their way to promote that (strong associations) because it’s just another voice they have to contend with,” Godwin said. “They have their goals and aspirations and things they want to do. I don’t think they care to ask people about it. They just want to go ahead and do it. If you have community associations involved, they’ve just got more opinions they have to deal with it.

“I don’t think they discourage it but, they don’t actively encourage it because it just muddies the water for them.”

 


 

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