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JONESIE: Turtling and dividing won't solve Kelowna's issues

October 31, 2019 - 3:20 PM

 


OPINION


I can only imagine the balancing act a B.C. mayor must perform these days.

I’m a simple editor of a news site and I struggle daily with comments from readers frustrated with crime, taxes, police, where to spend taxpayer money, business, homelessness and homeless impacts, drug use, development, parks, rents, home affordability, parking, etc.

Opinions on these subjects are often divided. I suppose a good mayor, councillors too, should inform themselves on the facts and listen to all sides before forming their own opinions and certainly before deciding how to act.

But there’s a growing sense in Kelowna that’s not how things are done.

Take this most recent example from Mayor Colin Basran.

He spoke with an AM 1150 reporter. He was just informed that stats show four of ten sexual assault complaints to the Kelowna RCMP are round-filed as ‘unfounded,’ meaning the investigating officer concluded it didn’t happen and pursued it no further. This is an outsized number compared to many other police detachments across the country. (This is a complicated subject explained wonderfully by the Globe and Mail, it’s worth checking out).

It indicates quite clearly there’s an issue at Kelowna RCMP. The local women’s shelter is calling for a specialized unit to deal with sex assault complaints, a call that deserves to be heard and acted upon. They could perhaps use his support.

What was Basran’s response?

"I don't believe that anybody who's calling in (to the RCMP) is not being given good service, or that their complaints or allegations aren't being taken seriously.”

Wait, what? That’s precisely the problem — complaints are not being taken seriously.

Does he understand the issue he’s talking about? No, he turtled into the political shelter of blind and blanket support. Say something positive, Colin.

"I'm confident in how (RCMP) Superintendent (Brent) Mundle and his team are keeping our residents safe and looking into their concerns.”

Based on what, exactly? Certainly nothing we've seen publicly because the RCMP doesn't do much of anything publicly anymore. I could go on at length about the abdication of responsibility for public safety by B.C. mayors and councillors to the RCMP, but this tops the cake.

Kelowna's crime stats are ridiculous for a city this size and regularly is at or among the highest per capita among Canadian cities in that category. The city has surveys showing people now rate social issues and crime as their top concerns. People are shouting it in any forum they can find.

Is he listening to them? Or just taking the word of the Superintendent and cherry-picking the positives?

Basran was supposed be the consensus-bringer, the centre line that brought Kelowna together — a little bit of conservative former mayor Walter Gray and a little bit of socially responsible former mayor Sharon Shepherd.

But so far, what he’s shown is he’ll act on his own information (even when wanting) and those of his supporters. Anyone else can go kick dirt. 

When Rutland residents responded angrily to crime in their neighbourhood with a movement rarely if ever seen in the city before, what was Basran’s response?

Stop complaining.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED

When the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce put pressure on the city to do more to help local businesses struggling with downtown crime and social issues, Basran took the criticism personally and now seems to regard the chamber as an opponent of some kind. Meanwhile, the issues have remained largely unaddressed. Have you been down Leon Avenue lately?

When the City got surveys showing crime was through the roof, highlighted by bicycle thefts, and showing one third of residents were impacted by crime, they pointed instead to the high number of people who feel safe and live in clean neighbourhoods, concluding again: This is fine. (The only “crime” Basran has spent any time talking about was when he paraded his family in front of news cameras to talk about being victimized by a ‘threat’ he said he perceived from a commenter on this news site. And it wasn’t even a crime.)

When Tom Dyas, his former friend and former chamber president, opposed him for mayor in the last election, raising every one of these issues and more while pointing to Basran's lack of action, Basran took that personally too. He's defensive and thinks anyone who supported Dyas is an enemy and isn’t afraid to confront them on that point. They’re not part of his Kelowna anymore.

When citizen groups implored Basran and council to re-consider the civic precinct and plans for displacing cultural groups while re-building the Kelowna Community Theatre, he brushed them off without even hearing what they were trying to achieve.

Anyone who complains about another yearly four per cent tax increase? Well, they’re just wrong too.

This is an important time in Kelowna. There's a growing crime problem across the city, particularly downtown where crime and homeless issues are in direct conflict with local businesses. Citizens are getting restless. The city also has infrastructure issues, budget and affordability problems as it matures into a real city. And yes, we have serious RCMP issues.

These issues demand real leadership and a balance voters chose at the ballot box.

I'm not sure platitudes, turtling and dividing people based on who supports him and who doesn’t is going to help.

— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFOnews.ca

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