Penticton’s incumbent mayor John Vassilaki took to the steps of City Hall on Aug. 29 to announce his bid to keep his seat in the coming election.
The mayor looked back on his four years in office, touting achievements such as the progress on the North Gateway development plan, the expansion of childcare with the in-progress Edmonton Avenue centre, the reviews of the city’s development cost charges and hiring additional RCMP and bylaw officers.
“Where do we go from here? Number one, we keep our optimistic momentum,” said Vassilaki. “We continue to reach out to the community for their expertise and comments, because truthfully the community knows best.”
He did not mention the controversial Lake-to-Lake bike lane.
Vassilaki said he ran four years ago on public safety. This time he promised to continue working with Interior Health to get mental healthcare professionals to work in a ride-along program with RCMP, and to keep BC Housing to their promises of wraparound services for their housing projects in Penticton.
“We fought hard for new services for the homeless that rely on a ‘hand-up, not a handout’ approach,” said Vassilaki.
Vassilaki made news across B.C. last year when he feuded with then Housing Minister David Eby after the Victory Church temporary shelter was forced to stay open past its scheduled closure. The city filed a lawsuit against BC Housing following that decision by Eby and the province. The lawsuit was dropped when the shelter at Victory Church was closed.
Among the pillars for his campaign was a promise to continue working on housing.
The mayor promised to address the cost of housing, which he blamed primarily on the price of land. He wants to bring in new zoning laws to allow for more housing to fill the footprint of the property.
On Monday, Vassilaki, 76, also announced a goal of leveraging city-owned land at Munson Mountain to attract a scientific and educational facility.
Following his announcement, Vassilaki fielded a few questions from the small crowd that had gathered for his announcement, on topics from residents in West Bench and their use of Penticton services, and the ongoing crime issue in the community.
“The justice system has to change, and we have to get rid of the revolving door that’s in place at the present time, where they get arrested and then the next day they’re out on the street doing it again,” he answered.
Housing was also raised again, with the former Kampe estate property on Green Avenue, which had a 130-unit apartment development shot down by council over backlash from the neighbourhood.
“We turned it down originally because it was too large for the area,” said Vassilaki. “We can’t just build anything for the sake of building housing.
“Every time a new building opens up, the rent or cost of those units goes up. It’s the land and how many doors you put on the piece of land that makes it affordable.”
Instead of the 130-unit apartment buildings, which were already scaled back from 151 in an attempt to placate the neighbourhood, council gave approval to 84-units of townhomes instead.
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