Dear members and soon to be members:
To say that it has been a very busy year would be an understatement.
On January 17th of this year, we had our Annual General Meeting in which we got some new faces on our executive. My thanks to those who had served on the executive for their hard work during their tenure. I would particularly like to thank John Vielvoye for his many contributions as our former President and for his continued commitment to the RRA. Also, I would be remiss if I did not thank our secretary, Sharlene Drohomereski, our Vice President Lynn Jack and our Treasurer Evelyn Vielvoye for their continued work to keep our organization running smoothly. Our association has an amazing group of members that can be counted on to volunteer their time and energy at a moments notice. To all of you I am very thankful for your continued commitment and good will.
Two thousand nineteen has seen our membership increase from 18 to 48 members thanks to our stronger involvement and leadership roles in critical issues that face our Rutland community. We reached out and brought in people that were adversely effected by their proximity to low barrier housing and needed to have a voice for the severe challenges that they and their neighbours are facing. Our association also collaborated with other organisations such as Rutland For Safe Neighbourhoods who did strong work in spotlighting the problems that the proliferation of low barrier housing is bringing to our community. They managed to successfully launch and complete a 14000 plus petition which targeted the low barrier housing at 130 Mccurdy Road. Last week this petition was presented to our Legislature by our MLA Norman Letnick. Unfortunately, this massive petition was ignored by the government and summarily dismissed.
This year we had a record number of special presentations and forums, that served to both inform as well as give members of our community a chance to ask questions and make comments directly to presenters that were brought into our meetings.
Our first forum of this year invited the key players for BC Housing Coordinated Assessment and Access For Supportive Housing: The March Forum featured guest speakers Ann Howard, Regional Director for BC Housing and Dawn Himer, Director for the John Howard Society. Unfortunately, though informative, it had extremely poor attendance. This would have been an opportunity for the Rutland community to ask questions as well as provide the real life consequences that the proliferation these projects are having in our community.
Centennial Park has been an ongoing issue. Our association has contacted Kelowna Council concerning the lack of actual fully equipped washrooms in this beautiful park. After constant requests to expedite the building of washrooms that would replace the pit toilets, we were once again rejected. We were informed that 2022 will be the date that said washrooms will be installed. Apparently, pit toilets are good enough for our area and that is that.
Low Barrier Housing Forum was held on September 14th and unlike our previous forum was extremely well attended. Our guest speakers included our very own Sharlene Drohomereski and Audra Boudreau, the then President of the Rutland For Safe Neighbourhoods. Following the presentations the audience asked questions and made personal observations. The audience members were also asked to fill out and return a questionnaire that focused on specific action(s) you would like the RRA take as a result of this Town Hall Meeting. The following were the general responses to this question:
– connect with other resident’s associations in Kelowna and in other cities that have similar problems.
-have more involvement with the media.
-file complaint with the Ombudsperson regarding the impact low barrier housing is having in our community’s neighbourhoods.
-keep the pressure on, continue to communicate with our local, municipal and even our federal representatives.
All in all, the RRA has been doing all of the above and will continue to keep this issue front and centre.
Rutland Middle School Forum was held on November 25th and the featured guests included trustees Norah Bowman and Rolli Cacchioni as well as Rutland Middle School PAC President Marie Howell and COPAC rep Paula Morrison. The Forum also had a press reporter from our local Capitol News. The session gave us a clearer picture as to the strategies that have already been employed by the school board and other stake holders including RRA’s role to get the new RMS on stream. Each strategy has been thus far met with rejection from the Ministry of Education. The one concession that was made by the Ministry was to finally, after 70 years put washrooms on the second floor. It still lacks accessibility for students with mobility issues. To me, this spoke volumes as to level of importance our school was given. Our one glimmer of hope rests in a possible 20 million dollars set aside for an addition to the existing RMS. Once again, the RRA will continue to advocate and collaborate with other groups and organisations wanting to see a new RMS soon.
As one can see, a lot has and is happening in our community. We as an organization want to be one of the many organisational voices standing up for our Rutland community. I invite Rutlanders to join us and bring your expertise and knowledge to help us address critical issues and the constant double standarism that seems to be placed on the residents of our community.
All the best to all for a peaceful Christmas and a great 2020.
Peter Pagliocchini: Rutland Residents Association President