Thursday, November 4, 2010

All done

Well, it is late 2010. Despite the best efforts of the people associated with this site, the Pen-Hi gym and auditorium were pulled down in 2008-2009. Now Pen-Hi has a huge parking lot, Penticton still has (surprise) no performing arts center, and Okanagan College is spending a lot of money building a new gym (very green, they say, though not as green as using a gym that was already there...).

I think it is fair to say in retrospect that the decision to tear down the Pen-Hi gym and auditorium was a singularly stupid decision. But apart from the weak satisfaction of saying "we told you so", there is not much we can do at this point. Most of the politicians and staffers associated with the decision have been turfed. So it is time to move on.

ActLocalNow, the website for the Okanagan Skaha Resident's association, is now defunct. The site really only made sense as part of the 2008 local elections. Instead, in my capacity as Director of Area 'F', Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, I have my own area site:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We've moved!

Thanks for visiting this blog. We have stepped up our efforts and would like you to visit a new site: The name of the new site says it all. See you there...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anita Fashler: Trustees ignored demolition opponents

The following appeared in the August 11, 2008, edition of the Herald:

News media, as well as trustees on the Okanagan–Skaha school board, have asked where the opposition to the proposed demolition of the Penticton Secondary School gym and auditorium been for the last 2 ½ to four years. Well I will tell you: It has been loud and clear but ignored by the board.

Four years ago I heard Pen Hi was to be replaced and the old school was falling apart, according to the board. So I went on a tour of the school and found, on the contrary, very serviceable structures, especially when looking at the gym and auditorium. In August 2004 I went to see the secretary treasurer of the school board inquiring if there had been any thought to saving valuable assets like the gym and auditorium. He was less than cordial when I asked to see the proposed plans and contemptuous when my suggestion of keeping these buildings was suggested. He told me the bu8ldings were expensive to maintain, in terrible condition and would be torn down.

I was very surprised that a public-officials had such little respect for citizens and certainly left with the impression that he did not want those buildings to remain no matter what. So, I know for a fact there was opposition to the demolition plans at least since August 200r since I voiced it personally.

Many citizens from all ages and backgrounds including teachers, students, seniors, business people and parents put their signatures to a petition asking for a delay in the demolition. Countless letters have been written by Pen Hi alumni, artists performing in the auditorium and Penticton citizens. Most recently taxpayers petitioned the courts asking for a postponement of the demolition. There has been and there still is opposition to the loss of the gym and auditorium. The school board has just neglected to listen.

Some people have remained silent on this issue publicly because they are afraid of retaliation by the board. This is understandable particularly when you see the vindictive way they have replied to the ordinary citizens that dared question their demolition plans in court. They have actually said they are considering asking these people to pay for the board’s court costs. That is a significant sum since the board did not hesitate in hiring a very expensive Vancouver lawyer to prepare their case with your tax dollars.

This school board has been manipulative and untruthful in carrying out its Pen-Hi re-development plan. They have excluded taxpayers. City council has supported the board’s tactics and plans, providing their own lawyer to accompany the board for three days in court in Kelowna. The council is also clearly supporting the South Okanagan Performing Arts Centre by buying property and hiring consultants. So how can the city make an impartial evaluation of the gym and auditorium when they believe their retention conflicts with their SOPAC plans?

Opposition is growing as more people realize what will be lost, excellent public facilities which would take millions to replace. Listen to the public. They have some excellent ideas for using these buildings. Why not incorporate them with the Shatford building which was saved for $4million but without a designated purpose? This heritage building, along with the gym and auditorium, would make a practical and affordable core for community arts and sports activities. City council may not be able to afford a replacement for these buildings for some time since the South Okanagan Events Centre is currently more than $20 million over budget. The gym is a safe place for kids to play and stay healthy after school, providing an alternative to just hanging out around town somewhere. If extra school parking is urgently needed, then tear down the far less valuable Learning Centre and Alternate School and move their services to the empty Shatford building.

The city concil and the school board have acted as if they hold unlimited power and are not answerable to the public. The gym and auditorium should not be demolished at this time. There is opposition, loud and clear. Just wait until the next election.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dodi Morrison: Action needed

The following appeared in the August 05, 2008, edition of the Western News:

Probably generations younger than mine will not know the name Anna Russell. She was an English singer and humourist who delighted in poking fun at all pompous institutions. One of her most hilarious renditions was a take-off of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. (It really is a funny story.) At one point one of the characters does something he immediately regrets.

“And then, of course,” says Anna, “he’s sorry; (so like a man),” she adds. And that reminded me of a downcast article I read in a Calgary paper last year. The city council was grovelling over the fact that it had torn down a 90-year-old school — against strong community opposition. The backlash was such that they had quickly proposed a moratorium on tearing down older buildings — well, buildings older than 25 years, in fact — without public consultation. A bit extreme, you say? Well, having huge community opposition is quite uncomfortable.

Two people told me recently the province had offered to build affordable housing if the city would donate the land, and was refused. I gave their remarks little credit, until a third person, certainly in a position to know, told me the same thing. Yet they gave away land and money for a concert hall. I love classical music, dance etc. — but I long more for a way to keep young families and much-needed service persons in Penticton. And I am truly worried about the obesity I see so commonly, especially among the very young. Are these not legitimate concerns?

Everywhere we are hearing, “Don’t give up.” All very well — but a few shoulders have carried this load for all of you.

Take action.

Ron Barillaro: Stand up and be counted

The following appeared in the August 05, 2008 edition of the Western News:

The Okanagan Skaha school board must be very satisfied with themselves, now that the courts have upheld their decision to demolish the gym and auditorium at Penticton Secondary School.

Once again, the concept of might makes right comes to the fore. The problem I have with this is: how can anyone who was elected on, and purports to believe in, democratic principles, in clear conscience, even entertain such an attitude?

If the contract has been let and the ultimate end is near, what would happen if a challenge to the court decision were made and the destruction had already started? I shudder to think. Would, or for that matter could, restoration be made? Scary thoughts, don’t you think.

It may seem too late for salvation. That is, only if you believe it is. If you are a “preservationist keener,” get off your duff and make your sentiment known. Flood the school board office with calls. Light up the switchboard. Get focus groups and protest at the board office. Make you sentiment known.

Don’t just sit in the wings and complain while taking no action to rectify things. Urge the protest group to appeal the decision of the judge. Be proactive and, if need be, reactive. Don’t just stand there, do something if you’re a believer in cultural values and history. I, for one, have no interest in city fathers pursuing a white elephant arts and entertainment centre that we can ill afford, irrespective of the far-fetched promises our elected pundits seem to make saying that it will be funded by governments and casino funds and corporate sponsors.

I wish to inform the city fathers that not everyone just fell off of the turnip truck.

The far-reaching consequences will be felt by our kids, and our kids’ kids for our illustrious events centre. True, it will be here long after your terms have ended, for the most part. You can always look back and say, as new administrations bring in policy, we’re not responsible for that. That’s what new administrations can say about your faux pas.

From my perspective, I see two choices for us as concerned taxpayers. The first is to bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and pretend that whatever happens won’t really affect our daily lives now or in the future. The second is that we can stand and be counted by supporting a call for an appeal and hopefully achieve the desired result of preservation or a re-think on the board’s part. After all, it is our tax dollars that they are playing this game with.

Bottom line is this — if you are content to sit on the fence, the fence will fall. If you are prepared to bolster the fence, it will stand. Stand and be counted if you believe in the school preservation. Do it now, whatever you can. I am.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dan Ebenal: Group’s efforts destined to fail

The following editorial appeared in the 29 July, 2008, edition of the Western News:

The saga around the proposed salvation of two aging school buildings is threatening to become a never-ending story.

The Penticton League of Sensible Electors has — despite suffering a legal defeat last week — promised to carry on their good fight to save the Penticton Secondary School auditorium and north gym from demolition is planning to announce their next move this week.

What might this move look like when the group has already used up its most powerful option is beyond us.

Might this group announce that they would tie themselves to building in a courageous, even tragically heroic bid to keep the buildings upright? Or will they call for a mass demonstration or some other form of political action? They have already raised the spectre of running a slate in the next municipal election. Or will they look for help from outside the community, say provincial leaders, assuming that these individuals actually care about this matter? We are certainly open for surprises.

But it is highly unlikely that any measure announced this Friday will succeed. The actual facts on the ground are clear and will deny PLEASE any possibility of success, no matter how they define it. The group is of course, free to pursue their goal and persist in their efforts, something it has done with determination, since it continues to ignore appeals from this space and other voices to cease their futile and ultimately doomed campaign.

The points made in favour of saving the two facilities might have resonated two, three years ago. Yes, the group has inspired thousands of people to voice their opinion in recent weeks, but this out pouring comes too late.

Editorial aside: Two or three years ago the South Okanagan Events Centre was not on the books. Now it is, and the City of Penticton is at least $20 million (I suspect closer to $40 million) poorer. Call me crazy, but I think this is relevant.

So PLEASE, end this pointless agony and stop assuming that the powers that be can be forced into sharing your rose-coloured nostalgia for two buildings whose best days are long behind them.

I assume that Mr. Ebenal has come up with a plan to fund the replacement for the aging Pen-Hi auditorium: "The Penticton Western News Centre for the Performing Arts". Now all we need from Mr. Ebenal is a cheque for $40 million...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Zorka Kvestich: School board ignored electorate

The following appeared in the 24 July, 2008, edition of the Herald:

The School Board has not been fair. It thinks that two small meetings and a website was enough notification to tell the people about the new Pen High development and the demolition of the old school. Many people in Penticton are like me, retired, and do not use a computer. We expected our public officials to have our best interests in mind. However, it seems like the Board did not really want to hear from people like me, but we are taxpayers and want a say in assets that we believe are economical and can give many more years of valuable contribution to our community. The taxpayers should have a say on what happens to the north gym and auditorium. The Board has not accepted any suggestions that might include saving these buildings. They have not listened to the people that elected them. They are trying to destroy these structures in September just two months before the next civic election to avoid discussion and a possible referendum which would allow the majority to decide whether the buildings should be kept or not. The Board is actually asking a court to ignore the significant public opposition and allow the demolition of these buildings. This is unbelievable.

The taxpayers of town, many of whom are pensioners like myself, are already paying additional taxes because of the new South Okanagan Events Centre. I supported a referendum for this project after listening to the significant public discussion surrounding the proposal. A few years earlier, a plan to demolish the Memorial Arena was squashed by public input and the building was saved. The old arena is still giving excellent service to Penticton.

The Pen High development did not follow a similar excellent opportunity for public discussion. In fact, it actually appeared to be the opposite, with the School Board only informing the town what it was planning to do. The articles in the paper certainly suggested to me that the final choice about the gym and auditorium had already been made. I do not understand why two expensive buildings that we already own, with a small amount of renovation, cannot be utilized. It is the practical and economical solution to give our city much needed recreational and artistic venues. New facilities can be built later, with public support when the opportunity and funding is available.

I have attended scores of concerts in the auditorium while a member of the Okanagan Symphony and Community Concert Series. I watched my daughters during high school and now grand daughters playing basketball through the Penticton Basketball Camp in the gymnasium. I do not support destroying these facilities to make room for the parking lot of the new school. A new place can be found for parking, but these buildings cannot be easily replaced. I think that the Board has not represented the taxpayer’s best interests at all and should be held accountable in the next election. It is obligated to listen to the public and consider the practical alternatives that have been repeatedly made by concerned citizens and suffering taxpayers.