It is 4 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon and a special meeting to discuss the McCurdy Road recovery housing is scheduled at Kelowna city hall.
It is an odd time to schedule this meeting as most Rutland residents are working and must take time off. Some show up in their working gear.
As I approach, I hear and watch residents struggling with parking meters some of which give receipts and some that do not. This puts people in an early, foul mood.
Coun. Mohini Singh bravely walks down the hallway and enters by the public doors as she greets the media. All other councillors wait until almost the last minute and enter from the councillor doors.
A solitary RCMP officer stands guard at the door with protective vest and weapons. Mayor Colin Basran is the last to enter via the council room doors. He consults with staff and begins the meeting.
Mayor Basran states the purpose of the meeting, and reads a letter from the Housing Minister Housing Serena Robinson.
She has conceded that this recovery housing will not be a “wet facility” and will be for a mixture of challenged residents in the 50 room facility. She promises six months of enhanced security, and one regular nurse always on duty.
The letter seems to lack specifics to satisfy residents who are not allowed to ask any questions. They have yet to see any samples of recovery house contracts that residents must sign.
The councillors seem keen to jump in and explain their positions. For most of them it is full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.
Rutland residents have presented a 14,000-name petition. That is a tremendous lot of torpedoes at election time.
Basically, the councillors state that they are still fully behind their Journey Home policy and cite as many positive instances as they can think of.
Rutland residents get this. Unfortunately, for them, the residents know better and have had an awful time with Heath House recovery unit and another in the Enterprise Road area.
They skeptically shake their heads as the self congratulations at how wonderful we are doing, continues. This is the same council that builds very expensive bathrooms.
Councillors save their best congratulations for the mayor who rarely makes eye contact with the gallery of irritated residents. The RCMP officer does not have to intervene at all.
The mayor has done his job in lobbying the Minister of Housing, presumably with council support. 14,000 residents have lobbied also. Perhaps a few pats on the back should have been saved for them.
Coun. Maxine DeHart bravely addresses the gallery directly and suggests that what has been done is what the residents told her they wanted. (Usually councillors must address the chair.)
Many residents shake their heads in disbelief.
Coun. Ryan Donn seems to try to make a joke of all the lobbying. It is no joking matter for the residents and their children. Coun. Luke Stack says this is the new strategy to stack ’em up as many as possible in a small area. He says that is the new strategy for all of Kelowna.
And then Coun. Gail Given wanders into the wilderness by claiming that drugs are happening in every apartment, condo and residential subdivision in Kelowna, OK.
She does not state all of Kelowna but it is hard to imagine she means just Rutland. The residents gasp in disbelief. Perhaps she meant her residential area?
Only councillors Singh and Charlie Hodge seem to show any empathy for the residents position. Hodge bravely soldiers on alone in presenting a motion to reconsider the bylaws that got them into the mess to start with.
He says it's the wrong location and too many units as he and the residents have said all along. The applause from the residents is vigorous. Someone gets it.
Coun. Singh seconds the motion just for debate. Singh says she hope peace will come back to Rutland but refuses to vote for the motion.
The mayor does not look pleased, but finally gets his two cents in and says he will not support the motion. The motion is defeated 7-1.
Rutland residents have stated all along that they do not want any form of a recovery house at the McCurdy Road location because it is in a school zone (not one school trustee attends) with thousands of students nearby and moving about.
They have never stated they do not want any recovery houses, and they do support Journey Home strategies. The mayor, a former realtor, and councillors should have realized by now that it is all about location, location.
Many questions still remain. Did the mayor go it on his own with the housing minister? No council approval? Did he present the residents petition for low cost housing only at this site. i.e. no recovery units?
The battle is hardly over and 14,000 residents may have much more accurate aim come election time.
Reg Volk is a retired teacher who resides in Lake Country. This is a monthly column.