The role of the Social Planning Council has created a squabble between two Vernon council members.
Mayor Akbal Mund is calling councillor Scott Anderson “two-faced” for saying he supports the planning council, but also wants it to gather more input from businesses.
“I kind of think Councillor Anderson better watch what he says because at one point he is saying he doesn’t want Social Planning as part of the activate task force. And on the other hand, he is criticizing them in open public council that they are not being involved with business. Well, it’s either one of the other. You can’t have both. He is inhibiting them being involved with businesses, at the same time criticizing them for not being involved with businesses. That’s what he’s doing,” Mund told CJIB News.
Anderson denies he is sending mixed messages.
“The Social Planning Council does a lot of good work, but it all geared toward helping a certain segment of the population. It’s to the point now where businesses in Vernon — and a lot of people in Vernon — are very frustrated that they are not being given a voice, and their response is always more education about the homeless,” says Anderson to CJIB News.
Anderson says the task force is oriented toward business, which is why the planning council is not on it, but he says it can be used as a resource.
“The two of them are not mutually exclusive. Having the Social Panning Council not on the task force and asking the Social Planning Council to include business are not mutually exclusive concepts. For this task force, we want a voice from business.”
Anderson was asked if he’s concerned about soured relations with Mund on council.
“He’s doing what Akbal needs to do I guess. I think this is a misunderstanding that he’s not quite grasping what we’re trying to do here. I certainly don’t want to start a public debate with him, but I think it’s a misinterpretation of what’s actually happening. To him, he sees it as a mixed message, but going a little deeper, I think he’ll find it’s not a mixed message, ” says Anderson.
Anderson says in a news release issued Thursday, “the task force was initiated in November of 2017 in response to an outcry from Vernon businesses for Vernon Council to do something about the safety issues some members of the street entrenched and transient population were causing. At the request of council, staff brought forth a proposal for a task force made up of numerous members, and it was endorsed by council and the motion declassified.”
He says subsequently, after discussions with business owners, the majority of Council voted to pare back membership of the task force by removing representatives of the Social Planning Council, BC Housing, and Interior Health, a motion that was subsequently declassified.
The City of Vernon has finalized a five year extension of its professional service deal with the Social Planning Council.
The council, led by executive director Annette Sharkey, has spearheaded a number of social issues since the first agreement in 2015.
Councillor Scott Anderson supports the council, and made the motion for the new five year deal, but he would like to see it gather input from more stakeholders.
“Business is one of those stakeholders that I think needs a strong voice in decisions that the social planning council makes. I think the residents of the city also need a voice, and I don’t believe they have one,” Anderson told CJIB News.
Councillor Juliette Cunningham says the Downtown Vernon Association is involved in the Partners in Action team, but she says perhaps the Chamber of Commerce could also have representation.
“The DVA sits there, and I know the Chamber doesn’t, but perhaps that’s someone we should invite too, because it’s not just downtown Vernon businesses that are impacted. It’s other business that deal with similar issues,” says Cunningham.
Mayor Akbal Mund is calling Anderson two faced on the issue.
“I kind of think Councillor Anderson better watch what he says because at one point he is saying he doesn’t want Social Planning as part of the activate task force. And on the one hand, he is criticizing them in open public council that they are not being involved with business. Well, it’s either one of the other. You can’t have both. He is inhibiting them being involved with businesses, at the same time criticizing them for not being involved in businesses. That’s what he’s doing,” Mund told CJIB News.
We have reached out to Councillor Anderson for comment.