Mayor wraps up first year in office

He’s been on the job for a year now, and Vernon’s mayor says he has no regrets.

He’s been on the job for a year now, and Vernon’s mayor says he has no regrets.

Akbal Mund was elected mayor in November 2014 and since then, his life has been dominated by meetings, major decisions and social events.

“It’s been busy, there’s been lots going on. It’s a full-time job,” he said.

Mund is part of a team that includes four long-time councillors and two who were elected right along with him.

He says everyone is committed to working together even when differences of opinion exist.

“Everyone has their own opinion and passion. After a decision is made, we respect the decision made,” he said.

“People think council does nothing and that’s not the case. They sit on committees and guide people.”

However, Mund admits that decision-making at city hall isn’t always quick and that’s sometimes necessary to ensure the right outcome occurs.

“People feel we can solve something in a week but there’s a process. It just doesn’t happen.”

Mund is also frustrated with some residents who expect city hall to have all of the answers to issues in the community.

“People need to be better educated about something rather than wait for someone to educate them,” he said.

Case in point is the perception that there’s a shortage of parking downtown, and particularly on main street.

“Downtown isn’t just 30th Avenue,” said Mund, adding that many residents expect to find a space right in front of the business they are visiting and refuse to park a few blocks away and walk.

“Come and see me and I will find you a parking space. They exist.”

Mund also takes a tough stance with Canada Day fireworks, which created significant community debate after a lack of a volunteer committee led to the event being cancelled in 2015.

“We had hundreds of people complain about no fireworks but we only had three sign up (for a new organizing committee). Where are the others?” said Mund.

“They complain but they do nothing to fix it.”

Mund points out that the city has never organized Canada Day fireworks.

“They are blaming the city. Don’t blame the city, do something about it.”

Similar to other communities, Vernon is focused on its infrastructure deficit, and particularly roads, sewer lines, sidewalks and key public facilities.

“We’re doing great with upgrades,” said Mund, adding that the current council is continuing with the previous administration’s decision to designate an annual 1.9 per cent tax increase for infrastructure. “I believe the general public has bought into it.”

Another focus is revitalizing downtown and Mund is confident that construction of a seniors residence will be a catalyst for the central core.

“Other individuals will see downtown coming alive and they will want to be there too,” he said.

“With more people downtown, the busier businesses will be.”

Another matter Mund wants to move ahead with in 2016 is resolving the protracted legal dispute between the city and the Okanagan Equestrian Society at Kin Race Track.

The society wants to continue with horse racing there, while the city believes the property could be used for other community activities.

“We will see if we can come to an agreement over the use of the land,” said Mund.

With a new year moving ahead, Mund anticipates another busy 12 months at city hall and he believes residents should have confidence in the decisions made on their behalf.

“We have some great staff. These are people who don’t get a lot of credit for what they do but they do a lot of work,” he said.