Recommendations from the Vernon Activate Safety Task Force will be presented to Vernon council Monday at 1:30 p.m.
The group created by the city to address issues related to the impacts of homelessness, poverty, addictions and criminal behaviour on the local business community has completed its discussions.
The task force recommendations were developed over several months of weekly meetings, with significant input from the RCMP and Vernon bylaw.
“We addressed the issues the business community brought up at our April town hall and in private communication afterwards,” said Darrin Taylor, task force chairperson. “While some of the specific problems fell under other jurisdictions, we have been able to put together a number of common sense suggestions for the city that we think will be easy to initiate, affordable, and effective.”
Taylor acknowledges that there are no perfect solutions to the problems created by homelessness, addictions, and criminal behaviour, but is confident that by following the recommendations of the task force, the city can significantly mitigate many of the problems that exist here now.
“The problems we think we can address immediately include improperly disposed of needles, shopping carts, graffiti, public defecation, and littering, just to name a few,” said Taylor.
Taylor declined to go into detail on what will be presented to council Monday.
“Those recommendations will be made to city council and I don’t want to get ahead of things here,” he said. “But I can say that we’ve been working with the Broken Windows theory in mind, which means it will take an effort by everyone, obviously, including enforcement measures, but also an extra effort by businesses, citizens, and the will of city officials to raise the bar and turn this city into what it could be.”
Taylor says there are palpable anger and frustration amongst the public and business community.
“One thing that’s become clear to me over the course of meeting with and talking to people in Vernon is the degree of frustration felt by both business owners and members of the public at what they see as the ongoing degradation of the city,” said Taylor. “But beyond the specific concerns of the business community, the larger issue is really what type of community we want to live in. Are we willing to throw up our hands and say we can’t do anything? I think we have to do better.”
Taylor, a certified addictions counselor and clinical interventionist with extensive experience dealing with street entrenched population, says the way the problem is being handled right now just isn’t working for either businesses or the street entrenched.
“People behave according to expectations,” he said. “If they are allowed to throw garbage all over the boulevard, leave shopping carts all over the place, and practice open drug use, not surprisingly that’s what they’ll do. Green-lighting that kind of behaviour by a hands-off approach does nothing to help the street entrenched at all. It merely creates problems for everyone else.”
Taylor compares the pristine environment in some other locations to spectacles like Linear Park, along 25th Avenue, in Vernon.
“I was recently in Whistler, and it struck me quite forcefully not only how clean and well kept it is, but the complete absence of any needles, open drug use, piles of garbage, or abandoned shopping carts. That didn’t happen by magic,” he
said. “I realize it’s a wealthy community, but the real reason it’s kept so beautiful is that the community, through a mixture of private and municipal enforcement measures, has raised the bar to the point that behaviour like [Linear Park] would be unthinkable.
“That spirit is reflected in its restaurants, stores, streets, and even in its bike paths. There’s absolutely no reason our streets can’t be the same.”
Voting members of the Activate Safety Task Force include Taylor, Vicki Eide, Rick Lavin, Selena Stearns and Kari Wilton. Non-voting members are Kevin Korol, Const. Kerri Parish, and Vernon councillors Scott Anderson and Brian Quiring.