It’s a crowded ballot for the mayor’s seat in the City of Penticton with a six-way race.
Incumbent Andrew Jakubeit is seeking a second term. The 47-year-old owns a record store and video production company in the peach city.
Jakubeit said he is proud of increased investor confidence resulting in a development and construction boom, as well as the revitalization of the downtown core under his watch.
Jakubeit is challenged by frontrunners Jason Cox and John Vassilaki.
All three candidates cited public safety as the No. 1 issue facing Penticton.
WATCH BELOW: Incumbent Andrew Jakubeit is running on his record and experience in the hopes of winning a second term as Penticton mayor.
“So dealing with prolific offenders, property crime, mental health and addictions, housing, ensuring it’s affordable and available,” Jakubeit said.
Cox, 44, is a businessperson and owner of the People’s Soda Co., a craft soda company in Penticton. He ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2011.
Cox said he’d address public safety concerns “with crime reduction and improved relationships with the people who are serving our community and giving them the resources to do it. “
WATCH BELOW: Jason Cox says his lack of experience in the political arena won’t stop him from implementing change at city hall if he’s elected mayor.
Jakubeit said he is “frustrated” with the consistency of RCMP resources and referred to the force as a “military-style bureaucracy.”
With a vacancy rate of less than one per cent, housing affordability is a major concern for voters.
Vassilaki, 72, said he would spearhead affordable housing initiatives.
“I believe that every time a large project comes forward, I believe that we should put conditions in place where they give a cash percentage of the cost of the building back to the city, so the city can put affordable housing in place,” he said.
WATCH BELOW: John Vassilaki says the controversies at city hall prompted him to take on Jakubeit for a second consecutive time in pursuit of the mayor’s seat.
Vassilaki served four consecutive terms as city councillor from 2002-2014, and lost by 2,114 votes to Jakubeit in the 2014 mayoral race.
“I decided to run for mayor again because of what has been happening the last four years. All the controversies and things just haven’t been going well for the community,” he said.
An issue dividing the frontrunners is the future of the Economic Investment Zone program. It was created in 2010 to stimulate development by offering tax breaks to build in certain areas.
Jakubeit defended the program. He said the tax incentives lured investment to town, including the construction of Landmark Cinemas, Bad Tattoo and Cannery Brewing.
“Our economic investment zones, they’ve all expired, and so they served a purpose during the downturn in the economy and when they were renewed in 2014 the economy was still lagging,” he said.
Cox said he would kill the program if he is elected mayor.
“It’s a blanket investment opportunity that gives away DCC’s and property taxes for long term without the city getting anything back,” he said.
“I think a better approach now that the economy has turned around from ’08, when we were in the great recession to now, where development is happening, we should be looking at other tools, like density bonusing.”
Another major election issue stems from a controversy that occurred three years ago. City council supported the Skaha marina upgrade and waterslide attraction in picturesque Skaha Park.
The ill-fated plan met fierce opposition from residents who were against the commercialization of the park. Council eventually backed down and terminated the deal with Trio Marine Group, at a cost of $200,000.
Vassilaki said if he were on council, he would have voted against the park development proposal.
“I believe our parks are sacred, and they’re strictly for the use of the public, and we have to make sure that we keep them for future generations,” he said.
Cox was the president of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce at the time and lobbied the local government in favour of the marina upgrade.
“The current mayor and council didn’t listen to the people protesting in the streets, so I represented a community that wanted the marina improvement. There were members of the community who didn’t want the waterslides and that created a huge division in the community,” Cox said.
City council was criticized for a lack of transparency in its handling of the Skaha waterslide fiasco, and Jakubeit said that is his greatest regret as mayor.
“Because Skaha Park took two years to resolve, there might be some pent-up animosity there and so that’s one of the realities of politics and hopefully people see that we’ve grown, we’ve learned from that,” he said.
“We’ve actually put policies in place to protect the community; Skaha Park can never happen again, we have the park use and protection policy.”
Former cannabis dispensary owner and marijuana activist Jukka Laurio, Landmark Cinemas owner James Blake, and security guard Dominic Wheeler round out the ballot.
Candidates are hoping for greater voter turnout this civic election. In 2014 the estimated eligible voter turnout was 33 per cent, which was 1.5 per cent lower than the average B.C. municipal turnout.
General election day is Oct. 20.