“Jean Martin may end up, along with anyone else who wishes to submit their name, under consideration to be on that committee...When it’s in the by law it’s there for a reason. The bylaw is a law of the regional district, why should the regional district be outside its own bylaws,” -- Mayor Jack Mussallem outlining the background for his suggestion to Regional District
Was it a veiled threat, or just a reminder of the normal course of business for a relatively little known regional committee?
This week's Northern View provides an interesting and informative glimpse into the workings of Regional District and the current controversies over the workings of the Regional Recycling centre.
In particular, the paper's review of the recent commentary at Regional District chambers regarding the make up of the Solid Waste Management Advisory Committee, has once again highlighted Mayor Jack Mussallem's verbal jousting sessions with recycling advocate Jean Martin.
The events and comments at Regional District's most recent gathering having left Ms. Martin with the feeling of sorts that her time on the Committee may be nearing its end, though not perhaps of her own choice.
The helpful reminder that the board serves at the pleasure of Regional District is something that for the most part probably goes un-noticed by most residents of the North coast, the issues of recycling and Regional District for that matter, probably not high on the list of priorities for them.
However, by her advocacy Ms. Martin has certainly brought an interesting focus to the issue, providing a passionate review of past practices in that area of Regional Financing and highlighting that at times, the policies of that segment of the Regional District seem to be a bit out of touch with the folks that actually use their facilities.
Her intercessions on behalf of Rupertites have been well chronicled over the last few months, including the rather heavy handed approach that the Mayor has taken with her as she raises her issues and seeks answers from both Regional District and its main financial contributor the City of Prince Rupert and its taxpayers.
The impression that the Mayor may wish to see her go away, while perhaps helpful for his peace of mind, provides more ammunition for those that find this council to be one which pays lip service to accountability and transparency.
The appointments to the Committee may indeed be by Imperial fiat of Regional District, but by seemingly wishing to dismiss a thorn in the side the members of that council, those members may find that they are doing more damage to their reputations than they will to Ms. Martins.
While the Mayor is correct in his review that the Regional District can't ignore it's bylaws on Committee participation, the sticking issue with such a tempestuous issue as this one is going to be who makes those decisions at the end of the nomination process.
One imagines before any changes are made, or a list of contenders is put forward there will be a debate among city council members as to who should make up that committee.
A debate that one hopes will be conducted in public, in council chambers and not in the now famous closed session.
Even more helpful for local residents would be for the results of any committee votes to be made public. Instructive as to how each councillor stands on the issues that Mrs. Martin may have raised over the last few years, as well as to how they vote when it comes to selecting any new members to the committee.
In an era of apathy in municipal issues, trying to marginalize, if not get rid of a hard working and devoted advocate for a popular program seems to sending the wrong message to the city's residents. Providing in a most clumsy manner, the impression that those that may ask too many questions aren't particularly welcome to sign on for committee work.
With that optic in mind, Regional District may wish to ponder the public face they are giving to their workings these day.
By seemingly appearing to want to get rid of anyone who dares to question the workings of a publicly funded body, they may be providing the opening for a backlash from those that write the cheques, not to mention perhaps raise some questions as to the credibility of this form of government.
Ironically enough, that regional forum where the fate of Mrs. Martin's may be decided is one made up of appointed members, yes elected to their particular city council's, but selected from within those councils for participation in the regional district talking club.
A situation that provides for a reminder of the layer of un-accountability that exists at that regional level and may soon make Regional District members a little uncomfortable with a growing focus and review of their work there.