Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Day one of a new council begins with an interesting split

As they gathered in session on Monday evening, it was the new kids on the block zooming by some of the older hands as the first official decision of the new Prince Rupert Council came to pass.

On a pair of key appointments to the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, the names of Mayor Jack Mussallem and Councillor Nelson Kinney were put into nomination by new addition to council Anna Ashley, with a second nomination provided by newcomer Gina Garon.

It was a move that left one city councilor, Joy Thorkelson wondering if block voting was soon to be a featured attraction at Prince Rupert city council, both Thorkelson and Sheila Gordon-Payne both had expressed their hopes that they would be considered for the positions, but with business taken care of swiftly there was little time to make their case we suspect.

The new Mayor Jack Mussallem said that he didn’t believe that there was any organized block of votes on the issue, the results however provided for an interesting split on council on the first issue of the brave new world they’ve entered.

Of the seven votes cast, three in the negative on the motion were from the established councilors Thorkelson, Bedard and Gordon-Payne, providing an indication perhaps that there may be some fence mending on the horizon.

It provides for the first bit of controversy for the new session of council, not one of earth shattering prospects, but still suspicions from day one could build quickly unless the Mayor and all councilors make sure that they are providing for equal consideration on appointments and other key issues that may come up.

It will be with interest that we watch how our new group of six work together and if these same alliances, whether planned or by happenstance come to pass again.

The Daily news provided some details on the first night of the new council in Tuesday’s paper.

New Council rolls up its sleeves
Councillors hold their first council meeting since Nov. 14 polling
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Pages one and five

With a new mayor and two new councillors, some people might have expected a week or two of easing-in time before there were any fireworks around the council table.

But one meeting into the new council's term and it was clear that this group of councillors will not be holding back on sharing their opinions about how the city should be run.

Mayor Jack Mussallem sat in his new post Monday along with the diverse group of councillors that included four returnees - Sheila Gordon-Payne, Joy Thorkelson, Kathy Bedard and Nelson Kinney - and two rookies, Anna Ashley and Gina Garon.

The newly minted council was still warm when the first big decision was before them - choosing who should represent the city at the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District meetings.

Wasting no time, Ashley motioned to have both Mussallem and Kinney named to the regional representative posts with Bedard and Garon named as alternates. Her motion was seconded by Garon, which had one councillor questioning how the vote unfolded.

"I am glad to be back but I hope that council does not end up in block votes as it appeared it did tonight," said Thorkelson after the motion was carried.

Both Thorkelson and Gordon-Payne said they had both hoped to be considered for the posts, which Thorkelson .claimed was not a patronage position but an important city council responsibility.

The new councillors and the new mayor all voted for the motion. Kinney voted for the motion as well, leaving the other returnees feeling left out.

Returning councilors Bedard, Gordon-Payne and Thorkelson all voted against the motion.

"The SQCRD sets the direction for the region and is an extremely important organization. And it looked like it was pre-determined to cut both me and Sheila out," said Thorkelson.

But Mussallem said he was not aware of any block vote.

"Nobody who was sitting here knew what was going to happen or how it was going to be voted," said Mussallem.

"I see this as an opportunity to bring my experience and knowledge to the region," said Mussallem.

"Next year, with council's approval, it will be other members of council who will have the opportunity," said Mussallem.

City manager Gord Howie swore in all six councillors, while former mayor Herb Pond along with former councillor Tony Briglio were on hand to take in the formalities.

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