Thursday, December 31, 2009

Victor Kumar remembers those heady days on the North Coast

"Prince Rupert, while I was there, was practically broke." -- Former Prince Rupert City Manager Victor Kumar, outlining some of the past highlights of his times for the Rossland Telegraph.

Hey Victor, thanks for the shout out, but you know, we're still almost broke!

Ah, yes a much discussed name from our Podunkian past has been profiled in a year end article for Rossland Telegraph newspaper, that as he completes his first month on the job as City Manager in Rossland, BC.

In the background piece, Mr. Kumar touches on those three years spent in the Northwest, buffing up his resume a bit, with some remembrances of his efforts while steering the good ship Prince Rupert through municipal governance.

Among some of the more interesting quotes from his self explained review, are his thoughts on some still topical talking points in his former stop on the municipal government merry go round:

On the topic of taxes:

Everyone says residential taxes are high. Rossland does not have the industrial tax base. I’ve had that in Grand Forks and Prince Rupert and in Trail it’s huge.

On how to provide for other revenue streams for a city:

Prince Rupert, while I was there, was practically broke. They were in debt and spent their taxes that were then not collectable so it caused a lot of changes. Before I left, I acquired them a big cable company and consolidated it into a utility company that runs telephone and cable company and Internet from Houston BC to Prince Rupert. That gave them a substantial revenue other than property taxes.

On the the difference in values from community to community:

As I travel around the province I find a different sense of values all over the place. I believe Nelson and Rossland are about the same on values. In different ways, yes, but the same values, I think, whereas Prince Rupert and Grand Forks had very different value systems. Up north, it’s a different value system than in the West Kootenays.

On how democracy works:

I’m much more people-oriented and much more participatory. I want to make sure that democracy works. It’s a process that you have to take into account. This is a process-oriented local government. You have to pay particular attention to how the process works so that everybody has their say.

On what he hopes to achieve for Rossland:

No, I think you covered it very well. I just would like to say that I hope I can be as successful here as I have been in other communities in the past, and I look forward to the challenge.

Of the snapshot above, Rupertites will no doubt find the CityWest expansion topic of interest, a still controversial move to this day, which can get the local blood pressure to rising in a pretty quick order.
Likewise, his thoughts on community values and participatory democracy will surely stir the memories of locals as well, especially those that perhaps found themselves sitting across the bargaining table, or inquiring at City Hall about some aspect of civic governance during those tumultuous three years.

In the Rossland piece, there is the hint of some of those potential discussions to come for Rossland residents, that as Andrew Zwicker inquired about a few recent interactions at Rossland City Hall.

One thing I learned this week in contacting city staff for information on a few stories is they mentioned a new policy whereby they can’t speak freely to the media without your consent. Can you clarify that policy?

Can you explain some of your reasoning behind the officer/delegation bylaws passed on December 14th that seem to give the CAO more power to make decisions without involving council, the people's representatives?

Ah yes, everything old really is new again, now isn't it!

The full interview can be reviewed from the Rossland Telegraph site, I'm sure that many citizens will find it a fascinating look and interpretation of his time on the North Coast which came to an end in August of 2006 (though he remained on the payroll until October of that year).

Those were three years which were marked by a fair bit of turmoil and controversy, though that perhaps is a topic for another Rossland review eh?

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