Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Not much room for conversation at city council Monday night

If councillors Ashley and Garon are wondering why Prince Rupert residents haven't been more engaged in their community consultation sessions over the last six weeks or so, perhaps the events of Monday night at Prince Rupert City Council may help to shed some light as to the cause of the apathetic nature of some residents.

For some it could very well be that City residents may get the impression that city council just doesn't want to listen to their concerns or complaints anymore, a concept that perhaps may have some merit.

Monday's session seemed to bring out the snark in Mayor Jack Mussallem, who offered up a very public verbal smack down to local recycling advocate Jean Martin.

Ms. Martin has been the proverbial thorn in the side of the Mayor over the last year or so when it comes to matters of recycling and Monday night provided what seems to be the boiling point for the Mayor.

In the course of a question at council regarding the cutback of hours to the Recycling Centre, the Mayor seemingly weary of Ms. Martin's ongoing opposition to the city's position sharply and clearly snapped at her, uttering the kind of talking point of No, you may not,  that could very well define his years as Mayor.

The smoking gun of public rebuke can be viewed from CFTK TV, where the clip from the evening news was featured on the stations website.

From the point that he seemed to end the discussion,  the Mayor seemed to suggest that her ongoing quest for more accessible times at the recycling centre could very well put the city's finances in peril.

Though the logic seems a little off on that interpretation, what with that huge rolling debt load from the pulp mill lands still on the city's books and eating up much more valuable financial resources than the recycling efforts, and in effect contributing to the cutbacks that have been made there.

While we understand the need for cutbacks in tough times, the recycling issue seems to have taken on the public focus of the city's budget woes.

The Mayor in particular seems to have embarked on  a strong willed approach to reducing costs there, while  fiscal prudence at a number of other city owned or operated ventures seem impervious to any similar form of fiscal restraint.

The fact that the recycling centre actually is used by the community and is one of the more public of the city's ventures and is one that impacts on residents day to day lives should not be lost on the Mayor and his council.

After all if they don't provide the services that we want there will be an accounting for of their actions and with a petition in hand Ms. Martin clearly proved that there is a concern over their cost cutting in this case.

However, perhaps what is even more disconcerting than the Mayors' rather short temper with Ms. Martin, was the response, or lack of actually from the remainder of council.

Not one of the councillors in attendance appear to have interjected to suggest Ms. Martin be allowed to finish outlining her position, rather they sat quietly as the Mayor rebuked the citizen who had come to express her thoughts and seek out the city's understanding as to her passion for recycling in the city.

The fact that she raised a few interesting points about management of the recycling initiative at the Regional District level also should have made for an interesting addition to the debate, but by their silence on the issue, the six councillors seem to be on side with the Mayor.

Considering the rather rude approach to Ms. Martin's contribution, it's not a surprise that others may have second thoughts about offering up their own feedback on other city issues.

If residents feel that their intercessions at council are going to receive similar outbursts or a lack of interest or support from the sitting councillors, then it really shouldn't be too big a surprise if the citizens continue on to treat this council as a lost cause to the goals of accountability and transparency.

Should council be looking for an inexpensive focus group as to how the locals might be thinking in the wake of the tempest  a review of some of the contributions on a topic thread at the local information portal htmf may be helpful,  where the events of Monday night are receiving a fair amount of scrutiny and commentary.

No you may not! 

Words to remember, as they may get replayed for more than a few of the current members of council next November, when this council seeks re- election to council chambers.

Those that seek a seat at City Hall and wish to govern us, may wish to keep in mind that taking  that seat comes with the blessing of the electorate (those at least that still care) and that in the end, council is answerable to those that voted them in and not vice versa.

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