Saturday, October 09, 2010

Rupert residents trending towards apathy over civic issues

With attendance at the civic organized community meetings registering on the low side, if Rupertites have issues of concern with their city government, they clearly will need to start showing a bit more active engagement in them.

The second of the city's three scheduled meetings took place last Wednesday, and much like the one before it in September, there were almost as many civic employees in attendance as residents.  A turn out that must be a disappointment for the two councillors Anna Ashley and Gina Garon, that had pushed for the sessions earlier this year.

With all but one councillor in attendance (Councillor Gordon-Payne was delayed by poor flying weather) along with the Mayor, the chance for the twenty or so Rupertites that attended to discuss public safety and policing issues one on one was probably high.

Wednesday evening also provided a review of the current vandalism situation in the city, as well as other issues of public safety. Normally a rather hot button issue in the town, but on a windy, rainy night one that didn't bring out the masses as perhaps was hoped.

The low turnouts thus for the three meetings (the third is set for November 2nd) was the topic of a recent discussion on the local information portal htmf, which outlined any number of reasons as to why Rupertites have thus far not been engaged in the debate, see here and here.

As for Wednesday's session,  the vandalism issue offered the  opportunity to re-introduce the prospect of downtown cameras to keep a watchful eye on possible trouble makers. A suggestion that seems to have received mixed reviews the last time it was brought up ten years ago and seemingly continues to offer up concerns this time as well.

As The Northern View outlined in its article on the community meetings, the camera issue provides for a fair amount of concern over civil liberties or as Councillor Bedard explained it to the paper when looking back at the concerns of the past, " People have a real funny feeling about human rights. I understand the concern, but the community said that video surveillance restricts rights”.

Those concerns however, have not deterred some local merchants from again bringing the topic back to public view, with their request that the city re-examine the possibility of a central video centre that would have feeds from cameras around the downtown area routed into a main control centre.

Another option may be for the city to upgrade its bylaws to allow the RCMP to make use of amended regulations to reduce the level of trouble downtown.

Using Nanaimo as an example, Inspector Bob Kilberry outlined how a bylaw in Nanaimo regarding fighting, results in bylaw tickets being issued to participants of fights in that city,  a project which could reduce the number of incidents that RCMP respond to later on.

Another topic that is of concern on the public safety/policing front is the current levels of staffing at the Prince Rupert Court House, with one judge currently on extended sick leave, the processing of justice is slowing down considerably in the region with only one judge to handle a growing file.

It was an issue that the Mayor along with other Northwest leaders reportedly brought up with the Attorney General at the recent UBCM, apparently with little success.

To that end, the Mayor is hoping that local residents will take pen to paper and send letters of concern to Attorney General Mike de Jong, expressing our frustration with the slow pace of justice and the province's apparent lack of interest in the current problems.

A good idea, though considering the low levels of interest in the two most recent forums, one has to wonder if the community is significantly engaged in the issues any more to care, let alone take the time to write a letter.

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