In a recent editorial, John Harding touched on a theme that has been my familiar hobby-horse for the past couple of decades; namely how real decision-making at Parksville city hall lies with bureaucrats, and not elected politicians.
The satrap’s stool is indeed more powerful than the mayor’s chair. Harding is frustrated that so many meetings are held in camera which excludes him, and ultimately his readers, whose taxes keep city hall functioning.
Any common-sense democratic notion such as transparency is hidden behind locked doors in that concrete municipal shrine, where decisions often resemble something from the The Twilight Zone.
Harding would not be surprised to learn that his concerns are deep-rooted; let me draw just one instance that occurred exactly seven years ago this week. I had voluntarily researched fire hall costs in different parts of B.C. for a rookie councillor, who promised to present the numbers at the Sept. 21, 2009 council meeting.
Sadly, he sheepishly informed me after the meeting that he had been formally excused from any discussions on the fire hall by the mayor, on advice from the chief administrative officer (CAO), because the councillor lived next door to the fire chief.
Another councillor, who happened to be a media maven, was similarly excused because her husband and daughter were firefighters. Definite shades of The Twilight Zone.
However, all was not lost at that 2009 meeting, as the freshman bravely challenged the others around the table to do more number-crunching before raising their hands to vote on city staff’s proposals.
He received no support from any elected official; the councillor sitting beside him turned contemptuously, and said: “Let the managers manage.”
Your newspaper had previously reported that the scornful councillor had spent his working life as a bureaucrat and today he’s mayor of Parksville. Harding’s editorial indicates that his attitude is unchanged; the shambolic twilight zone situation remains at city hall.