Have you ever been to a council meeting or have you been to a council meeting recently? When you come away have you clearly understood the ‘happenings’ or the results? Are the practices and systems the same in McBride, Valemount, Abbotsford or Vancouver? Do any or most of the communities involved make decisions based on a meaningful reflection of the wishes of the constituents or are they completing their own agenda? Is there a language common to elected members of council and is there an attempt to explain why decisions are made to members of the public in attendance? These questions and more were buzzing in my head when I left a recent McBride Council meeting.
The meeting concluded around 9.10 pm or about an hour and 40 minutes after it began. On preliminary inspection of the agenda, I had thought the meeting might go until midnight. When Mayor Frazier brought down the gavel, the items on the agenda had all been ‘heard’ by council. But had they received a complete hearing and did the public understand what had happened?
At this meeting, there were four major reports/presentations scheduled:
1. BC Assessment Authority Presentations
2. Robson Valley Support Society Presentation (dealing with land for a Community Garden)
3. McBride and District Library/Museum (update)
4. Report from the EDO or Economic Development Officer
Along with this came the usual list of “who went where” from the various council members.
Item number one was strictly a ‘for information only’ presentation and was an academic answer as to why the impending tax increase had been justified. Items #2 and 3 were challenged by the Mayor and Council because they didn’t answer the questions that had been expected to be answered. Item number 3 ran into both technical challenges with overhead projector/computer issues and the unexpected (lack of) availability of William Clarke the Library/Museum Building Committee Chair. Mayor Frazier pointed out the flaws in both and suggested both groups provide more concrete answers. Naomi Balla-Boudreau, speaking for the Library, asked Council which of the four issues Council had previously raised was the most important one. Council responded it is the issue of ownership of the new home for the Library/Museum. Library Chairman Al Birnie explained while they may have the necessary legal recommendation, he could not discuss ownership until he had his board’s approval. Essentially the answers meant that neither agenda items 2 or 3 could be dealt with in any meaningful way at the meeting.
Finally came the presentation from the Economic Development Officer which seemed to be given with some degree of haste as the power point slides were gone from the screen before anyone even with advanced reading skills or education could absorb their content. The presentation alluded to the TAC or Tourism Action Committee report and the proposed spending on the Beetle funds which in this year would be spent between the production of the EDO’s brochure and secondly for the first stage of a mountain bike park and trails. While there was a projection for subsequent years it didn’t appear to include any further spending on the boat launch. This begs the question, what are our advertising, tourism and community park activities/plans for the near term? Of bigger concern to local citizens in attendance was the question of who decided on the current set of Beetle Fund projects. The response to that question suggested two members of council and one of the village personnel made the decisions due to deadline concerns.
It seems to me that there are a lot of well meaning people both in town and in the near vicinity of McBride that have a keen interest in the development and well being of our village, many of whom are more than a little interested and willing to roll up their sleeves and work and or give to various community projects. However, first we need to create an atmosphere of cooperation as alluded to by our Librarian, who suggested that their presentation on Tuesday night was more about continuing the dialogue than getting finite approvals now, but also about keeping the door open to further developments.
Perhaps this is, or could be the goal for the questions raised above?