The Wrong Fork in the Road

For the second Sunday in a row now I see our Mayor promoting a “Pints and Politics” open discussion taking place at the Three Ranges Brewery. When this concept was first introduced, I initially thought that it was a great idea, but after sitting back and thinking about it for a few days, I began to question the logistics behind it.
First off, I would like to know if this oforum has been given approval by the Village Council. Although I have been remiss from attending the Council meetings of late, I do not recall seeing any mention of this in the media reports.
Secondly, I applaud the Mayor of his attempt at open and candid conversations about things that matter in the community and to try to get a feel of what the residents really think. Over the past couple of years, there has been much talk of regular community round table discussions, and though McCracken is on the right path, it appears that he took the wrong fork in the road. I personally feel that a licensed establishment is not the place to have these conversations, and hope that he reconsiders his actions. Thank you.

Marie Birkbeck
Valemount, BC

Wine and Cheese any different?

If being available to the public is a bad idea, Marie Birkbeck’s letter to the editor entitled ‘Pints and Politics’ published on March 27 in the Valley Sentinel [and subsequently in the Goat], doesn’t tell me why. I recognize that Birkbeck is part of the glue that holds this community together so I aim to answer her concerns.

Birkbeck is opposed to the concept of pints and politics for two reasons: council didn’t expressly permit it, and it was a licensed establishment.

The interpretation of the rules then is this: Firstly, council must give their assent before the mayor can meet with the public and secondly, having liquor there is unacceptable.

What then of a Chamber of Commerce wine and cheese event?

Birkbeck, herself a member of the Chamber, has overlooked this: Three members of council belong to the Chamber of Commerce. Should they be seeking the express consent of council before they join? Should they seek permission from council before they are allowed to attend a Chamber-sponsored wine and cheese event? I myself delivered a ‘State of the City’ address at Marie Birkbeck’s invitation; was that exempt? If so, why?

Somehow sipping wine is beyond reproach, but drinking a beer with the same people, and less connected folk too, is forbidden?

I presume the mistake to be an honest one. Pints and Politics is a new idea. It is different than what has happened before and change is difficult, but I hope Birkbeck and others can see the good behind it.

In the olden days, the village brass may have only met with the elite. Perhaps because it was believed that this would lead to economic development. I don’t know. But it is clear to most now that silver bullet economics aren’t going to save Valemount. We get our strength as a community from the people that live here.

It follows that every resident is important, politically and economically, and they deserve a hearing and explanations from the politicians they elect.

Let me be perfectly clear, I don’t need permission from council to speak to residents and I won’t soon ask for it.

Further, Birkbeck postulates that perhaps this council is working up to what she calls a ‘regular community round table discussion.’ On this point I am very disappointed. It is frustrating that Birkbeck does not recognize this council’s commitment to consultation. We have an annual Community Conversations event that is copiously advertised and covered by the media and recorded on television. Yes, for the first time in a decade, council is willing to meet with residents en masse and talk about our successes and failures openly. It is a chance for residents to voice their concerns so that we can improve as a village, and speak frankly about our challenges, and also survey opportunities before us.

Previous councils avoided the spotlight and contact with the public. Frankly, that didn’t get us where we needed to go.

I hope that all residents, from quieter folks to the dedicated and exuberant volunteers like Marie Birkbeck come to see the Community Conversations and Pints and Politics for what they are: opportunities to aspire to excellence and take Valemount to a new level. As a community we need to get on the same page inasmuch as it is possible, so we can tackle the great challenges before us and move forward together.

If you still think Pints and Politics is a bad idea, I invite you to come by the village office at any time and tell me why, or if you prefer, swing over to the Three Ranges Brewery on Sunday between 3 to 5 pm.

Andru McCracken
Mayor of the Village of Valemount