Disorderly meetings not up to par

I thought I would give up an evening of watching re-runs on tv and head down to the McBride community hall with my wife to take in the McBride Community Forest public meeting.

First I was impressed with the number of people that actually showed up – some 40 attendees. When we arrived we were pleasantly greeted by Sarah Taylor to sign in and handed an agenda.

All the councillors who also sit as directors on the board were there. Loranne Martin made some introductions and then proceeded to move through the agenda. I noticed there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm in her voice she had to be told to speak into the mike. It became obvious as Ms. Martin moved through the short agenda that she hadn’t spent a whole lot of time preparing for this meeting. She spoke for less than two minutes.

At one point Alan Fredericks the reporter for the Valley Sentinel asked Ms. Martin for clarification on whether or not all directors had signed the confidentiality agreements. It was at that time that Diane Smith, who was sitting behind Mr. Fredericks, told him to “shut up” loud enough that it could be heard across the room.

I would have thought at this point it would have been appropriate for the chair to intervene and advise Ms. Smith that what she had said was inappropriate and to refrain from doing it again, to show respect to the attendees and the questions asked.

One topic on the agenda was the “director’s report” and I expected at this point we would have heard some updates or accomplishments from directors on what they have done since the last meeting. Nothing was said by anyone. If I was a director, I would have felt somewhat embarrassed, as these meetings are the one time and place for directors to speak to the public and share their experiences about the community forest.

I felt the chair and directors didn’t do their homework for this agenda topic and speak on some of the positives things the corporation does.

• We have tree planters working in area planting close to 300,000 seedlings and these tree planters help to contribute to the economy by buying local goods and supplies.

• The corporation has a partnership with the ancient forest and assisting the Caledonia Ramblers hiking club. Bob Elliot has been transporting the wood materials from Midget Mills to the ancient forest site to help further develop the boardwalk. Bob has been assisting the Ramblers over the last few years in building the boardwalk.

• The community forest oversees and maintains the beaver and La Salle lake campsites which are heavily used by tourists travelling through the Robson Valley.

• The corporation also picks up the tap for the liability insurance for users of the gym at the high school.

The only one that I felt showed up prepared was the general manager Marc Von Der Gonna. I felt he did a good job in providing a presentation on the overall operational end of the community forest.

There was no open mike and attendees were asked to write down their questions to the chair and/or manager. Many of the questions focused on whether or not directors had signed confidentiality agreements and regarding the future makeup of the board.

The chair didn’t provide a lot of information on these questions. The chair said she was looking at setting up an advisory committee to review the future makeup of the board and were talking to their lawyers regarding the confidentially agreement issue. I would hope that we will get more information on these topics at the next public meeting.

As the meeting came to a close, Ms. Smith continued to raise her voice with inappropriate comments. This kind of bad behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated at these community forest meetings.

I am hoping when I attend the next community forest public meeting that the chair shows up a little more prepared.
One option is that maybe it’s time for the mayor/chair to consider another director to take on the chair’s role. I know as a former director on the board it was common practice to rotate the chairs position from time to time.

Ken Starchuck
McBride, BC

This letter was edited for length with the author’s permission.

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