Council newbies, please spare us sad stories about your hard work

Shed a tear for the poor City councillor. Apparently, it’s a tough job.

In a column in The Daily News, Coun. Ken Christian laments the hard life of the councillor, filled with meetings, reading, public events and travel.

Coun. Ken Christian

Coun. Ken Christian

He and other councillors across the country returned home this week from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in Vancouver. Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart and some of his councillors were criticized by fellow councillor Lou Sekora for spending $225 a night — funded by taxpayers — at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel instead of commuting by car as he did.

Stewart, naturally, used the old “networking” defence to justify the expenditures. Municipal politicians were slaving away on our behalf from 7 a.m. to midnight at the convention, he says.

Mayors and councillors always feel defensive about conventions like the FCM. I see in today’s Daily News a headline, “Councillors say FCM worth the expense.” The story quotes Kamloops delegates talking about all the informative sessions they attended and, of course, the networking.

Marg Spina met Justin Trudeau in a lineup, Arjun Singh talked to some guy while jogging, and the mayor of Sudbury told Peter Milobar what a great place her city is, mine and all.

Look, conventions can be valuable. They are also a lot of fun, with great meals, nice receptions, some fine entertainment, and interesting tours. Councillors doth protest way too much with their assurances of all the work they’re getting done.

Fact is, the FCM does have some informative sessions, but it’s not nearly as valuable as the annual UBCM conference, for example, and way more expensive because of travel costs. The venue is often on the other side of the country.

FCM attendance should be limited to three members of council each year — that way, each councillor will have a chance to attend one FCM conference during his or her three-year term. Even the TNRD puts limits on attendance.

Back to Ken Christian for a minute. It seems like rookie councillors come to the conclusion after a year in office that they didn’t realize how much work it was going to be.

Christian’s column comes on the heels of a charge led by Nancy Bepple and Nelly Dever to review the pay rates for Kamloops City council. In the column, he talks about having to spend two to six hours reading the agenda before each weekly meeting, and about public hearings that can last up to five hours.

Well, studying the homework will typically take two hours. More than that is unusual. Public hearings can take up to five hours — once in a blue moon.

As for public events, councillors attend what they can, so some attend more than others. It’s not always a lot of fun, but sometimes it is.

Nobody said it was easy but the point is, being on council is not drudgery. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s an experience like no other. So please, newbies, spare us the sad stories about how much work you do.

About Mel Rothenburger (9634 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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