THE ARMCHAIR MAYOR COLUMN — There seems to be a failure to communicate between City Hall and the Kamloops Heritage Commission.
The role of commission members is to advise City council on heritage matters but before they can do that they have to be asked.
As commission chair Andrew Yarmie told me and CBC’s Josh Pagé when we interviewed him this week, the CN building is one of the city’s most precious heritage structures. (See today’s earlier post.)
Yet, City staff and council decided to sell it to a private developer for $1 (that is, to convert an existing lease to ownership) without asking what the commission thought.
But, as it turns out, that isn’t the only thing the commission hasn’t been consulted on recently.
Back in December, parks, recreation and culture director Byron McCorkell recommended that council merge the heritage commission with the Community Arts Commission. A follow-up report is expected from staff outlining proposed terms of reference in three or four weeks for what will become known as the Kamloops Cultural Commission.
While McCorkell says the merger will “streamline the process” he acknowledges there’s also a practical reason — it’s tough to get a quorum at meetings of either commission.
I wrote in this space less than two weeks ago that it’s a bad match. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks so.
When I asked him Thursday why the heritage commission wasn’t consulted about the merger before it went to City council, McCorkell pointed out that committees and commissions are created by, and serve at the pleasure of, City council.
“The fact is you’re a committee who’s advisory to council when they ask for your advice.”
Fair enough, but while discussions are now being held with the commissions after the fact, some feathers have been ruffled. Coun. Donovan Cavers, council’s liaison with the heritage commission, is against the merger. He says arts people and heritage people have different interests.
“I definitely don’t support it,” he said of the merger.
There’s no lack of a pipeline between the City and commission — both Cavers and arts, culture and heritage manager Barb Berger attend heritage commission meetings — so that’s not the problem.
I have no doubt the oversight wasn’t intentional. It looks like a case of nobody thinking of the heritage commission when the sale of the CN building was being approached, and that the same thing happened in planning the merger of the two commissions.
Ultimately, the responsibility is council’s. It’s not that they don’t care about heritage, I’m sure; they just weren’t on the ball. They should have at least asked whether the commission should have input.
Very likely, nothing would have changed. But since it’s proving so hard to interest people in serving on commissions, it would probably help if those who do serve feel they’ve been considered when important matters come up.