IT IS EARLY DAYS in the new Kamloops City Council, but it seems that there are some choppy waters ahead.
One way of thinking about Council is that they are the rudder, and the City staff are the oars. Council sets the direction they want things to go, but the staff does the heavy lifting. Council aren’t engineers, IT managers, or accountants.
What that means is that Council decides on a direction, and then, more often than not, staff goes away and creates a report. The report is then brought before council to debate, and if agreed to, the report leads to some action.
If what happened this Tuesday foretells the future, things are slowing down.
On Tuesday (Dec. 18, 2018), staff asked Council to authorize their work with the Kamloops Disc Golf Club and Kamloops Naturalist Club to develop a conceptual plan, including costs, for the former McArthur Island Golf Course property.
That seemed like a straightforward motion. This request did not come out of thin air. This has not been the first time it has come to Council.
Back in October 2017, when the old golf course on McArthur Island closed, the City of Kamloops started consultations with the public. There were on-line surveys and open houses. There were hundreds of submissions.
Two visions emerged the strongest. The first was a nature park, championed by the Kamloops Naturalists. The second, from the Kamloops Disc Golf Club, was a disc golf course.
The golfers were willing to work with the naturalists, but the naturalists felt two uses were not compatible.
Fast forward to the Fall of 2018, the Council made a decision, which was to allow both uses.
What is troubling with the debate on Tuesday was that Coun. Arjun Singh revised the motion to allow multiple plans to be brought forward to council. One plan could be from staff, but separate plans from the naturalists, and the disc golfers, could also be brought forward. Coun. Sadie Hunter then revised the motion again, asking that accessible sites for the disc golf be considered.
Only Mayor Christian and Coun. Dieter Dudy opposed the revisions of Singh and Hunter.
Now-retired councillor Pat Wallace once gave me sage advice: “make a decision and move on.” The decision has been made to accommodate both naturalists and disc golfers. What Singh has done is opened a path for the naturalists to revive debate on a single-use (the naturalists’ vision) plan.
There have been hours of consultation with the community. A decision of Council in the Fall was made to have both golfers, and naturalists share the space. With multiple reports coming forward, some by staff and some by community groups, Singh has reopened debate on how the space should be used.
Hunter’s goal of creating accessible space is laudable. But, it is not clear how coming up with sites for an accessible disc golf course (presumably elsewhere), could be accommodated in a report on the McArthur Island site.
Having made a decision to accept multiple reports from various stakeholders, council could get mired into playing trade-off politics between the disc golfers and naturalists.
These issues are the small and somewhat banal decisions that haunt city councils. It is not this specific decision I’m worried about, but rather the tone it may set, where council will be pitting community groups’ reports against staff reports. I’m also worried that decision will be rehashed and rehashed, and no clear action taken.
My worry is that this small decision foretells how council operates on bigger issues.
Public consultation should lead to clear decisions by council, not reopening debates.
One wonders how Radio NL’s Angelo Iacobucci kept his humour reporting on Kamloops City council, week after week, year after year. Godspeed to him for doing such an outstanding job and caring so much for the city he adopted as his own. I would have loved to hear his take on just one more council debate.
Nancy Bepple is a former city councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.