An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WHAT WAS MAYOR KEN CHRISTIAN THINKING?
That’s a reasonable question with respect to his reorganization of City council’s committee structure in January.
The mayor decided to get rid of the old system and replace it with five standing committees of only three councillors each, and about a dozen so-called working groups or engagement groups that report to the committees.
A working group is basically an internal staff committee while an engagement group includes members of the public. Some of the old committees were turned into working or engagement groups.
The change streamlined things because committees had become too plentiful over the years, but it’s created another problem.
Have you ever heard from one of those working groups or engagement groups? Have you ever attended one of their meetings? Have you ever seen their minutes?
Do you even know what these groups are called or who’s on them?
I’m pretty sure the answer is no to all of those questions and here’s the reason why. Under the Community Charter, City council committees must operate under the same rules of transparency as the council itself.
That includes publishing dates of meetings and agendas in advance, holding meetings in public, and publishing minutes. But these working groups and engagement groups are considered non-statutory, which basically means unofficial.
Not having committee status means they don’t operate under the same transparency guidelines as official committees. Hence, they operate in anonymity. Their advice may or may not be reflected in committee recommendations to the council but we simply won’t know.
One engagement group member described the new structure as “basically useless.”
The mayor needs to rethink his brainchild, re-engage the public as full members of committees, and return full transparency to the committee system.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.