An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
A TASK FORCE ON THE ECONOMY is a good idea but Mayor Ken Christian is missing a big opportunity to build community and benefit from collective brain storming.
His task force, aimed at getting the Kamloops economy running again as we struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, has cloistered itself away without the public present.
The “non-partisan” task force itself has self-imposed limitations. Among its 15 members are politicians, business people, educators and industrialists. Union reps, neighbourhood associations, agriculturists, arts and culture, the healthcare sector and community agencies were excluded.
Input from a wide range of groups is being received but representation on the task force itself is unnecessarily narrow.
But it’s the closed-meeting approach that’s most unfortunate. The economic welfare of the city is everybody’s business. The public should have access to the meetings — within current social distancing rules, of course — and there should be provision for taxpayers to participate in question and answer sessions.
The structure chosen by Christian is very much top down. This could be a very valuable exercise if recommendations come out of it that can be implemented through City policy and practice and it needs to be born of a robust process.
It’s too late to do much about the limitations of the task-force makeup, but its meetings could easily be opened up to the public — through live streaming, for example — with any sensitive proprietary matters (which are the common excuse for the secrecy) reserved for separate in-camera sessions.
The best approach would be a one-day or one-weekend session of community brainstorming but with restrictions on public gatherings due to the pandemic that’s not practical right now. But that shouldn’t stop the task force from bringing the public into the conversation.
This issue requires as wide a range of voices at the table as possible, and some nimble rejigging of the process is called for.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.