EDITORIAL – Issue of accessibility to civic politics deserves a broader look
An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
IT’S HARD TO ARGUE against creating more opportunities for people to serve on City council and, indeed, not a single comment, let alone dissent, was offered around the Kamloops council table on a proposal to significantly expand the use of online meetings in certain circumstances.
On a motion by Coun. Dale Bass, council supported allowing up to two councillors on parental and/or caregiver leave to participate in council meetings from home via electronic means as often as they want.
A well-intended gesture, and it might encourage more women in particular to run, but it deserves some scrutiny. What if three or more successful candidates want to take advantage of the new policy? Which two get the benefit?
Secondly, while COVID has proven that online meetings are a good way to handle occasional situations in which some members can’t attend a meeting, no one suggests that meeting online is preferable to being there in person.
Sitting at home and trying to interact with a group dealing with sensitive or complex issues isn’t as good as everyone being in the same room. It just isn’t, and should be reserved for times when a councillor is out of town or under the weather as current guidelines provide.
It’s a tool to be used sparingly.
Thirdly, being a councillor is about more than attending council meetings. Meeting with constituents and attending public events are important parts of it. Working from home doesn’t always cut it.
Increasing opportunities for aspirants to seek public office is a good thing but I’m not sure this motion actually accomplishes much. Nevertheless, the thought behind the motion, which also includes a clause about accommodating members with “diverse abilities,” is worth exploring.
Why not look at the issue of accessibility to civic politics on a broad basis rather than as a one-off that might create more problems than it fixes?
That would be a worthwhile exercise.
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.
Accessibility to civic politics on a broader basis? What’s that? Is that cryptic to mean Trawin should hire another pointless manager or “swell” the PR department even more? What about you look into the procurement policies of the City of Kamloops with a more detailed, meaningful and critical eye? Council could care less, instead relying on vague reassurances from patronizing staff.
Technology has become the bodyguard of politicians. How can common people hold policy makers to account if there is no public access and don’t tell me that this is anything else.
There is a paradigm shift from ‘before an election’ to ‘after an election’ when it comes to civic politicians.
We are coming into the silly season where ideas will abound, touted as new ideas to give opportunities to just about anybody to serve in public office.
Councillor Bass was quite aware of my biggest single concern leading up to the last municipal election. Municipalities take care of streets and a dark line occurring on a City street with amazing regularity was an opportunity for her to shine.
Sadly enough, it became as if both the street and also my concern had leprosy; not a word about it after she was elected.