GUEST COLUMN – Why all the conflict? City Hall antics are a bit bush league
By DENIS WALSH
IS OUR CITY ADMINISTRATION operating under a double standard? And did Coun. Neustaeter intend to be so blatant with her not-so-veiled threat? Aren’t recent City Hall antics a bit bush league?
Two weeks ago, CAO Trawin stated the mayor was not in conflict of interest regarding his West Victoria property and his notice of motion to look into relocating the street storage and outreach facility across from City Hall.
At council’s public meeting this past Tuesday though, corporate officer Mazzotta allowed an amendment that changed the mayor’s motion to deal with a specific location into a motion to deal with a general area. This goes against Robert’s Rules of Order.
After allowing “an amendment that strikes out the words that put the motion into effect,” Mazzotta then warned that the mayor was likely in conflict of interest regarding his own motion. She contended “only the courts could determine” the risk to the mayor, and warned consequences might extend to being disqualified from office.
She seemed much more confident a couple of years ago when I was on council. At that time, she said I could vote on the downtown sidewalk expansion despite owning a Victoria Street business.
She told media that “the decision applies to businesses across the city and he therefore has ‘an interest in common’ with those businesses…if it applied only to street-corner businesses like The Vic it would be a different story.”
Given the number of West Victoria business and property owners with “an interest in common” who at Tuesday’s meeting told council that relocation of the facility would greatly benefit them and the community, it therefore is a considerable stretch to find Mayor Hamer-Jackson in conflict.
Though if he is, then maybe so is Coun. O’Reilly, whose Comet Industries Kamloops main office entrance is located at 2nd and Victoria, even closer to the facility. Surely his company’s credibility is not enhanced if buyers or wealthy investors encounter someone sleeping or shooting up on his doorstep.
What about when council discusses general community security issues? Should Coun. Sarai recuse himself each time because his son works in bylaw services? Should Coun. Neustaeter recuse herself when council discusses issues involving any organization that benefits from the Kamloops United Way, which she heads up?
What about other currently sitting councillors whose spouses or children work directly or under contract for various city services? And what about administrators? Mazzotta’s brother heads the Social, Housing, and Community Development office at City of Kamloops. Should she recuse herself when council discusses topics related to her brother’s portfolio? I guess only the courts can tell.
Regardless, after Mazzotta’s warning that consequences could be dire, underlined by Coun. Neustaeter’s virtue-signaling over “serious ethical territory” and her threat that just 10 people can start a process to oust the mayor, he reluctantly recused himself.
With Mayor Hamer-Jackson out of the way, council dismantled and smothered his motion and sent it to likely die in committee.
Too bad. It seemed a good first step to reduce friction in an area the city recently spent 14 million dollars upgrading and beautifying. Sure, we want to help the disenfranchised, but not at the expense of letting our downtown turn into a skid row.
The mayor’s motion just asked “That Council authorize staff to prepare a report for Council’s consideration regarding a review and potential relocation of the services offered at 48 Victoria St. West.” Simple and fairly non-committal. According to the operators, the facility isn’t big enough anyway and further, the city has other nearby properties that could be used.
But despite the prevailing narrative that the mayor is the problem, council still couldn’t come to an agreement, even with him warned away from the head of the horseshoe.
The groundless threats, disrespect and exaggerated panics over non-issues by certain actors in City Hall and the media whose favourite horse lost are obstructive. Their insistence on leaping at any opportunity to vilify, distract or gag the mayor is becoming tedious.
Maybe 10 residents (does Coun. Neustaeter have some in mind?) would actually risk their time and money taking a dubious issue all the way to Supreme Court in a bid to remove the elected mayor.
Is City Hall prepared to shoulder an expensive lawsuit along with an about $150,000 cost to taxpayers plus the disruption to residents and governance from an unnecessary byelection to replace the elected mayor who obviously wasn’t their pick?
The rest of us just want Mayor Hamer-Jackson to be able to act on the community safety platform the majority of voters supported.
We want our mayor to be able to participate in discussions about a very controversial key entrance point to the core of our downtown, even though he owns a property there he can no longer use due to street issues.
We want residents and visitors to be impressed, not appalled, when they see this major downtown corridor that right now looks like the little sister of Vancouver’s East Hastings.
To make this happen, our mayor has to address factors that have contributed to a piece-by-piece deterioration of West Victoria. In some cases, he may even have to ask our current council to reverse decisions an inattentive former council passed following ill-advised recommendations by City administrators.
The majority spoke last October. The city would be far better off if everyone at City Hall would cooperate with the mayor. He pledged to do his best to make Kamloops safer and better. Isn’t this what we all want?
Denis Walsh is a businessman and former Kamloops City councillor. He did not run in the 2022 civic election.
Bravo, my feelings exactly, our council is an embarrassment.
Let the mayor do his job. These shit disturbing is not going to help. Get rid of them. They should have a probation period. Not happy hearing about all these family employees getting hired this should not be happening. Go to work or school like everyone else. .😡😡😡😡way to go Dennis 🥳
It sounds like a bunch of bully children ganging up on the mayor. They should be ousted or fined every time they act up. It’s called time out losers.😩😩😩we the people voted the mayor in, didn’t care for the rest, bully children.😡😡😡
Denis hit the nail on the head with his comments – now I hope our current council, staff will realize that the residents of Kamloops are tired of the shenanigans of council / staff – please get on with what our council was elected to do – clean up are streets, make them safe.
Exactly what we needed to hear, Denis! Nail on the head.
It’s clear, there is a team effort to discredit this mayor taking whatever steps necessary.
His vision is bold, his heart is true and he is not a politician (thankfully!)) – the reality of change is tough, and jeopardizes many in management and council.
Stay strong, Mr. Mayor – your community supports you. The team around you is the only ones who are doing everything they can to make you look bad.
It sounds like 2 school girls had a pyjama party and dreamed up how to plaster the new boy in class when the teacher was away.
It’s time for RHJ to have some strong people in his corner; thanks Denis.
Meanwhile the focus of ex-councillor and failed mayoral candidate Sadie Hunter (now supposedly fully immersed in writing opinion pieces for various online sources) is to discredit the mayor for his arguably contentious approach without much to offer otherwise to the readers. Quite a juxtaposition on local matters over newly retired councillor D. Walsh.
Nail on the head Denis!
Admin and council needs to stop the witch hunt. Trawin should be setting a tone and culture of “working with the Mayor”.
So an administrator’s error resulted in the mayor becoming in conflict with his own motion? I hope RHJ introduces it again. It seems like one small step to reclaim West Victoria from those who, bless their hearts, have made it unsightly and unsafe.
Fantastic letter Denis! Truly fantastic!
So the mayor’s motion was basically killed because an administrator screwed up? Oh well, I guess incompetence is better than malice. Too bad, though–his motion was a good start to reclaiming West Victoria from those who, bless their hearts, have made the area unsightly and unsafe.
Just to be clear, the mayor’s motion was basically cut in half — relocation was removed, though one would think a review would naturally include it.
Actually, I need to agree with most everything past-Council member Walsh has said here, regarding the cluster that the last Council meeting degenerated into … even if the column meanders a bit, repeats itself and could be chopped down to half the word count (charcoal calling the kettle black here).
His statement “In some cases, he may even have to ask our current council to reverse decisions an inattentive former council passed following ill-advised recommendations by City administrators.”
… did kind of make me turn my head all the way around like an owl and go ‘wait … what’?
… when it appears that this present Council seems to have reacted the very same way to ‘recommendations by City administrators as the previous one’ … by being arguably blind and deferring to unquestioned acceptance of the same.
Makes one wonder, is it only as being outside the fray, as a past member of Council, does one see the ‘error of its way’ while ensconced within?
Still … tough admission. Cudo’s.
Thanks Denis, very good column.