GUEST COLUMN – How can mayor get anywhere in this hostile environment?

City council at special meeting. (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

Guest Columnist

AT TUESDAY’S SPECIAL MEETING, councillors were incensed that the mayor invoked Section 141 of the BC Community Charter to appoint members of the public to standing committees.

Bronwen Scott.

Coun. Bass complained that the public (the same people she thinks made a wise choice by electing her) can’t be trusted. She repeatedly raised concerns about confidentiality (which would never be an issue since standing committee meetings are public, as they should be).

As for improper release of information, Coun. Bass should look in her own backyard — who in City Hall sent the mayor’s standing committee list to the media? It seems that in some cases, City Hall wants to be fully transparent, but only when such can potentially be used to bludgeon the mayor.

With the exception of Coun. O’Reilly, who addressed the mayor respectfully and even pushed back a bit on Coun. Bass’s motion, councillors badgered the mayor, slid nasty jabs at him into their speeches, demanded that he seek council approval for everything he does and repeatedly interrupted him. One city administrator shook their head while the mayor was speaking; another had an edge to their voice when addressing him.

I agree the mayor could use some lessons in decorum, inclusive process and active listening. But isn’t the office of mayor, regardless of who occupies it, worthy of respectful civil discourse?

This raises the question: Can the mayor get anything done in such a hostile work environment?

Take, for example, the issue of the mayor’s recent motion to review options to relocate the 48 West Victoria storage facility for the homeless and hard-to-house. As more amenities for the street-entrenched were concentrated bit by bit in the area over the past several years, thefts, vandalism, personal conflicts and general street dereliction rose.

The mayor’s approach to this situation seemed to be to incrementally resolve some of the problem areas, starting with small, single steps. But council and admin wouldn’t allow him to do even that.

In fact, corporate officer Maria Mazzotta didn’t object (as I believe she should have) when council appeared to violate Robert’s Rules of Order by allowing an amendment to the mayor’s motion addressing one specific area to a motion dealing with the whole corridor at once.

This put the mayor into a conflict of interest with his own motion, forced him out of the debate, and virtually destroyed his motion. So, nothing got done about the only troubled spot in that corridor that is owned and controlled by the city.

Is thwarting the mayor really more important than dealing with Kamloops’ mounting problems?

Getting back to Tuesday’s meeting. Mazzotta barely pointed out that the Community Charter regulation on standing committees appears to include members of the public in any capacity, and that the mayor was well within his rights to appoint them.

She should have, but didn’t, raise the risk of a potentially long delay to the committees and their goals because there’s no time limit included in Bass’s motion for a moratorium on the mayor’s committees while a council-picked select committee hammers out their terms of reference.

Too bad that while enshrining the sole right of a mayor to create and populate standing committees, the Charter doesn’t specifically say a mayor has the sole right to establish standing committee terms of reference. But I can’t find any part where it says a hostile council (or any council) can or should exclude the mayor when setting the terms of reference for a mayor’s own standing committees.

Speaking of the law, City administrators also continue to maintain that the City of Kamloops’ Code of Conduct is legal when it may not be. I believe that the Code adopted last summer is in violation of the Charter, which states that a council must not fiddle with a code of conduct in an election year.

I know the councillors must be intelligent people who care about our city. But it seems they still want the “admin leads, council rubber-stamps” City Hall system. It’s what’s led to the incremental build-up of a large disenfranchised population on West Victoria Street, a rising concentration of the same in Valleyview, and other costly errors. It hasn’t served the city well. The mayor wants to change it and City Hall has been pushing back.

Now, councillors appear to want to usurp the mayor’s powers entirely. They all claimed to be team players in their election campaigns, but it turns out that’s only if they get to pick the whole team plus the coach and call all the plays. Otherwise, they’re going to question the lineup, complain to the media behind the coach’s back, undermine other team members, and play their worst.

In my view, it’s long past time our Tournament Capital council and administrators showed some sportsmanship and professionalism.

Bronwen Scott is a community activist.

About Mel Rothenburger (9634 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

8 Comments on GUEST COLUMN – How can mayor get anywhere in this hostile environment?

  1. John Noakes // March 30, 2023 at 4:04 AM // Reply

    For anyone who cares to read; not to persuade anyone to “support” a man named Reid.
    An article about the situation on West Victoria Street was published in a newspaper. A couple of days later, I looked up the contact information for Tru Market and decided to send an email to Reid. “He didn’t know me from Adam”, as the saying goes. He replied and answered a question that I asked.

    I did some searching and found a document on the City’s web site. The document outlined some of the discussions and details for the rezoning of two properties on West Victoria. I then forwarded the pdf to Reid via email. He responded to me via email. The next step was that he had a number of copies printed for distribution to the business owners located on West Victoria Street.

    Some time later, I called him on the phone and I heard his voice for the first time. I guess by this time, I was a “supporter” of Reid. Not only was I his “supporter”, but I also “supported” the women who operate the business next to Reid’s business. There was something about their story that struck a nerve with me. I have three sisters and I tried to put my head around any one of them being subjected to the psychological and emotional abuse they were now experiencing on a daily basis.

    The next step in my “support” of Reid happened on Rivers Trail over a year before our civic election last year. It was while Moira House was being constructed. The families of Westmount were blindsided by politicians who decided behind closed doors to have a CMHC “shelter”, complete with 8 foot tall chain link fencing and 24/7 security guards built within a three minute walk of Westmount Park.

    At that time, I still felt safe to walk our dog past that site to the north end of Schubert Drive. As I was walking Buddy in that direction one morning, I saw a man who was on Rivers Trail, watching Moira House being built. He looked at me, began to smile and walked towards me. As he stretched out his hand to shake mine, he said, “You must be John Noakes!” “I’m Reid Hamer-Jackson.”

    Fast forward to the civic election last fall. When I went to the voting booth at Mac Park, I had a choice to make. One of the candidates for Mayor was there to vote. The person was a sitting councillor who had never so much as replied to even one email that I had sent. No “support” there. Memories of the other candidates came into play. Then memories of the guy who dared to be different.

    When someone, anyone, refers to me as a “supporter” of Reid, there is a package of memories and emotions that go along with the deal. Reid can no longer talk about his history of West Victoria nor his compassion for 4 women who have undergone emotional and psychological abuse because of the situation there. He is now called to be in “conflict of interest” by people who wouldn’t lift a hand to “support” these women. They wouldn’t dare get their high heals dirty to clean up human feces before opening their business for the day.

    While being rough around the edges, Reid deserves better than what he has received.

  2. Councilors; See that the citizens of Kamloops want change in administration, change in transparency and change in accountability. The current Mayor is trying hard to put the pieces in place to satisfy these wants/needs. He is NOT going to be the most graceful on the dancefloor and he will likely stumble here and there. Work with him please. Give the office the respect it deserves, offer your time and assistance, stop slinging mud and keep your frustrations behind closed doors and away from the media. Insults and grandstanding are destructive and beneath us all.

    Mayor; You have a big old boat to turn. It is NOT going to happen overnight. You also have a bunch of councilors who of course each have their own different motivators, priorities, goals, and so on. Some of the more interruptive and combative ones will require more time, more discussion and more management, but all require leadership. The councilors say they are asking for more inclusion and want a part in turning this ship. Set the destination and let them get us there.

    Mayor & Council; Trust has been shaken. Patients has been stretched. Frustrations are high. It is a difficult thing to go back into a room together when you feel others have worked against you, but you must. Swallow some pride and forgo a wish now and then. Move past this. Move forward and maybe brush off that old “How to Actively Listen” handbook. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN IN ONE DAY… be patient, be motivated and appreciate some of the strengths each person brings to the table – you don’t need to have long hugs or send out Bday cards, but you do need to respect each other. Find those common grounds. They are there! A fine starting point would be to learn what type of corporate culture each of you want there? Create it. I dare you.

  3. “admin leads, council rubber-stamps” this is exactly how it is, when a matter of import is to take place we have closed door ‘whipped’ votes and for lesser important votes it’s open council. If we continue to neuter the position of Mayor and Council then how will we ever attract talented people to run for office, leaving us with the hot mess which we have today.

  4. Simon Wagstaff // March 24, 2023 at 8:28 AM // Reply

    The problem is “policy”. How it is crafted. Who crafts it. Why it is crafted and who, or what entities, benefit from it.

    I can assure you, with the benefit of decades of personal experience at the local, provincial, federal and international levels that policy is never crafted to benefit the people who wind up paying for it and are then subjected to it.

    Once policy is implemented into any hierarchical system, public or private, those who faithfully execute it are rewarded and promoted. Those who push back are relegated to the backwaters, slandered and ridiculed.

    It is a sad truth that in any organization the road to career success is paved with shattered wreckage of those who told their superiors they were wrong. Meanwhile those who go along to get along, follow policy edicts and custom and ignore the carnage the policies they promote and blindly adhere to are manifesting are lionized, rewarded and promoted through the ranks.

    Witnessing the ongoing gong show at city hall where our new mayor is attempting to fight the good fight. To try to push back at the relentless momentum of decades of failed policy and faulty assumptions, I hope and pray he hasn’t yet hung up his “golden gloves”.

  5. John Noakes // March 24, 2023 at 6:10 AM // Reply

    The impossible happened; a man with no political experience ran for Mayor and won a decisive victory. He gave hope for change and that’s exactly the message citizens wanted to hear.
    We have been seeing the backlash from several avenues from those who really don’t want change.
    Exiting from a TNRD meeting to hold a team temper tantrum was to be accepted by those who cared to watch and listen. Team direction can’t be ignored.
    A fellow who twice ran for Mayor and both times came in second place is even offering suggestions to the new Mayor.

    • Sheila Park // March 25, 2023 at 11:23 AM // Reply

      Interesting comments. No experience might mean you would come in and review past processes and work to build a team and takes steps to make the changes you may desire to make.
      The “bull in a china shop” approach has not worked so maybe try a different approach.
      And council needs to work together to help make changes and as in a democracy the majority will rule.
      We are not a dictatorship as some the mayor’s supporters appear to think we should be.
      And to your last cheap shot a the candidate who ran for mayor twice and lost offering advice. This person I believe did two terms on council so maybe he may have some ideas to offer that could be helpful. Or are you saying to all the citizens who run for office and lose that they should disappear and not be involved in their community.

    • Mac Gordon // March 25, 2023 at 1:56 PM // Reply

      John, it was far from a decisive victory, he won by 7pts with 32% of the vote which is likely the lowest % wise ever for a Kamloops Mayor, moreover the turn out was amongst the lowest ever at a pathetic 29% of eligible voters. A rather dreadful turnout and meagre victory. If just one of the 3 council candidates had removed themselves from the race, he likely would not have won, but they didn’t and he did, resulting a fair victory which we all need to respect, both supporters and non, including councillors.

      Your twice 2nd place finisher comment is rather misguided as it was the current mayor who invited others who were in the race to contact him to share their ideas. Additionally, this 2nd place finisher was runner-up in the two closest races in Kamloops history losing by 1 & 7 pts respectively. To put this in context, the closest election to this in the past several decades was a 35pt difference in 2005, a little respect is deserving of this candidate and his followers as he also served 8 yrs on council.

  6. Well written and thoughtful piece Bronwen. That administration runs the puppet show is a well known and long standing issue. One of those troubling family secrets no one dares to bring up. And taking about costly mistakes, a casual chat about this and that with some insiders paints a clear picture administration is mostly blindly scrambling to address the issues of the disenfranchised.
    Yes the mayor should learn some lessons in protocol but them administrators and councillors should learn most important lessons about honesty and courage.

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