Pathetic history was made last week when acting mayor, Kerry Reay hit a new low and denied a citizen, me, the right to speak to Council. There’s no record in the Municipality’s past 16 years when a local resident is denied delegation. And there’s no memory of this, under the previous Sooke Electoral Area.
What’s the reason for stopping me? My topics were hardly outrageous: Optics on DOS 2015-16: strategic plans, governance, budgets – ho hum stuff for most readers. Were there administrative reasons? But no, I submitted my form early and there was space on the agenda.
In case I had some evil plot up my sleeve to embarrass Council, acting mayor, Kerry Reay had the CAO interrogate me on exactly what I would say – well I said, my questions on the strategic plan related to “What’s next for Sooke’s core infrastructure” and for the budget, “Where are we in the 2016 process.” Incredulously, the CAO’s response was “insufficient” and down came the heavy hand of bylaw 422.23.4.
We should all be concerned when our elected Council, who works at our behest, denies free speech. Remember, we just turfed a federal government in part for such strong-arm tactics.
So what’s going on when we can’t speak to Council? A psychologist might venture these are tactics of the fearful or the insecure.
It didn’t seem this way in 2015 and I wonder how Council has changed.
In 2015, we saw forward momentum into the 21st century of a working Council with elected mayor, Maja Tait: improved core infrastructure; with productive, open public meetings; and strategic planning with a budget to protect the taxpayer.
It’s 2016, and Council doesn’t look so healthy. The public is raising alarm bells. Are we drifting back to old habits of who-you-know, meetings by invitation and favours? There’s a sense of disapproval if the public asks about staffing and hiring practices. And incredulousness, if you ask about council’s upcoming work plans or budgets.
Clearly the difference is the absence of our elected mayor, Maja Tait, who is on maternity leave. The 2015 strengths were under her leadership. The weakness we see in early 2016 indicates Council is in the midst of upheaval. There’s a lot at stake…this municipality is young, small and without a strong tax base. There are no budget lines or dollars for petty politics. It’s all too obvious, Councillors miss our elected mayor, Maja Tait and are in need of her brand of leadership.
Until our elected mayor returns, Council needs to focus on the next steps of strategic planning, keep our corporate systems effective and stay within budget. And it should include working with the public and being open to citizens input.
Diane Bernard, Sooke