At the March 21 special meeting of Kamloops council, councillors were incensed that Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson invoked Section 141 of the Community Charter to establish standing committees and appoint members of the public to them.
Coun. Dale 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 not be an issue since standing committee meetings are public, as they should be.
As for improper release of information, 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. Mike O’Reilly — who addressed the mayor respectfully and even pushed back a bit on Bass’s motion to pause the standing committees and create a select committee to review how standing committees are run — 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, while 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 Victoria St. W. 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 administration 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 trouble 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 the March 21 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 is no time limit included in Bass’s motion for a moratorium on the mayor’s committees while a council-picked select committee hammers out terms of reference.
Too bad that, while enshrining the sole right of a mayor to create and populate standing committees, the Community 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 the code adopted last summer is in violation of the Community Charter, which states that a council must not fiddle with a code of conduct in an election year.
I know 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. That is what has led to the incremental build-up of a largely disenfranchised population on Victoria Street West, 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, it appears that councillors 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.