BEYOND THE HEADLINES: A missed opportunity

Being handed your walking papers is bad enough, but remaining on the job for a couple of weeks is extremely challenging.

Being handed your walking papers is bad enough, but remaining on the job for a couple of weeks is extremely challenging.

You may be considered a lame duck and nothing you do may have any real significance. What enthusiasm is there to go through the motions after you’ve discovered you’re not wanted?

That’s the unenviable position facing those politicians who lost their seats in Saturday’s civic elections. Voters have given them the kiss off but they are still officially mayor or councillor until Dec. 5 when the new group is sworn into office.

They are still on the payroll and responsible to constituents. Morale must be non-existent but that’s the nature of the business.

In Enderby, Dee Wejr presided over her last council meeting Monday although she was trounced in the polls by Howie Cyr.

“I’m still the mayor. I don’t just walk away because I lost the election,” said Wejr when asked why she attended the session.

One of Wejr’s last acts was to vote on a contract for storm sewer upgrades.

“When the new council is sworn in, my duties end,” she said.

Spallumcheen council also met Monday despite a looming transition.

A different situation, though, is unfolding in Vernon.

The media was notified Monday that the regularly scheduled meeting for Nov. 28 has been cancelled.

“There wasn’t much on the agenda and most things would be deferred to the next council and there would be no decisions made,” said Wayne Lippert, Vernon’s outgoing mayor.

One can understand the reluctance of Lippert and the other non-returning council members to not tie the hands of those who will soon be filling their chairs. It’s also hard not to take an election loss personally. After all, it’s human nature to be wanted.

But this scenario isn’t unusual and this is the first time I can remember a council meeting being cancelled for this specific reason.

Even if no major decisions are made, maintaining the meeting schedule could have allowed for some closure for those defeated council members as well as the community.

It would have been a chance for Lippert, Jack Gilroy and Shawn Lee to reflect on their time at city hall, particularly because all have indicated that positive choices were made on behalf of citizens over the course of their terms.

Left sitting in limbo is Buffy Baumbrough, who decided to retire from politics after six years. By not having a meeting Nov. 28, she will not have a chance to touch on her accomplishments. There is also the reality that bonds have been developed with city staff and others in the community and those relationships won’t be given a chance to conclude in an open, proper manner.

If anything, the final council meeting before a new administration takes over is an opportunity for those who are departing to be recognized for their dedication to the community.  Even if you didn’t like what they did, they deserve respect for stepping up to the plate when so many are willing to just be armchair critics.

Focusing on mistakes and perceived inadequacies is an easy trap to fall into, but good things did occur over Lippert’s time as mayor. Crime and homelessness downtown were addressed. The atmosphere at city hall was stabilized after years of controversy and internal conflict, and unprecedented levels of consultation went into the official community plan and the development of annual budgets.

But all of that could be overshadowed by the perceptions created by cancelling a meeting.

And unfortunately, it could reinforce the need for change so clearly articulated by voters Saturday.

—Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star




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