BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Agenda on hold

Pomp and circumstance appears to trump the people’s business

Pomp and circumstance appears to trump the people’s business. Anyone attending today’s Regional District of North Okanagan board meeting will find the agenda lacking any critical issues. In fact, the entire session is dominated by the swearing in of directors, the election of a chairperson and ratifying the meeting schedule for 2015.

Now this is a dramatic departure from the December 2013 meeting where after a chairperson was selected, board members rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Among the items on that agenda were genetically modified organisms, gravel extraction and postponement of a decision on a referendum for a new Greater Vernon art gallery and museum.

In December 2012, a similar scenario also unfolded.

After the election of a chairperson, a variety of issues were tackled, including UBC transit, a Greater Vernon parks service, replacement of the Vernon Recreation Complex boiler and a referendum for a sports facility at the college.

You have to go back to Dec. 7, 2011 to find  an agenda that focused only on the election of the chairperson and no actual work.

Now some will suggest the December meetings for 2011 and 2014 are different than those in 2012 and 2013 because they come right after an election and directors have to be sworn into office. But consider that a chairperson is elected at the first meeting of December every year and municipalities can change their representation annually in December so swearing a politician into office can be a fairly common practise.

Now it’s possible that the decision to keep today’s board meeting purely ceremonial was partially influenced by the City of Vernon delaying its council appointments to RDNO and the regional district not knowing who to send agendas to.

Obviously there would be a concern that Vernon directors aren’t up to speed on critical issues if they don’t have the necessary background information in advance.

However, it wasn’t a leap to speculate on who the city would be sending to RDNO.

Akbal Mund may be new as mayor but he is the mayor so it’s a given he would go to the regional board. Immediately placing new councillors Dalvir Nahal and Scott Anderson would be cruel and unusual punishment as they become familiar with how local governments work, so it made sense to appoint veterans Juliette Cunningham, Catherine Lord and Brian Quiring (Bob Spiers has an aversion to RDNO).

Based on that, agendas could have been sent to Vernon city hall because while appointments weren’t announced until Monday, city officials would have known about their upcoming duties.

While it may not seem like a big deal that today’s RDNO meeting is completely ceremonial, consider that this is the only scheduled board meeting of the month because of the Christmas holiday.

That means any residents with zoning applications will have to wait until Jan. 7 at the earliest, as will any groups who want to make a presentation about issues of significance to them. A lack of a meeting also comes while Cherryville is upset over construction of a logging road and there is pressure for a new ice sheet in Vernon. There is plenty going on throughout the communities of the North Okanagan.

As a result, whatever business has been building up since the Nov. 19 meeting could lead to an extremely long agenda Jan. 7, testing the resilience of elected officials, staff and the public.

Everyone jokes about bureaucracy turning slowly, but there is a need to conduct the public’s affairs as quickly as possible.

Waiting until the new year may not fulfil that goal.