Anyone who has gone bleary-eyed as meetings drag can appreciate the urge to keep agendas moving.
After all, very few meaningful decisions generally come after hours of back-and-forth, particularly when the focus becomes the clock or grumbling stomachs.
However, the Regional District of Central Okanagan may be navigating that fine line between streamlining the process and the perception that interaction with the public is unwanted.
Case in point, the North Westside Communities Association is upset that two requests to talk to the board about a power pole at Killiney Beach Park have been shot down.
“It says to me that they aren’t interested in what our residents want. They have no interest in our opinion,” said Michelle Carson, NWCA vice-president.
When confronted about the request denial by director Wayne Carson (Michelle Carson’s husband) Oct. 13, chairperson Gail Given cited policy.
“Board agendas should be filled with governance type items and not operational matters,” she said.
Given also added that the NWCA can provide information about the power pole to individual board members.
Once again, every attempt in the world should be made not to bog agendas down, but a blanket policy against operational matters is too rigid.
Following basic democratic principles, if a resident has concerns about day-to-day operations, in this case parks, and they aren’t satisfied with the response from staff, they should have the right to go before their elected officials and state their case.
It is interesting to note that Given suggests the North Westside association can provide power pole information directly to individual directors. But what’s the point of doing that if operational matters aren’t part of the board agenda? What are the directors supposed to do with those details?
Now Given describes the power pole issue as being operational, but a strong argument can be made that it’s evolved into a governance-type item to use her own words.
And the reason for that is the community association first opposed the placement of the power pole on the beach in 2014 — two years ago.
“We wrote a nice, polite letter asking them to relocate the pole to the original place. But the regional district stated it had all of the permits and the pole wouldn’t be removed,” said Michelle Carson.
Spinning wheels with the bureaucracy, the association filed Freedom of Information requests in an attempt to get a better sense of the behind-the-scenes actions regarding the placement of the pole. And on top of this, the power pole has sparked (pun intended) considerable frustration among rank-and-file residents and a growing interest in shifting from RDCO governance to possibly forming a municipality. The bottom line is there is little faith among some that the regional district is representing the public’s best interest.
So as RDCO’s reputation continues to take a beating, it would make sense for the board to ease up on its procedures and invite the communities association to the table. The pole may ultimately stay where it is, but communication and transparency will have occurred.
As stated before, endless meetings aren’t a good idea but directors can spare a few minutes for their constituents.