BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Musical chairs

There’s been a bit of a dust-up over Regional District of North Okanagan committees

There’s been a bit of a dust-up over Regional District of North Okanagan committees.

After reading the terms of reference that establish advisory committees, it was determined the rules weren’t being followed about who sits on the committees and votes.

Specifically, only municipal representatives appointed to the RDNO board as director or alternate director can sit on an advisory committee, although other municipal councillors have been at the table for years.

As a result, Coldstream scrapped Coun. Gyula Kiss’s ability to be a regular at the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee while Lumby stripped Coun. Lori Mindnich of her alternate director status at the RDNO board so Coun. Randal Ostafichuk can stay at White Valley parks and rec.

Mindnich was gracious about the shift, but Kiss was less than thrilled.

“I have a real problem with this if we can only get two individuals,” said Kiss of Coldstream’s participation at GVAC and RDNO.

“It’s not a good representation. This is not exactly a good outcome for the District of Coldstream.”

Now the regional district will review its terms of reference for standing committees later this year and hopefully it will consider the current situation.

Specifically, by limiting committees to the two municipal members appointed to the RDNO board as director or alternate director, it is restricting the number of people involved in the process. What chances are there of new ideas coming forward if it’s the same voices around the table all of the time? Different opinons are particularly welcome when complex issues, such as Greater Vernon’s multi-million-dollar water utility, are on the agenda.

And even if a GVAC director doesn’t sit at the RDNO board, it doesn’t overrule the regional board’s ultimate ability to make the final decision. It just means others were involved in the discussion process.

Placing power in a limited number of hands is not a good thing for democracy.

However, there is an unfortunate side note to all of this.

No sooner was Kiss officially removed from his regular seat at GVAC, and some in the community began to speculate that it had nothing to do with the regional district following its terms of reference.

Instead, they suggested that this was an attempt to muzzle Kiss, who has been a diligent critic of the Greater Vernon water utility, partricularly when it comes to the master water plan and rates.

Obviously there’s no question that Kiss has got under the skin of regional district staff and has created frustration for some of his political counterparts. But to claim that RDNO is being vindictive is over the top.

The reality is that Kiss hasn’t gone anywhere.

He can still raise questions about water at Coldstream council meetings, which he did at length Monday, and on his blog. And he can sit at GVAC meetings if one of Coldstream’s two designated representatives is unable to attend, something he did Jan. 20.

In the end, RDNO must open up its proceedings to more elected officials to ensure transparency, but throwing a cloak-and-dagger plot into the mix isn’t necessary.