If you listen to Mayor Wayne Lippert, Vernon is the municipal equivalent to Luke Skywalker while Coldstream and the electoral areas get the heavy-breathing role of Darth Vader.
In response to Coldstream announcing it doesn’t support splitting up the water utility, Lippert told Kiss FM, “It just shows they can’t hold to an agreement, so if you can’t hold to an agreement with someone, what kind of partnership can you expect to have?”
Now if my memory holds up, Coldstream has always been fairly consistent that Vernon’s urge to leave water distribution is a mistake and will negatively impact all customers who have invested in the multi-million-dollar system. Coldstream was more likely driven towards letting Vernon withdraw as a way of ending the debate than thinking it’s a good idea.
Lippert’s criticism came at the same time that Vernon council declared opposition to any changes to the parks and recreation function — something Coldstream has wanted.
“The service serves all of the citizens and it’s been working fine,” said Lippert.
While Lippert slams Coldstream for flip-flopping over water, the city’s position on parks has more cracks than 27th Street.
Motions have been passed saying council favours the status quo, but at other times, officials have indicated no concern with some parks being removed from the service and being maintained by individual jurisdictions.
In February 2010, Lippert told The Morning Star that he supported reviewing the scope of the parks function which was formed in 1978.
“The public’s demands have changed and new people have come in. We need to change the service for the better for the needs of our citizens,” he said.
Coldstream’s push for more control over what it considers to be local parks is no different than Vernon insisting it can do better if it’s not part of regional water distribution.
If a go-it alone approach is suitable for Vernon, why is it so against one of its neighbours taking a similar direction?
Ultimately, all residents of Greater Vernon, will be harmed by jurisdictions dropping out of water or parks. Sharing capital and operational costs makes sense instead of placing a significant burden on taxpayers in any one area. In some cases, facilities aren’t owned by either municipality but collectively by the Regional District of North Okanagan.
It should also be pointed out that all residents use the parks and recreation facilities, while water from Duteau Creek and Kalamalka Lake flows into homes in all jurisdictions.
Lippert has suggested that people are increasingly frustrated with the conflicts at RDNO and the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee. And while that may be true, Vernon can’t separate itself from both agencies. It has a seat at the table and covers a large chunk of the budget. Vernon is RDNO and GVAC.
Speaking of conflict, Lippert was the subject of a blistering attack last week.
“I don’t believe anyone can get along with Wayne Lippert,” Coldstream Mayor Jim Garlick said in response to Lippert’s radio comments.
“Wayne Lippert has a way of turning everything into a fight.”
It’s not unusual for elected politicians to joust back and forth, but the personal tone of Garlick’s rant was unprecedented.
Obviously Garlick has issues with Vernon, but the city is equally frustrated by what it sees as Coldstream’s inflexible stance over parks.
Garlick claims that getting along with Lippert is difficult but it’s unlikely Garlick’s actions will help discussions flow any easier. Speaking his mind may have felt good, but will it help his residents?
Ultimately, both Garlick and Lippert have expressed concerns about the long-term impact of the ongoing dispute. But if they truly want to do what’s best for their constituents, they’ll check the rhetoric at the door and get down to business.
Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star