REPORTING · 13th November 2011
Three consultants, three experts in the fields of Municipal Politics and three reports on our City Council’s dysfunction. They were released on Thursday, November 10th, 9 days before the municipal election.
Each report is short. The first is from May 2nd, 2009 and was created by Don Maunders. The second was a strategic planning workshop put on by R. A. Beauchamp and Associates, which was done on May 15th, 2010, and the third was the George Cuff report from August, 2010.
The first of these reports are notes taken during the visit of Council’s first consultant. A lot of this concerns the differing opinions on the Rio Tinto Alcan Power Sales issue which took place over the years. Council had not been together 5 months before they took their issues to a consultant.
The first thing which stands out in this report is the new Council members did not have much faith in each other. Trust was at an all time low, rated 1.7 out of 5 on average by the Councillors themselves.
A few points stand out. Council was still working, despite the issues. They admitted they were having healthy debates before making their decisions. They were also respectful in many of the discussions, just not all of them.
Council was asked to define what makes a good team and what makes a bad team. Three of the bullet points include focusing on the individual rather than the team, internal politics and too much discipline, and not enough rules and conduct.
One of the problems listed is there are too many voices trying to be heard at once and sometimes the Councillors felt shut down by it. Hidden agendas were considered another problem because they were making it difficult for Council members to trust one another. They also stated there was solid goal for the whole Council to be working towards.
What came of this report? Council discussed giving up the past and working to the future without reliving past grievances. They agreed to meet and discuss the Power Sales issue in a way where everyone could speak freely and try to understand where others were coming from. They also agreed to learn the rules and regulations of the City Council.
The second report by R. A Beauchamp and Associates looks at Council’s priority list as well as their behaviour. It provides a list of non confidential projects and priorities and provides a timeline for each.
The list includes projects such as Council’s Industrial Taxation Motion which was presented at UBCM in 2010, The Eurocan Viability Study and Economic Development. It also lists priorities including rebuilding relationships with the Provincial Government, the Haisla and Rio Tinto Alcan.
Council were also provided a list of suggestions to improve how they work together. These suggestions include having a code of conduct for Council and a reminder for the Mayor to speak for Council.
The recommended Code of Conduct revolves around making Council aware of the motions which are being made rather than blindsiding the Councillors with a motion they were not anticipating.
The second point is for the Mayor. When speaking as the Mayor to the public or the media she is supporting Council’s decision and not her own opinion. Doing this maintains Council’s credibility as decision makers. The report also suggests the Mayor should run correspondence by Council to ensure it reflects their wishes before it is sent out.
The final part of the report is a checklist to follow-up every meeting to help Council to evaluate itself. The checklist is designed to be done in Camera.
What came of this report? It is hard to say whether or not the priorities were completed as some were handled in camera. Others, such as the motion to the UBCM were completed and Council moved on. As for the Self Evaluation, since it is done in camera, it is impossible to know what became of it.
It is hard to say if the Code of Conduct point was completed, as Council Meetings often break the rules of engagement they establish. As for the question of the Mayor misrepresenting Council to the public, this would be the issue which sparked the third and final report.
The George Cuff report is the wildcard in this election as it paints both Councillor Randy Halyk and Mayor Joanne Monaghan, two of the candidates running for mayor, in a sickly colour. While Halyk is not named in the report, his actions are clearly visible.
“Tackling the Mayor in a disrespectful manner is never healthy; it sends absolutely the wrong message to the public and to your administration; it is called “tone at the top” and what you say and do as Council towards each other sets the bar for the performance of others,” wrote Cuff. “Do not comment to the media in a way that is disrespectful to the Mayor. […] Allow her to make the odd mistake, discuss such matters in camera at the close of a Council meeting, not in the middle of the meeting. […] If you want to run against the Mayor in the next election, cool your jets until a minimum of 6 months before the election and get on with the job you were elected for.”
Monaghan received her own section.
“Be respectful of your Council colleagues; they are trying to serve their citizens the best way they know how. While you may not agree with their view, be respectful enough to accept the fact that they have their own point of view,” wrote Cuff. “Accept the fact that Councillors do not like you blurting out your opinion publicly when Council has not endorsed your opinion as theirs. On significant matters, state the known views of Council as whole. Express clearly that the view you espouse is that of Council. Accept reasonable limitations on your ability to speak out loud as though your thoughts had been endorsed by all of Council.”
“Recognize that your role is to be ‘one of’ not ‘above.’ You are a member of Council with all the obligations of a member. You are also the Mayor and thus possess the duties and expectations of that honourable position,” wrote Cuff. “Work at being respectful to your colleagues; you are experienced enough to know that being otherwise is a fool’s game.”
He advises her to have administration prepare a position paper and key messages, and not break away from them. Cuff also suggests the Mayor keep confidential information from the Council, but only for 24 hours or few days. She should reveal it to Council when they begin a debate concerning the item.
He encourages all of Council to not share confidential information with the world. He also encourages Council to understand that not everyone will be in agreement on every issue and stay clear of personal attacks. If a speaker is not consistent with the rest of Council, let them finish as opposition “is not a fatal disease.” Finally he suggests the Mayor share her calendar with Council and bring the CAO or Deputy Mayor when she meets on key issues.
What became of this report? Obviously nothing. There is still infighting, the Mayor’s actions continue to be taken to task in public, and not in camera as these reports have suggested. The motion which opened these reports to the public had one such debate.
As for the Mayor, she still appears to be above the Council, forming her own committees and heading off to special meetings, which, according to Council, they are not being told about. She has also been accused of keeping information from Council, even though she has been told not to. Her re-election campaign focuses on the things which she has done as an individual and not as the leader of a team.
The message which Council appears to be endorsing at the beginning of each meeting and on the news is that Kitimat is booming, even though this is not entirely the case and many of the jobs are scheduled to start cropping up next year. Have there been any decisions by Council to endorse this view? Were there any decisions by Council to endorse the wolverine? If there were, they are certainly not public.
However, the document does not end there. There is a page of advice for Council. Respect Administration, respect the Municipal Manager and respect each other. Do not expect staff to provide information only to you. Public property belongs to the public and not to the Councillors. Citizens have the right to appear before Council but must let the municipal office know in advance by way of letters.
What can be taken from all these reports? The top issue in these reports is respect which has been lacking on both sides of the issue. The only members of Council who appear to have taken these reports to heart and avoided the conflict are Councillor Rob Goffinet, Councillor Corrine Scott and Councillor Bob Corless who do not get involved in these personal issues save to try and break them up.
Councillors and the Mayor are still participating in personal attacks on one another during their debates. They interrupt each other, call each other down and try to pass the buck onto someone else, other councillors or administration.
The person who had the reports released has not taken the no public disagreements on personality to heart. Then again, after 30 years, why is the experienced politician failing the most basic principal, respect.
Comment by Brenda Mitchell on 14th November 2011
I also hold public officials to a high ideal and although not perfect Mayor Monaghan has not disappointed me.On the other hand Councillor Halyk has left me speechless on many occasions. Obviously our politics differ a great deal which is okay-some people in our community need to agree to disagree and do it with respect. I have seen and heard Councillor Halyk be extremely disrespectful and I could never vote for someone like that. You have your candidates of choice and I have mine and hopefully with only days left until the election the mudslinging will stop and everyone will be treated with the respect they deserve.
Comment by Thomas Campbell on 14th November 2011
“Dysfunction” has become a sacred word among some people who utter the word and think this grants them a free ride to the moral high ground and neatly bypass the need to defend their or others actions or ideas. I personally hold ALL politicians to a high ideal; and for a politician with 33 years experience (like the Mayor) the standard I have is EXTREMELY HIGH. While I expect people in their first few years to make errors in judgement, and mistakes. As long as I see them growing and learning they still have my support, as well as my criticism.
But let me ask you something; If there is no change in who is elected Mayor or Council, do any of you honestly think that anything will change for the better? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.
Worse than mudslinging
Comment by Danny Nunes on 13th November 2011
You know whats worse than mudslinging during council meetings?
People from the gallery who make snide remarks and make noise and mutter during sessions of council loud enough to disrupt it.
Believe me, if I am elected I will bring a motion to have that stop.
If you want to talk about childish behavior at meetings that is one that is disruptive and has no place. You are there to observe only and not be disruptive...some of you are lucky a camera wasnt pointed in your face as you are told live on camera to shut up.
Keep it up and I will not only point you out at a council meeting....I will come before council and ask you be reprimanded and if you fail to comply after that...escorted out of the building.
Comment by Brenda Mitchell on 13th November 2011
The only loose cannons would be Randy Halyk and Gerd Gottschling.The disrespect they have shown at Council meetings is at best shameful.We will all read this report and draw our own conclusions but to say the blame lies with Mayor Managhan is certainly not what I got out of the report.Everyone has made mistakes and its seems like the only two who havent learned anything is Councillors Halyk and Gottschling.The majority of the mudslinging has come from their mouths.I am tired of all the negativity as are many others.
two thumbs up!
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 13th November 2011
Excellent article by the way Walter!
Comment by Gerry Hummel on 13th November 2011
This proves the disfunction starts at the top and falls right into the lap of the mayor! Obviously from the report she is behaving like a loose canon and other members of the council have just reacted to her lack of RESPECT!