REPORTING · 26th February 2013
COUNCIL BICKERS, COUNCILLOR BLINDSIDED, IN THE END... DYSFUNCTION RETURNS
At Kitimat City Council, a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, February 12th, there were several City Council Members who were not present. Among them was Mayor Joanne Monaghan, who had been called away by an emergency, the other was Councillor Phil Germuth who was on vacation.
At the beginning of the meeting, Municipal CAO Ron Poole informed the City Councillors there had been a change to a motion to have a Public Town Hall Meeting which was asked for by Germuth at the prior Kitimat City Council Meeting.
Acting Mayor Rob Goffinet wanted clarification on the motion from the previous meeting, concerning an open town hall meeting on Peace Trailers Industries (PTI).
“It was my understanding, and Council can correct me, the addition or the amendment to the PTI application motion was that we have an open public town hall meeting. I took that, that Council was looking at PTI wanting to repeat a similar open house that they initially done prior to not having Strawberry Meadows as their preferred site. Now that they had identified it, I took it that Council wished they have that open house as a part of their public information process,” said Poole.
It was accepted by Council at the time, without motion or vote, that the subject had been clarified. However, on Monday, February 25th, this topic would lead to an argument within Council.
This time, it was Councillor Rob Goffinet and Councillor Corinne Scott who were absent. Mayor Joanne Monaghan was back in her Mayoral Seat and Councillor Phil Germuth was back from his vacation. CAO Ron Poole was also away from this meeting. Councillor’s Mary Murphy, Mario Feldhoff and Edwin Empinado had attended both meetings.
Germuth wanted to know what had become of his motion. “On February 4th, we had an amendment to a recommendation that we have a public town hall meeting regarding camps,” said Germuth.
He suggested combining the public meeting about camps with the public meeting about the escort service which is scheduled for March 8th. He suggested combining the two into a public meeting at the theatre where both are dealt with.
Feldhoff suggested they split the two meetings up. Municipal Deputy CAO Warren Waycheshen stated he could see a combined meeting running late and he did not want to turn both important topics for Kitimat into a war of attrition.
Community Planner, Gwendolyn Sewell had something to add. “You are aware that PTI has scheduled two additional meetings, two additional open houses, one is the 28th, at 7:00 [pm]. I believe the next one will follow two weeks later. Your own public process will cumulate with your own public hearing on the 15th of April. I’m not sure if Councillor Germuth has read enough minutes to understand that your position has actually been reversed at the last meeting, you decided that PTI open house would replace a town hall meeting held by Mayor and Council, perhaps you want to reconsider that,” said Sewell.
Germuth wanted to know what he missed. Sewell explained this was raised at the COW Meeting on the 12th that this would not be a Council led process. Council would be welcome to attend but they would not be able to sit in the room or run the meeting.
Feldhoff expressed confusion and wanted to know if it was in line with the motion put forward by Germuth. Monaghan told Council putting the two issues together in Council was not something that they wanted to do. She said she would not want to do it.
Germuth said he was ok if they did not want to do two different things; however, there was a problem. “The whole purpose was to having that amendment at the February 4th meeting is that we have a public town hall meeting. We don’t have to wait for any proponent, maybe there are other proponents looking too. We shouldn’t be relaying this just to one particular proponent, we should have a public town hall meeting as we’ve had three of them in the last ten years, set up in a way where we rent the theatre, we sit up there with administration and we put our plan out and we let the people tell us what they think we should be doing, to take their opinions, that’s the point of it. Too delay it while we wait for a bunch of other things so I don’t see the point of delaying...”
Councillor Edwin Empinado wanted to speak so Monaghan cut Germuth off to do so. He said he was at the February fourth meeting, they were trying to separate the proponent from talking about camp policies. He said the motion is out there.
Monaghan stated there was confusion as to what happened at the meeting. “Of course, our Councillor was not there because he was snorkeling and that’s great,” laughed Monaghan. Monaghan was also not at that meeting. She wanted to have that clarified but since this was happening at the end of the meeting, staff did not have the ability to gather the information.
Feldhoff was still confused. He stated there would have to be a public hearing as a part of the process. He suggested they have a town hall meeting on Council’s camp policy but do so after PTI had been given the opportunity of further open houses so the public could bring relevant information to the Town Hall Meeting.
He pointed out Council has to remain open and neutral during the Public Hearing Process and asked if staff could bring back a calendar with the dates and include the public town hall meeting. Monaghan wanted to know if there was a motion on the floor. She was told there was not.
“I’m not going to take any more discussion, I need a motion on the floor,” said Monaghan.
Feldhoff made a motion to have the staff bring back a calendar with the dates and stages for a town hall meeting. It took a few minutes for the motion to be seconded.
Feldhoff referred to all the meetings which have been going on around the PTI Process, which included Advisory Planning Commission Meetings, PTI Open Houses and the community has been contacting Council as well. The Council has had the opportunity to have an open house and they should deal with it, put it on the calendar and give PTI the opportunity to have further open houses.
Murphy stated she was confused as well. She thought there was a motion for a public meeting and a motion to develop a camp policy. She thought they would the appropriate committees to do that. Now she was hearing the motion was to meet with the public and talk to them about a camp policy.
“At the February 4th meeting, I had put forward a notice of motion to be taking place at the end of the meeting, that we have a public town hall meeting regarding camps. Not just PTI’s proposal or anybody’s proposal, on camps period. However, during the meeting, I thought it had come up in that motion and that amendment that we have a public town hall meeting. Everybody here keeps talking about PTI. It is strictly a camp policy no matter who it is. By mentioning PTI, we’re putting ourselves in a possible conflict where we’re going to be seen in a bias of them, and to wait until we have already something here, any proponent, before we get any public input, public input is what we should be getting before we develop a policy to get some ideas. We’re only 5 here tonight, 7 regular people. We’re no smarter than anybody else. I’d rather the community come out and give us some ideas first on where they might like to see this go before we come up with an actual policy and then go back and change it,” said Germuth.
Feldhoff stated they should do some more work before they go to the public and build upon the ideas which have been brought up.
“There are half-truths floating around town right now, when someone stuck things in the mail. They are very similar to some of the arguments you made previously. They’re half-truths. We should put it all in context with public meetings, and dates. We don’t know what the clear path is moving forward,” said Feldhoff.
“Every single one of us has had three months to deal with this, research and decide what do we want to do regarding any camp within city limits…” said Germuth.
“We never had a workshop where we worked on this…” interrupted Feldhoff.
Mayor Joanne Monaghan was trying to regain control of the meeting but it had degraded into a shouting match between Germuth and Feldhoff. She finally regained control by hammering her pencil against the table like a gavel.
She asked for the motion to be read. Feldhoff gave an inch and asked for motion to be changed from the PTI proposal to the camp policy. However, he insisted on having the meeting dates. Empinado stated the camp policy should be separated from any of the proponents. The motion was called and carried with Councillor Phil Germuth opposed.
The meeting came to an end within two minutes of the vote and the room broke out into another argument. At that time, we tried to inform Councillor Phil Germuth that we had video of the meeting with us so he could see what he missed. However Mayor Joanne Monaghan suggested we wait until the full Council was there.
After the meeting, Germuth told us: “A Public Town Hall Meeting is not where you have the proponent there, a public town hall meeting is for the public.”
The Circus Is Back
Comment by Rory Brown on 27th February 2013
For three months now our council has been making excuses for not dealing with the camp issue. Now there are a ton of different stories and no one knows what to believe.
“We never had a workshop where we worked on this…” interrupted Feldhoff.
Give me a break. How much time do you need to deal with this. This is your lamest excuse yet Mr. Feldhoff.
The "Town Meeting" should have taken place weeks ago, and now PTI is doing your job for you. Just like anything else, council sits on their hands long enough that Kitimat suffers. Council gave more of their attention to the size of the sign at Timmies.
PTI could be a good thing or a bad thing for the town. This decision needs to be made before its made for us and Kitimat is left in the dark yet again.
Comment by Campion on 26th February 2013
Certainly a great addition to downtown, will enhance the vista from the viewpoint.
Well not really, council give your heads a shake, this is a construction camp which belongs on a construction site.
I encourage everyone to check out the existing camp out at RioTinto.
These are low quality quickly built units that are basically "throw away" after the construction is complete.
The workers who stay in these spend little money wherever they are located, they have one small room so no space for anything.
They get three very good meals a day free so why go to a restaurant
When their tour is done they are on the next plane home. That's a fact we need to face.
Of course the promoter wants to turn it over "for the good of the community" when he is done.
Removing a bunch of ramshackle rundown Jack and Jill camp accommodation is expensive.
Council should be encouraging and providing incentives to renovate existing units like the Alexander townhouses.
Then there will be space for lonely workers to bring their families and loved ones.
How many have noticed all the new young families in town, most staying in available rental accommodation.
So Mario, grow some, use those accounting skills, put together an incentive package for the owners of those townhouses, reduced taxes maybe?
It has to be more attractive than the income tax write off they are getting now.
And the blight I drive by daily.
What a mess....
Comment by Larry Walker on 26th February 2013
Mayor and Council need to hold this type of discussion (less any motions) behind closed doors or in camera. They shud then, and only then, revert to a regular meeting and place their motions on the floor for final and civil debate with each member of council stating their personal position.
A vote on the item shud only take place at this point in time. Each member of council can and shud request their vote be recorded if they so desire. It's called democracy in action.
Comment by Walter McFarlane on 26th February 2013
Dysfunction is when something stops working properly. In this case, the dysfunction was caused when a motion was misinterpreted and a Councillor was blindsided by Administration, or, based on the way Administration worded it, the entire Council blindsided the Councillor instead, we may never know.
A part of the discussion was when the discussion went down the tubes and the meeting degraded into a shouting match. With the Mayor constantly giving up the floor the current speaker is standing on, annoyance and tempers were running hot. Once the meeting was over, the argument resumed.
Is dysfunction a fair analysis or are the community leaders afraid of what the public might tell them? What do you think?