Friday, November 16, 2012
The Mayor vents council's frustrations with Port Authority and partners
A communication to the Prince Rupert Port Authority that offers a fascinating glimpse as to how some on council at least, view the relationship between the municipal government, the Port of Prince Rupert and its partners in port development.
The Northern View has obtained and published excerpts from a letter addressed to the Port of Prince Rupert by Mayor Jack Mussallem, the tone and content which seems to suggest a sense of the city feeling a bit marginalized by developments along the waterfront
We're not sure where the Mayor is going (or if he spoke for all of council) with what appears to be a rather strident outburst. Considering that the Port is about all that this community has left as an employment generator, this tactic seems to offer up more negatives than positives going forward.
Now it's understandable that council feels some frustration at being left on the sidelines to a degree when it comes to Port development decisions. However, near as one can tell, they really don't have many cards to play at this table.
The waterfront (or at least the industrial side of it) for the most part is the Federal Government's purview, the industrial use of the past, now once again returning to the area which historically once bustled with waterfront activity, so getting used to that concept again might be a helpful starting point for the Mayor and council.
What does make you wonder about the approach from council chambers however, is the rather strange way that they pick their spots to chase down the things that bother them the most.
One need only go back a few weeks to a recent City Council session, where two presentations provided a glimpse into how City Council approaches major employers and issues in the community.
We take you back to the October 22nd council session, a presentation from the Port regarding the Pinnacle Pellet plant, the latest flash point of concern (at least until the letter revealed today) for the city and its relationship with the Port.
That session provided for many pointed questions of the Port by council members, some at times bordering on angry outbursts of frustration, at times bordering on bellicosity. A session where a few of the City's elected representatives were a little more engaged on the topic than others.
Compare that rather heated and lengthy review, to the presentation that immediately followed at the same council session, the update from the City owned CityWest. A corporate review which had all of the angry feedback of the mid day story-time at your local daycare centre.
Jack Payne, the Chairman of the city owned company, provided that overview, surrounded by a number of other executive members of the local Internet, cablevision and phone provider.
Now keeping in mind that CityWest is funded by the City, when it came time for questions and despite the fact that CityWest is always a popular topic of discussion around the community, the councillors had few inquiries of substance for the panel.
No questions about the current financials of the company.
No inquiry about the status of the dividend return to the City, that once was a regular feature at these sessions.
No questions about the cost and progress of the company's eastward expansion.
No apparent interest from council on the cost of what appears to now be a cel phone service that has provided for many limitations and one that the company is apparently seeking a partner for.
It is puzzling, that council chose not to ask any tough questions of their own investment in a public forum. A gesture that might have helped with that quest for transparency that we always hear so much about from council.
Considering that the taxpayers are in effect the company's financial bridge, those are questions that might have been helpful of our agents at council to ask on our behalf.
Instead, the CityWest review was a short lived affair, along the lines of nothing to see here, nothing to see. Council offering up a most gentle reception to the CityWest collective.
Contrast that session to the hour previous. Council members, lined up as they were, asking tough questions, expressing their collective frustration with the region's largest employer (and at the moment only growth industry). An economic engine in the community, that council seems to be having problems coming to terms with.
It is to make you shake your head at their priorities and whether council should really focus more attention on those items which they can actually control.
The Mayor recently made much of his list of commercial economic achievement in the community, a meat market, controversial smoke shop, Dollarama and such, all we imagine helpful to the small business community, but really, as for the larger picture of economic development they are bit players.
In fact, that small business spurt was heralded as one of the positive spin off developments from the the increased presence of port based employment in the community.
A most ironic point that one is, especially in the prism of the Mayor's thoughts as published by the Northern View today.
Whether the Mayor and Council like it or not, the only apparent path of financial salvation for this struggling community is going to come through port development and the impact that its partners bring to the community.
The city may be frustrated at the nature of that port development, but surely the approach as per the details from the Northern View's excerpts and the recent tone of the talking points from council sessions, isn't going to be exactly helpful to the consultative process.
***Note*** The Video archive of the October 22nd session from which the two presentations noted above are referenced has not yet been added to the City website. The audio archive however is in place for October 22nd, where the presentations can be accessed.
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