Wednesday, May 1, 2013

City Council hears concerns from public over CityWest

The public forum session for Monday's City council session was dominated for the most part, with a review of the latest news from the City owned communications company CityWest.

Two residents of the city took to the microphone on Monday to ask questions and raise concerns over the recent developments, which saw CityWest advise that there would be no dividend payments to the city this year.

The first citizen participant in the discussion, a regular contributor to council sessions, asked a number of questions on the nature of the City's involvement with CityWest. Asking for some clarification on his items of concern and receiving a lengthy reply from the City's CFO Dan Rodin, but not before Mr. Rodin first offered up the thought that he was concerned over the tone of the question and the words used in it.

Though, in answer to the question, he did advise that it was his belief that the City is currently onside with the  Community Charter, as well as the rights of a sole shareholder of CityWest and any governance model that could be checked in regard to CityWest.

There was a follow up question on the theme of how CityWest discloses information and the nature of its various components across Northwestern  British Columbia.

That theme of information delivery to the public would prove to be the main focus of the discussion on CityWest and at one point a contribution which clearly got under the skin of Mayor Jack Mussallem, who was participating from afar over the telephone. (Though one hopes that the nature of the audio troubles and quality of the sound on Monday, were more of a case of the City Hall audio system, rather than any CityWest connections to the outside world).

One particular request for more background on financial matters and the nature of the fiscal information delivered to the City from CityWest, something which was once made available to the public  (but no longer apparently is), clearly caught the attention of the Mayor.

The Mayor, like Mr. Rodin it seems, was particularly concerned over the wording of the question, taking offence to the phrasing of this question of concern.

He at one point in the midst of the questioning and in a rather agitated voice (or, maybe it was just that pesky phone connection) suggested to the Chair of the night's session, Councillor Anna Ashley, that if the questioner could not compose a proper question, then the microphone should be taken away from

Councillor Ashley, mindful of the Mayors instructions, chose to ask the citizen at the microphone to be careful with his wording on his topics, hesitating to remove the microphone from a taxpayer asking questions of the elected council.

The line of questioning moved on from there to matters away from CityWest, but the communications company would soon return as the main topic for public discussion.

That first presentation was followed up by another citizen, who expressed her thoughts on the question of CityWest, offering up the impression that in her opinion, CityWest had not been particularly transparent on the financial issues in its recent presentation to Council.

She then asked a number of questions regarding the communications company, which by the end of her presentation had elicited a bit of news that had gone un-reported over the last few weeks, that of the fact that at the moment, the City has no active representation on the CityWest Board.

In fact, it would seem, that since former City Manager Gord Howie left the City's employ in January, Council has neglected (or chosen not) to appoint a city representative to the Board of Directors.

A situation that surely doesn't provide for much in the way of overview from the last four months, it was an observation to which Council really didn't offer up much of an answer to the taxpayer at the microphone. Though the revelation perhaps helps to explain why developments from CityWest have proven to be such a surprise to members of Council heading into May.

As she wrapped up her thoughts to Council, the inquiring citizen also touched on the nature of respect towards the public from Council.

Reviewing the nature of the discussion from the Mayor and Council towards the previous presentation, the suggestion was made that perhaps that is why so few people take the time to attend Council gatherings to offer their thoughts to Council on such topics.

It made for a most interesting review from the public (all be it a rather small sample of), towards the City's handling of the CityWest surprise of a few weeks ago. Possibly just a sample of the public's viewing of the current discussion around the community, over the City's relationship with its investment.

With council now considering tax increases, as well as other financial options and having on Monday put in place across the board cuts to city departments, that missing dividend of a week ago now looms even larger into the budget discussion.

All of Monday's public discussion could set the table nicely for next week's public forum, tentatively planned for Wednesday, May 8th at 7 PM at the Jim Ciccone Auditorium .

A session,  where Council will review the financial options from city staff and accept comments one more time from the public.

Considering the impressions gained from Monday, it could make for a rather  interesting pulbic gathering.  Hopefully the atmosphere at the Civic Centre on Wednesday, will provide for a respectful opportunity for the airing of concerns from the public.

You can review the public comment session on CityWest from the City Council video archive, it takes place from the two minute to twenty two minute mark of the session.

You can find a full review on all our items on CityWest in our Communications archives.

On Wednesday, The Northern View featured an item in its e edition outlining the Mayors optimism for the future of CityWest you can review it here (pages 1 and 2)

No comments:

Post a Comment