Thursday, January 28, 2016

Library cuts the main focus for public comment portion of Monday's Council session.

Recent cuts to the Prince Rupert Library
budget made for a very hot topic during
public comments at Monday's
Prince Rupert Council Session
Mayor Lee Brain may have declared that Democracy has made a Decision when it comes the issue of reducing funding to the Library, but if the one hour Committee of the Whole Public comment session from Monday is an indication, not everyone in the community is all that impressed with Democracy at the moment.

Over the course of the majority of the sixty minutes that was used towards public comment on the night, a significant amount of the discussion involved members of the public that were very upset with the City's decision to take 66,000 dollars from the Library budget and re-allocate it to the Lester Centre and Museum of Northern British Columbia.

Five residents took the microphone to express that disappointment and pose a number of questions for council to consider related to their decision of January 11th.

Through the opening hour of the night, Council members heard a number of testimonials to the services provided by the Library and worries about what could happen to the institution with less money to work with.

Mayor Brain took some time out of the public comment period to explain the range of information that Council had reviewed in early January and what factors that they had considered to reach their decision.

One participant on the evening put a focus on the city's relationship with the Museum of Northern British Columbia and suggested that the City does not have enough oversight when it comes to the city's funding to that Society.

Adding that she believes that the current $126,000 funding level budgeted for the Museum should be halved  and that $63,000 dollars of that money be returned to the Library, recommending that the City hold back in trust on funding for the Museum until it amends its current policies on public disclosure and that the money be released when the City can have an appointment to the Board of Directors of the Museum.

Councillor Cunningham offered up a rebuttal to some of those points related to the work of the Museum in the community, making note of where he believes the presentation may have been incorrect.

Also of some interest from the one hour were observations related to the building that the Museum of Northern British Columbia is located in and whether the city still has ownership involvement with it, leaving for a bit of confusion among Council members  who asked for the Corporate Administrator to seek out clarification on the status.

To go along with the vignettes of just what the library means to the community, came concerns over how the Library funding reduction decision was made, as well as questions and suggestions on how the issue should have been approached.  

Councillor Thorkelson outlined her
disappointment and frustration at the
Council's decision to reduce funding
for the Prince Rupert Library
Included among those that expressed disappointment in Council's decision of two weeks ago was Councillor Joy Thorkelson, who took advantage of the moment to issue her first public comments related to that decision.

Observing that while the Mayor may feel that he speaks for Council, she believes that he speaks only for the majority of people who voted in favour of the funding reduction.

Calling the decision  made earlier this month an error and a self imposed cap, something which she notes has forced the city to take money from Peter, to pay Paul.

She also reminded Council members that the City has added lots of money to the City's budget in the past year, with many items added to the City's burden, noting that she was in disagreement with how that was handled.

Ms. Thorkelson observed that the funding cut was done in an exceedingly poor manner,  and by trying to take 66,000 dollars from the budget of the library in one fell swoop, it will put the library into the kind of financial pit that it was in just after the mill closed.

Reinforcing for good measure how the Mayor did not speak for her, she returned to her theme that the funding decision was poor one and that it was absolute idiocy to put in a cap that could not be lived in.

Her thoughts resulted in a sharp exchange with Councillor Niesh, who offered up a short comment noting Councillor Thorkelson's absence from that meeting and how she could have spoken to the issue at that time.

A response that brought a flash of anger from Ms. Thorkelson, who reminded Mr. Niesh of her commitments in the fishing industry, which required her to be out of town and unavailable for participation in that council session.

Another discussion point that proved a little contentious involved the presentation to Council from one resident that focused on how the City spends money, and issues related to the Legacy Fund and the city's process of information related to its spending.

A tone and line of questioning that had the Mayor fully engaged to defend the city's efforts over the last year and something which even drew the City Manager into the discussion to share some observations on how the City conducts its business.

For those around the city hoping for a sliver lining for the Library the Mayor brought the one  hour open comment period to an end by pointing out for the public that Council was only starting to enter it's budget process and should they discover an additional 66,000 dollars from the budget they would immediately allocate it towards the Library.

More detailed background related to the Public Comment period can be found on our Council Timeline Feature.

You can review the full public comment period from the City's Video Archive, the call for comment comes about one minute into the evening and continues on until just past the one hour mark.

For more items related to City Council developments see our Council Discussion archive page here

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