Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Advocate for Clean Water in Prince Rupert disappointed by elements of Monday's council session

The numbers weren't large at Monday's City Council session when it came to concerned citizens seeking some more details on the current Boil Water Notice for the community.

But for one member of the public gallery who was in attendance for the twenty nine minute session from Council, the night's events have left him somewhat disappointed at both the information offered and the tone from some of the Council members towards those that have been voicing their opinions on the situation.

Tom Kertes, who has been organizing some community engagement on the issue through his group Community for Clean Water, has offered a glimpse into how he found Monday's session, posting a review of the proceedings to the website he has developed to share the latest notes on the water situation.

He notes with some disappointment that the City Council did not accept any public comments at Monday's session, with Councillor Niesh, serving as the Acting Mayor announcing that council would stick to its protocol on council sessions that only allow for public comments at the end of the month meetings.

Mr. Niesh did invite those in attendance on Monday to return in two weeks, after first contacting the Corporate Administrators office to ensure that they have indicated their plans to participate.

Councillor Wade Neish served as Acting Mayor for City Council's
Monday night session, delivering the city's response to the public
on themes related to the Boil Water Notice.

Mr. Kerte's  notes from the session provide some thoughts on the substance of the meeting, including a look at the Frequently Asked Questions notes that the City provided for in the follow up to the Monday meeting.

The Community for Clean Water founder also identifies those areas where he wishes that the City Council members had provided for more information.

Including whether they had a contingency plan in place before the current Boil Order was issued, whether they are putting too much focus on the hydro generation plans for the Woodworth dam and if that has been a priority over its service as a function of the city's water supply.

He also outlines his thoughts as to whether the City has any plans in place should they not receive the funding for the Third phase of the project, which are the plans for development of a water treatment facility.

Mr. Kerte's also flagged concerns over Council's transparency on the issue, as well as to share some of his perceptions as to the tone taken by some of the Council members during Monday evening's session.

I left the meeting a bit confused and dazed, wondering if this what the City Council is always like. I understand that this Council has decided to only have public comments once a month and this was not the meeting for those comments. I wished that they had changed format, or just held a community forum on the issue (instead of a formal City Council meeting). But they didn’t and that’s something I can just disagree with for now. But I can’t the rudeness I witnessed by city officials – directed at concerned citizens who were in the midst of a 5+ week boil water advisory. 

I felt like several of the counsellors where indifferent to civic engagement. We deserve better. Comments about “trolls” and “newcomers” are unnecessary – especially when this is the first and only public forum on an issue as important as access to clean water for 12,000 people. Hopefully the City’s tone will shift, with more emphasis on welcoming civic engagement and less on characterizing criticism of government policy as a problem.

The Community for Clean Water overview can be explored in full here.

Since Monday's council session the group's organizer has made a return visit to the Daybreak North Studios to recount his thoughts, a session which has also been picked up province wide by the CBC through this article.

The North Coast Review contacted  Mr. Kertes on Tuesday to find out more about what Community for Clean Water has planned next as the water notice continues.

Among some of their plans,  a reach out campaign to labour unions, community groups, churches and others to see if there is any interest in signing onto a declaration of water a a human rights issue for the residents of the community.

As well, the group hopes to seek out more information from the city on issues of Council priorities and what is planned should the current Notice become more of a worst case or recurring Boil water situation.

You can join in on their conversation or learn more about the group from their website or Facebook page.

For the latest notes on the city's Boil Water Notice see our archive page here.

For a review of Monday's Council session see our Council Timeline here as well as our notes on the Boil Water discussion here.

A wider overview of Prince Rupert City Council discussion points can be reviewed here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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