Last Night at Barsby
Ron Bolin: Nov. 20, 2012
Last night at John Barsby Secondary School, some 500+ citizens of Nanaimo gathered to remind their City Council and themselves that this is their town and that they count for something in decisions about it. The meeting was organized by a few concerned citizens who are to be most heartily congratulated for their efforts. For many of those present last night the lakes behind the Colliery dams and their related amenities have been a part of their heritage for generations. But all resented the secrecy with which the decision to demolish them was taken and the apparent carelessness with which alternatives to destruction were left uninvestigated. All citizens of Nanaimo are impacted by the latter, whether living in the Harewood area or no.
To their credit, at least seven of our nine Councillors were in attendance, and though admonished that this was a citizens meeting and that they were not intended to speak, stayed to the end of the meeting having absorbed considerable sincere and vociferous, if controlled, admonishment. It remains to be seen what Council will do as a result: whether their sense of power will prevent them from considering alternative actions in this matter.
Let us be clear. Doing nothing with the dams is untenable under the circumstances. But what to do and how much to spend to do it are matters for public discourse. Hiding in in-camera meetings and making “emergency” decisions when the emergency has not happened is also untenable. What are the options, what do they cost and when can we get them done? Let’s try to get this one right…
It’s good to see the residents of Nanaimo start to demand representation in our Council. They cannot just ignore us!
The following story doesn’t hold water. It began when Mr Big called a meeting of the C listers; the contractor, the consultant, the community planner and the communications guy. Gentlemen he said the Province guys tell me that the Harewood Park dams don’t meet code and we need a plan. I am thinking said Mr Big that we just drain the lakes and demolish the dams. How much is that going to cost? Seven million said the contractor. Seems a lot to pull a plug and cart some concrete away. Maybe less said the contractor. How are we going to package this for a quick council decision asked Mr Big. The consultant said it’s a matter of life or death not to mention people getting fired. So it’s the urgency of it all said Mr Big. Well yes said the community planner, but the neighbourhood has plans to keep the lakes and fill them in with rocks. What about that asked Mr Big as he turned to the consultant. We can switch the topic and talk about climate change and extreme weather events. Really said Mr Big. Oh yes, biblical proportions I imagine. That will scare everybody just as much as earthquakes said the consultant. Well good then this will add a sense of urgency to the whole matter said Mr Big. The community planner raised his hand saying I can see how you all can get this past Council but I sense that the people are going to be unhappy with this proposal so I think we better promise a very nice stream at the very least. Good thinking said Mr Big, how about some graphics but don’t show any deer, that’s a problem, a beaver would be OK, maybe a small beaver dam and a pond, a back to nature story, maybe that’s the ticket.
The communications guy piped up saying this is starting to sound like a good story. We have a matter of life or death before us, we have to act now. We will spend millions to secure the safety of our citizens. As for other options we can talk about time delay, additional risk, added costs, destruction of trees, unknown factors, just the plain impossibility of it all, then change the topic because we are going to restore the park with a stream and make it all nice. The climax to the story of course has to be the “extreme weather event” that’s the necessary fear factor that makes the whole thing dramatic.
Copy of my letter as published in the Bulletin on closed door decisions.
To the Editor,
Re: City plans to remove two century-old dams, Nov. 1.
I recently learned a new word, literally new, that has just been added to the Oxford Dictionary; ‘Omnishambles’ defined as, “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.”
While originally coined to describe ongoing public relation blunders, gaffes and perceived mismanagement of the British government, it immediately struck me the word could easily apply to mayor, council and those city staff with the power to inform in Nanaimo.
A perfect and current example of an omnishambles would be the issue of removing Colliery dams. A decision once again made behind closed doors with no public input and raising the ire of citizens.
When will they learn?
Now that Nanaimo actually has a working communication manager – met him, like him – I have to wonder if or how much input he had into council’s decision to forgo public participation?
Communication and transparency have been catch phrases for this council, and yet, they have had by far more in camera meetings and made more decisions in private, with no consultation to or from the public, than any other council I can remember.
There is another definition, by Albert Einstein, that would also apply equally as well as omnishambles; insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When will they learn and how much will it cost us before they do so?
Gordon W. Fuller
Prediction……. councilors will smile, nod, look concerned, even listen. They will then defend staff’s and their decision to remove the dams and remove the hazard. You never know when the BIG ONE will hit, and the survivors would have to pay for all that litigation of those killed due to negligence on the part of the city.
Now, how about the seismic assessment of our schools everyone keeps ignoring……..A tax increase of a few hundred percent should cover it off…….
You will notice this seismic assessment was pushed to the back burner, until the funding was in place for that shiny new office …………..
CORE REVIEW or AUDIT
Philip Wolf: City won’t gain required trust without a core review