Our Mayor demonstrated his amazing sleight of hand abilities at today’s council meeting. As a result of the tragic impact of the recent cyclones, the Mayor offered to give $3000 of his Mayoral Discretionary fund to the personal hardship fund for cyclone relief. A noble action. Unfortunately, in the same report, he requested funding for a paid-for vacation to Kiyosato to sip Saki in celebration of the 120-year friendly city anniversary to the tune of $3000.
I am not sure that businesses and individuals whose livelihoods and lives are in tatters would appreciate the irony of this situation, especially given the $130,000 salary that the mayor is on. However, when one councillor asked the mayor if he was happy to be known as the mayor who gives with one hand and takes with the other he confirmed that he was. I personally am left speechless.
Cr greening suggested that like fringe benefit tax, council should only fund half of the mayor’s trip to Japan given there was likely to be some private benefit. Although some might perceive that approach as funding a one-way ticket?
But wait, there is more …
At the previous full council meeting, I moved a proposed motion to amend standing orders to allow youth representatives to sit in on council meetings and I included an extra point to remove the abilities of chair’s to use a casting vote in the case of a tied vote. I did this because I have lost confidence in the Mayor’s ability to use his casting vote in a financially prudent manner (as his track record has been to use his extra vote to spend money – such as $3million extra on the dam, and $80 thousand for temporary grandstand seating).
However, instead of allowing the motion to be put the Mayor chose to ignore my amendment and put the motion as it was originally drafted. At the time he said that the alteration was out of scope and that the casting vote discussion would come back to council in a future workshop. Magically, there was no record of this debate, the proposed amendment, or the fact that I moved the motion that appeared in the minutes of the previous meeting.
Today I asked the mayor what progress there had been in scheduling in the casting vote workshop, he responded that he had decided not to bring a workshop to council after all. Before I became a reformed blogger I would have used colourful language that would have described this change of mind as an instance where I had been lied to, of course now I would just say that mayor changes his mind — a lot.
I should have expected such a mind change event as it is not an uncommon position that I find myself in. A similar event happened when early on in my council career I moved a motion that Councillor Greening should be the council representative on the Saxton Sporting Complex subcommittee. At the time the Mayor wanted the Deputy Mayor to be appointed and a hasty tea break was arranged to convince me to change my motion to that end. The deal struck was that the Deputy Mayor would be appointed for a one-year term and after which councillor Greening would take up the role.
One year later and the Deputy Mayor stood down, however without so much as the courtesy of an aside, the Mayor put councillor Tuffnell up as the replacement. Obviously, it is the Mayor’s privilege to change his mind as he sees fit, no matter what arrangements he has made with other people. Just as it is apparently the Mayor’s privilege to run council meetings without regard to standing orders and instead institute his own rules on how meetings should proceed – as we were informed today.
This total lack of balance (some people might prefer colourful words such as integrity and honesty) has plagued my time in council and frustrated numerous logic-based arguments that I have tried to present.
I refused to sign off on the Long Term Plan (LTP) that council proposed to put out to public consultation because it states that Council’s number one financial strategy is to act prudently (another discussion that failed to make the minutes because it was not deemed worthy). This prudent strategy is in direct conflict with the words of the-now-exiting CEO and the Corporate Services Manager in their joint report to council in May 2015 that stated that Council would NOT be acting in a prudent manner if they were the last-man-standing when it comes to dam overrun expenses. The same situation that the current dam proposal leaves Council exposed to.
Today’s report from the CEO on the Provincial Growth Fund that the Government is doling out contained a number of options for the council to consider putting forward as potential recipients of the fund. One of the suggestions for consideration was the Waimea Dam Financing. The rationale being to “alleviate ratepayer risk with regards to any potential cost overruns for construction of the Waimea Dam and to remove the underwrite risk.”
Reducing the council’s risk exposure is a great and worthy cause you might say as a ratepayer liable for the aforementioned risks. However, I am confused. In previous staff reports, I have been told that it would be almost impossible for WIL to default on their crown loan that council is underwriting, and I have been assured on numerous occasions that despite most large-scale dams suffering significant over-run expenses the Waimea Community Dam is 95% certain to come in on or under budget. And somehow there remains a risk to ratepayers that needs mitigating?
I am not comfortable lying to the rate-payer, or “changing my mind” as I see fit.
My short tenure in the murky world of the council has enlightened me to the hopelessness of my campaign platform – to bring more accountability to the council. This is not a change that can be made from the bottom, it needs to be lead from the top.