Councillor issues warning about polarization on Campbell River city council
Council needs to put aside its differences and be more flexible or risk breaking down, says one city councillor.
Coun. Andy Adams expressed those concerns Tuesday night in a lengthy speech opposing this year’s budget, which comes with a 13. 6 per cent residential tax increase.
“My greatest concern is council becomes polarized by association and positions or votes are done by alliance, losing sight of the issue at hand,” Adams said at this week’s council meeting. “We have all seen and heard of councils that have deteriorated to this and it’s not a pretty picture for council or the community.”
Lines were drawn after council was split, 4-3, on the tax hike. On one side were councillors Ryan Mennie, Claire Moglove, Larry Samson and Mary Storry while on the other were councillors Adams, Ron Kerr, and Mayor Walter Jakeway.
“As we proceeded through meetings, comments were made that council was divided into two camps – four against three,” Adams said. “I can only say that from my perspective, it’s felt more like four, two, and one and I’m the one. I have consistently made motions to try and find a balance between two philosophical extremes. Only two other councillors have demonstrated willingness to find some middle ground. This has to change.”
Storry seemed taken aback by Adams’ comments and worried about the public’s perception.
“There was concern about a fractured council,” Storry said. “I want to put these concerns to rest and obviously Coun. Adams and I will have to discuss this some more. Although we’ve not all agreed on motions brought forward, during deliberations there have been (decisions) around human resourcing that were unanimous, issues around service reductions that were supported by members of council and supported by Your Worship (the mayor). Although individually we may not have received support for various reductions we had wished for, I do not believe council’s decision making will be adversely impaired and I think that we will be able to move forward in a co-operative manner.”
But some councillors have painted a different picture. Kerr said earlier this month that it sometimes feels like a tug of war between new versus old.
“I think to a certain degree, there is a power struggle on council between the incumbents and the newbies. But I believe in working together, it’s the only way we can do this. It can’t be adversarial.”
Moglove said she does not see it as a power struggle.
“I think it’s more a philosophical difference of opinion,” she said. “Besides which, one of the new councillors, councillor Samson, voted for the budget and one of the three-term councillors, Adams, voted against. I think we all sort of agree that what we need to do is encourage more businesses and people to come to Campbell River and I think there’s a difference of opinion on how to do that.”
After council emerged divided on the tax increase, Jakeway fuelled the fire by advocating for a tax revolt against council.
Moglove said at the time, she was disappointed by Jakeway’s comments as it was his responsibility, as mayor, to speak in support of council’s majority decision. Adams said Tuesday night he was also troubled by Jakeway’s comments.
“I’m challenged by some of the actions of the mayor,” he said. “Council chambers are to be respected and the position of mayor is to lead the council and to work with members of council to implement sound policies in a collective manner. It’s also incumbent upon council to assist His Worship rather than to lock horns.”
Adams said while he respected Jakeway for his desire to address the fiscal challenges facing the city, some of his proposals such as moving money around from reserves to address the budget deficit, did not comply with provincial legislation, the Community Charter or city bylaws. Jakeway, for his part, denied his suggestions were illegal.
“I don’t propose anything in contravention of the Community Charter or provincial legislation,” he said.
As for the likelihood of council working together?
“I think they can, once we change the topic,” Jakeway said. “We’ll be fine. Money is always a contentious issue.”