Council’s decision to exclude Mayor Walter Jakeway from the Strathcona Regional District board prompted a verbal lashing from resident Sean Smith at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Smith accused councillors of sacrificing Jakeway for “political gains.”
“This is a man who is passionate about our community and he’s being hamstrung for nothing more than, I think, a political gain,” Smith said. “This is not a house of cards.”
Smith presented council with a 310 signature petition in support of the mayor.
“The people of Campbell River like our mayor,” Smith said. “I think because he doesn’t act like a typical politician. He’s approachable, he discusses things, he speaks his mind.
“He’s doing everything he can to be as effective as possible and create an environment for our community that works.”
Smith said he had no illusions that the petition would “make an iota of difference” or that council would change its mind but he said he hoped councillors would make the decision to return the mayor to the regional district board to represent the community.
“I say to you, you as councillors, you are not representing us,” Smith said. “When we come to you and say we are genuinely unhappy about something, we – we feel ignored. We are offended.”
Coun. Larry Samson defended council’s decision.
“Thanks for that Sean. Now it’s my turn,” Samson began. “Let’s take one item – the Compost Education Centre. The Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Management proposes to cut it. His Worship votes with the Comox Valley directors to close the centre, to put the two contractors in Courtenay.
I would expect as a mayor, as a proponent for Campbell River, he would be fighting to keep jobs in Campbell River rather than re-locating our jobs to Courtenay. I just found it unbelievable in a sense that a few weeks ago he proposed a community garden task force and wanted to give them a budget of $5,000. I would think composting would be part of the community garden bylaws.”
Coun. Ryan Mennie questioned Smith’s petition.
“When we get input from the community we appreciate it,” Mennie said. “We also have to put it into perspective and how we put it into perspective is trying to understand what information the public signing the petition had at the time they signed it.
“Hopefully they were educated.”
Mennie also questioned whether Smith mentioned to petitioners that council’s terms on the regional district board had expired and that council was trying to spread the workload with its new appointments.
Mennie’s second question to Smith was whether he informed the public that none of the Comox Valley mayors (Comox, Courtenay or Cumberland) serve on the Comox Valley Regional District board.
At which point Jakeway stepped in and asked Mennie if he knew why those mayors weren’t on the board.
Jakeway said that the mayor of Courtenay does not want to sit on the board while the mayor of Comox is busy with his day job as a lawyer.
Mennie called a point of order, telling Jakeway he wasn’t “finished with the delegation.”
Mennie then praised council for laying the groundwork for the development boom the city is currently enjoying and for prevailing despite some negative attention from the media.
“Thank goodness that the supposed divisive attitude in this room that’s been reported in certain circles through social media and by certain members of the traditional media, has done little to affect the work and the growth and the renewal that is underway right now in our city,” Mennie said.
He challenged Smith and those who signed the petition and support the mayor to channel their energies into positive, productive work to add to the renewal of the city. He also issued a challenge to the media.
“Appreciate your readers, your viewers and your listeners enough to allow them to make decisions based on fact and not opinion,” Mennie said.
Meanwhile, Moglove, who made the motion to appoint councillors Mary Storry and Andy Adams to the board instead of Jakeway and Samson, explained her decision to the Mirror last week.
She said her reasoning is that one of council’s strategic priorities is to secure a regional compost centre in Campbell River and Jakeway has consistently voted against such an endeavour as well as against keeping the Compost Education Centre open.
She said when it comes to voting on the solid waste board, which regional district directors also sit on, Campbell River council needs to vote together.
“It’s important council sticks together as one united voted at the solid waste board because it’s a weighted vote,” Moglove said.
“It’s important to have everyone vote together if we want to keep the Compost Education Centre open.”