Hearing this week about Lantzville council should make us appreciate our own local governments more than we often do.
We may not always agree with all of their decisions, and at times debate can get passionate. On some issues clear divisions emerge within our elected bodies. Just look at North Cowichan council’s initial deadlock this year in trying to pass their budget. It took the full six councillors and the mayor being present and casting their votes for the matter to be resolved.
But the important thing is that it was resolved.
And nobody resigned or started shouting at each other or ridiculing each other or staff.
Reporters for the Citizen have for years been attending municipal and regional government meetings and while some chairs and mayors have been better than others at running a meeting, none would have stood for such behaviour to go on unchecked.
This is a good thing. Bare civility is the least we should expect from those we have chosen to represent and make important decisions for us.
Things have gotten so bad in Lantzville that not only have four members of council fled the table, the municipality’s top two administrators have also resigned.
Lantzville has just three members of council left: the mayor, his councillor wife, and one other councillor.
It took a decision from provincial Community Development Minister Coralee Oakes to even allow council to continue to function until new elections can be held.
When the majority of council quits just six months after
municipal elections clearly something has gone seriously awry.
As a mayor or councillor one of the fundamentals one must accept is that you’re not elected king, or supreme dictator.
You must be willing to compromise. You must be willing to accept that you won’t always be on the winning side of a split vote.
It’s also key to show respect for local government staff. They are a vital resource. To stomp on those people is poor management (by council) at best.
It is totally inappropriate to subject them to “ridicule and criticism”, what they’ve cited in leaving their jobs, at public meetings. If there are disputes they should be handled in private.
It’s the same kind of consideration anyone would expect at work.
One thing is clear. It will be difficult to move forward from this kind of council cataclysm. So far it seems as if nobody is willing to take responsibility. For today, we applaud our own local governments for working to get along well enough to get on with it.