Monday, June 27, 2016

Editorial: Scout Island Vision Debate


In an issue whose history dates back to the 1970's - the matter of mowing of the growing grasses along the sides of the causeway to Scout Island came up on Facebook last week and has been the cause of consternation by a number of local residents', both in and outside the City.  In fact, the issue was debated inside Williams Lake City Council itself last Thursday/Friday - to take a look, click here.  As well, the Williams Lake Tribune wrote on the subject this past Friday evening, view that article here

While discussing the subject on Facebook, some suggested that they would be prepared to become 'human shields' to prevent the mowing of the grasses growing along the causeway to prove their point. While I understand/respect the passion expressed by some on this issue, I'm not sure that was the best method to get one's concern(s) addressed by the City

Williams Lake City Councillor Jason Ryll took to his Facebook 'business' page last Friday afternoon to explain his point of view on the situation and he is to be commended for that, in order to have that two way conversation with those interested in this topic, both inside/outside the City.  View his post here.  Subsequently, that was 'shared' on Facebook by Williams Lake City Councillor Craig Smith as well in addition to a number of other people.  This matter was also discussed last week on the 'Scout Island Nature Centre' Facebook Group Page (click here) and the Williams Lake Stay Up to Date Facebook Group Page (click here).  Finally - a "Clean Up Scout Island" Facebook page was created yesterday - click here

Williams Lake City Council will consider this matter at their meeting tomorrow evening at 6pm, firstly with a presentation from Fred McMechan, President of the Williams Lake Field Naturalists then later in the meeting, consider a report from Williams Lake City Councillor Ivan Bonnell on the same subject.  In my view, you can expect to see nearly a full Council Chambers tomorrow evening for the public to hear both Mr. McMechan's presentation and the report of Councillor Bonnell on this subject/subsequent discussion of Council.  Read that report here

There is also a Scout Island Management Plan in place now which was last amended in February of 2004 which speaks to this subject.  View the Plan here

A couple of personal observations:

a) There is value in having a public process for updating the current Scout Island Management Plan to reflect the obviously competing values for the overall vision of Scout Island.  Council may wish to obtain the services of the Fraser Basin Council or another firm who does work in facilitating land use planning which would lead into a new Scout Island Management Plan for a new 10 year period or longer.  After tomorrow evening's Williams Lake City Council meeting, no matter the outcome - I would respectfully suggest it would be in the community's best interest to have a facilitated public meeting(s) of the overall vision for Scout Island in the near term and coming to a facilitated agreement on a new Scout Island Vision and subsequent Management Plan

b) In terms of City Council governance - it is well established that a local government (municipal council/regional board/board of education) should NOT conduct discussion(s) of an item(s) via email, except to conduct a email poll respecting adoption of a motion,  as per BC Regulation (Regional Districts) or Best Governance Practices (Municipal Councils/Boards of Education)

Given how this issue progressed, I suspect that once Council has its' permanent CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) in place, the current debate as to how Council directs Staff for operational matters will cease.   

And while some will not agree, Mayor Cobb right now is within his rights (after consulting with Council, which he did in this case), and in my humble opinion, to direct Staff on operational matters (provided money is provided for in the annual budget) on the basis that he is wearing two hats right now -- Mayor of Williams Lake and Acting Chief Administrative Officer, by virtue of Mayor Cobb's other position as Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation of the City of Williams Lake (Williams Lake City Council) as per Section 116 of the Community Charter.  While the situation of Mayor Cobb being both Mayor/Acting CAO is extremely rare in BC local governments, it is not illegal, however it is the normal governance practice of local government, following best practices, that the political and administrative branches of local government are separate to keep the two roles distinct.

Note - Mayor Cobb announced at last week's WL and District Chamber of Commerce general meeting that an interim CAO is set to commence work for the City on July 11th on a part time (2 days a week) basis.

While it is great to see passion from everyone for a crown jewel like Scout Island - It is my sincere personal hope (and I suspect many in the community, both inside and outside the City would agree) that a process can be found soon to bridge the two competing visions for Scout Island and come up with a Management Plan and Vision for Scout Island that everyone can live with.  Something, Scout Island advocate Jenny Noble said herself yesterday on the 'Scout Island Nature Centre' Facebook group page.


The above editorial is my own and is not reflective of my elected capacity as Electoral Area 'D' Director of the Cariboo Regional District

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