Local, local government

By Tom Read

Public meetings can be visually dull, so instead here’s a photo I took years ago showing the industrial scene at Blubber Bay, which in this case can serve as a rather loose, rocky (ahem!) analogy for how efficiently the PRRD directors ran through their agenda last night at Gillies Bay. Besides, I forgot to bring my camera to the meeting.

Public meetings can be visually dull, so instead here’s a photo I took years ago showing the industrial scene at Blubber Bay, which in this case can serve as a rather loose, rocky (ahem!) analogy for how efficiently the PRRD directors ran through their agenda last night at Gillies Bay. Besides, I forgot to bring my camera to the meeting.

Not a typo, the title of this piece means that Texada Island’s main local government body, the Powell River Regional District Board of Directors, actually convened in all its glory on Texada yesterday for its monthly Directors’ meeting. This made it a physically local, local government for the first time in anyone’s memory, according to a few longtime Texadans I spoke to. Usually, the directors gather in Powell River, not especially accessible for Texadans who want to keep an eye on the local politicians.

The Texada local government tour came about mainly through efforts of our own Electoral Area Director, Dave Murphy. Dave got to show off our island’s impressive range of public and community facilities to his political colleagues, driving everyone around in the Texada Island Inn’s 13-passenger van. The assembled dignitaries then dined at the Tree Frog Bistro.  And then everyone got down to business at the Texada Community Hall in Gillies Bay.

The meeting started a few minutes after 7:00 pm, with probably around 80 to 90 people in the audience. That’s an extraordinary level of attendance for a local government meeting on an island summer evening, in my experience. Why so much interest? Answer: most likely, Lehigh’s proposed South Texada Quarry at Davie Bay, virtually the only controversial item on the night’s agenda. That item drew speakers pro and con for about 20 minutes, while the directors silently listened.

No fireworks erupted, no discussion ensued, no decision occurred. That’s set for next month in Powell River, of course (fireworks optional). No, in Gillies Bay last night the meeting rather lacked entertainment value after each side had had its say, because Chairman Colin Palmer (representing Electoral Area C, “south of town”) closed the meeting to further public comment so the Board could get on with its business. Indeed, from that point on, the directors moved swiftly through their agenda like limestone dropping from a conveyor onto a barge.

Thus, much of the audience departed shortly after public comments ended. It was, after all, a pleasant summer evening.

But those of us who stayed got to applaud as several distinguished islanders received much-deserved public recognition for their decades of volunteer efforts. We witnessed the founding of the Texada Island Heritage Commission, a new public service on our island that emerged through the efforts of the Texada Heritage Society. Plus, we got a subtle lesson in local government: all the real work happens in committees; the monthly directors’ meeting merely ratifies decisions made earlier in the process. The whole thing lasted only about an hour and twenty minutes.

Finally, the directors, their two staffers and a lone newspaper reporter all adjourned to the Texada Island Inn’s pub in Van Anda for a bit of libation and conversation before heading back to Powell River, the true seat of Texada’s not-so-local, local government.

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5 Responses to “Local, local government”


  1. 1 David Parkinson August 29, 2009 at 07:33

    Great post! Is this going to happen again, or was this Texada meeting a one-time event? Moving the PRRD meetings around through the various districts of the region would surely be one way to engage the public more, although it would be a logistical hassle.

  2. 2 Tom Read August 29, 2009 at 16:09

    Thanks, David. Well, I doubt the Board will convene again on Texada anytime soon. The travel time makes it every bit as impractical for the Board to come to Texada, as it is for Texadans to attend meetings in Powell River.

    Besides, it isn’t the Board meetings that count. Committee meetings are the real arena for discussion and decision.

    I would like to see the Board use an audio conferencing bridge to allow citizens to “attend” remotely via telephone, but so far there’s been some reluctance by PRRD staff to allow it (even though the Lasqueti director phones in as a matter of course for some meetings).

    Cheers,

    –Tom

  3. 3 David Parkinson August 29, 2009 at 16:13

    One way to keep people connected to committee or other meetings would be by using technology like that which Laura Walz is using to live-blog Powell River City Council meetings. This technology is somewhat interactive too, as it allows people monitoring the live-blogging to submit comments or questions.

  4. 4 Tom Read September 1, 2009 at 14:27

    Take a look at this article (http://www.energybulletin.net/node/49947) published by Yes! Magazine on August 21, then put on the Energy Bulletin newswire for August 25. It’s called “Upgrading the way we do politics,” and it’s got lots of interesting ideas about how to do meaningful public participation in government.

    The main point of my post is that local government should be local.

    –Tom

  5. 5 David Parkinson September 1, 2009 at 15:38

    It sounds as though we need to encourage more conversations on a range of topics, and before they become “issues”. I refer you back to the work of Peter Block, which is the most profound approach I know of for moving a community forward according to its own needs and desires.


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