Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The citizens present some options


A group of citizens led by the wonderful Melissa Harrison presented some options for Council today regarding what the municipality may be able to do to stop the dock construction at the Cape.  It seems there are things that can be done and it also seems like something weird is happening in the legal realm.  If we are to read into the comments from the Councillors, it seems as if there is very dicey legal brinksmanship going on in secret.  Things work differently at the Cape.  The owners are not land owners like you and I.  Our Council meets in secret quite often to deliberate actions to take with the owners, and the result has been that the Municipality has been unable to enforce covenants about construction of fences and hedges in designated setbacks, or even to exercise their responsibility to issue building permits for the docks.  It seems the current legal advice - which flies in the face of everything you would expect - is that Council does not have the power to issue a building permit for these docks.  If this is true, does it mean that anyone can just build something on Bowen without regard for proper planning and permitting regulations?  And if not, what makes these docks different?  What makes the Cape different?  I wonder if we will ever know.

I want to commend Melissa and her team for a well researched and constructive presentation and for standing in complete calm against Wolfgang Duntz's initially patronizing behaviour and his unilateral conditions under which he would listen, even accusing the totally unflappable Melissa of "militancy."  I liked the part where Melissa asked if she could drink from his cup.  It immediately invited him back to a civil frame of mind and gave him a chance to be gracious.

And mostly Melissa deserves kudos for standing up to our Mayor Jack Adelaar's repeated jabs at the previous Council, including at one point inviting Nerys Pooole to speak instead of "pulling the strings."  It's just completely uncivil behaviour from the Mayor, who has shown in the past that he can't temper his contempt, and Melissa met him with dignity and not a little fierceness.  Since his sudden appearance on the political scene in the 2011 election campaign in which he tarred a group of sitting Councillors as the "gang of four," Jack Adelaar has shown unprecedented contempt to the former Council and to members of the public that he associates with them.  Watch and learn how to be a spectacularly ineffective leader.  He says the Cape is dead (not even in the Strategic Business Plan!) and later we learn that it is not dea at all and is consuming meeting after meeting of Council's time and tons of legal advice.  It's not dead Jack, clearly.  Not a single Councillor defends his accusations and snide remarks and most of them distance themselves from him in one way or another.  Cro Lucas and Andrew Stone are commended for sharing their perspectives as well as they could given the cloud of confidentiality that seems to have fallen around all things Cape Roger Curtis.  Even Wolfgang, once he calmed down, was able to share some information.  And that is good.  Information is all we want, no matter how hard it is to get a hold of.

Council would do well to remember that the citizens sit between them and the door.  It is a proper and symbolic arrangement for a chamber of democratic deliberation.  Elected officials must never forget that the community lies between them and their next hot meal.