9/17/2017– I've lived in a lot of communities, large and small, both in and outside Canada, but I don't think I have ever experienced one as divided as Nanaimo is right now.
Once again, the citizens of our city are polarized. There
seems no middle ground concerning the actions/inaction of our Council, the status/actions of the CAO, the flood of departing managers and staff, violence, racism, and a spate of other issues. Both sides are digging in.
Yet the visible divisions
are based almost entirely on speculation. Almost every accusation is founded, at best, on only partial information. These unknowns, not the knowns, are what are tearing our community apart.
Our ignorance is almost entirely attributable to
Council. The impenetrable barriers to getting information, the stonewalling in the Q&A during open council meetings, the innumerable in-camera meetings, the select leaks by one or two Council members, are major contributors to what's happening in Nanaimo.
The lack of full disclosure produces the rampant speculation, the unfounded accusations and disagreements we see among Nanaimo citizens. The real legacy of the current council's dysfunction is the polarization of our community. Council and management
at City Hall have forgotten that their function is to serve taxpayers and voters, not themselves. A major part of serving the electorate is revealing what's going on and why key decisions are being made.
We need to know the full story of what's
has happened in our City Hall back to the beginning of this council. Regardless of which side of the divide you occupy, regardless of who you believe to be right or wrong, we all need the complete history of what has taken place on each contentious issue.
For any allegation to actually have substance, we need an accurate accounting of facts.
Getting this information is the shared need of everyone living in Nanaimo, and it should be our common goal. None of us will ever know where responsibility
really lies on any issue involving City Hall unless we break through the barriers to information this council has created. Nor can we assume that redacted disclosures are more than just self-serving. Secrecy and spin are all too familiar hallmarks of the current
administration. We need full, independent, disinterested, and formal investigations of every aspect of City Hall since the beginning of the current term.
We need a complete forensic audit telling us where money has been spent, transferred,
reallocated, used, i.e. the true state of Nanaimo finances. As became obvious during the run up to the arena referendum, tracking the ins and outs of Nanaimo finances is anything but straightforward. Only a forensic audit will provide all the needed detailed
information, without necessarily implying the existence of any criminality.
We also need a full investigation of all actions and decisions made by council and senior managers, along with individual voting records. We need a complete and
factual account of the hiring of the CAO and the ensuing protests. We need to know the reasons behind the censuring of the Mayor and full details of any legal actions contemplated, initiated, and/or abandoned.
Because our community is so divided
over interpretations of the Pratt-Samra video, the full video needs to be released along with the findings and assessed remedies of the police investigation and subsequent legal hearings. The same for the Goldner report - especially since it was sent to the
Globe and Mail and is now the stuff of the media at large.
If the Goldner investigation did not extend back in time to the hiring of the CAO and also if it did not investigate other aspects of City Hall that could be racist, violent, or
abusive it needs to be expanded. The public record concerning the reality of an abusive/violent/racist environment at City Hall needs to be complete.
We also need to know the full details of Council, managers, and staff relationships, terminations
and exit interviews of the individuals involved. We need to know the reasons for each departure, as well as the substance and sources of any staff complaints.
We need these several investigations to be conducted now. Not later. And we need
to be relentless in their pursuit. When you get right down to it, the ignorance of Nanaimo voters is appalling. Let's stop telling ourselves that we can wait until the next election in 2018. Further waiting may well prove to be disastrous.
must increase our presence in the Q&A of open council meetings. Let's put blame aside for now and simply demand disclosure and investigation. Let's send letters and emails to the Mayor and Council and request they be added as official correspondence to
the meetings so anyone can speak to the topic regardless of whether council and staff include it in the agenda.
At the same time, let's assume this Council will not act. Whether for self-protection, lack of courage, or simply because they're
hamstrung, the record of this Council is to do nothing unless they're forced. We need to take it to them.
We need every councillor to know that continuing to withhold the information will significantly impact their chances of re-election. Even
more: let's examine the possibilities of taking legal action. If voters can sue individual councillors for damages arising from their actions/inaction (and there's every indication that they can), let Council know we intend to take this action.
same for the needed, independent investigations of everything that's gone on since this council was elected. If council won't commission the investigations and reports we need, let's find out how we can initiate them, ourselves.
we do, let's do it all together. Let's stop fighting with each other. We've allowed ourselves to be distracted by the behaviour of various members of this Council and by the background noise. We need to refocus and get down to business.
this to be a call for unified action by the full Nanaimo electorate. If we can unite on anything, it should be on obtaining a full accounting of our City Hall right from the beginning. Armed with that information, we can make assessments of responsibility
based on fact, not speculation. Even more important, we can begin to bridge the rifts created by the lack of information provided by this council, and get back to building the community we want.