Opinion

Quiet on council

Maple Ridge council supports crack houses in its downtown, the area where it’s spent millions of public dollars to restore. It’s a provocative statement which the seven elected leaders on council would challenge – but it’s one borne out by the reality of their actions, which speak louder than words.

Maple Ridge council’s action is actually inaction – silence in dealing with a a drug house house on St. Anne Avenue, just a block south of Lougheed Highway. The house is managed by Coun. Al Hogarth and last week it was raided by Ridge Meadows RCMP for the fourth time in two years.

On March 5, RCMP entered the heritage home at 22309 St. Anne and seized heroine, another substance and “other items connected to drug trafficking.” Drug trafficking charges are being recommended against two of the people found there. Drugs were seized from the house in raids in 2012 and 2013, as well.

After such a disgraceful record (and thousands of dollars spent in policing costs), RCMP are now looking at invoking the draconian civil forfeiture, which could see the province seize the house.

For any owner or manager of the property who cares about his responsibilities, the situation can only be embarrassing. For a councillor, paid by the taxpayer and who purports to be acting for the public good, it must be even more so.

Hogarth maintains that the Residential Tenancy Act makes it difficult to evict troublesome tenants and that he’s powerless to control the hangers-on who end up on the premises. The property owner instead bears responsibility, he added.

So why don’t the vast majority of landlords have such problems?

More embarrassing for the people of Maple Ridge is their representatives’ cowed silence on the issue.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, to her credit, has continually pressed for prompt demolition of problem houses, including two of the lots adjacent to the St. Anne Avenue house. But she doesn’t direct her questions at the most obvious target – Hogarth. The situation is made more difficult by Hogarth appropriately excusing himself the meeting when the properties are discussed to avoid conflict of interest. But Ashlie, in her brief foray, was mostly ignored in her requests last year.

And she and the others on council don’t raise a peep or mention the fact that a councillor sitting beside them, debating municipal issues is managing a house that is causing so much trouble.

Councillors are allowed to have private lives and not have their individual careers subject to scrutiny at public meetings. And any actions undertaken by council must be objective and be handled fairly and treated as any other.

But for the mayor and council to repeatedly say nothing, repeatedly deny that their colleague at the table manages this troubled property, to not ask even the most polite questions, which in no way would be slanderous or disrespectful, strains council’s credibility.

If mayor and council can’t even timourously raise with this issue and use the public forum of their meetings to press for change, do they really function as a council?

– The News

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