A common complaint against this Vernon city council, like the one before it, is that it is not responsive to the wishes of ordinary citizens.
This is mainly due to the perception that staff and interest groups hold more sway with council than the rest of us do, with the result that many projects are ready to launch before the general public even gets a chance to comment on them.
Under the last city council, staff, with the help of small but noisy interest groups, drove such ideas as traffic calming on Alexis Park Drive and 20th Street, bike paths on busy 43rd Avenue, and sidewalks the width of landing strips on 29th Street.
Whatever the merits of such projects may have been, and I’m afraid they entirely escape me, city council rammed through all but the 43rd Avenue reconstruction in spite of massively negative public opinion.
Now this council, many members of which were elected as a backlash against precisely this type of high-handed behaviour, is continuing the tradition over a new visitor information centre (VIC).
Leaving aside the idiocy of establishing a VIC in a place that forces fifth wheels and large trailers to turn left across traffic on the most congested street in Vernon, during the most congested season in Vernon, and leaving aside the fact that the cost of relocating the old tourist booths to a central location will eat up more cash than it will save in the short and long-term, this particular move by city council is widely opposed by just about everyone in public hearings, committee meetings and on the street.
It’s true that no city council can please everyone all of the time. If city council discovered the means to magically conjure up gold and give every citizen in Vernon a large bag of it, there would be at least one person complaining that the bags were too heavy.
And some projects, like the library and the track at Okanagan College, split public opinion fairly evenly, forcing council to pick between two options.
But when public opinion is so overwhelmingly against a pet project, that fact alone should trump all of the studies and good intentions by staff and interest groups.
It is not enough to get the project ready to launch, complete with a “coming soon” sign, and then go through the motions of pretending to consult the public.
Unfortunately, as seems so often the case, that’s clearly what happened here.
City councillors must realize that they work for the public, not for staff or the loudest interest group, and that when the vast majority of the public and/or nearby residents speak with one voice, city council is duty bound to listen.
As usual, there was only one dissenting voice amongst the herd in the final 4-1 vote for the VIC.
I commend Coun. Bob Spiers for being the lone dissenting voice in this, as in so many other cases.