Published in The Kamloops Daily News, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008
With pomp and circumstance, the 2008-2011 Kamloops City council will be sworn in Monday evening. Many niceties will be exchanged, and there will be fine words about maintaining the momentum, challenges ahead, and working together for the betterment of Kamloops.
The blood-letting begins Tuesday.
Reserving one night for pleasantries is a good thing. And pleasant it will be. The new members of council, under instructions to show up by 6:15, will assemble out on the Interior Savings Centre concourse and, at 7 p.m., be marshalled up and piped into the Sports Action Lounge.
Deputy corporate officer Cindy Kennedy will call the meeting to order, O Canada will be sung, and Rev. Bruce Comrie will do the invocation.
There are three speeches at inaugural meetings of council. The first will be given by outgoing Mayor Terry Lake, who will be allowed to talk about all the great things he and his council have accomplished. He’ll then say what a fine group the new council is, and wish them well.
Mr. Justice Robert Powers, after swearing in the new council, will address the gathering and likely say something about the new council’s duties to serve the public.
After accepting the gown and chain of office from Lake (given comparative girths and heights, it could be an interesting exchange), it’s the new mayor’s turn. If he’s true to form, Peter Milobar probably won’t take long to thank the outgoing mayor and councillors, and to talk a little about what he expects the priorities of the new council to be.
Then, it’s adjournment and picture time, after which the chosen few in the audience who have been invited to a reception move upstairs to the Rivers Room for drinks and appies.
Next day, things get interesting. That’s when the mayor reveals his intentions on the most important issue of the new council’s term in office — seating arrangements.
He has options. He could draw names from a hat. He could stick with the practice of the last couple of councils and determine seating according to how councillors placed in the polls. Or, he could do it alphabetically.
Another method has been broached: seniority. That would mean councillors Wallace, O’Fee and DeCicco would get first pick.
The most coveted seat is to the left of the mayor. It’s the closest to the coffee station a few steps down the hallway connecting council chambers to the mayor’s office.
Next is to his right. Still within the mayor’s peripheral vision whenever you want to wave to get attention, pass a note or even whisper something in his ear.
Nobody wants either of the seats at the end of the horseshoe, which are regarded as akin to being lost in the backwoods while everyone else is downtown. (Although, the one to the right is handy for chatting with City Hall staff, who sit at the end of chambers facing council.)
Milobar isn’t saying how he’s going to do it, but he guarantees not everyone will be happy. He’s not saying who he’s going to appoint to various committees, either.
The main appointment, the plum, is out of his hands — the Thompson Nicola Regional District board of directors.
Based on population, the City is entitled to five directors on the board of the TNRD. It’s more sought-after than any other committee job because it’s just so darned rewarding working in cooperation with other municipalities and electoral areas on important projects and issues for the betterment of the entire region.
That, and it pays a tidy annual stipend of $6,700, raising the annual pay of City councillors who serve on the RD board to roughly $30,000, one-third tax free. It will boost Milobar’s pay to about $86,000 a year, also a third tax free.
By law, the City’s reps on the TNRD must be decided on by council as a whole. In the old days, the mayor would present a list, and council would rubber-stamp it. Now, though, an actual vote is taken among council members, similar to how the chair of the school board is picked.
If you’re thinking this process is about who will best serve the interests of the City regionally or who has the best concept of regional government or anything like that, forget it. This is a blood sport.
For the past two weeks, incumbent council members have been quietly lobbying each other and forming alliances to get themselves elected to the regional board.
The previous appointees have the inside track. That would be Milobar, John O’Fee, Pat Wallace and Jim Harker. Unless the sky falls in, they will all vote for each other, but they need a fifth member of the alliance to ensure their success.
Since Lake is no longer in the picture, that fifth vote has to be recruited. Fourth-term councillor John DeCicco and second-term councillor Tina Lange would both like a shot.
DeCicco has served on the RD board in the past but got tossed, and has wanted back in ever since. Lange didn’t signal her intentions until early this week.
Where does that leave the newbies? Being unfamiliar with the way this works, they’re running late. Neither Denis Walsh nor Nancy Bepple has made any moves towards getting support, though both would love the chance.
Marg Spina as the other possibility, but word is she hasn’t put her name forward. That leaves DeCicco in the lead.
As for committee appointments in general, they require the mayor to exhibit the wisdom of Solomon in making as many councillors as happy, or as few unhappy, as possible.
There won’t be a lot of changes to structure, at least not right away. Both Walsh and Bepple want some new committees added, but Milobar has no plans in that regard.
While Walsh would like to see appointments to liaise with the Kamloops Indian Band and TRU, for example, Milobar sees no need for that. The mayor meets frequently with both the KIB chief and the TRU president, he says.
Then, of course, there’s Bepple’s idea for a seniors advisory committee, something she promised during the campaign. She sees it as including reps from the major seniors organizations, as well as from seniors within ethnic groups.
That isn’t on the mayor’s list, either, but that’s not to say Walsh and Bepple can’t get their way — all they need is enough councillors to vote with them.
Here’s where you need to stay awake and take notes. There are three categories of committee appointments: standing, select and statutory. Standing committees are appointed by the mayor, select committees are created and appointed by council. So are liaison reps who attend meetings of other groups, and commissions. The third type, statutory, includes TNRD and a couple of other necessary evils, like the audit committee and the tax review panel.
If you ask me the criteria for assigning committees to one category or another, I will give you Wayne Vollrath’s phone number, because he’s the guy who sorted it all out when he was in the corporate services office at City Hall.
Milobar will present a list for all of them on Tuesday and ask for ratification of the works, even though he technically doesn’t need council’s permission for standing committee appointments.
But, since council as a whole can make up its own committees without the mayor’s say-so, at some point Walsh or Bepple could raise their ideas for new committees, get them passed, and get themselves appointed to them.
Ain’t civic democracy grand?