As we hit the one-year anniversary of city council's original decision to remove the Colliery dams, the city has now spent upwards of $800,000 on it, the dams are still in, and there's no end in sight.
Council's latest decision indicates the dams aren't coming out, they'll be remediated, at a cost of many million dollars more than it would have cost to have them removed.
The Colliery Dam Preservation Society can claim a clear victory in their battle against the city to keep the dams. They've stood up against the city and won.
This has been a colossal, blunder-filled exercise by council. The Colliery dams debacle sits directly at the feet of Mayor John Ruttan as the leader of council, and for his failure to deliver on his promise of transparency at city hall.
This magnifies what continues to be a huge problem with the city: Getting its message out. Communications is a lot more than issuing press releases about city projects. It is about explaining the process, communicating important facts and figures and positioning the city's message so it can be accurately understood within the community.
Ruttan could have simply re-opened the door for open communication with the public a year ago, and made sure everyone knew the options on the table. That would have lifted the shroud of suspicion that arose when citizens became aware of the lack of process that led to what looked like a hasty decision to take the dams out.
Following that, council could have made a decision, stuck with it, and got on with that job and other more pressing matters. Yet here we are, with a "new" time frame of two years to remediate, and a massive tax bill to follow.
Ruttan had a golden opportunity to hold his hand up and allow a public debate that would ensure all options would be seriously explored. He missed it.
City staff did what city staff does, and that's make recommendations. The most cost-effective way of dealing with the situation and long-term problems identified by the Dams Safety Branch was removing the dams, and council quickly voted in favour.
However, with the building distrust about process at city hall, one cannot discount the city's history in the secret zone-changing on Uplands Drive that made the wet house/affordable housing project possible in the city's north end. It wasn't transparent.
Now comes the question of a referendum. The CDPS says a referendum isn't necessary, but there will be a referendum one way or another.
If council decides to give voters a direct say by voting yes or no on a referendum, tying it to next fall's election would be the most cost effective way of doing it.
Then again, referendums can say just as much about a lack of leadership and decision-making ability as give taxpayers an opportunity to decide directly on the next course of action.
They can be viewed as an indictment about how the duly elected body of officials is incapable of making a collectively wise decision.
It's almost like they would shrug, hold their hands up in the air and ask aloud: "What do you think we should do? We don't know."
If the dam remediation doesn't go to an official referendum, then the election itself becomes one. Council's indecision will ultimately cost taxpayers millions, and they will have their fates sealed by voters. A year in advance, the Colliery dams has become an election issue.
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