What the ongoing debacle that is the Colliery dam debate/decision/delay has magnified is the need for leadership at city hall.
We speak in regards to those elected by taxpayers to keep an eye on what they are paying for. Specifically, that would be council, and most notably, the position of mayor.
Now is the time that the mayor, the de facto leader of the people, needs to stand up and snap the city to attention. To bring it back to where they do what they're paid to do: Carry out the wishes of the citizens.
What cannot happen is a quick return to a scenario where the most powerful person in Nanaimo is the city administrator. The person in that position should be seen infrequently and not heard from, unless absolutely necessary, leading a supportive team of staff that carries out the democratically decided desires of council.
Even though he doesn't officially take the reins until the beginning of September, make no mistake, this is an enormous test for incoming city manager Ted Swabey.
Many believe that, as he did when he elevated Al Kenning, mayor John Ruttan took the "easy route" to promote from within, and bypassed an excellent opportunity to breathe fresh vision into the city's halls. Swabey has heard the cries of those concerned about his swift promotion and lack of process.
What will he do with that? Swabey could mark his own path by entering his tenure with a
push for a Core Review, bringing proven experts from outside the city to poke and prod and see the city for what it is, warts and all. And make recommendations that will ensure the city is running as lean and efficient as possible. That would be something.
Of course it's council's ultimate call regarding the Core Review, but with the standards that have been set at the city over many years, it is clear that city management can and will be heard in this regard.
Even more important than that, however, is the mayor taking the lead. This is where our top elected official needs to stand up and define what it is the city manager is to do, and how he's going to do it.
Generally speaking, bureaucrats seem to forget what they're getting paid to do, and by whom. They move into entrenchment territory that breeds a sense of entitlement, and they no longer think they have to listen to the people that pay the freight.
At the end of the day, what this melee is really about is that the upper management of the city has been publicly tweaked. They aren't enjoying the experience.
Staff clearly doesn't like it when they're questioned or challenged. The biggest example of that was using tax money on city lawyers to press for an injunction to stop any would-be protesters from expressing their democratic rights.
Really, the dam debacle is also a major victory for democracy and free speech. What the "impossible" reverse pulled by the city on dam deconstruction has shown is that the voice of the people does count. If it is loud and heard long enough, that collective voice can make a difference and overturn even a full court press by the boldest of bureaucrats.
As time rolls on and more facts and figures are unveiled about the actual condition of the dams and the rush to get them demolished, it becomes more apparent that something is drastically wrong. The two points of view are so starkly different, someone, or several someones, should be called on the carpet and asked some very tough questions.
That person should be the mayor. That's what he's paid to do on our behalf.
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