The latest Port Moody council kerfuffle resulted in the majority of councillors voting last week to put on hold an “urgent” call by Coun. Hunter Madsen to curb development in Moody Centre in order to concentrate on job creation in the area.
And what started this latest only-in-Port Moody episode? A report by the acting mayor.
What’s the big deal about a report? Councils get them all the time, right?
Right. Municipal councils across B.C. regularly get reports — from city staff.
What they don’t get are detailed “reports” produced by city councillors on which they will base a vote.
Except, it seems, in Port Moody.
In Port Moody earlier this month, after receiving a complaint from one tenant, Coun. Amy Lubik wrote a report noting renters can be exposed to pests, mould and more, and calling for council to pass a bylaw that mandates minimum standards of maintenance in rental buildings.
Last fall, barely a month after the election, Madsen and Mayor Rob Vagramov wrote a report proposing a resolution to remove the right-of-way designation from Bert Flinn Park.
While some might applaud the council members’ initiative, we say it’s no way to govern.
A document created by a politician with a political objective is not the same as a thorough and dispassionate report produced by the experienced and well-paid professionals on city staff.
The Tri-City News asked several Tri-City politicians outside of Port Moody about their processes. Here are some of their answers (they’ve asked not to be identified because they don’t want to be drawn into the Moody dispute):
• “I’ve worked with dozens of councils and been on many public boards/bodies over the years, and I can’t remember a process in which members of a policy-setting body write reports to the body. Council would ask for a staff report on the subject by the relevant department... Even if a council member is a subject-matter expert, the report is written by staff.”
• “I’ve never seen it in my 10 years.”
• “I find the [Port Moody] process unconventional and potentially biased. We bring ideas and questions to committee and, if the rest of council supports it, council instructs staff to investigate and report back.”
Similarly, Glacier Media journalists who cover civic governments in several other Metro Vancouver cities say none of their councils vote on councillor reports.
Is this nitpicking? No, nitpicking would be pointing out the egregious use of an exclamation mark in the title of Coun. Madsen’s report, “More than a Bedroom Community!”
This is a fundamental governance issue. Councils are elected to set direction and city staff are employed to provide, in an unbiased fashion, information and expertise on which councillors can make complex policy decisions.
To make the best decisions for their constituents, councils should leave the detail work to the professionals.