Whether any good comes out of the latest task force that has the thankless job of reviewing City council paycheques remains to be seen, but its members are giving it the old college try.
They’ve decided to make the rounds of some local gatherings over the next two weeks. With clipboards and questionnaires in hand, they’ll wade into Music in the Park, the downtown Farmers Market and Overlander Days at McDonald Park.
Their first question will be whether people think council’s pay should be based on an average of other councils in the province.
If the answer is no, there are some multiple-choice options: consumer price index, let a
community based committee decide, or — and this one is kind of fun — seniority. (Theory being that veteran councillors know more, so should be paid more. Just like union members.)
They’ll also ask whether councillors should get medical and dental coverage, and maybe pensions and other benefits.
Going around town asking for checklist input is a laudable move (people can also email thoughts or drop them off in writing at City Hall) even though it doesn’t go far enough.
Task force members shot down a proposal from within their own group to hold public hearings because, as chairman Brant Hasanen puts it, most of them worried that “forums invite the wrong people.” That is, “negatives” might surface.
Anyway, kudos for going as far as they have. The task force isn’t exactly a socio-economic cross-section of our community, so seeking other views is a good thing.
The masses weren’t breaking down the doors of City Hall to get on this committee. The City asked for volunteers, expecting there’d have to be some sort of short-listing and selection process to pick five.
Only seven people raised their hands, two of whom had to be talked into it, so City staff said what the hey, let’s make it simple and take all seven. They include a business person, an insurance agent, a marriage commissioner, a lawyer, a couple of investment guys and the executive director of Elizabeth Fry — not quite your hoi polloi.
So, the questionnaire is a way of going beyond their own closed-door (closed-door
because that’s what City Hall ordered) discussions. Hasanen is a good choice for chair. He’s a former Kamloops Chamber president and sits on the governance committee of the B.C. Chamber — and this is all about governance.
Their first meeting was just to get the drift of what they were being asked to do, but the second one went three hours, including watching a video of the council meeting at which Nancy Bepple extolled her own qualifications while pitching bigger paydays for mayor and council.
Anyone willing to watch a tape of any council meeting deserves admiration, in my books.
What are chances the task force will recommend a zero increase? “I guess that depends on what the next couple of weeks brings us,” says Hasanen.
If raises are favoured, the task force must come up with a clear formula, or nothing will really be resolved because the issue of “how much” is every bit as contentious as “if.” That vacuum, Hasanen admits, “could get ugly.”
The group will get together again Monday. So far, so good.