By Marilyn Zink
The Chamber of Commerce is presenting a petition to Nanaimo City Council tonight over concerns on behavior in council chambers and between councillors.
The online petition titled ‘Fix Nanaimo City Council Now’ was started a month ago by Nanaimo Chamber CEO Kim Smythe and has 331 supporters to date.
The petition states there are ongoing issues such as ‘decorum in Council Chambers, respectful behavior between Councilors, inappropriate interaction with staff and a basic breakdown in civility. There are major questionable mileposts in the governance of our community that drive deep disappointment in the choices voters made – the Conference Centre Hotel, Colliery Dams Park, and Core Review all stand out.’
Smythe says the petition was started due to divisive and dysfunctional behavior between city councilors, which is having an effect on business.
“The lack of healthy relationships is delaying and hampering progress on city business,” says Smythe. “Someone with a loud voice needs to stand up and talk about it.”
Smythe says since the petition was started things have improved with city councilors and council meetings.
“I think it has had impact. There’s a lot more co-operation around council chambers.”
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay says council is working on improving relationships.
“I don’t mind the business community coming and rapping our knuckles now and then. I’ve got no issue with that.”
He says one approach being considered regarding decorum in council chambers is to put together “a prescriptive code of conduct while attending meetings.”
McKay says decorum in council chambers was also a problem with the Surrey School Board.
“They actually faced a human rights challenge where citizens felt they couldn’t openly speak due to a lack of control in the gallery.”
McKay says personality issues between city councilors is being dealt with by a facilitator, The Integrity Group, which started Sept. 1 to improve working relationships.
“One of the big challenges with this type of body (council) is that the last thing you want to have happen is that decisions be swayed on personalities,” says McKay. “You can’t be doing that. They have to be issue based.”
The Integrity Group provides training and resolutions on a respectful workplace and is working with city councilors on an ongoing basis, says McKay.
He says improving working relationships is critical as council has some big challenges it needs to deal with, such as finding new sources of water over the next four years.