Can Council pull a rabbit out of its collective hat?

David F. Rooney Current Publisher and Editor
David F. Rooney
Current Publisher and Editor

For the last four or five years there has been a certain level of dissatisfaction — even bitterness and anger — directed at our mayor and Council.

For much of that time the complaints and curses directed at them were muted. However, they are growing louder and more insistent — so much so that Mayor David Raven referred to them in public during last Tuesday’s Council meeting.

“There is a negative perception (of Council),” he said, adding that many people believe that Council does not communicate effectively with local citizens.

“I have noted that and will try to… better communicate policies and directions. You’ll a number of things going forward in the future.”

Well, that would be a good thing. But you have to wonder if it is too little or too late.

With only a year left to go in this Council’s mandate, people are already talking about who they’d like to boot off City Council. Judging by that kind of talk, if an election were to be held this month just about everyone sitting on Council right now would get the chop.

This is actually quite early for that kind of talk. Normally, Revelstokians don’t start thinking about who should stay and who should go until three or four months before a civic election. Now this kind of discussion is taking place a full year before the next trip to the ballot box. And the political talk is becoming very serious.

What’s wrong with Council?

Almost everybody in town probably has an opinion on that and many of those opinions are not nice.

Personally, I think that Raven and Councillors Chris Johnston, Phil Welock, Tony Scarcella, Steve Bender, Gary Starling and Linda Nixon are genuinely grappling with difficult taxation and spending questions. However, they are doing so without having a clear, coherent or shared vision of the kind of future they want to lead us to.

I’m not talking about a Vision Statement. Nor am I talking about the Official Community Plan. The City has a very nice Vision Statement. And the OCP is a lovely and general set of guidelines for the future — not a political vision that the mayor and Council can use to inspire and lead people into the future.

Mayor Raven and Council have a year to try to inspire and lead Revelstokians. Can they do it?

Well, they will be shortly setting off for a weekend of strategizing. Perhaps they can pull a rabbit out of their collective hat.  And if they can actually do that will they be able to communicate it to the public?

And, if they do, will the public respond? That, too, is part of the malaise that has infected Revelstoke. Ten or 12 years ago you could count on at least 100 people coming to a public meeting or Town Hall vent. Today? We’re lucky to see 50 or 60 people show up. This suggests that Revelstokians are not as engaged as they once were.

I think the people of Revelstoke want inspired and visionary leadership. I believe they want to be engaged with City Council. I am certain of that because more than 800 people have so far answered the City’s first-ever taxpayer satisfaction survey. That’s well over 10 per cent of the population. And though the survey is not as scientifically structured as one generated by polling firms like Ipsos-Reid or Decima that level of participation really says people want to be engaged.

Can Council actually lead the people of Revelstoke? Will people recognize that and respond?

We’ll see.

If you have any thoughts on this I hope you’ll share them online.