Political life in this country gets zanier with each passing day. The three-ring circus in the Red Chamber continues to be a source of public entertainment for the denizens of Ottawa and the whole nation. Hogtown residents are tuned into a daily gong show provided by their city’s wayward mayor. By comparison, the foibles attributed to our local government are hardly in the same league. Still, with just a year left before the next election, our municipal council’s shortcomings require closer scrutiny.
Boosting the sagging fortunes of the downtown is high on the district’s agenda. But visitors may be hard pressed to find out exactly where the heart of Squamish is located. After an errant driver obliterated the original Squamish welcome sign in early 2012, two non-descript signs were erected as temporary replacements. One indicates downtown is somewhere across from the Mamquam Blind Channel. The second version, on the west side of Highway 99 between McDonald’s and Industrial Way, points directly into a swamp behind Capilano University. Instead of erecting a comprehensive marquee in a timely fashion, after the original version was reduced to kindling, the district downloaded signage deliberations to a “task force” and more recently hired a branding consultant to look into the matter.
Speaking of deliberations, according to Section 115 of the Community Charter and Local Government Act, our elected municipal representatives are required “to participate in council meetings, committee meetings and meetings of other bodies to which the member is appointed.” That proviso appears to have eluded Ron Sander, who has missed 26 Committee of the Whole and Special council meetings combined during his two years in office. We know he holds down a full-time management position on the North Shore. Nonetheless, he should have been aware of time commitment requirements before he sought public office. In second place behind Coun. Sander in the truancy department is Susan Chapelle. She has been absent from 14 key gatherings. Between the two of them, they’ve missed more meetings than all other councillors and the mayor combined.
But let’s switch our attention to an even more pressing matter, the Squamish oceanfront. A nominal payment of $3 for one of the most lucrative chunks of real estate on the planet has ballooned into an unwieldy $9.41 million bank debt. The DOS ended up selecting two firms to develop the property, one of which coincidentally is run by a former member of the SODC board. We are left to ponder why the price tag for the land was not negotiated by the DOS at the time the developers were selected. Now, with the first debt repayment of $3 million due in the spring of 2014, the district is under pressure to reach a deal that may not be in taxpayers’ best interests.