The dynamics of any local council is always interesting. Our current edition is no exception.
I believe the six members of our current council have the best balance and combined skill set of any council in Squamish history.
They are so good at what they do and how they do it that people sometimes take them for granted. They often even make the Mayor look good, which is no small task.
Coun. Jeff Dawson is fond of saying that the Mayor gets too much credit when things go right, and too much blame when things go sideways.
That's definitely the case when good things are happening. City Hall is set up so that the Mayor speaks on behalf of the District. This is not new with this council; it has been the communications policy for several years.
However, people sometimes forget that any initiative, no matter how big or how small, has to go through council, and must get assent from four or more of the seven people at the table. It doesn't matter where the idea comes from, it must be blessed by a majority of Council to move forward.
The simple fact is that our council has had every voting pattern possible. I've been with Corinne on the losing side of 5-2 votes, I've been onside with Raj, Ray and Corinne to pass a motion 4-3 and I've been with Dave, Sonja, Jeff and Ray on 5-2 votes. Everyone brings their own values, beliefs and research to the table and votes accordingly.
It's been said that I have the ability to tell other members how to vote. First, the facts simply don't bear it out. Second, people who say such things don't know how obstinate Jeff can be!
Seriously, I believe this perception comes from the fact that Jeff, Sonja, Ray and Dave don't speak out at council meetings just for the sake of hearing their own voice. They speak when they feel the need, but not simply to repeat what someone has already said.
The fact is most members of council recognize the length of our agendas and the seriousness of the issues before us.
Their personalities are such that they speak briefly and forcefully when they feel it necessary. From day one council members have demonstrated a respect for the process and the value of council time. Being on camera is not a priority. Council members want to move business forward and get things done.
It's hard to believe, but some people consider me a dictator. Sadly, my wife started this rumour. There is an element of truth to this, but it comes not from making decisions on behalf of council, but rather by moving the business of Squamish forward.
Good or bad, someone has to control the agenda at our meetings. Someone has to ensure that we stay on topic and follow the rules all of council has embraced. And like it or not, that is the role of the Mayor in any community.
And to be honest, it's a tough line to walk. Talk with any chairperson of any meeting. Think of any meeting you've sat through, no matter whether it's a school PAC, strata council or sporting association. I bet you all thought at different times that the person running the meeting was either too lax in letting people wander off topic, or too tough in making people stay on topic.
Finding the middle ground is tough. In my case, most members of Council have told me they want succinct meetings that stay on schedule and end at a reasonable time. They've instructed me to keep people on topic when a motion is being discussed.
That means bringing debate to a close after everyone has spoken and all new information is on the table. Having someone say the same thing five times doesn't make for a better debate; it simply makes for a longer debate.
This is a very effective council that works well together on behalf of the community that we serve. The good ideas come from all members, and are made better by the group discussion.
We're fortunate that we can agree to disagree on various issues, but debate them with respect and have dinner together afterwards. And very seldom do I order food for people!