By Mike Archer. Although it is hard to imagine a humorous moment at such a serious meeting as Monday’s public hearing on part of the ongoing Abbotsford Homeless Crisis … when Councillor Henry Braun was accused of having a conflict of interest on the proposal by Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) and BC Housing to house 20 men in a supportive housing project because his son works in the planning department, Mayor Banman asked City Manager George Murray what to do.
Murray described the law on the subject and explained that conflict of interest comes into play if an elected official cannot come to an issue with an open mind, usually due to having a pecuniary interest in the matter.
Demonstrating an inability or unwillingness to admit he didn’t know what the word meant, Banman asked Murray, “For the benefit of the audience, could you explain what ‘pecuniary’ means?”
Murray explained that the word means that money would have to be involved.
On a less humorous note, Mayor Banman showed an unprofessional side to the performance of one of the most important aspects of his job – running council meetings in an effective and fair manner.
At Monday’s public meeting he repeatedly told people to wrap up their comments due to the long line of people who wanted to be heard. Almost all of those he asked to shorten their remarks and confine themselves to the specific topic at hand – namely the proposed rezoning – were women and most were in favour of the rezoning.
While several of those in support of the rezoning had comments about the need for the community to act in a more humanitarian fashion; the need for councillors to come clean about their involvement with powerful business interests; the validity of some of the arguments being made against the proposal; and more … Banman used his position as chair of the hearing to shut speakers up who were, in almost every case women and who were in favour of the proposal.
He also asked people to consider not making remarks if what they wanted to say had already been said. Why? It was obvious John Smith was nodding off, but is that a reason to shut down democracy?
Banman has made no secret of his position on the matter – he has steadfastly opposed the ACS/BC Housing proposal saying that church groups, service providers, community groups, other levels of government and the private sector (all of which were were present – some, like VanCity and the Abbotsford Foundation, with big check books) must come together to solve this issue. He seemed to be running the meeting as though he was determined to protect the business people who oppose the proposal.
While he managed to win his shouting match with Lily Kaetler he was certainly shut up himself by Bas Stevens who treated the mayor the way he deserved under the circumstances – like a small bully.
Another phrase which has become a hallmark of Banman’s meetings is his strange use of the phrase, “If you cannot control yourself I will have you removed.”
Several council watchers have wondered and asked, “By whom?”
There are no police or bylaw officers standing by at council meetings to drag people from the chambers and, unless Bruce intends to ask John Smith and Bill MacGregor to get up and physically remove someone for expressing emotion, he should just stop using the phrase.
While it may give him the illusion of power, the fact that he has no one to back him up should be enough to have him stop threatening citizens for giving a damn about their community and showing passion in their beliefs.
Besides, he diminishes the office of the mayor when he acts like a bully at public meetings and betrays a singular inability to properly run a meeting.