By Mike Archer. Does anyone remember how Patty Ross’ environmentalist friend, Sharon Gaetz, managed to allow a toxic waste facility on the Fraser River past the public in a process she claimed had forced her not to raise any alarm bells or let her community (or others downriver) even discuss the matter?
Well just imagine a similar process in Abbotsford which allowed councillors to hide their discussions and decisions behind another layer of protection from public scrutiny.
The process she was referring to was the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) which was set up several years ago. It was ostensibly done in order to streamline the economic development process so that companies wouldn’t be burdened with the time consuming and costly process of public hearings and debate in the community about whether they were a good addition to the community.
As a result of pulling its economic development function behind closed doors, Chilliwack may have grown a little faster than it otherwise would have, but it also attracted at least one company which is known as a toxic work place by the federal government and another which is actually intent on building a toxic waste facility on the Fraser River.
Bruce Banman has had an awful lot of bad ideas in his short stint as mayor. His proposed Abbotsford Development Corporation is nothing more than an attempt to hide blunders like the YMCA fiasco from ever happening in front of an audience again.
In Abbotsford we’ve watched as opportunities for real economic development in the city have dried up, not because we don’t have a more secretive process but because of some very bad decisions and some serious issues of competence at the highest echelons at City Hall and around the council table which, had the public known about them, might never have been allowed to occur, much less fester for as long as they have.
George Peary’s generosity with his friends’ and neighbours’ money has left us keeping the Calgary Flames from losing money.
It has also contributed to the emptying of the treasury and the elimination of our DCC funds which are specifically set aside in order to pay for economic growth infrastructure.
We’ve watched as Bruce Banman fumbled and buffooned his way through a silly attempt to have taxpayers give the YMCA millions in cash and generations worth of tax free status to build something that is already here.
We’ve seen what incompetence and bad judgement can cause. To provide another layer of secrecy behind which they can hide would be foolish in the extreme.
The real business community in Abbotsford is getting tired of having their interests associated with the little clique who run the Chamber, and who seem at times to be more concerned with keeping competition out of Abbotsford rather than growing a community built on solid foundations.
Those who object to this massive misuse of their hard-earned money should be brought closer to the decision-making process, not be forced to leave the room when bad decisions are about to be made.
If we can dispense with all the ‘Your Worships’ and the ‘Honourable Members’ and all the rest of the phony pomp and circumstance with which our public servants protect themselves, and just have them look us in the eye and explain what they’ve done with our money and why, they very quickly become average, flawed human beings who make mistakes. These particular men and women have made some extremely bad mistakes with our money and in our name.
The courts are already dealing with some of those mistakes. We are left to deal with the others. Something has gone terribly wrong in this city either because we have been too trusting, too willing to accept mediocrity, or too blinded by the merchants of false truths to actually believe anything was wrong which required our attention.
Read Bruce Banman’s Economic Action Plan. It reads like it was written by the Chamber of Commerce and all the men and women who got us where were are today and who seem to think a whole bunch more of the same drivel couldn’t do us any harm.
It is going to take us years to unravel the damage done. Going any further down the path of secrecy is not a good idea and Banman can’t possibly think we would trust him to take information out of the public eye instead of allowing us to know what is being done with our money and our name.
These issues require more scrutiny … not less. And these men and women must be required to explain themselves to us before they throw our money away … not after.