I must say that the Northern View article and ThePodunkian’s op-ed piece about the Regional District’s handling of the local recycling facility and Director/Mayor Mussallem’s ongoing dispute with local volunteer Jean Martin makes for rather sad reading.
His sermon from the mount about how the Regional District should follow its own bylaws would come across as a little pompous but otherwise inoffensive, but his opening reference to Ms Martin further illustrates his limited abilities at setting aside his personal feelings and dealing with the substance of issues. Considering that regional directors are paid about $800 honouraria for attending a monthly board meeting, we really should be getting something more in the way of representation than what he seems willing or able to provide.
In response to budgetary problems resulting from rising administration costs at the Regional District, including to support director honouraria considerably higher than what our city councillors receive, Ms Martin and others have suggested some modest adjustments to the facility’s hours of operation. A response from the regional board, whatever the outcome, to the merits of those suggestions would seem to be called for, both as a demonstration of good governance and out of respect for the civic mindedness of the citizens who brought forward their thoughts.
Instead we get the following pronouncement from Regional Chair Barry Pages, whose imperial reach evidently extends from the Village of Masset, over which he presides as Mayor, to these shores, where he has not received an endorsement at the ballot box from the voters of this town:
“As we said at the last meeting, the decision has been made around the hours…We will continue to monitor the situation, and staff will be reporting back to us in the new year,” said the Board chair, Barry Pages.
A decision once made, it appears, can thereafter not be altered, no matter how meritorious or well intended an alternative proposal or suggestion may be.
What really gets me though is this: Board Chair Pages obviously has considerable say in these matters, but what does his small municipality contribute towards the costs of the local recycling facility? Nothing. Nor do any of the other island municipalities and electoral areas. Of the $167,000 in tax revenue collected in 2009 to support the recycling facility, $152,074 came from the taxpayers of Prince Rupert. The balance came the citizens of Port Ed, Dodge Cove, Oona River and the surrounding areas on the mainland. The latters’ contributions are small, reflecting the low populations and small tax bases of those places, but they no doubt deserve a place at the table when decisions are being made about how tax money is being spent.
That illustrates a serious problem with the Regional District. Rupert puts in most of the money for certain things, but decisions about things that Ms Martin and other local petitioners are concerned about are subject to the decisions or whims of Board Chair Page and his island colleagues, even though they do not contribute to the costs of the services at issue or live with the results of their decisions.
That, however, is not the final kick in the ass for Rupert citizens in this sorry tale of regional government arrogance and indifference to local concerns. Of $207,450 raised from taxpayers to support the administration costs of the regional district, including the bloated honouraria and other fringe benefits of its offshore directors, Rupert taxpayers contributed $154,422 in 2009. I understand that the tax requisition for that purpose went up this year.
What does Director/Mayor Mussallem as our senior representative on the regional board have to say about all of this taxation without fair and effective representation? Well, by all appearances he’s too busy carrying on a petty and unseemly dispute with Ms Martin to say anything of note on our behalf in this regard.