EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, September 11, 2009

"Why the rush?," Mayor Manjak and supporters

It appears that Cranbrook city council will consider a motion at its Monday September 14 meeting calling for a referendum by the city's voters on a proposal to expand the city's boundaries which if passed would more than double the geographic size of this community in the southeastern interior of British Columbia.

Mayor Scott Manjak and five of his councillors suffered a humiliating defeat when they tried to avoid a referendum by using an Alternative Approval Process this summer when a grassroots group got more than 3000 taxpayers to sign forms rejecting the council's AAP decision. They required 1475 signatures which is 10% of the eligible city voters.

If a motion calling for a referendum is presented and if it is passed by the same members who voted for the AAP process -namely Manjak and Councillors Denise Pallesen, Angus Davis, Liz Schatschneider, Jim Wavrecan and Diana J. Scott, it begs the question, "Why the rush?" Councillor Bob Whetham opposed the motion on the AAP proposal. I use the word ``if`` for a reason. I went to the city of Cranbrook web site looking for the council agenda for its meeting at 4:30 pm Friday. It appears that council posts the agenda with the minutes of the meeting -- after the meeting is held. Therefore, I can not be absolutely sure that the matter is on the agenda. So much for being open and transparent before the fact!!!

During the AAP time period, Manjak issued a glossy brochure delivered in the mail to every household and ran a two page ad in the local paper urging support for the boundary expansion proposal. I have it on good authority that this campaign cost the local taxpayers an estimated $7,000, and I don't know if that includes a letter prepared by the city solicitor defending Manjak's offer to remove any AAP form submitted if people changed their minds.

Despite the mayor`s best efforts, the AAP was quite frankly shot down convincingly. Of course I am not suggesting in the slightest that all those who supported the grassroots group are opposed to boundary expansion. But it is sure a shot across the bow to the council that it may be well advised to move cautiously on this proposal and be sure it is the right move at this time in Cranbrook`s history. It is perhaps time for sober second thoughts.

As I noted previously I am a latecomer to having any interest in the proposal and started writing about it after Manjak made his offer to remove forms submitted in the AAP. Generally speaking I tend to favour boundary expansions and even amalgamation of communities where it made sense. I was a young reporter in Timmins, Ontario, when amalgamation of a number of small municipalities was first being considered and later happened. I was a student at Lakehead University shortly after Fort William and Port Arthur were amalgamated to create Thunder Bay,

But to this point, where the city is proposing to take in two huge parcels of private land for future development that may or may not occur in the future, it bothers me for some reason. So again, I pose the question, `Why the rush?`and I hope each member of council will take the time to clearly articulate reasons for their support or lack thereof for the proposal.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cranbrook mayor Scott Manjak and council majority made huge political miscalculation

Cranbrook mayor Scott Manjak and five of his six councillors made a huge political miscalculation when they opted for an Alternative Approval Process instead of a referendum on a proposal to more than double the geographical size of this small city in the southeastern interior of British Columbia.

Over the past 45 years, I have been an observer of politics at all levels as a reporter from Bruce Hutchison's "far side of the street" and for eight years I was a municipal politician, so I have seen it all from both sides of the street! Quite frankly, after I learned that a grassroots movement here had secured more than 3000 signatures to stop the council's action, I shook my head in disbelief..They needed 1475 signatures. I really didn't think they could do it.

How could a council, in office less than a year, but with mayor and several councillors on it with elected experience, so completely misread the tune and temper of the citizens it represents? Although it is the mayor's first term, he sat on council for nine years here. Councillor Jim Wavrecan seems to have been on council at least for the 20 years I have lived here: Councillor Liz Schatschneider has been there for nine years; Councillor Angus Davis has years of municipal experience here and elsewhere, while Councillors Diana J. Scott and Denise Pallesen are in their first term.

Councillor Bob Whetham is also in his first term and is the only member who voted against the council motion to go to the AAP to expand the city's boundaries. He has his own views on the entire matter of growth in Cranbrook but most importantly he read the public mood correctly.

Perhaps the council members who voted for the AAP believed that because it had the support of the local chamber of commerce it could proceed without a referendum. Perhaps they believed that despite rumblings from a grassroots group within the community who opposed the AAP, it knew best.

Personally I have never seen a mayor and majority of the councillors suffer a rejection of this nature unless it has been in a regular election and they were all defeated. In a sense they made history.

The mayor promised an open and transparent regime during his time in office. He has "brown bag lunch" sessions and writes a column in the local paper periodically. But, it is pretty obvious that Manjak was not listening to the people of Cranbrook. He sent out a glossy brochure and ran a two page ad in the paper extolling the boundary expansion so he must have sensed there was significant opposition to his council's decision.

Although I have great respect for Bob Whetham, until Manjak said in his ads that if anyone who had signed an AAP, wanted to change their mind, just call him and he would have it removed, I really wasn't too interested in the matter. Suddenly, the reporter's bell went off in my head, and I said to myself "I don't like this", and went to city hall and signed an AAP form. Manjak's comment disturbed me greatly.

Something that Lord Acton once said about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely came to mind. Obviously, this mayor and council do not enjoy absolute power in Cranbrook, and if any of them thought so, the grassroots rose up and showed them they are the servants of the people. They also need to be reminded that they are in office as the result of an election that saw only about 30% of the eligible voters cast a ballot -- and the more than 3000 AAP forms is only slightly less than the estimated 4300 who voted. Hopefully the 70% of the voters of Cranbrook who did not vote will become vigilant and involved in the affairs of the city for the balance of this council's three-year term.

The council meets next on September 14. We shall then see if the mayor and councillors who supported the AAP have learned anything.

SEE EARLIER POST: Cranbrook mayor Scott Manjak and his council followers get lesson in grassroots democracy on Thursday August 27, 2009 BELOW

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


click on image


Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE