Capital Regional District senior staff on Salt Spring have made it abundantly clear they don’t have enough time to work on all the issues under their vast portfolio at once.
That seems to indicate they would accept a little help from the volunteer commissions that were established to ensure community involvement in local government decisions.
Lately though, some commissioners may be feeling less like valued participants in the governance process and more like children who get slapped for trying to head down the block in dad’s shiny work shoes. A warning letter sent from the CRD’s Victoria office last week to members of the Salt Spring Transportation Commission has exactly that tone.
Acting CAO Larissa Hutcheson chided commissioners for going outside their authority and incurring potential personal liability as a result, taking a hardline approach that will surely rub many the wrong way.
The bewildering thing about the rebuke is that the crime — collaborating with a community group seeking unique handcrafted bus shelter designs — replicates something the commission has done once before on its own, and from within the CRD envelope. No one is proposing the exact same process be followed a second time. In fact, the newly formed volunteer group Island Bus Shelters intends to learn from past mistakes. They have asked for “design-build” concepts using a framework based precisely on previous CRD staff feedback. Yet the idea is apparently now impossible to accommodate.
Yes, local commissions are “advisory” bodies who must filter their decisions through the higher-ups. That doesn’t mean they don’t or shouldn’t do the legwork required to pass on their recommendations. Senior staff should realize volunteers have an important role to play in the non-municipal areas of the regional district. But they won’t be likely to sign up if their work is dismissed or never gets any results. We’ve seen Salt Spring residents resign from multiple commissions for those reasons.
Bureaucracy for its own sake is not valuable, and it’s not supportable in a small community. CRD director Wayne McIntyre is working to change attitudes by bringing the organization’s highest staffer to Salt Spring. Let’s hope he gets the message across so our unique, decentralized form of government can keep functioning.