What else can you say?
This really is going to make for a very difficult public meeting on March 11th. I wonder what the Chamber folks are thinking now? Mel Rothenburger in his criticism today of Mr. Sigurdson's comments also says
On the other hand, this should ensure a lively public forum on March 11 when Sigurdson will speak at the TRU Grand Hall,
I am personally just really unsure whether the lively nature of the forum should be a measure of its success. Isn't this supposed to be public education? The public ugliness and emotion of this thing has now very unfortunately been brought to a whole new level. And unless Mr. Sigurdson's walks back from his accusations, as the proponent, I feel the meeting will likely have such little credibility in the public eye. Mr. Sigurdson seems to totally denigrate any of the arguments against the ACC creosote tie gasifier.
Very disappointing indeed.
Vacationing in Kamloops may not be the first thing comes to mind when out-of-towners start to plan holidays. We are, however, becoming very well known and very well regarded for being a friendly town with a lot of comparably affordable activities and amenities.
I just spent some time on the Tourism Kamloops web site - always amazes me the amount of info there. And, if you are interested in the very best cowboy entertainment in Canada, check out their page on the Kamloops' famous Cowboy Festival, coming in March.
It's a bit hard to fathom how much exposure Kamloops derives from the Rocky Mountaineer stop. I was in Chicago in the summer of 2005 for the Rotary International Convention and could not believe the number of people I met who had been through Kamloops on the train.
Rocky Mountaineer management has decided to spread its summer passenger stops in Kamloops throughout the week. Instead of a large amount of visitors two or three times a week, the same number of people will be more evenly distributed throughout 5 or 6 days I believe.
The upshot of this is that all Rocky Mountaineer guest will now
overnight in downtown hotels. For passengers on this incredible train
trip, this decision makes total sense. Downtown Kamloops has such great
ambiance and energy. I've heard it described as one long park - with
the wide sidewalks and decorative street features. There is not much of
that around the southwest sector hotels.I know the Kamloops Central
Business Improvement Area is gearing up to make sure new visitors have
a great experience.
Wow, this is going to be tough.
Fact: Thousands of Kamloopsians, from all walks of lifes, oppose the proposed creosote tie gasification plant. (Facebook group now stands at 2915 members and Conservative MP Cathy McLeod and NDP stalwart Micheal Crawford both oppose). Passion and emotion are running very high.
Fact: ACC President Kim Sigurdson, plant proponent, says he is coming to town to counter misinformation and feels his public consultation has been sound. He has all the permits in place to start plant operations and has said he is going ahead. This from various media reports.
Fact: Our Federal MP and Provincial MLAs now oppose plant because they feel public consultation process has been very poor.
How do we keep this degenerating into a total gong show? I think this is so important to ponder. Here are some initial thoughts based on my training, thinking, and experience around public engagement:
1. it would be good to have an third party facilitator agreed upon by ACC and Save Kamloops, the two organized sides to the issue.
2. it would be good if the company reps acknowledged their horrible public engagment up until this point, apologized, and then committed to a respectful and open process for the meeting. ACC should acknowledge respectfully the opposition of many, and not downplay it.
3. it would be good if the company had all their experts and consultants present, no matter where they needed to travel from.
4. I would probably advise against an open mic, at least initially. I might suggest table discussions, faithfully recorded, to record concerns and questions. If attendees really insisted on open mic, then I might suggest setting up ground rules at the start of the meeting – asking people to make commitments as to try to keep the meeting respectful, productive, and not a gong show.
5. I’d ask the company to take great pains to make their technical information understandable to the lay person and respond to questions and concerns as faithfully as possible.
6. I would ask people to wait until the meeting was over to voice further judgements.
The Kamloops Chamber, who are sponsoring the meeting, already have some good practices in place for their events of this nature - no banners or buttons, questions written down and given to third party to ask (on what basis are these questions screened, if at all)
A couple of days ago, I had an interesting chat with one of the key organizers of the opposition to the ACC gasification proposal. This person was spitting mad at Daily News Editor Mel Rothenburger because of what was perceived to be Mel's attempt to cloak rabid support for the proposal in high minded appeals for fairness and rational decision making. That's what I took from the chat, in any case.
This is so interesting to me.
I should state up front that I have a huge respect for Mel. I think he was a great Mayor and that he is still one of the top 3 most influential people in Kamloops. When Mel writes, people are so used to reading and, more importantly, absorbing what he has to say. A negative review in the "armchair Mayor", and I've been associated and even the subject of a couple, is something to fear.
(By the way, Mel's column this week is on the upcoming Chamber sponsored public meeting on the ACC proposal.)
Mel's columns on ACC have made me believe that he does strongly support the project. To me, that's fair ball; as a columnist, you are supposed to be opinionated. I also feel, however, that he hasn't really come out and stated his support outright. This is likely just a style issue - also completely fair ball. But, I can understand why people think Mel is trying to be a little clever. They know how much influence Mel has but may also feel that an indirect writing style might be employed to get past people's questioning and skepticism muscles. If someone just states something outright, people perhaps tend to question it and engage with it more fully.
But, ultimately, who is responsible for questioning and engaging?
I personally think that we all need to read whatever we read with a questioning and skeptical eye. Mel's columns always make me think and question and that is hugely helpful.
photo credit : http://www.flickr.com/photos/virtualvillage/2657975401/
I've always, for example, wondered about the distinction people working within city hall often make between themselves and the public. At the budget meeting, the Mayor was explaining the difference between inflation as applied to househould purchases and inflation as applied to city hall purchases. The Mayor said something to the effect of 'when we buy something, it is different to when you buy something. We buy huge amounts of concrete for example. So, inflation in what we buy is different to what you buy as individuals". He is making a very valid point, but I wonder if a more inclusive way of saying the same thing would be "when we buy as a community, the inflation rates are different from when we buy as individuals". Maybe a minor point, but the later sounds much better at least to my ear.
I've also recently heard a councillor say "our bylaw officers", and I wonder if we would lose anything to say "community bylaw officers"? There would probably much to gain.
This, to me, gets away from a them versus us sort of framing and moves us toward thinking more collaboratively.
I had a quick chat, after tonight's public budget meeting, with a lady who has never attended before. She was struck by how civil and thoughtful the questions were. She had heard that people rant and rave at these meetings, and that only a few ranters and ravers show up - everyone else stays home. Tonight's meeting was indeed of a very different flavour. More people attended than in many previous years, people were respectful and interested.
I was struck by the number of people who vocalized support for water meters - maybe the third of the nine or ten questioners. I was also interested that two people politely brought up the issue of an airshed management plan prompted by the creosote tie gasifier proposal currently ongoing in the community.
Mayor Milobar said that a council decision on universal water metering should be coming in the next couple of months. This issue has arisen again as city hall is now faced with some pretty immediate decisions on expanding water distribution capacity.