Speaking from the heart can be unifying.
And speaking honestly, not reciting from written statements, can open doors many presumed were slammed shut – in this case, a shared economic development service that four Trail councillors voted down at the Nov. 7 regular meeting.
Members of city council received considerable back lash after they voted four-to-three against funding an economic partnership, status quo, with Rossland, Warfield, Montrose, Fruitvale and Areas A and B.
The matter returned to the table Monday night, when a roomful of business leaders came back to chambers with more than words and a reconsideration request – the LCCDTS (Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society) presented a comprehensive overview of priorities, strategies, goals and current metrics of work being done through the regional economic service, called the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC).
In the end, council agreed to re-visit its earlier outcome but stated that tweaks would have to be made. Trail funds 43 per cent of the service or $78,000 annually, so in tight financial times, the opt-out decision was strictly business. That outlook hasn’t changed in the past weeks, so for council to re-consider, better communication is a must.
The consensus appeared to be that Trail councillors did not have adequate answers to what exactly they were funding through the LCIC – one of the tweaks would have to include routine reporting with measurable facts.
In legal speak, the resolution reads, “that notwithstanding Trail council’s decision to withdraw from the regional economic development service, council engage in discussions with the LCCDTS and LCIC and the RDKB to re-establish the economic development service under different terms, mutually agreed, which address the concerns of the City of Trail.”
Before the motion, however, the flood gates opened. All five councillors (Coun. Robert Cacchioni was absent) gave impassioned insight about what led to their decision and what they expect from the service going forward.
The issue has many layers and ripples far beyond this one Lower Columbia service.
Notably, Coun. Lisa Pasin voted in favour of continuing the service, but presented a crystal clear point of view Monday night – Trail is expected to remain the financial anchor of shared services regardless the perceived value of service.
This, she aptly terms, is “selective regional collaboration.”
“When I say selective regional collaboration, I mean the expectation was loud and clear the past month that regardless the value received or perceived for the service, Trail was expected to remain a major financial participant because it’s required for the service to function when you have (six) smaller communities – we are the financial anchor,” said Coun. Pasin, the city’s LCCDTS appointee.
“But on the other hand, a blind eye is turned or it’s accepted with minimal push back when our regional partners opt out, contribute less or reduce funding based on their perceived value of service, their stated ability to afford the service, or they make a decision that’s deemed to be the best decision for their community,” she added as her voice cracked with emotion.
Trail. Coun. Lisa Pasin
“This balance is not equitable, it doesn’t facilitate the cohesive collaboration which is really expected of our region. Collaboration is expected, and I just ask you to reflect on this double standard of accountability that exists.”
Pasin asked where the public outcry was when “regional” recreation partners pulled out of the service based on perceived value.
“It was much, much less than what it is today and for the past month over this LCIC decision,” she said. “I truly believe that deep down there is a level of confidence that the base recreational support would have to be provided by the City of Trail regardless of what any other municipality decided to do – Trail was back stopping the service and we would not let it fail,” Pasin noted.
“So I just put this forward as one example of how regional collaboration for our area remains selective.”
Coun. Carol Dobie and Coun. Eleanor Gattafoni Robinson recently attended a local economic development forum, and acknowledged the LCCDTS presentation as a step in the right direction.
Finally, Coun. Sandy Santori spoke.
He voted against funding the LCIC, and emphasized the difficulty in making that decision – but ultimately, Santori cited the organization’s communication with stakeholders as “fundamentally flawed.”
He pointed to millions invested in the last few years, beginning with the purchase of the regional airport in order to expand service; building the landmark Skywalk over the sewer pipe, instead of leaving it an unsightly utility line across the river; and now, the uniquely designed Riverfront Centre.
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