“Money, it’s a crimeShare it fairlyBut don’t take a slice of my pie”
Those lyrics in the song “Money” were written by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters in 1972 but always seem to ring true no matter what decade. However, lately it sounds like a theme song for our region of the West Kootenay.
This week Warfield joined Beaver Valley when they jumped off the recreational services bandwagon leaving Trail to maintain facilities like the memorial centre’s arena and library and aquatic centre on its own.
Much like our provincial and federal leaders, our current crop of local leaders likes to hide behind the curtain of “fiscal responsibility.”
Anytime an unpopular decision is made they cite financial reasons. It’s as if they were the first ones to ever think of this issue.
You have to wonder during a time when the communities were actually working together, be it on sewer lines or an airport or any project that impacted everyone in the region, were they not as smart as today’s leaders?
Did they not stop to think, “How much is this going to cost my own community?”
Or did they think “This is for the benefit of everyone so we should stick together on this.”
That kind of thinking seems so remote from today’s atmosphere that it’s amazing anything has ever been done with the entire region’s benefit in mind.
Between five councils and two regional district representatives there are a total of 30 people making decisions that affect each and every citizen in the region. To put it into perspective, Cranbrook has roughly a similar population as the combined local quintet of communities and is served by one mayor and six councillors. They also look after arenas, an aquatic centre and airport and somehow make it work without lurching from confrontation to confrontation.
Granted all our local elected officials – five mayors, 23 councillors and two area regional district directors – have received a mandate to make decisions but I don’t think anyone could foresee the type of decisions and the ripple effects it would have.
That’s why Beaver Valley opting out of the recreation deal or Warfield ending its cost sharing for the library or Rossland questioning costs for fire services or Trail taking over the airport impacts us all.
Yet the citizens have rarely been asked if they support these decisions. Lately it appears the electorate is only asked its opinion after the decision has been made and the backlash begun.
So what’s next?
As always the only people that get hurt in these disputes are the same people these decisions are supposed to help.
A few less people coming into a town hurts a business, residents have to jump through another hoop just to go for a swim, paper work needs to be done, taxes collected and the whole process just adds another layer of bureaucracy, which is the root of all government.
And who pays the final bill? It’s always the same people – those who were supposed to be saved by our leaders in the first place.
I never thought I lived in an “Us and Them,” type of community, which ironically, is another Pink Floyd composition highlighting warring sides and the people on the front line questioning the leaders’ decisions.
But it seems every day the local divide grows rather than recedes.
I think rivalry is great, when it comes to sports. Everybody has a side they cheer for.
But judging by the terse tones, lack of communication, quick decisions and lasting wounds, there seems to be a growing rivalry between neighboring communities stemming from these important decisions.
I have friends in Fruitvale and Rossland and in between but somehow these lines drawn in the sand are forcing ordinary people to pick a side in the debate. Sadly there hasn’t been one leader ready to step across that line and offer a handshake.
This is an election year and perhaps it takes these community-dividing decisions to make people realize that this isn’t the way we want life to carry on in our region.
Change has been long overdue in many of our municipalities. The simmering resentment has been festering for years so perhaps new blood can provide a fresh vision.
That said, very few step up and throw their name in the ring for local elections, which leads to the same representatives with the same old grudges.
And don’t even ponder the question of amalgamation. There’s too much at stake in each council chamber to go down that long and winding road.
So without some new ideas and dynamics I envision more of the same, no communication, continued resentment and needless posturing, as the next four years unfold.
I guess all that’s left is to put up fences and gates around each town and charge people to pass through. That way individual communities can control who comes and goes, who pays and who doesn’t and who gets in and who gets out.
After all isn’t that what this is all about?
Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times