Someone asked not long ago if we had elected seven clones for our city council. He was referring to the fact that no one ever seems to speak against or vote in the negative on any issue at a public council meeting.
I have spoken to past and present councillors about this very issue and have come to the conclusion that there seems to be an intimidation factor at play. It has been suggested to councillors that they should not oppose or speak against issues in open council meetings, with the implication that in the future they could be shut out of deliberations on council matters. This is really a sad situation when our democracy has gotten to this stage, as our residents thought they voted for independent thinking individuals who would, to the best of their ability, stand for the best interests of the public. Whether or not the intimidation factor is real or perceived, the result is the same. Some have felt uncomfortable speaking against issues in open council for fear of reprisals. It becomes a problem if councillors are not willing to speak their mind at Council and can only give their real opinions in private conversations. There are are also times when council members have not been given complete information to do their jobs. There have been instances where a council member may feel blind-sided on certain issues or been given incomplete facts, either by fellow councillors or in some cases by their administration.
Some Boards established by the City also feel at times like their voices are not being heard and that certain councillors bully them into decisions they may not have otherwise made. They feel they are simply a rubber stamp for council. There are also times when one wonders if Council is really in charge of city operations or if they are indeed also just a rubber stamp for the Administration.
All is not well with quite a number of city employees either. I have heard from quite a number of current and former employees, either in person, by phone or anonymously and it would seem that staff morale is at an all time low. There is a feeling we have hired so many new administrative consultants and management positions in the past couple of years, even they don’t seem to know what their job really is. We even have had to have a complete department relocate to the Clifton Centre due to space limitations at City Hall. Staff perceive these positions are being filled mainly with friends or family, which can never be a healthy perception. Some employees feel they are disenfranchised and feel they can’t speak about their concerns with management for fear of job termination, suspensions or reprimands. In some cases they just get so frustrated they quit.
I write of these concerns on behalf of those who are not willing to do so on their own, because they fear personal attacks in the media, or by those who can’t say anything for fear of retribution. I hope council and administration take these concerns seriously or they risk becoming totally dysfunctional. Our citizens expect and deserve better.
Don Robinson - Swift Current