Turning inner space into outer space

May 4, 2011

City council fails to represent citizens of Kamloops

Before councillors decided to go ahead with a parkade in the park, they heard presentations from Bob Gamble of the Kamloops Voters Society and public transit advocate Ann Grube.

Their reaction said it all: condescending, defensive, even combative.

They practically dismissed Gamble out of hand, making remarks that implied his group didn’t have any solid plans and so was not really worthy of consideration. They talked a lot about how important public input is, but placed the onus on the voters society to figure how to improve a process they think is just fine.

Grube, on the hand, had plenty of substance in her presentation, offering a multitude of alternatives to a parkade. After joking about a few pie-in-sky ideas such as a funicular or a gondola, they asked her to send them a list of reading material that covered her ideas. Given what followed, this turned out to be blatant hypocrisy.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Mayor Peter Milobar came up a proposal for a two-storey (down from three storeys) parkade in the park. I say “seemingly” because he no doubt discussed the plan ahead of time with city staff and fellow councillors. He likely even had a good idea of what the vote would be.

Those presentations turned out to be nothing but a nuisance councillors had to put up with before the real decision was made. In the end, politically-motivated manoeuvring won the day. The good citizens of Kamloops, who put faith in the system by letting their opposition to the parkade in the park be known loud and clear, were tossed a bone with the hope that two storeys instead of three would blunt opposition enough to win re-election for councillors.

It was a cynical move that shows contempt for the voters.

A lot people wonder what’s really driving council’s decision, since it’s certainly not the ordinary residents of Kamloops. My hunch is that councillors are under pressure from downtown business people to build a parkade for them at taxpayers’ expense.

We haven’t heard much from business people on this subject, and I suspect it’s because they fear that speaking out will cost them in lost business — to the tune of about 70 per cent. That’s how many people came out against the parkade in a survey by City Hall. It was left to council to do the dirty work.

The other thing you have to wonder about is why the big hurry? Councillors Denis Walsh and Marg Spina, to their credit, tried to have the two-storey proposal tabled so they — and the public — would have time to think about it.

The skeptical among us surmise that parkade proponents want shovels in the ground as soon as possible so that it will be a done deal before municipal elections. Even if this council is swept out by voters, it would be tough for a new council to stop construction.