Once again I find I have some contrasting views to those stated in the recent editorial in regard to local government. We are all living in the busiest time in history and local government is simply under the radar for people most of the time. This is exactly why public information is so important. The Gazette article that started this debate let residents of the RDMW know they pay the highest per capita amount for remuneration of the Regional District chair (me at the moment, for at least another week) – but gave no other details. No mention that it is because we are the lowest in population. No mention of what else is done with our taxes. No comparison in actual pay amounts to a larger RD (a lot less here for both staff and those elected). No mention of what anyone does to get paid. No mention of any regional or municipal service at all, or what the quality of that service might be.
Many constituents I have talked to since I have been in office are surprised to learn that the most expensive service run by the RDMW is 7 Mile Landfill. In fact, many people have overlooked it entirely as a local service. Although of course there are exceptions I think it is a fact that unless we are in the business most of us do not really notice local government until it is somehow directly brought to our attention by something – we are building a house that needs inspecting or learn of a proposed zoning change that we support/don’t support, and get involved. I was certainly in this category myself until I became concerned with the focus of my predecessor in Area C and decided to run for office. Even while running for election I didn’t fully appreciate most of the issues; it was only once I became the director that I really began to see both the limitations and the opportunities of being an elected official.
Therefore, I don’t agree that NI residents have been kept in the dark about anything involving local government, especially what happens to their taxes – and frankly I think it is irresponsible to suggest that this is the case. What I would agree with is that most people are not paying very close attention most of the time, but every single month the meeting of the RDMW directors is in public , as is every single budget decision. Every year the completed budget itself is presented at a special meeting solely for the purpose of ensuring it is available to anyone who is interested. In addition all of the minutes from these meetings are posted every month on the RDMW website so you can look it up at 2 in the morning if that is when you are able to. The transparency of local government is legislated and self-evident – unlike other levels of government in this country we do not get to prorogue anything. We don’t get to close the legislature and run things from a back room. We simply do not and cannot make decisions behind closed doors.
If you call the RDMW office and ask a question that has to do with local government, I guarantee you will get an answer – you might not agree with the answer, you might think the elected people who made that decision were on glue at the time – but the actual rule (whatever it happens to be) and where and when the actual decision was made are a matter of public record – and exactly how that law applies to you will also be made explicitly clear.
It was stated by the editor of the Gazette that journalism is presenting the facts, leaving personal opinions at home. Although I think even in journalism there is a place for opinion and belief, in this context I agree with his sentiment. Especially in today’s times we need clear facts – but facts need other facts to be clear, to make them relevant. Hopefully the conversation here over the past few weeks has offered some of that relevance and clarity, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share. Whether you write to the Gazette (as suggested by the editor) or not, I still encourage you to contact me directly if you have any questions in regard to local government. As an elected official my mandate is not to sell newspapers or any other media, it is to represent my constituents, and I can best do that when you bring your concerns to me directly. Thank you.
Andrew Hory firstname.lastname@example.org. 250 949 0627.