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COLUMN: Pity the messenger
These are important days in the City of North Vancouver. Each week, our seven elected officials are sitting down to make big decisions; decisions that will substantially alter the makeup of the city in the future.
That sounds scary but big changes aren’t inherently bad. A city will, in one way or another, evolve and history — not the present — will be the barometer for success. What sounds overwhelming at a town hall meeting may, in fact, prove an excellent addition to the community down the road.
The opposite, of course, is also true. Sometimes too much is too much. When that is the case, it is important — imperative — for residents to fill council chambers and tell their government to consider design changes or any other option that may be suitable.
To speak with — and, more importantly, question — a politician is a good thing. Grill them if you have to. Never has a city, province or country suffered from too much political engagement.
To that end, full houses on back-to-back Monday nights at city hall for the Low Level Road and Harbourside debates have been excellent. The more voices, uniformity notwithstanding, the better.
What isn’t of any benefit is the just-below-the-radar skepticism directed at city staff. More than once on Monday night answers from staff were met with disbelief. Other times, near laughter.
These people deserve our respect. They work long hours in support of the community. If they offer an answer that attendees don’t agree with, that isn’t merely an indication of their ineptitude. Rather, it may be that the one doing the asking only wants to hear the answer they’ve already decided upon.
When staff can’t answer a question, it may be that a project has yet to come to a stage where that information has been discussed. Monday night was a good example of such a situation. Many in the crowd were looking for definitive answers to every conceivable scenario arising from residential development being allowed in the Harbourside area.
But what was being debated was whether an amendment to the Official Community Plan was to happen or not. Much more information will come once the rezoning process starts.
Some will argue that such valuable details could have been gleaned from the planned, then killed, Harbourside Task Force. And they’d make a strong case. But the task force is done. The project, as a result, had to go to rezoning for a fulsome discussion to happen.
When that discussion begins, and it will soon enough, my bet is that city staff will be at each meeting — day, night or on the weekend. And they’ll be answering our questions.