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Asking Prince George mayor and council to show “courageous leadership”

Posted on 7 February 2012

This post was originally titled “Challenging Prince George mayor and council to show “courageous leadership.” I’ve changed it because I don’t enjoy the tone of “challenging,” but left this note because it’s fair to know the original content/context.

Yesterday, I went on Daybreak North with this story: The City of Prince George has cut its environment division.

As I say in the piece, this seems to be a direct result of the layoffs enacted last month in order to cut costs. As was widely reported, 28 jobs were eliminated– nine layoffs, the rest through vacant positions not being refilled. In this interview following the announcement. Mayor Shari Green said the affected divisions would be

“parks, CN Centre and the Civic Centre, community policing, our transportation development services and long range planning, things like that.”

Elsewhere:

“parks, community policing, CN Center, Civic center, Environmental services, Development and Transportation, Long Range planning, social development and Communications.”

and

“parks, long-range planning, community and social development, community policing, CN Center, Prince George Civic Center, environmental services, development and transportation and communications divisions.”

Shortly after, CBC asked for a list of the positions being eliminated. The reply from the city was succint:

“The City of Prince George will not be releasing the titles of discontinued positions.”

I followed up with a phone conversation with Chris Bone, manager of communications and civic engagement for the city. Here’s what I tweeted immediately following:

#princegeorge city spokesperson Chris Bone says job titles not being released to protect confidentiality of those let go… (cont’d)

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) January 19, 2012

(con’d).. as for positions that are vacant and being eliminated, Bone says not releasing titles gives city time to transition… (cont’d)

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) January 19, 2012

… (cont’d) however, Bone would not comment on when or if taxpayers can know what positions #princegeorge is cutting at city hall..(cont’d)

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) January 19, 2012

..(cont’d) Bone would also not say whose decision it is not to make the positions being cut at #princegeorge city hall public information.

— Andrew Kurjata (@akurjata) January 19, 2012

 

However, it turns out some of this information is just sitting there. For example, you can look around and see which job postings the city had out there that have been pulled. Additionally, as I say in the interview, you can just compare the organizational chart of 2011 with the current one and see the lack of an environment division. I did, and once I did, all I had to do was call up city hall and ask if it was indeed gone. The answer, every time, was yes. No one was hiding this fact. It’s just no one was proactively disclosing it, either.

There can be a debate about whether in tight economic times the city should pay for a purely optional environment division.1 I’m interested in that discussion, but I’m also interested in this one: when, if ever, was the city going to proactively disclose the elimination of the environment division?

This comes down to a question of when citizens/taxpayers should be allowed to know the decisions being made by councilors/staff. So these are my follow up questions, to mayor, council, and any relevant staff.

  1. Why was the elimination of the environment division not proactively disclosed to citizens?
  2. When, if ever, was this information going to be proactively disclosed?
  3. When, if ever, will citizens be told what other positions have been eliminated as a result of these reductions?

In the wake of the layoffs announcement, Mayor Green said “It takes willing and courageous leadership to make change happen.”

I’d argue it takes more courage to actually tell people what that change looks like.


1. I say “purely optional” because it is. There is no federal or provincial rules mandating the city maintain a division of this nature. This is in contrast to things like fire and police, which cities must, by law, provide and pay for. So you have to compare the costs of the division against those, as well as other “optional” items. 

 UPDATE: I got an answer.

Filed under: Prince George

← Previous post: Why the “Sinking Ship” of Community Journalism Is Worth Saving Next post: Proactive Disclosure  →





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